Keepers are working with Sunny, a 14 year old dragon so he will walk towards a target when it is shown to him. Keepers are using positive reinforcement which means he gets a tasty snack when he does it properly so he is encouraged to do it again.
Target training provides a large suite of benefits for any animal’s welfare. In Sunny’s case keepers want to make him exercise a bit as he currently spends all of his time resting in a sunny spot in his enclosure. Target training will allow keepers to move him to different areas of the enclosure and make medical procedures on Sunny much easier. When he is sick keepers now don’t need to sedate Sunny instead they can ask him to move into a position for examination using the target.
Keepers are also getting an interesting perspective on Sunny’s training experience. He has been trained to wear a harness which they have fitted with a GoPro so they can watch the experience from Sunny’s point of view. By doing this keepers can review the training and see what bits could be improved.
It’s always good to make working with the world’s largest lizard easier. It’s especially true for Komodo Dragons as they pack a mean bite. They have a range of toxins in their saliva which give their prey an infection and they die over several days.
These fearsome reptiles developed over the past 100 million years. They are a variety of monitor lizard which can reach a length of 10 feet (3m). They are also able to reach a weight of 176 pounds (80kg).
Photo Credit: Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo