The ring-tailed lemurs at Zoo Atlanta never cease to amaze me. During today's two training sessions, all four made good progress, including troublesome Julius. Jason is showing increased confidence, strong stationing and targeting behavior, and has even shown great promise at differentiating his target stick from the target sticks of others. (The latter is a newly introduced criteria, and he seemed to get the idea almost immediately.) Ringo is now back on track and demonstrating his ability to differentiate target sticks. Of course, he's always been strong on stationing (grabbing the carabiner hooked to the cage mesh)--the trick will be to get him to stop offering the behavior when I'm not asking for it. Julius' targeting behavior, on the other hand, is still poor (at best), but he is finally getting the idea of the carabiner and stationing. Finally, progress!
Once again, Neal is leaping ahead. Today, he was showing very strong ability to differentiate targets, and even had no problem distinguishing between his target (a stick with a heart on the end) vs. Jason's target (a stick with a circle). The shapes are similar, and up until now, I had only asked him to distinguish his heart from either Julius' square or Ringo's triangle--both with sharp edges and no round edges. Tomorrow, if I have help, I hope to give Neal the ultimate test: asking him to target using all four target sticks simultaneously. If he can distinguish his target stick from the other three, then he will have completed all the training I had planned--all in less than 2 weeks!!
If that wasn't enough, Neal did something even better today. For those of you familiar with my December Keeper Blog for Zoo Atlanta (reposted below with permission), it is well known that Neal is notoriously bad about coming inside at the end of the day. Well, today I used his target stick, called "target", and Neal jumped up and came inside immediately to train. Victory!! Although he first ignored the carabiner (his "station" behavior), we may now have a way to bring Neal in and save a lot of time in the afternoon. I hope with all my heart that these extra few minutes in the afternoon can now be converted to training sessions--a win-win for both keepers and lemurs. Hopefully he does this again tomorrow!