Visitors to our Betty Moroney Norsworthy Otter Outpost have many ways to describe the personalities of our Asian small-clawed otters: quick, energetic, playful.
But what’s a zookeeper to do when we need a hyper otter to sit still?
You teach them to “station.” Stationing is a behavior training that our otters and many other animals (big and small) learn. Specifically, it’s when an animal is asked to sit or stand still at a designated area.
As simple as it sounds, stationing has many benefits for the animal and the zookeeper.
For every successful station, the otter receives a delicious treat. All training done at the Dallas Zoo is through positive reinforcement, and our animals are never forced to do any behaviors. They’re asked nicely and rewarded.
Stationing is also the first step to learning other behaviors like target training, spin, scale and reach. All of these behaviors help zoo staff inspect the otters and administer medicine and vaccines safely and easily.
Visit our otter keeper talks Thursday through Sunday at 1:30 p.m. and you may see the stationing yourself!
They’re incredibly cute, vicious at times, very smart, and extremely inquisitive. Meet our five meerkats: Huxley, Twig, Orbee, Widget and Poppet. These small predators recently learned a new behavior that’ll help vets and keepers easily perform health checks and administer annual vaccinations.
Because the speedy meerkats dig and travel in underground tunnels, it’s difficult for keepers to catch them. So for the past few months, keepers have trained the meerkats to station themselves inside a wire box. The lure? Smashed bananas on a spoon. Once the meerkats are inside the box, they can be transported to the veterinary staff at the hospital.
“Once the boxes are brought into the habitat and positioned in a row, they come right over because they know they’re getting a treat,” said mammal supervisor John Fried. “They’ve done really well. Something clicked in their heads, and now they enter no problem.”
They’re only inside for a short amount of time during training sessions. The next step is to latch the doors and see if they’ll eat the spoon full of bananas while closed inside. We’re confident this bonded clan will nail it!
Check out these photos from a recent training session.
There’s so much going on at the Dallas Zoo, we had to start a blog to tell you about it all. Have an idea for a story or a question for us? Email Info@DallasZoo.com and put “ZooHoo!” in the subject line.