Behavioral Training Used for Health Exam on Magic Leopard
April 8, 2016
Three weeks ago, in mid-March, we noticed that Magic leopard was not going to the bathroom properly. She was still eating and although a little grumpier than usual nothing else seemed wrong. We did what we could at Turpentine to help her but after a few days decided to take her to the veterinarian and have them check her out.
The veterinarian decided to do exploratory surgery and quickly found the issue, she had a very large tumor in her uterus. The veterinarian performed an emergency spay on her and extracted her entire reproductive system.
Magic has healed fine, no infection, no pulled stitches, and she is back to her old self.
We are very happy to report that during this whole medical adventure with Magic we were given the chance to see how well our behavioral training program has worked.
Magic leopard is one of the many animals at Turpentine Creek to participate in our behavioral training program, and she is definitely a success story! Magic is not a friendly leopard. She hisses, growls, and charges the fence with many staff members. Ivy, her most tolerated staff member, was chosen to work with this grumpy leopard to see if we could help reduce the stress of medical exams for her.
She enjoyed the treats and quickly learned the commands of come, sit, target, and the most useful to date up.
After Magic’s surgery, we expected her normal behavior, hissing, spitting, and avoiding staff in general. We were amazed that even the day after her surgery that she approached Ivy and somewhat participated in her daily training. Day two she was still grumpy but more willing to participate in training as well.
During training Ivy frequently used the up command to get Magic to stand so we could check on her stitches and check for infections. It was thanks to her training that we could keep her stress low and watch the progress of her healing. We knew exactly when we could let her back out into her habitat once the incision had healed enough that there was no risk of infection.
She is still a grumpy leopard, but through our positive reinforcement behavioral training, she is starting to warm up to the staff members a bit. She also seems to like and anticipate training. When she sees Ivy and the training tools she will jump down from whatever perch she has found and rushes over to greet Ivy warmly.
We never force our animals to do training. All animals that are part of the behavioral training program do so because they want to. If an animal does not want to train they don’t have to, they still get fed normally and are not punished in any way, shape, or form. Behavioral training is not to show off our animals, it is used so that we can perform stress-free examinations of the animals. Our ultimate goal is to be able to use the behavioral training to do things such as blood draws, paw inspections, and other hands off health-related exam without needing to tranquilize the animals (currently our only option when we need to do these things). The training will help us reduce stress on the animals and make sure they are happy and healthy in our care.