This past Sunday and Monday Turtle Bay hosted a newly created workshop for animal training professionals called the California Avian Training Workshop. The workshop was created with the collaboration of Chandelle Cotter of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) in Portage, AK. The workshop was more of a success than we ever could have imagined! We had 15 participants representing seven facilities including: the AWCC, Bird TLC of Anchorage, Happy Hollow Zoo, Folsom Zoo, Effie Nature Center, Discovery Kingdom, and Guide Dogs for the Blind.
We packed so much into two days it is almost unbelievable. I delivered a 90 minute interactive class on general training then, Lisa Clifton Bumpass, a Behavioral Analysis Consultant of San Jose, provided a workshop that was progressive and fascinating. The best thing about her talk? We have already adopted these philosophies and are doing most of the techniques she described. Looking at the animals needs throughout its whole life, rather than just what is needed it the moment. Setting your animals up to build on one training after another so they have an entire repertoire of behaviors that help them have a great life, from baby through geriatric life. We did sessions on raptor handling and looked at the history and future of our industry and Lisa, Chandelle, and I did an hour long Q & A session where we helped participants with training issues and challenges. We spent each afternoon doing demonstrations of the animal training we do here at Turtle Bay.
All I can say is that it was all fantastic (and a bit exhausting)! I have to give HUGE kudos to my team of trainers who just blew everyone away with their knowledge and successes with the animals. Let me tell you how wonderful our animals are too: we set up all the participants upstairs in the foyer area of the Museum and Timber walked from lap to lap on each person! Curie, our raven, showed off her intelligence by demonstrating her puzzle-solving behaviors and Kinta, the kookaburra, flew and landed on each and every participant! Even Whisper, who is a little more particular, let each person meet her! It wasn’t all just fun and games though: we demonstrated Loki voluntarily participating in getting an injection and Gidget willingly taking oral medicine from a syringe. Lisa told the participants to “pay attention, because what you are seeing here is cutting edge; you won’t see this kind of stuff at many facilities.” It is probably the highest compliment I have ever received by a peer and well-respected person in this industry!
We provided surveys and the comments were thoughtful and touching. One survey said, “I wish I was able to stay longer and learn more from you. I really like your methods for training, your mentality for animal welfare, and your priorities for your facility.”
It wasn’t just my team in Animal Care who made it a success, it is all of Turtle Bay. Our animals would not have the incredible lives they have without the buy-in and conscientiousness of all Turtle Bay staff–from Grounds and Maintenance to Guest Services. I have to thank Melissa in Guest Services for being there for us for any needs throughout the days. Finally, I want to thank my boss and CEO of Turtle Bay, Mike, because none of this could happen without his trust and freedom to do my job. It became very apparent that one main challenge that many facilities have is that their CEO and upper management team, including their board, put time constraints and expectations on training of animals. This puts stress on the trainers and leads to them using methods to get the animals trained “in time” that are less than ideal for the animals. I thank our CEO, Boards, and our entire Turtle Team for putting the animals’ welfare first, above and beyond our desires and needs.
“One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin”