Training with the Chimps

Training with the Chimps
Today I was lucky enough to watch a training session.  I was shocked to see how intelligent these chimps really are.  The chimps are trained to present different parts of their body for inspection.  This is all done by using positive reinforcement training.  For example, the staff member will say “hand”, and the chimp will put their hand on the cage.  Once they perform the task asked of them correctly, they will receive a treat, such as an orange slice or grape.  The reason the chimps are taught the different parts of the body is so the staff member can perform a variety of medical or husbandry related tasks without having to sedate the chimp.  For example, taking their temperature, doctoring wounds, and checking glucose levels are all examples of tasks that can be done from outside the cage.  This means that the chimps are willing participants in their training, which is a great form of enrichment. It is also beneficial for both the chimps and the caregivers because it takes the anxiety out of potentially stressful situations.  I was amazed at how well some of the chimps know the different parts of the body.  Patti was eager to train.  She knew exactly what she needed to do in order to get her favorite fruits.   Patti knew the commands for hand, foot, belly, chest, head, ear, turn around, butt, and hold.  Each time she presented the correct body part to the caregiver, she received a slice of banana.  While her training session was going on, I was very impressed with Thiele, who was patiently waiting her turn.  Once it was Thiele’s turn, she also knew all of the body parts.  Thiele was a bit picky when it came to her reward.  She was not impressed with the orange slices and would only accept grapes.  Positive reinforcement is a great way to teach these extremely smart chimps!
Casey, Intern

 

Click here to learn more about the behavioral training program at Chimps Inc.!