Positive Reinforcement Training

Training Tales: Crystal’s Walking Club

Chimp Haven
Chimp Haven December 11, 2018
Chimp Smiling for Camera - Crystal

Chimp Haven retirees are trained, using positive reinforcement, to participate in their own veterinary care and individualized wellbeing plans. Chimps can be trained to show care staff a scratch on their arm, to take an injectable medication (such as insulin), or even to allow for monitoring of more complex health issues, such as arthritis or heart conditions. Although at Chimp Haven the chimps have lots of room to roam and climb, they are just like people and occasionally need motivation to get moving. We address weight management with our Personal Trainer program. 

Chimp: Crystal, 32 years old, living the Chimp Life since 2007

Personal Trainer: Robyn Gilles, Behavior Technician

About Crystal

Crystal is a very playful, enthusiastic chimps and always catches my eye by swaying side to side, inviting me over to her. She is very people motivated and if she wants your attention she WILL get your attention one way or another. She’ll make noises, and, if that doesn’t work, she’ll get some water and spit it at you – her aim is spot on! She is a distinguished chimp and will captivate you with her one eye.

Our “workouts”

Crystal is a bigger lady and it’s nice to walk with her since she really likes to participate. If she’s up in the cupola she will make her way down quickly to get attention. She loves our morning work boots, so when I found out she needed to lose weight I grabbed my boots and made her my walking buddy.

Knowing that Crystal likes to walk the perimeter of her yard to be close to staff, I set up an “obstacle course” to help increase movement I walk with her. The maze includes tires and logs so Crystal has to either walk around or over but either way she gets more steps in or using different muscles to step up and over the obstacle. Crystal’s reward for walking these laps around her yard is getting to touch/groom my boots which she loves to do. She also likes to get groomed with a long-handled spoon. This is a nice low calorie reward to help achieve her ideal weight.

I also like to give encouraging words to Crystal as we walk, like you would do for anyone on a weight loss journey. She even has her own theme song that I made up and will sing to her (Eye of the Crystal sung to the tune of Eye of the Tiger).

Since we started walking together, I’ve noticed a quicker pace that even occasionally works up to a light jog! Her initial group of nine has been introduced to nine other chimpanzees and this has also helped her weight since there is more activity going on in the group. Jonah, one of the introduced chimps, has even recruited himself to Crystal’s walking club!

Chimp Haven
Chimp Haven