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Training the Wild Friends at Best Friends

By Vicki Ronchette

© Vicki Ronchette

[An] astonishing thing happened with a different tortoise who we were told was overweight and needed exercise. This tortoise started out happily taking food but then stopped eating. However, she continued to stay with the group of people. I asked the caretaker if this tortoise enjoyed being touched and he said that she did, so I asked him to show us how he touches her. He explained that she seemed to like being scratched on her legs close to her shell. We continued our stationing training, but changed the reinforcer from clicking and feeding to scratching her. The trainer would thus scratch, then stop and wait, and then scratch again when the animal moved closer towards her and the station. The behavior was completed with scratching used as reinforcement!… feel strongly that our training and mechanical skills can be greatly improved by working with different species. To see people discover this with the tortoises was incredible. Read more.

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