2018 Science@CornellVet: “How do you trim an elephant’s nails?” The importance of zoo animal training to the care and conservation of wildlife species (part 1)
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This news item from Science@CornellVet is about: Share Imagine climbing into a pool and trying to roll a dolphin onto its back to examine it, or physically lifting an elephant’s foot to trim its toenails. Without the cooperation of the animal, these tasks would be virtually impossible – or would require sedation and restraint, which each have their own risks. But what if, instead of sedating an elephant and laying them on their side for a foot examination, the elephant could be asked to lift its foot voluntarily? Over the past 30 years, zoo veterinarians have utilized behavioral conditioning to better care for animals in captivity. By using positive reinforcement training to cue desirable behaviors from captive wildlife, preventative medicine tasks become much simpler, safer, and less stressful for the animal – often avoiding restraint and either avoiding or minimizing sedation, and thus allowing more frequent examination, preventative medicine, and earlier detection of disease.
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