Wild Work! Animal Trainers

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The back of the gate is reinforced with metal bars. My skin prickles with unease. The man walks toward a small, rundown shack that has chips of white paint peeling from its worn wooden siding.

Animal Degree Paths

The dog follows silently by his side, now appearing as harmless as a puppy. I catch up with them inside the shack. The dog crawls under the desk and lies down. With a dismissive wave of his hand, the man directs me to a rusted chair. There are some rules of the ranch that we need to go over. I sit and assess my surroundings. The inner walls of the shack are almost completely obscured by awards, certificates, and photos of exotic animals—tigers, elephants, leopards, and bears—with people who I assume are their trainers.

The cub gazes at the woman with a bright, playful expression. That means work boots and long pants. There are a lot of things here that can scrape you up. You need a layer of protection. He holds up his hand, stopping me.

Big-cat trainer criticises bill banning wild animals in circuses | News | The Stage

I swallow and sit back in my chair. He must love animals, otherwise why would he work with them for a living? I was wrong. I remember watching a man in a sequined vest step into a cage with three tigers. The tigers stood on their hind legs and the man danced with them, one at a time and then all together.

It felt as if nothing could possibly go wrong there, but here, I feel like it can. These are wild animals here, not pets. Final rule is, you pay attention to the trainers and do exactly as they say, no matter what. Pick her up in the office. He reviews papers and files them. He makes notes. I want to excuse myself and wait outside, but the man seems so absorbed by his work that I feel like anything I do will interrupt him. And so I just sit there, completely uncomfortable. The work pants on the desk smell like animal poop.

I hope the trainer is nicer than this man, who never introduced himself. He looks different in the picture online than he does in person. The man sitting in front of me looks tired and old. A guy with a mop of curly reddish-brown hair pops his head into the shack and motions to me. Outside the shack, I quickly pull on the smelly pants and follow the curly-haired guy, who is walking at a pretty good clip up the hill. Does that sound cool? We move through the gate. I peer into the first cage. Suddenly, a huge tiger leaps from a raised perch inside the cage and lands on the ground just a few feet away from me.

Ryan grabs my shoulder to steady me. Around the animals, you need to stay in control. Stand your ground. Ryan leads me to other cages, introducing me to tigers, lions, and leopards, one by one. At each cage, he tugs on the lock and points out the water bowl. Grab the hose. I turn on the water and bring the hose to Ryan. Water droplets on her orange, black, and white fur glisten in the morning sunshine. Ryan gestures to neighboring tigers that are pacing excitedly. He hands me the hose, and I walk from cage to cage, giving each of the tigers a turn with the spray as they prance around.

The tigers are dancing with me. Two long trunks reach toward me, moving over my body like some sort of strange security scanner. The elephants use the tips of their trunks, like fingers, to check the pockets of my shirt. I turn to see a muscled guy in dusty jeans and a worn gray t-shirt, standing behind me with a wheelbarrow. His brown hair falls in his face. Aaron reminds me of his father. Ryan and I collect armfuls of hay and emerge into the sunlight to see Emily and Pongo examining the wheelbarrow that Aaron is shoveling full of elephant poop.

Emily glances in our direction and then takes off toward us. She moves surprisingly fast for such a big animal. Pongo follows. The elephants instantly stop walking and curl their trunks up to their foreheads. Ryan and I dump the hay in front of them. They stuff the food into their mouths and quickly go back for more. He picks up two shovels and enters the elephant pen. Although the animals are distracted, there are no bars between him and them. Aaron looks over, barely hiding a smirk, as he effortlessly speeds past me with a full load. Stop treating them like a Golden Retriever.

It makes me want to vomit. I hope animal welfare groups outlaw using whales, big cats, elephants and other exotics as entertainment for profit — the act of disturbing the natural life of wild animals and those who capture and sell them into a life in captivity solely for these ludicrous circus performances. That is called a medical pool — it has a false bottom floor that can be raised up out of the water so the veterinarians can examine the whales up close to check for cuts, scrapes, lesions, etc.

Whales are very social animals and will often rake each other with their teeth and yes, they do this in the wild as well — you will see many pictures of wild cetaceans with these same scratches as they do not have hands they explore their environment with their mouths much like babies do.

Tilikum was not moved into that pool as punishment, it was the only way to remove Dawn from the pool as Tilikum would not let her go. As another post stated, Tilikum is possessive of his enrichment items, and unfortunately that is exactly what some believe he considered Dawn to be. None of the trainers ever swam with Tilikum because of his size believe me, I have been close up with this particular animal and his pectorial flippers alone are 6 feet long and Dawn suddenly being in the water with him was not the norm for him.

He simply was not conditioned to that type of interaction which was exactly why none of the trainers ever entered the water with him — again, understanding the logical behavior of an animal who has only had a surface training relationship. You also need to remember — EVERYONE at the facility at that time was in shock and grieving, however there were still trainers in the front pools there are about 8 total taking care of the rest of the whales. You are correct that this is not like training a dog, far from it — unfortunately even after you stated that you still equated it as such.

They are not human, so stop trying to make them think that way. They operate on pure instinct, so in spending time studying their behaviors we better understand why they do what they do. Again, it is unfortunate you are so misinformed. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of please feel free to look this up, it is out there on the internet!

They have, however rescued and rehabilitated hundreds of animals who have been returned including JJ the whale. And yes, sometimes whales are moved from one location to another, but never young animals who are still nursing. I would recommend you spend a little time reading about killer whales and you will discover that their pods fluctuate as members mature and then go off on their own and join different pods, much like our offspring go out and create families of their own.

Again, these are all things you can access through reading and research — but be aware when you do so that you should also question the motives of the author. Just as we teach our students, you need to use some critical thinking skills. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. If you really are as passionate as you say I encourage you to dig a little deeper, research from peer reviewed quality resources, and hopefully you will gain a little more understanding.

Thank you, Yvonne — finally, some intelligent dialog. We are all upset, and grieving over our losses — both animal and human, but we must retain our upper intelligence in the matter and stop acting like a bunch of petulant children who think they know everything about a fairly obscure subject.

He was found parading around the body of an unstable man as well — much like a child would a favorite toy. I have also poured over the video of Ken Peters and Kasatka and I think she was definitely just making a point. There is much to learn about this — but also, Roland? Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act of based on the following findings and policies:. Certain exceptions to the take prohibitions, including for small takes incidental to specified activities, when access by Alaska Natives to marine mammal subsistence resources can be preserved, and permits and authorizations for scientific research;.

All of this information came directly from NOAA — who regulates all marine mammals currently in marine parks in the US and who also decides when or if rehabilitated animals can be released. Permits were issued based on local populations and they were for marine parks. Sorry Yvonne but you are wrong.


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Perrin as of ,the copy date of the book,it was still legal to acquire a permit to capture marine mammals,mainly bottlenose dolphin in the US for scientific research,public display and education but not many have been taken since Orcas are very social animals and need the interaction of each other as a pod….

Pods of whales needs huge amounts of space that a concrete pool just cannot offer. Bob, you are kidding me.. They did not punish Tiliy.. Like a quantine, to make sure all was well.. They may be smarter thatn you.. Sea World does more good in one week than I am sure you have done in your lifetime.. If they ever do outlaw have these animals and they go extict. I was aware that this whale had a history of keeping other whales away from enrichment items.

He also would not give up items reliably. The attempts may have caused him to hang even tighter and eventually dive down with her if indeed the behavior of giving items up was not solid and a challenging behavior for this individual. I was consulting at a zoo the day it happened. One of the trainers there used to work with Dawn and was devestated :.

I have also heard this, and witnessed it with bird feathers or the remains of a bird once. This was just witnessing as a guest, of course, and I do not work exclusively with orcas but have with other cetaceans, so take it with a grain of salt. I have seen the movie many times. I am still a very firm believer that it is a one-sided, bias and propagana driven movie.. CNN stands to make Miliions off of the movie.. Animals like this should never be locked up in a concrete bath tub for decades. Is it any wonder they kill people, I would too.

Places like Sea World lie through their teeth to protect themselves because they know through their own studies that the whales are, in every case, affected to a greater or lesser degree by mental illness. Love this. As a person that has chosen to work with animals professionally for over 35 years, I find every word of this true. Thank u for saying this so well. We need both, clearly, animals in the wild and ambassadors in captivity. Thank u again for saying this so well. I know an animal trainer and although I am an animal activist, I am not concerned about the animals in the hands of skilled trainers but the rights of the dreadful practice of animal farming in cages which is occurring all over the world and I am ashamed to say it is rampant in Australia.

Lots of what this writer says is valid. He should not have been a candidate for doing tricks with humans. Orcas ARE killers, and Tillikum seems to be a really special case in that department. For Kim — Very interesting that you would want the whale, or any other animal euthanized rather than living in a zoo. Who are you to make that decision? Yet you feel you have the right to kill an animal rather than allow it to live in a zoo where its loved and cared for?

It may not be cared for in a manner that you prefer, but it is loved and cared for nonetheless. Thank you so much for sharing things that so many animal keepers feel but have not put into words.

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Keep up the great work! I have been trying to explain this to people for years and you have put it very eloquently here. We do this because we love to do this, not for fame or accolades, but for the love of the animals. We may not approve of what you chose to do with your life either, but we respect your right to choose to do it.

We only ask that you not make such a big deal out of every incident involving an animal as they are much fewer and farther between than almost any other type of human injury. Every occupation comes with its own risks, but no one bans every day occupations because of an occasional injury attached to it. So why is it such a big deal if someone is injured, or even killed, while working with an exotic animal? Leave it alone and let us enjoy our passion. If we die, we died doing what we loved. There is no fault here for us.

Beautifully said. If I choose to risk my life doing what I love fully knowing this risk that is my choice. Motorcycles are very dangerous mostly due to ignorant drivers. My husband is in a motorcycle club and rides his bike nearly everyday. We have lost numerous friends due to accidents, yet continue to ride. We fully know the dangers, but choose to live our lives doing what we love to do. I have been around exotic and wild animals my whole life and have surrounded myself with people with the same passion.

I have never lost one of my animal friends or even heard of any serious injuries throughout my whole life. We lose on average one or two bikers a month. I feel safer being around my critters than hopping on a bike, or a boat, or a plane, or even a car. Thank you for saying what we as keepers know and feel.

The ridiculous statement by Bob that Tilly was punished by being put in a smaller pool, obviously he was there and saw such cruelty…. I bet he could call CNN and be in a Part 2 of the rubberish Blackfish movie and I bet Kim could be the star role wanting euthanasia as an option for humane sake. I have been a zookeeper for many years and my dedication and the sacrifices I have made are because of my passion and Dawn had so much passion for these animals I find this sickening how activists are using her death to pursue their agendas. I could easily die on my horse tomorrow as I knowingly ride without a helmet because I prefer it that way, but if I die I died doing something I loved.

I in no way can provide my horse the same amount of room or opportunities a wild horse has…. Does that make me cruel?

Where are the activists fighting the cruel treatment of a race horse not a Kentucky Derby horse but the average everyday race horse? She was a nervous wreck trying to figure out what I wanted when I simply wanted her to relax and walk in the round pen.


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She stomped me, kicked me in the back of my head, but none of this was her fault it was her way of dealing with the situation at hand and would within 30 seconds be by my side with her head on my shoulder. No one knows what Tilly was thinking when Dawn was in the water, was she enrichment that he played with?

Who was there when 4 mountain gorillas were killed cause a rebel group wanted to make a statement to the current reigning government? Who protected the Okapi Foundation this year as it was raided and the 14 okapi and a couple rangers that were slaughtered when they stayed behind to protect the facility and the okapi. Where are the activists and these people that are experts on orcas when a rhino or elephant are killed for senseless human greed? I would be there, but I have a family I am committed to at this moment so zoo keeping helps me share my passion and educate as I can to the people that really want to learn, but 11 years from now, yes you will probably find me in a remote country to educate the native people of the importance of such animals in their backyard, teach them to build a better stove that uses less wood, teach them to grow and plant trees, and help the kids have a future more than harvesting wood or animals illegally.

Providing this human race has left a wild to go to.

Animal training

Your conflating sympathy for human trainers with sympathy for the non-human animals in captivity. There are also plenty of lazy jerks who do the bare minimum to stay on payroll — just like anywhere else. But a rather under-reported side to all of this is the sheer number of unnecessary animal injuries and deaths that occur while behind-the-scenes. The arrogance and hubris essential to maintaining zoos and aquaria are rampant in this piece, well-intentioned though it may be.

I read it. I try to be open-minded as I still have plenty of friends working in the zoo world but I cannot agree. People are not advocating for outlawing animal training. People want Tilly freed, not destroyed. Took the words out of my mouth. Its so completely and utterly obvious to me. I understand the trainers and even SeaWorld have the best intentions and love for these animals, give their life to these animals, but they do not belong in captivity.

I enjoy this post — because out of respect for those friends, rarely do I bring this topic up. Fact: With a heavy heart — I watched Blackfish. The Cove, etc. With logical reasoning, I understand and believe that neither were balanced and fully baked. Fact: I want to believe that associations, non-profits, animal welfare organizations and their staff are true to their word. Roland, with all of the above said…trying to lead with my heart with the support of my brain… I need help from you to help justify the need to make these animals perform. I believe whole heartedly in preserving their species — meeting their needs — giving them affection, play time, nourishment, etc.

But performing? Does this make sense? Or is it implied that this is irrelevant in the bigger picture? We can train for weights, morphometric measurements, blood draws, injections, urine collection, x-rays, ultrasound, body presents and pretty much anything else you have done at a doctor, we can ask the animals to calmly and co-operatively participate in for their own health care. We can train for research behaviors that directly help their wild counterparts.

For example, energetic and nutritional studies can be carried out on a species and that information can be used to gain a better understanding of energy and food requirements of that species in the wild. Which can then be used to make informed fisheries management decisions. Lastly, training for mental stimulation is so important. Animals should be life long learners.

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They should problem solve, be engaged and think. Higher energy behaviors like jumps and splashes also reinforce lower energy behaviors Pre-Mack Principle. Will also mention that training in the marine mammal industry these days is carried out through positive reinforcement. If the animals make a mistake or refuse a behavior, no biggie, you simply move on and come back to it again. Hope that helps you out. I see the benefit of well trained animals daily. I actually believe all animals under human care should have a well rounded training program, and that that is what is helping to meet their needs under human care.

Simply free-feeding your animals is not enough. Engage them, stimulate them, provide the best possible care for them, learn from them but also have fun with them because they need that too. Let me start by sharing an observation. I have been fortunate enough to work with thousands of animals representing hundreds of species. There are two important points in those numbers: first, that the vast majority of animals enjoy performing, and second that most trainers listen very closely to what the animals want.

Most animals humans included have evolved with a fairly strong innate desire to strive, to accomplish, to use their brains and bodies. Sure, lying around doing nothing can be fun for a while, but a perfect day for most of us entails a little exercise, a few challenges, perhaps a few mental puzzles.

When I go to train my animals, they are all eager and strive to get to me first in hopes that I will chose them. If I am heading to work, they will run and jump in the vehicle ahead of me. And that is the crux of the matter—we may call it performing or training, but from the animals perspective it is a form of play. If it is not, they simply do not participate, or perform very poorly. This is not anthropomorphizing—anyone who has had a strong relationship with an animal knows that you can discern which things make them happy. If some of these play sessions take place in front of an audience that enjoys watching and comes to appreciate and love the animals, I see that as a win-win.

Even if someone were a heartless jerk who did not care about the animal, it is simply not effective or efficient to try to force an animal to perform. The animal will look unhappy, likely never perform well, and may very well injure the trainer. While I am sure there have been a few cases, in the overwhelming majority of cases no sane person is going to keep pushing this when there are plenty of animals that love to play the game.

Personally I do not share that ideal—while I think it is important to understand the natural life of an animal in order to create a good life, I personally aspire to give my animals the best possible life, incorporating many of the best aspects of a natural life but happily improving upon nature where possible.

Neither hominids nor other animals in nature had heat, filtered water, medicine, pillows, or the leisure to play very often; but I enjoy all those things and share them with my animals! I guess my question is why are the people that are so against animal captivity not out there fighting more for the animals that are being killed in their natural habitate?

Why are they fighting for animals that are fed and taken care of by people who love them more than they love themselves? These animals are not being fed and taken care of in the slightest. They are starved if they do not perform correctly and are separated from their families. The entire ocean should be theirs to explore, but corporations like Sea World capture them and keep them in tiny tanks to be a slave to the audience. Megan, It sounds like you are just spewing junk from a junk propoganda movie based on highly edited YouTube videos and liars.

None of the animals at SeaWorld, specifically, are starved. In fact, SeaWorld meets or exceeds the highest standards required for animal care. Their diets are so well regulated that they make sure they are at healthy weights. A person who is extremely obese would complain they are being starved when they start a diet to maintain their health. But males do leave the pod in the wild to reproduce. All of that information has been stated in other comments.

Megan, I challenge you to do research and find credible sources for your information. The movie Blackfish has been proven to be nothing but falsehood. So it needs to stop being used as a source. YOUR an idiot………what bothers me its that people who have all this love for animals and Risk their lives interacting with these wild creatures. Think that they are helping the survival of this creatures in the wild.

On Sets From ‘Wild’ To ‘Portlandia’, Oregon’s Top Dog Trainer Talks To The Animals

By any means your not doing anything to protect them most zoos dont give a shit about the well being of this wild animals. Most zoos do charities to get credits so they can get wild animals from all around the world. And you think you are helping plz, people just make me sick. Thank you. Our world needs Zoos, Aquariums and Animal Parks for education, research, rehabilitation and conservation. This article was fantastic. This is the sort of thing I have been trying to explain to people for months now. Those are the people who have no idea what it would mean to release a captive animal into the wild.

SeaWorld has also gotten a lot of flak on the internet about how they are a for profit company, but of course no one mentions how that profit allows them to donate 9 million dollars towards conservation and to do research that would only otherwise be funded by government grants that are next to impossible to get outside of universities. Thank you! I worked for Sea World for 12 years. Every few years, she heads to the Antarctic for 10 weeks at a time to study seal behavior. This year, she and the animal trainers who recently began to accompany her on her expeditions accomplished an important first.

In the field, however, Williams—like most large-animal biologists—has always relied on anesthesia. But over the past five years, the trainers have begun to accompany Williams to the Antarctic. Their presence, and their unique skill set, has fundamentally changed how the work is done. Beau Richter has been working alongside Williams as an animal trainer for almost 12 years.



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