Nashville Zoo begins new training practice with cougars - WKRN News 2

Nashville Zoo begins new training practice with cougars

Posted: Updated: May 11, 2013 08:53 PM

Most creatures at the zoo need one-on-one care which requires keepers to go face-to-face with often dangerous animals.

Instead of putting animals to sleep before these treatments, zoo keepers came up with a plan to treat them as if they were "house pets."

Three cougars, two that were rescued in the northwest, after being orphaned in the wild have found a home at the Nashville Zoo.

Kyle Chippy, Carnivore Keeper at the Nashville Zoo said, "They came to us, they were three to four months old, and they have been here ever since.  They were about 25 pounds when they got here.  Now they are about 125 [pounds]."

The carnivore keepers at the Nashville Zoo have an important job, which is the care and welfare of the zoo's most unpredictable animals.

Carnivore Keeper Chris Meffley said, "They can be dangerous no matter what.  We really don't risk it, so there's always some kind of fencing between us and them."

Carnivore keepers show us how, using target training, keeps their cougars less stressed.  Through conditioning, they have taught the cats to walk in and sit down.

"He knows what to do. He's in his position right now. That is what he's waiting for," said Chippy.

What he's waiting for is on the back side, a keeper takes hold of the cougar's tail, gets it into position. The keeper can then administer a shot.  A clicking sound is made, and the cougar is rewarded.

"It allows us to do a quick procedure 10 to 15 minutes compared to if we would have to anesthetized them.  We would have to do a procedure that would take up to two to three hours," said Meffley.

No anesthesia means no health risk and lower stress for these cougars. 

Keepers hope to expand this type of training, to a variety of animals throughout the zoo.

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