#RhinoWatch continues! At only a few weeks old, Romeo the eastern black rhino calf was already partaking in positive reinforcement training sessions and followed a target to step on a scale for the first time.
Now at 8 months old, Romeo continues to participate in his own healthcare and has successfully completed a voluntary blood draw! These essential baseline blood values serve as health parameters for the veterinary staff to track as Romeo grows in size and strength. Information from the blood values can also help inform dietary recommendations from the zoo’s Nutrition Center.
Preventive care for the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo is a team effort between Animal Care, Veterinary Services, and the animals themselves. Using positive reinforcement training, keepers are able to build trust with the animals, a necessary foundation for any voluntary healthcare. Romeo’s positive reinforcement or encouragement consisted of his mother Kapuki keeping him company during training sessions; some of his favorite foods, such as carrots, apples, and browse; and even tactile scratches from keepers. Not only is Romeo partaking in his own healthcare, but he is also learning at a young age that interactions with Animal Care and veterinary staff are positive.
Romeo is not the only Lincoln Park Zoo resident that participates in positive reinforcement training sessions. Polar bears and seals at the zoo voluntarily participate in blood collection, ensuring that vet visits and exams, when necessary, are as stress-free as possible. In addition, species from armadillos to takins to Puerto Rican parrots have regular training sessions with keepers.
Check out the videos below to see Romeo’s successful exam!
During the positive reinforcement training session, a target is used to lead Kapuki and Romeo into an area next to their behind-the-scenes space for the exam.
Please note: the below video shows blood. The blood collection is taking place in a behind-the-scenes space that allows staff to work safely with the rhinos in protected contact.