Target Training Juvenile False Water Cobras (Hydrodynastes gigas)

Michelle Williams, Zachary Loughman

Abstract


Animal training has several purposes and benefits including mental stimulation, physical exercise, stress reduction, and increased safety. Among these benefits, the most important are reducing stress during veterinary procedures and routine husbandry practices. Training can improve the welfare of captive animals while reducing the risk of injury to keepers, especially when working with potentially dangerous animals. Animals are often trained to willingly participate in basic husbandry and veterinary procedures; some common goals of training include shifting from one place to another, targeting, as well as stationing. While nearly all animals have the capacity to be trained in some manner, the majority of studies have centered on mammals, especially nonhuman primates. The limited literature that utilizes reptiles as their subjects mainly focuses on tortoises and monitor lizards, despite the fact that many potentially dangerous reptiles, such as crocodilians, are often trained in zoos. However, there is an overall lack of documentation of training snakes, with less than a handful of zoos reporting any kind of training with their snakes. In this study, juvenile false water cobras (Hydrodynastes gigas), a rear-fanged venomous species, will first be trained to touch their faces to a target to receive a food reward. Next, they will be trained to follow the target into a bucket and remain in the bucket. This project aims to demonstrate a successful target training and stationing protocol to reduce physical handling of the snakes for weighing or transporting them out of their enclosure.


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