Monday, February 11, 2013

Approaching the finish line

With only one day left to train the ring-tailed lemurs at Zoo Atlanta, today's training session felt like a pivotal moment in my two weeks of lemur training.  As we approach the finish line, one lemur holds a clear lead: Neal!  Although Jason and Ringo are doing very well, and even Julius is starting to make progress, Neal may actually satisfy my idealistic training goals by tomorrow afternoon.

This afternoon, with the help of Alicia, one of my fellow keepers, we put Neal to the test--first discovering that he would follow his target stick if held by someone other than me, and then watching him distinguish between three of the target sticks, each held far apart.  Tomorrow, I hope to test with all four target sticks, and if he gets that, he will have mastered my targeting goals!  Furthermore, Neal has also demonstrated that he can return to his station with only a verbal command (without the trainer touching the carabiner).  This is excellent news, since I had been concerned that the ring-tailed lemurs might have problems with a mobile station, given their difficulties with object permanence problems.  Neal has shown that with careful training and a very attentive lemur, many great things are possible.  Go Neal!


  1. What does this mean: "given their difficulties with object permanence problems"? I'm not a trainer and don't know the trade jargon, but want to understand what you're talking about. And what specifically are the problems? Thanks.

  2. In experiments, lemurs have difficulty remembering what objects are hidden where if separated from the problem for a given amount of time. For example, if you hide a grape under a cup and leave the cup out of the lemur's reach for... let's say 5 minutes... and then give the lemur access to the cup, the lemur won't remember that there's a grape under it.

    So with the carabiners, if we set it on area of the cage, and then move the lemur around a lot with a target stick while doing other training, but then give the command to go back to the carabiner, the lemur may not remember where it is.

  3. This is interesting. Thank you for explaining. Is thit common with other primates?

  4. I can't recall how common this is in other primates, but I'm pretty sure monkeys and apes score higher than lemurs with object permanence. If anything, New World monkeys might score a little low.