CZAAWE Resource Article

Conditioning of nyala (Tragelaphus angasi) to blood sampling in a crate with positive reinforcement
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
Abstract 10.1002/zoo.1430140307.abs Habituation and positive reinforcement procedures were successfully used for low stress blood sampling of nyala (Tragelaphus angasi) at the Denver Zoological Gardens. Four adult females and three offspring were conditioned with a food reward voluntarily to enter a plywood crate for bimonthly blood sampling from the rear leg. Habituated and conditioned, nonsedated nyala could also be given intramuscular injections and be palpated on the udder and abdomen. Highly palatable sliced yams and carrots were used to train the seven animals to enter the crate and allow a handler to confine each animal in it by closing a remotely controlled, vertical slide gate. The next step was slow, careful desensitization and habituation of each animal to having its legs and body touched by a person who reached through a small hole in the side of the crate. The animal was given yam treats during this procedure. The solid sides on the crate helped keep the animal calm. Conditioning and habituation were done slowly and carefully over a period of 3 months to avoid frightening the animals or causing a dangerous escape attempt. All animals remained calm during both conditioning and blood sampling procedures. Investing the time and effort to train nyala to crate handling resulted in improved animal welfare and blood samples that were not confounded by stress. The nyala were trained for a vitamin E supplementation study. In captivity, nyala often suffer from myopathy due to vitamin E deficiency. Vitamin E levels will change when an animal is stressed. Training the animals to cooperate during blood sampling eliminated handling stress. This made it possible to accurately measure vitamin E levels, which will aid nutritionists in determining supplementation levels. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.