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Jul 24, 2008

Being Consistenty Inconsistent!

Being Consistenty Inconsistent! from Woburn Safari Park

Being ‘Consistently Inconsistent’: adding variability to training to enhance animal welfare using training to improve animal welfare

Our group of 0.5 sea lions had erratic eating habits and were not in peak condition. This concerned us as the breeding season was approaching when sealions are notorious for having a low appetite.

We set out to stabilize erratic feeding habits and increase appetite in order to improve body condition by increasing the animals’ weights to a more optimal level based on size and age, and to encourage more natural behaviours.

After a health check confirmed the animals were fit to undergo the change in routine, we used applied animal behaviour techniques to help achieve these goals.

The sea lions had become set in a routine and while consistency is important in an animal’s life, so too is variety. To achieve the desired variety whilst simultaneously reinforcing the training schedule and providing optimal levels of stimulation, the location of training sessions was varied, the scheduling but not the absolute daily amount of food given was varied, the combination of keepers used for training sessions was varied as was the order and frequency in which the 40+ behaviours were trained.

As a result, eating patterns have stabilized, body condition has improved, appetites have increased and more play behaviour and activity has been observed.

Developed by:  Woburn Safari Park

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