Crate Conditioning of Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus) for Veterinary and Husbandry Procedures at the Denver Zoological Gardens

Megan Phillips,1 Temple Grandin,2* Wendy Graftam,2 Nancy A. Iribeck,2 and Richard C. Cambre1

Zoo Biology, Vol 17, pp. 25-32. 1998

1 Denver Zoological Gardens, Denver, Colorado
2 Depanment of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado


Crate conditioning of bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus) at the Denver Zoological Gardens made it possible to perform veterinary and husbandry procedures without chemical or manual restraint. Procedures included blood sampling, injections, wound treatment, milk collection, and caudal tail fold tuberculin testing. Habituation and positive reinforcement techniques were used to accomplish conditioning. The methods used were similar to those described by Grandin et al. [1995] for conditioning of nyala (Tragelaphus angasi). A remote-controlled feed dispenser was mounted on top of the crate. It allowed the handler to provide food to subordinate animals selectively, so that dominant animals would not eat all of the rewards. Bongo were more vigilant and more attentive to activities outside the stall than nyala trained in previous studies. It took longer to habituate and condition some individual bongo to particular steps of the process. Bongo were responsive to vocal cues from the handler. The mean plasma cortisol level in three crate-conditioned, unsedated bongo was 6.4 - 3.8 ng/ml. The mean glucose level was 61.25 - 19.45 mg/dl in crate-conditioned animals and 166.5 - 54.59 mg/dl in animals immobilized with either a dart or a pole syringe. Creatine kinase (CK) levels were 70.75 - 17.9 IU in crate-conditioned animals and 288.75 - 194 IU in immobilized animals. Values for these blood parameters, commonly associated with stress, appeared to be lower in crate- conditioned animals. Zoo Biol 17:25-32, 1998. 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Key words: handling; habituation; conditioning; bongo; antelope; cortisol

* Correspondence to: Temple Grandin, Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.

Received for publication 8 June 1995; revision accepted 24 October 1997.


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