Training of Animals
Behaviors or procedures
Technical skills and competencies needed
  target training at St. Louis
a mouth exam at San Antonio
volunteer hoof trim at San Antonio
maintaining acceptance of a halter at San Antonio
applying hoof cream at San Antonio
training for volunteer blood collection at San Antonio
a standing immobilization at San Antonio

Behavior management is essential for successful maintenance of
the species. It is an integral part of a management program and
should be incorporated into daily operations. It must be considered
when designing a facility—both on and off exhibit, inside
and outside. Enrichment and training should not be programs
separate from regular operations, but should be incorporated into
the various aspects of the facility design, husbandry program and
daily operations.

Training of Animals: Most okapis acclimate to keepers working
around them fairly closely to accommodate routine cleaning of
outside areas and shifting for interior stall cleaning. Desensitizing
an animal to touch can be very helpful to monitor general health.
It is possible to acclimate animals to allow a number of relatively
non-invasive procedures, which give the animal care staff valuable
health information and allow preventative care without the use of
immobilizing drugs.
As mentioned above in the medical procedure section, the use of
“working panels” or restraint boxes has helped facilitate the training


Behaviors or procedures which have been trained at a number of
institutions include:

  • Target training
  • Manipulating feet for inspection and minor hoof trims
  • Rectal temperatures
  • Standing on a scale to gain routine weights
  • Allowing growth measurements to be taken
  • Trans-abdominal ultrasounds
  • Collecting milk samples
  • Acceptance of a crate or transport trailer
  • Mouth exam
  • Halter training
  • Voluntary blood draw


Technical skills and competencies needed by animal care staff include:

  • An understanding of the natural history, physiology, behavior and social structure of the okapi, both in the wild and in the zoo setting
  • An understanding of the basic principles of operant conditioning and training, and the need to integrate these into routine operations
  • Familiarity with, and an understanding of, the basic facility design and its operation
  • Ability to develop a rapport with the individuals in their care


Edited by Terry DeRosa, San Antonio Zoo, Fran Lyon, White Oak Conservation Center and Ann Petric, Okapi SSP Coordinator, Brookfield Zoo Illustration: J. Busch
Updated and adapted for the web, Patrick Immens