Last week I had the pleasure and honor of attending the Karen Pryor Academy faculty meeting. Since we are all scattered across the globe, we had a “destination” faculty meeting in Tampa, FL. It was so cool to be in a room with so many brilliant minds, the leading edge of the reinforcement revolution! I don’t want to name drop or anything, but Karen Pryor and Ken Ramirez were both there. And they both KNEW MY NAME! *squeee!*
While there we took a field trip to Busch Gardens! I had no idea that the Busch Gardens zoo program was so progressive! We observed force-free training demonstrations on an amazing variety of animals. From voluntary blood draws with a tiger to an orangutan who would brush her own teeth. One of the highlights of the trip was an opportunity to actually hold a Southern ground hornbill. This large, predatory bird was handled in complete freedom and open air. Nothing kept this cool guy from flying away and leaving on his own but his reinforcement history with his handler. On cue, he voluntarily hopped onto my arm (and he was heavy!), and then flew person to person back to his handler. Then he went into his crate on cue, too. The power of positive reinforcement!
As if that wasn’t enough, I also got to observe some excellent force-free elephant training, and even got to feed an elephant. I’m an elephant trainer now!