We recently got in contact with another educational animal outreach facility located in Kansas City, Missouri with the same name, Animal Wonders. We are Animal Wonders Inc., while they are Animal Wonders LLC. but we have the same desire to educate the public about animals. They offer great programs to their community and surrounding areas and we are happy to be working together to make a better future for the next generations of people and animals. If you're in their area, look them up at www.animalwonders.net. When we all work together we can really make a difference!
We had a beautiful snow here that lasted about a week and everything was soft and fluffy white. This week the temperatures climbed into the mid 30s melting the snow banks and icicles. We are now have the slushy muddy mess that usually accompanies early spring.
Quigley, the brush-tailed bettong, has learned how to walk on his new harness. He is such a small size that I had to custom make a leather harness with Velcro to fit his little body and adjust easily for his fast growth rate. He's a pro at it now and sits fairly still as I adjust the harness and then he enjoys his pine nut treat for being such a good sport.
We are in the process of obtaining a Captive Bred Wildlife Permit (CBW) from the Federal Fish & Wildlife Service. This will allow us to adopt a female Brush-Tailed Bettong and hopefully increase the population. Since they are critically endangered and are being introduced back into their native habitat, it is important to keep the genetics variation as wide as possibly to avoid a bottle necking of their DNA.
We are looking for donations to help cover the costs of the application and build a larger enclosure to house the pair. If you would like to be a part of keeping the amazing Brush-tailed Bettong from the brink, this is a great way to be involved.
We are constantly working on old and new behaviors (aka tricks) with the animals residents. Most are husbandry related, like the rabbit and Patagonian cavy using a litter box to help with sanitation or being comfortable in a crate. Some are more hands-on like Zoe, the Red-Lored Amazon Parrot, allowing a tactile wing extension for feathers trims and physical examinations or desensitizing the hedgehogs to being handled. And some are geared toward mental stimulation and playful interaction. Some examples of this are: waving, sitting, "yes" and "no", vocalizations, going to a mark, targeting to a hand.
We feel that training is an essential part in caring for animals, especially exotics. we use positive reinforcement methods and it all feels like an educational game of communication. Both parties end on a high positive note and can't wait to play and learn again. When we train we like to use the word "teach" instead of train since teaching is exactly what we do. It isn't a one-way street either; the teacher learns as much from their student as the student learns from the teacher. Every animal is different so there is no set way to handle each situation. Basic training theory is necessary to understand the process and experience is necessary to pick up the subtle details involved in communicating with an animal. I personally find training to be an extraordinarily rewarding experience each time.
As I said before, we continually reinforce already learned behaviors to maintain them at their highest efficiency. We also implement new behaviors as they are called for. We are currently working on several new behaviors with Zoe, (Red-Lored Amazon), Quigley (Brush-tailed Bettong), and Tango (Patagonian Cavy). Tango is learning how to push through a plastic "doggy" door so he can let himself in and out of his dirt enclosure whenever he wants. Quigley is starting to wean himself from his milk and is becoming more and more independent. Therefore, he is learning how to walk on a harness, target, and go to a mark so when he goes to presentations he will be comfortable and the audience will be able to see his unique proportions and natural movement. Zoe is learning how to demonstrate her loud scream to show the audience how noisy parrots can be. This helps them understand how they communicate in the wild and how they don't make good pets for most people. She is also learning to demonstrate how everyone can help be environmentally conscience by picking up litter and recycling. Zoe will pick up a piece of litter and put it in the trash can.
We hope the behaviors we teach the animals will help improve their quality of life and enhance the education in the presentations.
We passed our annual unannounced USDA inspection today. The USDA regulates mammals and are very thorough about cleanliness, sanitation, and overall care of the animals. We take pride in providing the residents here at Animal Wonders with excellent care and continually strive to improve their lives in any way we can. It's good to know that the USDA also cares about the welfare of animals enough to regulate even the basic needs of these amazing creatures.
We just got back from Ella's Birthday Party! We had a great time with Ella and her friends and family. Ella was our guest animal handler for her special day and got to hold a sand boa and have a tarantula crawl across her hand. Tango, Curly, Zoe and several others helped make it a great show. We hope Ella had as much fun as we did! Happy 8th Birthday Ella!