Skip to main content

Part One: Did you know?

We get dozens of emails a day, and often the same questions come up again and again. It seems there are some common misconceptions about how the zoo works, so we thought we’d post responses to some of those most frequently asked questions in a new “Did you know?” blog feature. Look for “Did you know?” posts over the next few weeks.

Did you know? The majority of the animals at the zoo are not “tame."

Many people contact us asking to go in and pet the tigers or play with the monkeys, thinking that because the animals are in a zoo, they must be tame. In fact, we make every effort to ensure that the animals retain their wild behaviors and so even zookeepers do not go directly into exhibits with the animals (except the domestic cows, sheep, goats and chickens, of course!).

So how do we care for them?

Each day, our animals are visually monitored for their health and well being and we use what is called operant conditioning training for managing them. Many of the animals are trained through positive reinforcement techniques (food is popular!) so that keepers or animal health professionals can perform procedures from tooth brushing to vaccinations simply by training the animals to be comfortable with these functions. Most preventive and minor health issues can be dealt with in this way, instead of immobilizing them with anesthetics. The animals are still, however, safely protected through barriers from their caretakers. If it’s determined that an animal needs a more extensive medical procedure, the animal is safely anesthetized for the procedure and then monitored as they awaken.

Photo: Zookeeper Joyce Ford uses a target and food rewards to train giraffes. Photo by Ryan Hawk.