We just received a question from Chrissi, “How do you train and handle the animals when you rescue them?”
Many of the animals we receive as rescues never get any training at all because they are going to be released back into the wild. These are injured native animals that we rehabilitate and then released where they were found.
Sometimes, though, we receive rescued exotic animals (usually unwanted pets). These animals can never be released into the wild. The first thing we do with any new animal is to give it a physical exam. If it seems healthy, then we determine if it is comfortable being handled by humans.
Animals that seem comfortable at being handled are put into quarantine for three months. During this time, the animal’s behavior and health is monitored daily.
Most of our animals, like the snakes, cannot be trained to “sit” or “fetch” like your dog might be. Instead they are conditioned to do a show. What does this mean?
Imagine you are afraid of sunflowers. Every time you see a sunflower, you run away and scream at the top of your lungs. Even a picture of a sunflower gets you upset.
If I gave you a cookie every time you saw a sunflower, after a while you might think sunflowers are not all that bad.
How we do that with the animals?
The first day an animal arrives at Reptiles Alive, it begins training for shows.
Every day we briefly pick up each animal, put it back in its home and immediately give them a food treat, or, put them back in their favorite place – their hide box! The animals soon find out that being held does not hurt them, and they get a treat afterward. Soon, the animal is no longer afraid of being held and relaxes in our hands.
The conditioning continues by holding the animal for longer periods of time and in different locations. After a while, the animal will have met many different people, heard new noises, and seen many new things. Now it is ready for showtime!