April 28, 2019
Hey, That’s My Cone!
- as seen by -Avishai Shuter
Thanks to a Season 2 episode of Animal Planet’s The Zoo, viewers got a firsthand look at the start of a training program with eight Indian gharials that had recently moved into WCS’s Bronx Zoo Jungle World. The goal of the training was to make sure that every gharial ate the appropriate amount of food calmly, in order to reduce any food-associated aggression between the crocodilians. The training also allowed us to develop a relationship with these animals so that working with them remains as stress-free as possible, for us and for them.
Initially, we began the training by introducing the gharials to eight orange traffic cones which they would have to touch with their snouts. The process went very smoothly though some of the young animals picked up the training faster than others. After the gharials understood what we were asking them to do, we progressed the crocodilians to the next level of the program.
The end goal of the training was to have every gharial associate with a single, uniquely painted cone. Because they have good eyesight and can see patterns and colors, we painted the orange cones various colors and patterns. We then began teaching the gharials — based on the previous layer of training — which cone “belonged” to them. They picked up on this aspect of the program a bit quicker since it was a twist on something they had already learned, rather than starting from scratch.
Now, we do training sessions with the gharials twice a week, and they are able to consistently find their own cones and calmly wait near them to be fed. They even stay by their cones when we aren’t at the feeding stations.
EDITOR’ S NOTE: A story of other animals from the World of Reptiles was featured on Sunday’s episode of Animal Planet’s THE ZOO now in its third season. The series takes viewers behind the scenes at the Bronx Zoo and the other WCS wildlife parks in New York City to tell powerful, compelling stories of animals and their care givers, and the zoos’ contribution to conserving wildlife around the globe.