LCF Staff Attend Florida Association Of Zoos And Aquariums Professional Development Workshop

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The LCF team traveled to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo to attend the Florida Association of Zoos and Aquariums (FAZA) Animal Care Professional Development Workshop, which focused on positive reinforcement as a form of enrichment for the animals.

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Why did the chicken jump through the hula hoop?….The workshop started with a getting to know you section where the entire group was split into teams to try to get their desired animal to move through a hula hoop. These animals included goats, chickens, and goldfish, with the only means of reinforcement included verbal encouragement (which ended up being the lesser of the two positives) and a food source. Some of the groups showed great success, having their chicken easily go back and forth through the hoop, while others had goldfish that were afraid of the food – thus making it nearly impossible to work with. Great fun and a many laughs were had in our endeavors with our assigned animals.

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Two presentations were given that directly influence our work as animal caretakers. The first was a presentation by Dr. Mark Lewis on how enrichment encourages brain and social activity in mice, and how that can be translated to different animals, including humans. Those mice that were exposed to enrichment had a lower level of repetitive behavior typically brought on through stressful situations  – in this case, things like doing backflips and jumping. Those that were not exposed to enrichment saw significantly higher levels of these repetitive behaviors. These insights allow us to better understand the importance of keeping our animals in enriching environments to ensure the best quality of life. Another presentation was on fire ants, a common problem here in Florida. It was an in-depth look at the life of the fire ant, and even got down to the personal level of each ant’s role in the colony!

 

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