Sunday I decided to relax and take in a movie. The big release this weekend was Jurassic World and since I loved the first so much as a kid, I thought I'd enjoy the sequel. Little did I know I wasn't taking time off, but instead, watching a work related movie. I was floored that Jurassic World was really "Dinosaur care, training, and enrichment and what goes horribly wrong when you fail"- the movie.
I had a lot to say after seeing the movie, both good and bad, but I am glad I slept on it as my tone has softened. Instead of raves and rants, I choose instead to pen a letter to the "Dinosaur Whisperer" himself - Chris Pratt, on my thoughts of his methods, philosophy, as well as how the park cared for the behavioral health of its animals. Enjoy.
Dear Chris Pratt,
I wanted to start by telling you that I am very proud of your choice of methods in training your Velociraptors. Clicker training is at the forefront of the most effective forms of animal training. After watching your technique I would like to suggest you refine your timing and use of the clicker. Perhaps practice with Raptor cousins for a while by attending a Chicken Clicker Camp. From my observations, Raptors have profound hearing and don't require multiple clicks or clicking so close to them. I'm sure the skills and timing you would learn at this programs would help you turn your raptors into some amazingly well trained animals. But of course, don't let the military catch wind of this. I mean look what they did with the poor sweet dolphins.
I am very impressed with the facilities the dinosaurs are housed in. Most seem filled with enrichment and get lots of stimulation throughout the day. I agreed with your assessment that it was a poor choice to limit Indominus Rex's enrichment and stimulation. As we learned, bored animals get very creative and not always in the ways we would like. Especially when it comes to human interactions and shock type boundary containment systems. I was pleased though that even with limited access to enrichment, Indominus was very happy to interact with a treat ball when given the opportunity.
I was also pleased to see that you work to embrace a Raptor's natural instincts in capturing their tracking behaviors. It was nice to see all your hard work and proofing worked well when you did a real life test of their training. I don't consider the end result a failure. Not many trainers think to proof that outcome. I know a few tracking and Nose Work instructors who might be able to give you a few tips but otherwise I think you have a very good grasp on what you're doing.
In closing the only real concern I have is where the science is on Alpha/dominance/pack theory regarding Raptors. I know the this theory has been significantly changed with dogs as they don't actually pack or have a hierarchy like wolves. If Raptors do pack with a hierachy, are they really a species that would allow dominance or hierarchy from another species? Presumption of this might have been what got you in trouble at the end of your tracking exercises. Perhaps more research is needed. Anyway, thank you for your hard work and keep training those Raptors!
Molly Sumner CDBC, CPDT-KSA, CBATI