Frozen treat to our gorillas!

During periods of heat waves as we are presently experiencing, we offer refreshing giant popsicles to our gorillas. A pleasant treat for them. This type of enrichment encourages a specific behavior to this species and also, allows us to improve the well-being of our animals.

Enrichment is essential to our animals as is training. However, the two are not to be confounded. Discover what are our animal trainings.

At the Granby Zoo, animal training is an integral part of the keeper's tasks and is recognised as being an important element of the fundamental care we provide our animal species.  

Why is it so important you might wonder? 

It's essential to understand that our animals don't face the same challenges they would if they were in the wild. In a natural environment, each individual has to look after its primordial needs; it needs to hunt to eat, protect itself against assorted predators, keep watch and maintain its territory, etc. 

The "free time" in a zoological environment must therefore be compensated by other activities. This is why training is incorporated into our enrichment program. Its main purposes are to increase mental stimulation, encourage physical exercise, cultivate cooperative behaviour during daily or medical care and, consequently increase the wellbeing of the animals. 

Secondary objectives are also added to the fundamental elements: for example, the Education (presentations to the public) and the Research and Conservation (sperm collection, insemination) elements, as well as simply providing visitors with an unusual experience (camel ride).

It should also be noted that our Institution's philosophy in that respect is to teach an animal some specific commands by way of a trusting relationship created with the help of positive reinforcement.  We can thus work with the willing collaboration of our animals that may, according to their moods and the choices they are offered, decide to interrupt a training session. This work method allows the keepers to obtain impressive results from their protégés.

Gorilla training video: It is Suzanne Poirier, resource keeper in the Afrika sector, who trains Zwalani, under the careful eye of Émilie Couture, resident veterinarian. The gorillas are trained every morning and the keeper can check if the animal has wounds or other health issues. The keeper uses a guide (short wooden stick) to specify to the animal which part of its body to show her. She also has a clicker in her hand to signal to the animal that it has successfully followed the command. We can also see her filing the gorilla's nails and listen to its heart with a stethoscope.