1 February 2011

JoJo proves the perfect pupil

Our volunteer Carolynn sends us the latest news from our orangutan rescue centre in Ketapang.

JoJo willingly holds out his armJoJo made us all very proud here in Ketapang last week when he willingly presented his arm to receive a sedation injection, allowing veterinarians Dr Anita and Dr Adi to test him for tuberculosis.

I have been working with JoJo using positive reinforcement training and a clicker for the past two months, and his willingness to learn despite his fear of needles has been astonishing.

JoJo the orangutanIt didn't take JoJo long to understand that when I made the "click" sound with the clicker, it meant he has behaved correctly and was about to get a piece of apple or banana covered in honey. I started out rewarding JoJo with treats for placing his arm in my hand, and then gradually extended the duration he had to patiently wait while I held his arm and disinfected a patch of skin with alcohol. After JoJo was comfortable with this behavior, I brought a needle with me for training sessions, and either showed it to him or gently touched it to his skin depending on his comfort level. It didn't take long before we were able to prick his skin with the finest needle we have, and JoJo allowed us to do so knowing that a big reward was sure to follow.

I've often felt as though JoJo enjoyed the praise and communication between us just as much as the treats and rewards. JoJo always happily took tasty food treats from me after having completed the correct behavior, but before looking at the treat he would always look to me for verbal and visual praise, as if he wanted reassurance that he is fantastic, that we are still friends, and again that he is indeed fantastic!

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