Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's all happenin' at the zoo

I can haz tummy rubs?

I'm not a big fan of zoos for various reasons but I guess there has to be somewhere for the Michael Jacksons of the world to dump their exotic pets when they grow up and get too uppity. But the Boulder Humane Society sponsored a talk by Karen Pryor and it took place at the Denver Zoo and lecture fee included entry to the zoo so I swallowed my misgivings and had a wander 'round the exhibits. It's not so bad for a zoo, you can see they made every attempt to make a nice habitat for the animals. In her lecture Karen said it's one of the best zoos she's seen in the country and she had slides of the keepers using her clicker methods to handle one of the flighty antelope type critters. Still there were some bad moments for me. I particularly hate seeing the big cats when they're in their little indoor cages and I had to beat feet out of the lion house when the tiger started freaking out right next to the glass and everyone was standing around taking pictures and laughing. Also it was 85 degrees and a bright sunny day so the poor polar bears looked on the verge of heart attacks. I couldn't take their picture, it was such a sad sight. But overall I have to say it's not bad for a zoo, Jonny and I had a good time and I managed to escape the place without getting any monkeys in my hair.

The lecture was good as well, a mixture of stuff from her new book, 'Reaching the Animal Mind', and some new stuff thrown in. She knows how to keep it interesting without dumbing it down too much. I would have loved a more technical, scientificky talk but I knew full well that that's not what I was signing up for and I'd say I got exactly what I paid for. They had a nice spread of snackies laid out for us so we didn't have to buy the nasty zoo food and between that and the free zoo entry ($12, yikes) it was well worth the $20. She said she (or maybe her faculty?) is coming out with an agility training book which I think could be interesting. There were many questions from the audience about how to deal with fear and in particular noise sensitivities and she said they'd come up with a protocol for teaching noise sensitive agility dogs to deal with the noises encountered at a trial that involved teaching them to knock over progressively louder piles of objects (ie, plastic bottles then pieces of metal, etc.) and this would be spelled out in the new book. BTW, I enjoyed her current, got it from the library but I think once it's in paperback I'll buy my own copy because there are bits I'd like to re-read. There were some interesting real life examples of clicker training mixed with a bit of research/studies/science to keep the geeks like me interested I guess. Again, I think she does a good job of striking a balance between making the science interesting for the normal people and not dumbing it down too much for the geeks. I also liked reading about some of the amazing behaviors she's trained. Makes you realize we're just barely scraping the realm of what's possible with our dogs. Now if only I'd gotten some insights into how to deal with that darn running dogwalk.

I had some fun with my camera, sort of. I thought taking pictures of animals at the zoo would be easy but I was wrong. Most of the animals were sleeping or hiding in the shade or both because it was so hot so I had a combination of bad lighting and boring subjects and what can you do about that? But I got a few nice shots of some animals up and about. The photos look nicer if you click on them.

Strum sez he could give this guy a run for his money

Before I took the photo this lion sniffed the butt of the lion laying down, then licked it, then made that face.

This is a Secretary Bird and in person it's huge and looks like a badass dinosaur. One of the ways it kills its prey is by stomping on it.

I'll get there when I get there

The elephants always look like such old souls

I can't imagine how that's comfortable

Those guys must have some impressive neck muscles

Pssst, you wanna buy a watch?

Sleepy rhino


  1. Awesome pictures! I really like the captions.

    You could design your own Zoo postcards:-)

  2. I debated on going / not going, and landed on the NOT going side for this event. I would love to hear her speak ... some day, though.

  3. I love zoos for seeing & learning about animals that I'd otherwise never get to see in person, and for their efforts to breed animals that are dying out in teh wild, but I also have more & more trouble with big animals in small enclosures. Ii like the san diego wild animal park because it gives most of them some actual room in which to live.

    Like your photos and especially the captions.