Training tigers at Calgary Zoo promotes good health

The Calgary Zoo uses training programs to keep its tigers in optimum health.

Heather Elliot, a trainer at The Calgary Zoo, can be found training the tigers at 11:30 a.m. daily at the Tiger Amphitheatre in the Eurasian region of the zoo. There are three adult tigers – Katja , Kita and Baikal.

“We train the tigers for a number of reasons – for better interaction, to mentally stimulate them, enrich their life and focus on issues,” Elliott said. “For example, the male tiger, who’s 14, had lower-body issues and training allowed us to see what’s wrong.”

Tiger training is also important for weight management and exercise. To train the tigers, the keeper uses a three-step process that includes the cue, a hand signal and a verbal command.

“We use hand signals to ask for behaviour,” Elliott explained.

The signs used by the trainers include the”L” shape to instruct the tiger not to growl, the fist sign to sit and hand up or down for the tiger to stand or lay.

We train the tigers for a number of reasons –  for better interaction, to mentally stimulate them, enrich their life and focus on issues – Heather Elliot

Afterward, the trainer whistles to recognize the tigers’ good behavior and allows them to associate the whistle with getting a treat. The tigers are then given a large chunk of raw meat as a reward, either by hand or using a pair of tongs.

“The reward lets the tigers know the precise information we’re requesting and helps with being consistent,” Elliot said.

About Skye Luk 3 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Skye Luk worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2015-16 academic year.

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