Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fred learns to stick out her tongue...

One of the coolest adaptations of the kinkajou, Potos flavus, is their long tongue. Kinkajous belong to the same family as racoons, but look more like a cross between a monkey and a cat. I wanted Como to get a kinkajou since I started working here in 2001. Two years ago, Fred the kinkajou came to us from the Central Florida Zoological Park in Lake Monroe, FL. She is in my opinion, one of the coolest education animals we have. Recently, Fred, her keepers, and the education staff that work with her began an operant conditioning program. The goal is to keep her handleable for education programs as well as teach her to display some of her natural behaviors on cue. Training a kinkajou is similar to how you would teach your dog to do a trick, you just have to find the right motivator. For Fred, it's dried cranberries or blueberries. Her ears perk up and her nose wiggles when she smells those tasty treats. She seems to be a very smart creature and picked up quite quickly that when we came into her holding with treats, we expected her to do something. As we ask her to present her tongue, she puts a paw on your pointer finger and sticks out her 5 inch long tongue. Next on the list is training Fred to open her mouth wide to show off her impressive canines. Como does not have Fred the Kinkajou on display as she is an education animal, but if you ever come to a class or an evening event at the Como Zoo, you may be lucky enough to get to see her.

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