I TIVO’d the documentary “Mine” last night and hope to find time to watch it tonight.
In a bit of late night insomnia last week I caught parts of “Into the Lion’s Den,” a documentary on TV zoologist and big cat trainer Dave Salmoni’s work habituating a pride of wild lions to his presence. While Salmoni calls what he does “positive reinforcement training” he’s actually using the kind of very subtle approach / retreat – pressure / release (or negative reinforcement) skills that wild animal trainers have used since at least the time of Heini Hediger. (Hediger’s books are classics on how animals use and understand personal space and highly recommended for anyone who’s interested in how to use approach / retreat to work with animals.)
In Salmoni’s experience, every sound and movement a cat makes tells him how it’s going to behave. If he responds appropriately, the cat will respond appropriately, too. He will be successful when the lions consistently allow him to remain on foot in their close proximity, regarding him as neither a threat nor a potential meal. Salmoni knows the risks are enormous, but he is more concerned with the future of wild animals in our world.
I’m not sure how habituating wild lions to the presence of humans is going to save them – since habituated wild animals are the most likely to cause problems. A bit of googling shows that Salmoni is a controversial guy. He uses his looks and connections to make hyped up for TV documentaries instead of doing serious research. “Into the Lion’s Den” struck me as the wild animal trainer’s version of a parlor trick – but if you catch it, watch it to see how incredibly subtle the use of negative reinforcement can be.
The wolf was spotted by a police officer in New Brighton, and officials from the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake were able to tranquilize and net the animal at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, said Joy Fusco, administrator of the Wildlife Science Center.
Feld Entertainment has filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against HSUS.
The central claim of the lawsuit (see page 13 of the PDF) is:
[D]efendants have perpetrated and continue to perpetrate multiple schemes to permanently ban Asian elephants in circuses, to defraud FEI ofmoney and property and/or to unjustly enrich themselves, with the ultimate objective of banning Asian elephants in all forms of entertainment and captivity. To carry out these schemes, defendants conspired to conduct and conducted the Enterprise through a pattern of, among other things, bribery and illegal gratuity payments (in violation of both state and federal law), obstruction of justice, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. (emphasis addad by HumaneWatch)
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I expect this case to drag on for a long time…
And – for a bit of light entertainment check out this Life Magazine photo essay on the Dogs of WWII: