Zoo keepers train komodo dragon
Keepers at San Diego Zoo are training a 14-year-old komodo dragon - using a target that the dragon is learning to walk over and respond to when shown.
After the komodo dragon, named Sunny, successfully completes the behaviour by walking to where the target is placed, keepers reward him with a special treat to positively reinforce the pattern.
This type of target training is extremely beneficial for the animal's welfare. As komodo dragons spend most of their time resting in the sun, the training provides and encourages exercise for Sunny throughout the day.
Another benefit is that once the behaviour is learned, keepers can ask Sunny to move or shift into a different area of the exhibit. This will be helpful if medical attention is needed, since Sunny could voluntarily move without the need for sedation.
Keepers working with Sunny have trained him to wear a harness during these training sessions. They can safely attach a portable action camera to it to film the training from the komodo dragon's point of view. This allows staff to review the sessions and it gives insight into how Sunny sees the training.
Komodo dragons are the largest living lizards in the world. They are a type of monitor lizard, an ancient reptile species with ancestors that date back more than 100 million years. Komodo dragons can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh up to 176 pounds.