Healesville Sanctuary dingos Dargo and Maliki happily take turns leaping onto a boulder to allow a keeper to check their ears, eyes and teeth. Every successful health check earns a treat, and positive reinforcement.
“We do it regularly, so it’s really established as something they’re used to,” explains dingo keeper Lauren Nankervis. “We want to spot any potential health issues right away.”
The dingoes also get full-body pat downs to assess how much body fat they have, the condition of their coats and overall health.
Dargo is an alpine dingo, with a thick fluffy coat of fur that makes it difficult to assess his condition, so training to allow an assessment through touch is beneficial for both the animal and the team that cares for him.
Maliki is a tropical dingo and naturally much leaner than Dargo, so keepers monitor her to ensure her weight stays in a healthy range.
Ms Nankervis said the dingoes always choose whether they will participate in training.
“The dingoes definitely enjoy their training. Not only do they get their favourite rewards, whether that’s bits of quail or ear rubs, it’s also mentally stimulating for them.
“If the dingoes ever don’t want to do a particular thing, or display behaviours that show they might not be totally comfortable, we’ll stop and try again later.”
This week’s preventative health training sessions showed Dargo and Maliki to both be in good health.
While Healesville Sanctuary is temporarily closed to members and visitors, animal lovers at home can stay connected with the Zoo’s animals through the Zoos Victoria live stream cameras at www.zoo.org.au/animals-at-home