Winter learning for the tigers

Katya and Anastasia are the Amur tigers at the Zoo. They are litter mates and will be 12 years old in May. Formerly known as Siberian tigers, Amur tigers enjoy the snow. They also enjoy learning new behaviors during this time of year, when they are most active.

Katya and Anastasia are trained with positive reinforcement. This means we reinforce beneficial behavior with delicious treats, including their favorites, pork and chicken. They have learned many behaviors over the years, like responding when they are called and allowing us to close gates so we can clean inside or outside without them present.

Tiger-blogThe tigers participate in their own health care by allowing us to weigh them on a scale or give them their annual vaccines by hand injection. We aim to make these processes stress-free by providing a succulent chunk of meat for the tigers to enjoy during the injection process.

This year, the tigers have also learned to participate in an emergency recall to their off habitat area. This behavior is important so we have the ability to change the tigers’ location if necessary, like if an unexpected item enters their habitat or to protect their safety during a weather event. They find responding to the recall very entertaining!

Presently, we are working to train the tigers to allow us to draw blood from their tails.

It takes time for the tigers to learn all of these behaviors that help us provide the best care. That’s why all the training we do is “on their time”–based on their interest and participation, and never forced.

We are looking forward to a new year of keeping the tigers active, healthy, and engaged!

— Mary Ellen Ostrander, Zoo Keeper