CZAAWE Resource Article

Positive reinforcement training to elicit voluntary movement of two giant pandas throughout their enclosure
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
Abstract 10.1002/zoo.10103.abs There is a great deal of interest in applying positive reinforcement training to improve the care and management of captive animals. The purpose of the present study was to test the usefulness of positive reinforcement training in managing the “shifting” behavior of two, young giant pandas. This report describes the steps in the training process, the amount of personnel time required, compliance by the pandas and a brief analysis of contextual factors affecting their perfomance. Positive reinforcement training techniques successfully increased the pandas' level of compliance during times of day when they were not routinely asked to move through doorways. During the last 15 training sessions in the seven months that were evaluated for this study, the compliance of each of the two pandas was 87% during routine times and 89% during non-routine times. Each panda was typically trained during three or four sessions per week, and the mean session duration was 12 minutes; trainers spent a mean of 46 minutes per panda per week on training this behavior. An analysis of the effects of context (on-going activities at the time a command to shift was given) indicated that most of the time (66%), even when there was a potentially distracting activity taking place, the pandas still responded to the first or second command given. As a wider range of animal species is being trained in zoo settings, unique challenges need to be considered when designing training progams for each of them. Zoo Biol 22:323–334; 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.