ABMA Annual Conference

The 2019 ABMA conference will be April 7-12 in Portland, OR  

"A better future for wildlife through excellence in behavior management"

The Oregon Zoo is hosting.

The Benson Hotel is the conference hotel.  You can book online or by calling the hotel.     If you have any problems with booking a double bed room, please contact the hotel at 800-716-6199.  BOOK HERE.

Watch the conference video!

Learn more about Portland.

The conservation animal for the 2019 Conference is the Bee!  You can buy some bee apparel from Animals Anonymous here or pick some up at the conference.   This year the ABMA is proudly supporting The Xerces Society  Thank you for supporting bee conservation!

Quick Links for Conference Information

BMF Scholarship

Congratulations to Dr. Cathy Mingee from Busch Gardens, Tampa and Brandi Taylor from Denver Zoo for their paper “Evaluating Training: What we learned and where we are going”.  Dr. Mingee will be presenting the paper at the ABMA Conference in Portland.

Did you know that ABMA’s Behavior Management Fund (BMF) committee has a travel scholarship available for one lucky member at each of our annual conferences? Abstract deadline for the BMF Travel Scholarship has passed. Please submit the complete BMF Travel Scholarship application package to be considered.   
This scholarship is to assist an ABMA member whose institution is unable to give them financial support. The Travel Scholarship will help the award recipient by giving them the ability to present their work and it will help the organization by giving ABMA members the opportunity to hear presentations that the membership otherwise would not have the opportunity to hear and as such, the Travel Scholarship supports the ABMA Core Value of “Sharing the Knowledge.”

The abstract submission deadlines for the 2019 annual conference in Portland are:
Abstracts due- 15 January by 11:59pm EST
Winner notified- 1 February
Winner accept/deny- 8 February

The scholarship will provide:
• Transportation: Up to $500.00 reimbursed at Conference with receipt of purchased ticket or based on government per diem if driving, verification of mileage is required.
• Hotel room for the entire conference.
• Conference registration fee (including site visits, the banquet, and any meals included with registration).
*Airport to hotel transportation and meals on your own will not be provided.
Applicant Requirements
• Applicant must be an ABMA member in good standing. ABMA membership must be valid through the dates of the conference for the given Travel Scholarship Award year.
• Applicant may not have received this scholarship in the previous year.
• Applicant must submit the online abstract submission form, check the BMF scholarship box within the form, and complete the additional scholarship questions after checking the BMF box within the online form.  Incomplete submissions will not be considered. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure application materials are complete; applicants will not be notified if the application materials are incomplete.

Application Process:
There are 3 required components of the BMF Travel Scholarship application:
1. Complete the online Abstract Submission Form  Don’t forget to check the box for BMF!
2. Complete the BMF questions within the online abstract submission form after you check the box for BMF.
3. Travel Scholarship winner must officially accept the award within one week of email notification, otherwise the award will be offered to the runner-up.

Abstract Submissions
If you have a behavior management accomplishment, an intriguing case study, a research project, or innovation for the field, especially one that resonates with the theme of the conference, please come share it with your colleagues!

Abstract review will be based on quality of the abstract, content and subject matter of the paper, application of the ABMA mission statement, and incorporation of the theme of the conference.  Please keep in mind that we receive a number of quality submissions each year, and not all abstracts can necessarily be accepted for presentation.  When your abstract is accepted for either a poster or presentation you are required to submit a paper for the conference proceedings prior to presenting.  This submission deadline is one week before the conference.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Conference Content Advisory Committee Co-Chair, Antonio Ramirez, at abmaabstracts@gmail.com  or the 2019 Vice President, Kelly Elkins at kelkins@sandiegozoo.org.

Presentations are 20 minutes total.  Presenters should plan for a few minutes of questions afterwards (e.g. 17 minute presentation, 3 minutes for questions).  It is encouraged to be available for questions throughout the remainder of the week.  Poster presenters are required to stand by their posters on poster night and discuss their poster with conference attendees.  Posters will be available to view during the entire conference so please be prepared to turn in your poster at registration so it can be set up the next day.  If poster night is held off site, ABMA will transport and set up  your poster but you are responsible for it after poster night concludes.

Timeline for 2019 Abstract Submissions:

15 January- abstracts due by 11:59pm EST

1 February- notifications to presenters

15 February- presenters accept/decline

31 March- papers due for proceedings

Conference Registration

If you’re an AAZK or IMATA member you can receive the ABMA member rate!  Please submit the Conference Registration Form to abma@theabma.orgWe do not accept American Express.  

Weekly Registration Pricing:

Weekly registrations are for the week of 7-12 April 2019.  The evening of the 7th is our icebreaker.  The evening of the 12th is our banquet.  The icebreaker and the banquet are included in the cost of your weekly registration- do not purchase these from the a la carte menu unless you plan to have an extra person attend for that event only.  There will be no weekly registrations the week before the conference to allow us time to compile accurate numbers to the hotel.

Member Early registration (week) $350 available for purchase until 28 February 2018.  The next day, 1 March, the price increases.

Non-member Early registration (week) $410 available for purchase from until 28 February 2018.  The next day, 1 March, the price increases.

Member Full registration (week) $395 available for purchase from 1 March to 31 March 2018.  The next day, 1 April, no weekly registrations will be available for purchase until the conference starts on 7 April.

Non-member Full registration (week) $455 available for purchase from 1 March to 31 March 2018.  The next day, 1 April, no weekly registrations will be available for purchase until the conference starts on 7 April.

Member On-site registration (week) $500 starting 7 April & ending 12 April.

Non-member On-site registration (week) $550 starting 7 April & ending 12 April.

Daily Registration Pricing:

Daily registrations are for any day during the week of 8-12 April.  The icebreaker on the evening of the 7th and the banquet on the evening of the 12th are extra- see a la carte.

Member Daily Early registration $95 available until 28 February.  The next day, 1 March, the price increases.

Non-member Daily Early registration $110 available until 28 February.  The next day, 1 March, the price increases.

Member Daily Full registration $110 available from 1 March to 6 April.

Non-member Daily Full registration $125 available from 1 March to 6 April.

Onsite Daily Registration (member & non-member) $125 available for purchase from 7-12 April 2018.

A La Carte Pricing:

Pre-conference trip to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium- $50 (cap at 55 people) on Saturday 6 April.  Available for purchase until 31 March (or until 55 people have registered).  As we return from Tacoma, we will stop at the Odd Otter Brewery.

Icebreaker $40 on Sunday 7 April at the Oregon Zoo.

Silent Auction $40 on Tuesday 9 April at the Benson Hotel.  (1 admission is included in Tuesday’s daily registration but you can purchase more tickets if you would like someone to attend with you.)

Poster Night $40 on Thursday 11 April at the Oregon Zoo.  (1 admission is included in Thursday’s daily registration but you can purchase more tickets if you would like someone to attend with you.)

Banquet $75 on Friday 12 April at the Benson Hotel.  (This is not included with Friday’s daily registration.)

Contact us if you have any questions.

100% until 30 days before the start of the conference
50% from 29 days until 8 days before the conference
No refunds starting the week before the conference


We will again be offering CEU’s for a variety of organizations.  Once the program is finalized we will submit for credits and post here.  We normally offer CEU’s for the following organizations:

We look forward to seeing you in Portland!



The conference hotel is the Benson.

AMENITIES: Details coming soon.

PARKING: $40/night.

ROOMMATES: Need a roommate?  We can help! Please submit the following information to our roommate coordinator, Nicole Nicassio:

  1. Your gender
  2. Roommate gender preference
  3. How many roommates you would like to have
  4. How many days you need a roommate

DINING:  Do you have dietary restrictions?  The hotel will be happy to accommodate you! Please inform them upon reserving your room and upon check-in of your dietary needs.  Don’t forget to let the ABMA know of your dietary restrictions during the online registration process.  


Hotel Location:  The conference hotel is the Benson located at 309 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205.

From the Portland airport you can take a shuttle, taxi, Uber/Lyft, or the MAX (the light rail).  The MAX will be the cheapest option $2.50!

MAX directions from airport:  Take the Red Line (City Center & Beaverton) and exit at Pioneer Square North.  Walk .2 miles North to The Benson Hotel, which is 2 blocks. This is a 45 minute ride.

MAX directions from hotel:  Walk .2 miles South to Pioneer Square North and take the Red Line (Airport) to Portland Airport.  This is a 45 minute ride.

Our annual conference would not be possible without the support of our sponsors. Thank you!  If you would like more information on how to become a sponsor, please contact us!  We also have vendor opportunities available for $50/table.

Many thanks for the generous contributions from:

Cheryl  Wilkerson, Kathy Bartholemy, Gretchen 

Culp, & the Oregon Zoo Sewing Team!

Site Visits
We will be visiting 3 facilities during the conference.  Tuesday, 9 April we will visit the Primate Research Center and Guide Dogs For The Blind.  Thursday, 11 April we will visit the Oregon Zoo.   

Badge Entries
Your ABMA conference committee is working on badge entries that will allow you access to nearby attractions.

There are many questions you may have about traveling to Portland and Oregon.  Please contact us to submit questions we haven’t thought of!  We’ll be posting more information soon

WEATHER:  details coming soon

INTERNATIONAL ATTENDEES:  The legal drinking age in Oregon is 21 years.  The electrical outlets in the US are 110V.  You will need an adapter for your electronic devices as well as a power converter.  The US will gladly accept all major credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express.  You may be charged an international usage fee, so check with your financial institution.  What about tipping?  Tipping is an often debated topic depending on the services used, but this reference will give you a good idea as to general numbers people often use when traveling in the US:  http://www.traveller.com.au/a-guide-to-tipping-in-the-us-when-do-i-tip-and-how-much-39x1t 


We are pleased to announce that Kate Webb from APOPO will be our keynote speaker!  Kate has worked with a vast array of animals; from the inconspicuous earthworm to the life-saving African giant pouched rat (so called “HeroRATs”). Before obtaining her bachelor’s degree in psychology and neuroscience from Albion College in Michigan, Kate worked in veterinarian clinics, managed horse farms, and taught horseback riding lessons at ranches in Michigan and Wyoming. Kate worked at Duke University before moving to Tanzania to join APOPO’s Research and Development team. Kate was a lead investigator on several studies, including a project that explored alternative training paradigms. As part of the project, she developed a Rapid Retraining procedure that enables the pouched rats to rapidly learn multiple odor targets. Kate then applied this training procedure to APOPO’s ongoing proof-of-concept examining if the HeroRATs can detect illegally trafficked wildlife products. The detection of wildlife products would be a novel humanitarian application for APOPO’s rats and represents a unique overlap between animal training and conservation. Currently, Kate is based in Milwaukee where she is continuing her work as a consulting researcher with APOPO while pursuing a Ph.D in Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

APOPO is a global non-profit organization with Belgian roots that trains African giant pouched rats (Cricetomys ansorgei) to save lives. APOPO’s training and research center is located in affiliation with the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania, where the rats are trained to sniff out dangerous substances such as landmines and tuberculosis.

Today, over 60 countries remain contaminated with explosive remnants of war, including hidden landmines, that cause tragic accidents and hamper community development of land. Meanwhile, slow and inaccurate detection methods make tuberculosis (TB) the world’s deadliest infectious disease, surpassing even HIV/AIDs. Globally, 10 million people contract TB every year, with 3.6 million undiagnosed or unreported, and 1.6 million dying from the disease. APOPO’s scent detection rats, affectionately dubbed ‘HeroRATs’, help rid the world of landmines and TB by returning safe land back to communities and freeing people from serious illness so they can get back on their feet. To date, the HeroRATs have performed their lifesaving work in Angola, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Mozambique. In addition to landmine- and TB-detection, the HeroRATs’ incredible sense of smell has the potential to help solve other social challenges such as detection of food contaminants, illegal trafficking of wildlife or contraband, and even search and rescue following natural disasters. APOPO is committed to animal welfare and empirical research aimed at gaining a better understanding of the rats’ behavior, optimizing training procedures to improve their speed and accuracy, and adapting their work to different settings and applications. To learn more or get involved, visit www.apopo.org.


Ken Ramirez is the Executive Vice-President and Chief Training Officer of Karen Pryor Clicker Training where he oversees the vision, development and implementation of training education programs for the organization, including ClickerExpo, Karen Pryor Academy, and The Ranch. This allows Ken to help bring positive reinforcement training to all corners of the animal training world.

Previously, Ken served as the Executive Vice-President of animal care and animal training at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, where he developed and supervised animal care and animal health programs, staff training and development as well as public presentation programs for a collection of more than 32,000 animals. He worked at Shedd Aquarium for over 25 years.

A 40+ year veteran of animal care and training, Ramirez is a biologist and animal behaviorist who served nine years at Marineworld of Texas. He also was a trainer and coordinator at Ocean Safari in South Padre Island, Texas, as well as acting as a consultant to many zoo and aquarium programs throughout the world. He began his training career working with guide dogs for the visually impaired and has maintained a close affiliation to pet training throughout his career. He hosted two successful seasons of the pet training television series Talk to the Animals that compared pet training to the important work done with training and caring for animals in zoological facilities. He also works closely with several search and rescue dog organizations, service dog groups, as well as with bomb and narcotic dogs.

Since 2005, Ken has brought his experience as a trainer of many cognitive projects with marine mammals and primates to the dog arena. Most notable has been his work with modifier cues, adduction, matching to sample, mimicry, and counting. The latter two projects: teaching dogs to mimic or imitate other dogs; and to learn the concept of counting are in the process of being prepared for scientific publication. Both of these projects have documented cognitive abilities in dogs that have not been previously well reported or understood.

Ken has also pioneered groundbreaking conservation training projects with chimpanzees, polar bears, elephants, butterflies and other animals. Conservation training applies behavior science in the field with free-ranging animals and uses remote training to facilitate learning to assist wild life biologists in a wide range of projects.

Ramirez has been active in several professional organizations, including the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA), of which he is a past president. Ken has been actively involved in the creation of a certification process for animal trainers in zoological settings.

Ramirez has written for numerous scientific publications and authored countless popular articles. He authored the book ANIMAL TRAINING: Successful Animal Management through Positive Reinforcement, published in 1999 and Better Together: The Collected Wisdom of Modern Dog Trainers, published in 2017. Ken taught a graduate course on animal training at Western Illinois University for 20 years and currently offers several on-line courses through the Karen Pryor Academy. In 2017 Ken moved to Washington state where he created a series of immersive hands-on training courses at The Ranch, the Karen Pryor National Training Center.

Steve Martin is President/CEO of Natural Encounters, Inc. (NEI), a company of over 45 professional trainers who produce and present educational animal programs at zoological facilities in the US and internationally. He has served as an animal behavior and visitor experience consultant for over 100 zoological facilities around the world. Steve is an instructor at the AZA Animal Training School, a member of the AZA Welfare Committee and AZA Behavior Advisory Group. He is also a Trustee with the World Parrot Trust, Board Member of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators, and President of Natural Encounters Conservation Fund, Inc. a company dedicated to raising money for in situ conservation programs. Steve Martin has a strong commitment to conservation and helping people understand their relationship with the living earth. The Mission Statement of NEI is “Connecting Humans With The Natural World” and Earth Day is an official holiday for all NEI employees.

Nicki Boyd is the Associate Curator of Behavioral Husbandry at the San Diego Zoo.  Her educational background includes graduating from Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program, Mesa College’s Animal Health Technician Program, with an Associate in Science Degree, and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.  She has worked at the San Diego Zoo for 27 years in various departments and roles such as zookeeper, team area lead, Animal Care Supervisor, Animal Care Manager and is currently Associate Curator of Behavioral Husbandry.  Her role as Associate is to set up training programs all over the San Diego Zoo.  Nicki is also in charge of Animal Connections Division at the zoo, which includes all four of the animal ambassador teams.  She has held board positions for ABMA such as CFO for 8 years and president and is currently the Chief Information Officer.  She a founding board member and past president of the Red Panda Network. She is on the board of directors for the International Avian Certification Board, International Animal Training Certification Board and is a certified animal and bird trainer knowledge assessed (CPAT-KA, CPBT-KA)  She is on the steering committee for AZA’s red panda master planning, AZA’s Behavior Advisory Group and AZA’s Animal Ambassador Species Advisory Group (AASAG).

Ellen Dreyer is the Animal Behavior and Wellness Coordinator at Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, FL. She’s worked with all different taxa and extensively with birds and animal ambassadors. After earning a degree in animal science from Clemson University, she began working in the zoo’s Austral/Asia area first as a keeper and then as a supervisor, focusing on starting a training program aimed at allowing animals the ability to participate in their care. In her current role, she manages the zoo’s animal training and enrichment programs which gives her the opportunity to partner with different teams to tackle a wide variety of behavior challenges. Ellen received her AZA Professional Development Certificate in Behavioral Husbandry which denotes over 100 hours of specialized training and she is currently a member of AZA’s Behavior Scientific Advisory Group. She has had several articles published on animal training and presented at past ABMA, AAZK, and AZA conferences. Her favorite part of the job is teaching the science of behavior change to new keepers!

Dr. Nadja Wielebnowski is the current Manager of Conservation and Research at Oregon Zoo and she also holds an affiliate appointment at Portland State University. Her research focuses on the behavioral endocrinology of animal stress and its implications for animal conservation and animal well‐being.  Nadja is the past chair (2009‐2014) of the AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium Association) Animal Welfare Committee and previously held the position of Vice President of Conservation Science at the Chicago Zoological Society where she helped to establish a Center for zoo animal welfare science and worked on the development of welfare monitoring tools such as WelfareTrak®.  Nadja is also a research associate and former post‐doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), Front Royal, Virginia. She received her Ph.D. in Ecology as a Fulbright scholar at the University of California, Davis (1996), an M.S. in Zoology (1989) and a B.S. in Biology from the University of Vienna, Austria and has produced over 50 peer‐reviewed publications in the areas of wildlife endocrinology, animal behavior, ecology, conservation, and animal welfare.

Dr. David Shepherdson is Deputy Conservation and Research Manager at the Oregon Zoo and holds an affiliate appointment at Portland State University. His research has focused on zoo animal welfare and in particular environmental enrichment. David co‐chaired the very first conference on environmental enrichment in 1993. The edited volume “Second Nature: Environmental Enrichment for Zoo Animals” resulted from this conference which has grown into a bi‐annual world‐wide event under the title; International Conference on Environmental Enrichment (ICEE). David has worked with a wide range of species from elephants to Polar Bears and Giant Pandas and has produced over 50 peer‐reviewed papers and book chapters. In addition to animal welfare research David also works on regional conservation initiatives. David received his Ph.D. in Animal Behavior at the University of Sussex, UK in 1987 which was followed by a stint at the Zoological Society of London before coming to the Oregon Zoo in 1991.

General 2019 conference program:

Saturday, 6  April– pre-conference trip to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, WA

Leave hotel at 8:00am,  PDZA 11:00am-2:30pm, Odd Otter Brewery 3:00pm-4:00pm, Return to hotel by 7:00pm.

Sunday, 7 April– Conference registration check-in 1:00pm-5:00pm in the upper lobby (balcony). Take the MAX to the Icebreaker at the Oregon Zoo 6:00pm-10:00pm (food provided).

Monday, 8 April– Breakfast, lunch & dinner on your own today.

7:00-8:00am- Registration/ Check-in

8:30-10:00am- Keynote Speaker

10:00-10:20- AnimalProfessional.com

10:20-10:50- BREAK

10:50-11:10am- Working Together Through Training to Improve Animal Welfare For Orangutans in Borneo by Colleen Reed and Cydney Sines, Oregon Zoo

What happens when operant conditioning becomes more than just an element of your work, and instead could help save lives in the wild and in sanctuaries? The Oregon Zoo teamed up with the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation to do just that. Primate keepers Colleen Reed and Cydney Sines joined training and behavior consultant, Barbara Heidenreich, in the Bornean rainforest to better the lives of orangutans through positive reinforcement training. The team worked with a range of ages, from unreleasable adult orangutans to younger animals who may one day be released back to the forest. Their work included body presentation, target training, wound treatment, nail treatment, injection training, separation training, decreased aggression, reducing fear response, and physical therapy. The program was a challenge, but both the trainers and the trainees achieved measurable benefit and a lasting impact. Now, armed with the experience and knowledge of what is required to succeed, the team is planning to expand this collaboration with involvement and support from other facilities. They need your assistance to have a lasting impact on the individuals being cared for in sanctuary, as well as help to ensure the future of the species in the wild.

11:10-11:30am- On the Rebound: Rebuilding a Trust Account With a Brush-tail Rock Wallaby by Jade Fountain, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Ambassador animals can be an important face of a species, particularly for animals that are shy, elusive and rarely seen in the wild, but also allow delivery of key conservation messages to visitors, students and the media. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve has been an integral centre for breeding and release of brush-tail rock wallabies over the past 20 years.
Shadow, an orphan brush-tail rock wallaby joey thrown from his mum’s pouch, was hand raised by wildlife officers. Our goal was for him to meet people during animal encounters, with an aim to provide a unique and educational opportunity to see rock wallabies up close. The team encountered challenges when Shadow started biting staff, and showing anxiety-related aggression. After conducting functional assessments, we created an operant training plan focused on positive reinforcement, reinforcement of incompatible behaviours and set up his environment to promote desirable behaviours. The training program included voluntary injections, stationing and building cooperative relationships, ultimately improving our ability to care for him. As a result of the team’s dedication to the plan, Shadow has been a huge success for the endangered species program at Tidbinbilla and the face of the brush-tail rock wallaby recovery program. He has contributed to knowledge of the species and has inspired stake-holders and important ministers who make key environmental protection decisions. Through improving a relationship with behaviour management, for well-being check-ups and animal encounters, we can not only change the world for a single animal in care, but change the future for a species.

11:30-11:50am- Transitioning Research Beagles into Retirement Utilizing a Positive Reinforcement Training Program by Heidi Moomaw and Rachel Beall, Charles River Labs

At Charles River, we are committed to ensuring all animals have the highest level of care and welfare. A canine adoption program was developed to satisfy our desire to retire the research beagles. After receiving feedback from previous adopters, we saw a need to provide the beagles with skills to help transition them into their new life. The training program focused on the following areas: harness and leash, basic manners, new locations and experiences, novel floor textures and novel sounds. The dog training area included a functioning bathroom, an office area, and garage doors. In addition, items were procured to facilitate training, such as fake grass, a carpet square, harnesses, leashes, a TV and a radio. The training program was managed by 2 technicians that performed daily 20-minute sessions for each dog which occurred up to 4 times a week. Training records were utilized to track the progress of each dog and to aid in communication between technicians. The 20 dogs involved in the program exhibited a large range in confidence levels at the start of the program; however, every dog left the facility with the skills necessary to easily transition into retirement. Success of the program was measured by positive feedback from adopters which led to a waiting list of staff who were interested in adopting one of our beagles. It has been a beneficial program not only for the dogs but also for technicians that were given the opportunity to work directly with our animals.

11:50-12:10pm- The Evolution of a Progressive, Asian Bull Elephant Management Program by Maura Davis, Denver Zoo

The bull management program at Denver Zoo has been ever evolving since it began in 2011 with the most significant changes beginning in the fall of 2016. The Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit, which opened in 2012, was intentionally designed to house bull elephants but as our goals changed and became more progressive, we have used our facility in different ways. Socialization of the bulls became a new focus as well as redesigning the training program to be one with choice and control on behalf of the elephants. With developing a new goal-oriented program and putting our staffs team health as a priority, we successfully integrated our male herd, increased our standards in behavior management, began a research program and are now invested in a conservation initiative in Nepal. As our herd size increases, we look towards more innovations and continue to push the standards for bull elephant management in human care.

12:20-1:40pm- Lunch on your own

1:40-2:00pm- Incredible Ibis by Karena Marrero, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

When visiting a bird show, ibis are a species that are not often represented. Here at the Safari Park, we are lucky enough to work with two different species in our collection. We have scarlet ibis and sacred ibis flying three different natural behaviors in our show. In addition, our ibis are trained for personal interactions with guests and for a multitude of voluntary medical procedures. Our goal for this paper is to show how adaptable ibis can be to husbandry training, show behaviors and helping encourage our guests to conserve different species of animals.

2:00-2:20pm- Training the Trainers: Getting More People Involved in Behavior Management by Jennifer Diaz, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

We all agree that the lives of animals in every situation from zoos to shelters, from backyards to to the front range can be greatly improved and enriched through behavioral management. The only question becomes how? You are only one person. How many animals lives can you possibly impact? There are hundreds of amazing animals trainers in the world, but if we can multiply that number by thousands, we can reach an exponential number of animals lives. Again, how? If it were easy, everyone would already be a professional at behavioral modification.  How do pro athletes become pros? Lots and lots of practice with someone more experienced coaching them along the way. Anyone of any age can learn. In the Edventure department at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo we try to get everyone involved. Teen program participants train snakes and salamanders, 8 year old guests help shift animals, docents create positive associations with lizards being touched, and so much more. I will go over some techniques and tips from our area that have helped us send out over 100 humans into the world with a better understanding and passion for training.

2:20-2:40pm- Quality of Life Assessment: Using Data to Help Make the End-of-Life Care Decision in a Macaque by Lindsay Simpson, Julie Grove, Maryland Zoo and Elizabeth S. Herrelko, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & University of Stirling, Scotland

Assessing quality of life in geriatric zoo animals is an art as much as it is a science. Despite the use of questionnaires and keeper reports, which consider several aspects of overall well-being, the process often remains subjective. Keepers have unique insights, and their anecdotal observations can be enhanced with objective data to support animal care decisions. At The Maryland Zoo, we combined the art and science of assessments with a long-term study on geriatric macaques (1.1 lion tail; 1.0 lion tail/pig tail hybrid). Historic data proved especially helpful when the hybrid macaque became singly housed following the unexpected death of his cage mate in the spring of 2018. Animal care staff identified a significant decrease in activity level, lower engagement with keepers during and outside of observations periods, and concerning behaviors that had not previously been observed, including resting with head down. While the zoo worked to identify new social opportunities, our team used the data to develop a plan of targeted changes to improve his quality of life (e.g., increase in training sessions, enrichment, and social interactions). After five weeks of intense implementation we saw a significant increase in activity level and engagement with keepers; the frequency of resting with head down, however, increased over time. Despite the team’s best efforts, activity levels and keeper interaction never reached initial baseline levels. Our data allowed us to objectively compare changes in behavior, enabling the zoo to make the most informed animal management decision possible.

2:40-3:00pm- Creating a Positive Reinforcement Training Program for Former Dancing Bears in India by MaryElizabeth “M.E.” Hampton, Little Rock Zoo

In 2018 I made two trips to India to work with Wildlife SOS (WSOS). My experience began as a representative of Little Rock Zoo on a Bear TAG sponsored trip and grew into a partnership to facilitate positive reinforcement training with former dancing bears. Dancing bears are sloth bears that were used by the Kalandar people in a cruel practice involving poaching a young cub, killing its mother, breaking the cub’s canine teeth and driving a hot poker through their nasal cartilage so a rope can be threaded through to control them. They were then made to “dance” for tourists. Thanks to WSOS the practice of dancing bears no longer exists in India. WSOS rescued over 600 dancing bears and now houses them in four facilities throughout the country. I helped form a positive reinforcement program at two of those facilities: Agra Bear Rescue Facility and Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Center. The introduction of positive reinforcement training has greatly increased the welfare of these formerly abused bears. The training has improved the relationship between the keepers and the bears, as well as decreasing overall anxiety as demonstrated by decreases in den-shy behavior, decreases in stereotypic behavior and increases in both attention and participation. Positive reinforcement training is new to India. Being invited back to train Indian staff by WSOS demonstrates their commitment to improve the lives of these bears and we at Little Rock Zoo are offering continued support to improve animal welfare around the world.

3:00-3:30pm- BREAK

3:40-4:40- The Future of Zoos Through the Eyes of a Dreamer by Steve Martin, Natural Encounters, Inc.

Walt Disney said, “First Think, second, Believe, third, Dream, and finally, Dare.” Dreaming is what made Walt Disney so successful, and I believe what helps shape zoological facilities of the future. Dreams have inspired me toward many goals, some achieved but many still fixed in my imagination waiting for the right condition to take flight.

I imagine the zoological facility of the future will flourish in a safe zone where daring to act on dreams is supported and nurtured, and minor mistakes are seen as opportunities to start again with more information rather than punished through peer pressure or criticism. In future zoos, all animal care professionals will have a clear understanding of the science of behavior change and be able to apply these principals at extraordinary levels with every animal at the facility instead of just the animals in their section. Through this exemplary training, animals experience optimal welfare, and desirable behaviors will replace problem behaviors. I see animals in environments rich with behavioral opportunities, empowered with control, and motivated to use their senses and adaptation to “earn” a living, much like their wild counterparts. When animals do what nature built them to do, their behavior will convey inspirational stories that inspire caring and conservation action in guest to our facilities. These are a few of the dreams I will share along with strategies for how to move them toward reality in this presentation.

4:40-5:40pm- Talking Training with Ellen Dreyer, Brevard Zoo,  Nicki Boyd, San Diego Zoo, and Steve Martin, Natural Encounters, Inc

Trainer and training evaluations are a necessary part of capacity building with any animal program.  There is often resistance, fear, and aversion of being evaluated.  This workshop will highlight some of the formats, successes and strategies to encourage capacity building in a safe and nurturing environment.  Animal care professionals should always be learning and part of that is understanding the science of training.  The application of operant conditioning has greatly improved the welfare, animal care and guest experience. Being able to give and receive constructive feedback is crucial to that learning and application process.  This workshop will be hosted by several members of the Behavior Advisory Group (BAG) from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and will have interactive video for trainers to evaluate. There will be various options of evaluation forms to take back to their facility and use in their own programs, and live demo role-play with tactful constructive feedback and of course lots of positive reinforcement. Evaluators will be taught some of the science to go along with the feedback so that correct assessments can be given.  Examples of training and interpretation to the guests will be another part of this workshop, telling our story and the great welfare advancements with are accomplishing with operant conditioning should be shared. Training animals is so much fun and talking training should be too.

5:40pm- Dinner on your own

7:00-9:00pm- Professional Development Night

Tuesday, 9 April– Breakfast & lunch on your own today.

7:00-8:00am- Registration/Check-in

8:00-8:30- Buses leave for site visits

08:30-11:30am- Primate Research Center site visit

12:00-12:30pm- Lunch on your own

1:00-5:00pm- Guide Dogs For The Blind site visit

5:30pm- Buses return to Benson Hotel

7:00-10:00- Silent auction at Benson hotel with heavy hors d’oeuvres.

Wednesday, 10 April- presentations, Research & Evaluation Workshop, committee meetings.  Breakfast, lunch & dinner on your own.

Thursday, 11 April- Zoo day & poster night.  Breakfast & lunch provided; dinner on your own.

Download the Zoo map for behind-the-scenes tours, open houses, and exhibit experiences.

Friday, 12 April- presentations, banquet.  Breakfast & lunch on your own; dinner provided (banquet).

To be green, the ABMA does not hand out printed programs. The program for the 2019 conference will be posted starting in March 2019.  We also have an interactive app with the program and other exciting features available in the app store (i phone) or Google Play (android).   Search for “ABMA Conference”.  If you have the app from a previous conference you need to delete the app and upload the new 2018 app. 

Details will be posted as they are finalized. If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact us. We look forward to seeing you in Portland!