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Handler interactions with animals

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Holly2873, 29 Aug 2023.

  1. Holly2873

    Holly2873 Active Member

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    I don’t know if this has been mentioned before but what’s your opinion on zookeepers and/or owners of dangerous animals like big cats, apes etc interacting with the animals? Like no barrier between them. Do you think it’s right or wrong?

    Ive seen people hanging out with lions or walking along side elephants etc and think that’s something I’d love to do. Working up close with the animals but I’d love to hear your views on this. I understand these people are pros and know what they are doing and most likely these animals were raised by them but do you agree with it?
     
  2. Bunnyrich

    Bunnyrich Active Member

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    I can't give much input since I work with smaller endotherms like Penguins, Macaws, etc- but I've seen coworkers working with our Clouded Leopards. And others in and directly handling our reef sharks. But that's not quite the same. I think our only "code red" animals our the Komodo Dragon and the Leopards.
     
  3. Sicarius

    Sicarius Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    This is a difficult and highly controversial topic. Working hands-on with wild animals is accepted by many, and hated by others. Many believe it is good to form a bond with an animal for several reasons like safety, others think wild animals should remain doing their natural behaviour. Personally, I think it highly depends on the species and the reasons behind it. Is it beneficial to keep a tiger docile like a house cat? For some yes, for others no. There is a lot of grey area. If you want to work hands-on with dangerous animals like elephants, consider a rescue centre with elephants that used to perform in circuses or tourist attractions in Asia.
     
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  4. Lafone

    Lafone Well-Known Member

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    It’ll be a subject with a variety of opinions - speaking for myself I think handling adult animals like tigers often points to deeply questionable husbandry and collector mania vs having an actual point.

    I think the question is why do it and what benefit does it have. It looks like ego stroking to me and I wouldn’t visit a zoo where the keepers handled bigs cats etc, it’s too circus. I don’t like animals who are forced to perform.

    In some cases where big cats are handled or displayed to tourists they have their teeth and claws removed. Similarly apes have their teeth knocked out to be tourist models.

    Dangerous wild animals are not toys and we as humans trivialise them far too often.

    On a zoo forum I’d hope there was a focus on animal welfare vs animal juggling.

    In terms of ape handling well I’d say good luck handling chimps once they reach sexual maturity.

    To be honest it’s a similar answer to the question you asked about mixing the elephants - why do you want to do any of this and for whose benefit is it being done? You’re asking about driving visitors around enclosures in open vehicles and handling tigers - it all seems rather tiger king to me.
     
  5. Holly2873

    Holly2873 Active Member

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    I’m just curious and asking all the questions that pop in my head. I’m just here to learn.
     
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  6. Lafone

    Lafone Well-Known Member

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    Well I’m just a zoo visitor so probably the wrong person to ask questions of. Perhaps I shouldn’t answer given I don't work with animals or in a zoo I just go to them a lot. But being centred on what’s right for the animals and what is practical vs what’s dramatic would in my view make for a good base for any collection.
     
  7. tigris115

    tigris115 Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    My opinion is that, when applicable, risk should be minimized as much as humanely possible with dangerous animals

    This is why zoos have protected contact for things like elephants, large carnivores, and apes.
     
  8. Osedax

    Osedax Well-Known Member

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    I know many people will disagree with me, but I personally quite like this approach when done by trained professionals who are well informed of the risks involved and the welfare of the animals concerned. But I do not think that gorillas, chimps and bonobos, adult big cats and bears etc. should be a part of these interactions, as it is too dangerous.

    When done properly, these experiences can be extremely enriching for the animals involved, and as long as both animals and the keepers/handlers/trainers are well trained, it doesn't have to be too dangerous. However, I don't think the animals should have constant human contact, and there should be gaps between interactions.

    I do not agree with presenting this to zoo guests to make it look like the animals are harmless pets. If these interactions do occur within opening hours, guests should be well informed of the risks involved and the professionalism of the handler, and know that they should never attempt this themselves
     
  9. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    To be honest, if this is your main motivation to start working with such animals: think again. In any serious zoo there is no cuddling of the animals and most of your work is cleaning sh*t and chopping vegetables. Lions and big cats are easy no goes for any form of close contact without a fence in between and zoos that do have keepers hanging out with lions are generally shady to say the least... Elephants are also increasingly held in protective contact, which is also very much to the benefit of the keepers health. Apart from formula 1/2/3 driver I can't think of many professions that have a higher death rate than hands on elephant keeper.
     
    Last edited: 30 Aug 2023
  10. Platypusboy

    Platypusboy Well-Known Member

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    That's the dream!:D
     
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  11. Jana

    Jana Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    I have been once told that most young people aspiring for zoo career (at one Czech zoo keeper training high school) fall out of the idea to become one after being asked to learn how to quickly kill by hand large number of rodents used for feeding.
     
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  12. Platypusboy

    Platypusboy Well-Known Member

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    While that’s not something I would be particularly looking forward to, I am already basically desensitized from all the sh*t I see on the internet, so I don't think that would be too big of a problem for me.
     
    Last edited: 30 Aug 2023
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  13. kate person

    kate person Member

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    I mean there are people out there that do have incredible bonds with dangerous animals like big cats and bears etc and as long as they know the risks and that the animal is respected then I don’t see why not. I find it quite fascinating how these bonds are formed and love learning about it. But of course they need to respect the animal(s) they are working with and make sure no one else is at risk of being harmed.
     
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  14. Steve Robinson

    Steve Robinson Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    A very useful question on our volunteer application questionnaire is - "Do you think that you would be able to kill small rodents to feed to other animals".

    Our questionnaire return rate is about 30%!
     
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  15. Strathmorezoo

    Strathmorezoo Well-Known Member

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    Tricky one this personally I think the closest you should get is during positive reinforcement ie training an animals to offer parts of their anatomy for veterinary treatment
     
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