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Michelle Prasad (Head of Science)

Year 12 Psychology students recently spend a day at Perth Zoo where they attended
a ‘Hisss-teria’ lecture. During this lecture, students were able to discover how the
principles of learning have been applied to the care and management of zoo

We looked at case studies which are examples of classical conditioning where
learning is by associating an action with a reward.

The Komodo dragon can grow up to 3m long, and, with its venomous bite, pose a
threat to keepers. Teaching the Komodo dragon to do certain tasks is important so
that the zoo can offer healthcare, exercise, enrichment and move animals if necessary. The Komodo dragon has learnt to move onto scales for a weigh-in in
return for a small reward.

Much more intelligent than ‘The Lion King’ portrays them to be, the hyenas will
collaborate with their group to attach larger prey – humans! As a result, keepers do
not enter the exhibit, rather train the hyena to come to the fence and present body
parts for checking. Presenting correctly earns the hyena a food reward.

We also learnt about observational learning where a female Sumatran Orangutan
who had lost its mother, was able to watch human mothers caring for their infants.
She was then able to mimic this behaviour when raising her own baby.

Students enjoyed their time at the Zoo saying:

“It was great fun at the Zoo, learning how the operational and classical conditioning are
put into practice with the Komodo dragons, hyenas and pygmy marmosets was really
interesting.” – Jackson

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