Benefits of Animal Training

Animal Training

Benefits of Animal Training

Educational Value

  1. Over the years, millions of people have visited zoological parks such as the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks to see animals. Most people do not have the opportunity to observe these animals in the wild. Visitors are not only entertained, but also educated. The unique ability to observe and learn directly from live animals increases public awareness and appreciation of wildlife.
  2. The unique ability to observe and learn directly from live animals
    increases public awareness and appreciation of wildlife.

  3. Zoological parks teach the public about animals, their ecosystems, and conservation measures. A 2005 Harris Interactive® poll released by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums found 97% of respondents agreed that marine life parks, aquariums, and zoos "play an important role in educating the public about marine mammals they might not otherwise have the chance to see". Furthermore, 96% believe "marine life parks, zoos, and aquariums provide people with valuable information about the importance of oceans, waters, and the animals that live there". In addition, 93% agree that visiting a marine zoological park or aquarium "can inspire conservation action…and that people are more likely to be concerned about animals if they learn about them at marine life parks, aquariums, and zoos".
  4. Visiting a marine zoological park or aquarium can
    inspire conservation action.

  5. Through SeaWorld and Busch Gardens education programs and adventure camps, millions of students have been given the opportunity to experience many kinds of animals up close.

Husbandry And Care Of Animals

  1. Routine medical examinations are essential to the health of all our animals. Animal training techniques help veterinarians, animal care specialists, trainers, and keepers to perform medical examinations more easily, and with less stress for the animals.
  2. Animal training techniques allow medical examinations to be
    performed more easily with less stress for the animals.

  3. The animals are trained to present various parts of their bodies for examination, measurement, and blood sampling. They are trained to get on a scale, and even to urinate when signaled to do so. Most importantly, they are trained to hold still and remain calm throughout any examination. Trainers and veterinarians also are able to perform delicate procedures, such as taking x-rays and obtaining sonogram data.
  4. Animals are trained to get on a scale and hold still and
    stay calm to get accurate weights.

  5. Through observing and caring for the animals, park experts are able to maintain detailed husbandry records. These records can be a valuable resource for the zoological community. More importantly, animal training techniques developed at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens have become a valuable tool. More than ever, zoological parks around the world are enjoying the benefits of using various animal training techniques in animal husbandry.

Breeding Programs

  1. Training has been helpful in SeaWorld's killer whale breeding program. Through trained routine husbandry procedures, trainers and veterinary staff are able to closely monitor the health of a pregnant whale. These routine husbandry procedures are the key to healthy animals and a healthy, genetically diverse population.
  2. Routine husbandry procedures are the key to healthy animals and
    a healthy, genetically diverse population.

  3. In cooperation with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), SeaWorld and Busch Gardens have successfully bred many endangered species. AZA's Species Survival Plan® (SSP) program is dedicated to the survival of selected species like the endangered black rhino.
  4. Managed breeding programs, enhanced by training husbandry
    procedures, have resulted in the births of endangered animals like
    the black rhino.

  5. Recent strides in the development of artificial insemination have also been aided through training. Females are trained to remain calm and still for several minutes while veterinarians introduce semen with medical equipment.

Research

  1. Animal training has benefited research for many years. By training animals to respond to various stimuli in their environment, researchers can gather scientific information that would not otherwise be available. The information gathered at the parks, combined with the results of field observations, have contributed to the body of knowledge about many types of animals. Honing its skills for four decades, SeaWorld San Diego has led the way in marine mammal training and research.
  2. With the help of SeaWorld's animal training department, researchers from Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (H-SWRI) conducted an echolocation study involving a false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens). Echolocation is the ability of some whales to produce sound waves that bounce off objects in the water. These echoes provide information about the underwater environment, enabling the whale to locate things and to navigate. Echolocation previously had been observed in bottlenose dolphins and killer whales, but had not yet been documented in false killer whales.
    • The whale was trained to return to its trainer if it detected a target in the water behind a visually opaque screen. If the target was not there, the whale was trained to remain still.
    • The whale's normal vocalizations changed to pulsed sounds, consistent with those made by echolocating whales. Scientists could see that the whale was using echolocation to search for the target.
      • Responses by the false killer whale were 90% to 95% accurate.

        False killer whales were involved in an echolocation study by the
        Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.

  3. HSWRI researchers also were able to conduct studies on the vocal development of killer whale calves. Researchers verified that killer whale calves learn vocalization repertoires from their mothers, and pass them from generation to generation.
    • With the help of trainers, researchers were able to record calf vocalizations and track the development of the calf's vocalization repertoire. They compared the calf's repertoire to its mother's and those of the other whales in its environment.
    • The results of the study supported the hypothesis that a killer whale calf learns vocalization types from its mother.

      Researchers with the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute were able to conduct studies on the vocal development of killer whale calves. The results of the study supported the hypotheses that killer whale calves learn vocalization types from their mothers.

  4. With the U.S. Navy, SeaWorld San Diego conducted swimming speed studies on bottlenose dolphins.
    • Researchers wanted to determine the maximum swimming speed of dolphins.
    • Using target training and reinforcers, trainers conditioned the dolphins to swim at their fastest possible speeds while researchers recorded the data.
  5. Busch Gardens keepers and Dr. William Barklow, a biology and physiology professor at Framingham State College in Massachusetts, used training techniques to study vocalizations in hippos.
    • With the help of the keepers, Dr. Barklow became one of the first scientists to observe, analyze, and document the vocalizations of hippos both above and below water.
    • Through more than nine years of studies, Dr. Barklow is determining how these massive animals use their bodies and environment to communicate.
    • Barklow's research indicates a level of social organization in hippos that was previously unknown to us.
    • Busch Gardens' part in the ongoing study is to document the hearing abilities of hippos. Keepers sound various tones under water. They have trained the hippos to respond to the tone by pressing a lighted pad.

      Busch Gardens has been contributing to an ongoing study of
      vocalizations in hippos.

  6. Sometimes animal training combines husbandry and research. Trained husbandry techniques help keepers and veterinarians obtain baseline data; meaning they can learn what is considered "normal" in a healthy animal. These baseline data can be used to more easily diagnose and treat ill animals, as well as help scientists around the world learn more about similar animal species. Advances in artificial insemination, made possible through our training techniques, may even aid in the conservation of endangered animal populations.

Physical & Mental Stimulation

  1. In the wild, some animals are predators and some are prey for other animals. Hunting prey or escaping predators is essential for an animal's survival. Locating, pursuing, and capturing prey, as well as avoiding predators, pose physical and mental challenges for an animal.
  2. At the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks, animals neither have to hunt for their food, nor do they have to avoid predators. The parks' complex, interactive animal habitats and training sessions provide the animals with physical and mental stimulation. The play, learning, exercise, relationship, and show sessions help keep their bodies and minds active. Environmental enrichments provide them with a variety of stimulating challenges.
  3. Complex, interactive animal habitats and training sessions provide the
    animals with physical and mental stimulation.