Gorilla Casey ineracts with a visiting family at the Louisville Zoo
the articles and bother staff with
questions), but I do have three cats.
And I shudder every time I think
about having to transport these cats
anywhere because I know it’s going
to be a complicated process: from
leaving the cat carrier out a few
days so the cats will feel comfort-
able, to gathering food, to listing
medications and so on.
Now, try to imagine preparing for
the moves of multiple 400+ pound
gorillas like Mshindi and Casey.
Then, tag on state and federal regu-
lations and permits, each specialized
to the individual species.
Before the move, teams from
all the zoos involved are activated,
gathering information about the an-
imal’s health, diet, habits, vaccina-
tions, training, day-to-day care and
more. Keeper staff, as in the case of
Casey and Mshindi, may go to visit
the animals to get an understand-
ing of their needs and personalities
and to begin the bonding process.
Louisville’s keeper Michelle Wise
spent three days in New Orleans
meeting with Casey’s keepers and
getting to know his routines.
Getting an animal physi-
cally transported is its own puzzle.
Which vehicle is best to transport
animals this large? What are the
regulations for animal crates? Do
we take the animals ourselves or
hire animal transport services? Do
we need a permit? Do we build our
own crate or do we borrow one
from someone who has transported
an animal like this before?
While all that is being sorted out,
other preparations are already tak-
ing place. I know my cats really dis-
like doing anything when they don’t
know what to expect. So, how do
the keepers train a gorilla to move
from a familiar exhibit to an unfa-
miliar carrier? In Mshindi’s case, he
was trained using operant condi-
tioning (positive reinforcement) by
keepers Alexis Dufilho Williamson
and Michelle Wise to enter into his
large crate and feel comfortable
once it was secured. Mshindi and
Casey, being highly social animals,
also needed to be trained to fully
separate from their family groups.
6 • Louisville Zoo Trunkline • Fall 2017
This training is useful for trans-
port but it’s also critical in case the
animals ever require medical treat-
ment where isolation is necessary.
I checked back in with Steve Taylor
about whether our animals are
sedated when they are moved. The
answer was an emphatic “No. Our
animals are never transported when
sedated. We always want them
to be aware of what’s happening.
It’s important to their acclimation
process and their health.” So there
you have it.
Just before a move, a pre-trip
health exam is usually performed
so that keepers and vet staff know
exactly what condition the animals
are in, what to expect and how
to ensure a safe transfer. When a
gorilla is transported, regardless of
the vehicle, a keeper and sometimes
a vet will travel alongside the animal
with constant access to monitor
its health and condition. After the
animal arrives at its new facility’s
quarantine habitat, the keeper
often stays for a couple of days to
help it set