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You are here: Home / Journal Articles / Positive reinforcement training for a trunk wash in Nepal's working elephants: demonstrating alternatives to traditional elephant training techniques / About

Positive reinforcement training for a trunk wash in Nepal's working elephants: demonstrating alternatives to traditional elephant training techniques

By A. Fagen, Acharya Narayan, G. E. Kaufman

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Abstract

Many trainers of animals in the zoo now rely on positive reinforcement training to teach animals to voluntarily participate in husbandry and veterinary procedures in an effort to improve behavioral reliability, captive management, and welfare. However, captive elephant handlers in Nepal still rely heavily on punishment- and aversion-based methods. The aim of this project was to determine the effectiveness of secondary positive reinforcement (SPR) in training free-contact elephants in Nepal to voluntarily participate in a trunk wash for the purpose of tuberculosis testing. Five female elephants, 4 juveniles and 1 adult, were enrolled in the project. Data were collected in the form of minutes of training, number of offers made for each training task, and success rate for each task in performance tests. Four out of 5 elephants, all juveniles, successfully learned the trunk wash in 35 sessions or fewer, with each session lasting a mean duration of 12 min. The elephants' performance improved from a mean success rate of 39.0% to 89.3% during the course of the training. This study proves that it is feasible to efficiently train juvenile, free-contact, traditionally trained elephants in Nepal to voluntarily and reliably participate in a trunk wash using only SPR techniques.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 17
Issue 2
Pages 83-97
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2014.856258
Language English
Author Address Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA.arielfagen@gmail.com
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Tags
  1. Animals
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Asia
  4. Bacteria
  5. Conditioning
  6. Developing countries
  7. Efficacy
  8. Infections
  9. Least developed countries
  10. Nepal
  11. peer-reviewed
  12. performance testing
  13. performance traits
  14. Techniques
  15. training
  16. Tuberculosis
  17. Zoo and captive wild animals
Badges
  1. peer-reviewed