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Animal trainers

United States RakeshMondal Offline

Found this from a few years ago from Peter in the "ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - A - THE TIGER (Panthera tigris)" thread. Not sure if this information is already posted, but really good post nevertheless.


5a - Daniel Rafo (tigers)

When interviewing Daniel Rafo, an Argentinian trainer who had a contract with a European circus, I watched his tigers for a very long time. I saw that one of his male Amur tigers was tormented by a fly. As warnings didn't deter the insect, the tiger waited for an opportunity. He struck with more speed than I expected and carefully examined the fly. 

Rafo told me his tigers were observative animals. He described them as thinkers. As they quickly understood routines, he changed his act every few months in order to prevent boredom. This was much appreciated. His Amur and Indian tigers (true Indian tigers, he said) didn't like each other. There was a lot of interaction and he had to stay tuned in order to prevent problems. Every now and then, he had no option but to allow for a brief fight in order to prevent too much tension. If he didn't, they would wreck his show.

They got their fights, but never seriously wounded each other. This was the deal and they respected it. He said the Indians had more endurance and speed, but the Amurs usually quickly overwhelmed them because they were quite a bit heavier. Both knew the outcome before they started, but they enjoyed a confirmation every now and then in spite of that. 

5b - Two stories from the facility I visited every now and then (tigers)

Tigers distinguish between people. When they like someone, there will never be problems. Example. One day, I watched a vet distracting a large molar from a male Sumatran tiger. It took some time to get it done. I wasn't the only one interested in the operation. When the molar was finally removed, I started measuring the tiger. While doing so, I was gently drawn to the cage by a big paw and pushed aside. The paw belonged to one of the brothers of the tiger with the sore molar. What he said was he was interested in the proceedings as well. In order to prevent questions on precautions, I will add I knew I was close to him when I was measuring his brother. I had never seen that tiger before, but when we met he told me we would get along.   
Another story. Same facility. A male Amur I had carried to his cage when the vet had finished (some years earlier), also was known for his disposition. But I had watched him for hours and thought we would get along. This was the reason I stepped into his cage to measure him. While doing so, the one who recorded the measurements suddenly turned pale. The reason was the tiger had raised his head and prepared to rise. I gently placed my hand on his head, stepped over him, opened the door, stepped out and closed the door. Before I was done, the tiger was fully alert (...). He protested about the treatment he had received in such a way I thought he would tear the place apart. It was a very impressive demonstration. 

All visitors, about twenty (including a team of a broadcasting company), left the place in a hurry. When they left, he attacked and we're not talking about moch attacks. Two hours later, although still raging mad, I moved to the exit and he made way (his cage was less than 3 feet from the exit). This although he knew I had been the one who had entered his cage when he had been unable to move. Not saying you can do what you want, but tigers really distinguish between persons (and animals, for that matter). With big cats, it's always personal.

If you would conclude I had just been plain lucky, I won't argue. And then I would. Here's another story. 

5c - About a large male big cat and a woman (jaguar)

The facility mentioned above also had a large male jaguar. He too was known for his disposition and for this reason he was avoided by all keepers. One day, I was there with my girlfriend. In the evening, the director took me out to see a male lion who had just arrived. While talking in front of his cage, I turned round and saw her sitting near a large black animal, her arm over his neck (...). It was the large male jaguar. They were talking. I never heard a jaguar talk before, so I was interested.

I didn't interfere, but the directors wife had seen both as well and came out of the house crying murder. Before she had reached the cage, the male jaguar had climbed to the top of the cage, opening and closing his huge jaws much like a bear would. The sound compared to that of a 9-pound hammer used with force. When she approached the one who had taken the liberty to contact the jaguar, the animal rose on his hindlegs directly behind the woman she addressed and roared like a lion. As animals always have very good reasons to act as they do, I wasn't that interested in what she had to say. The jaguar did it for her.
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Finland Shadow Offline
( This post was last modified: 08-23-2019, 10:55 PM by Shadow )

Here is an interview of Zapashny brothers, Russian animal trainers with lions and tigers. Quite interesting to read, maybe @Nyers or some other of Russian members could point out if there are errors in translation, following text is purely google translation:



What happens behind the scenes of the circus.

Zoodefenders demand to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. The correspondent of the "City 812" went to the circus on Fontanka, where the trainers brothers Askold and Edgard Zapashny rehearsed with tigers and lions. Studied: how do they make animals do tricks? And why haven't the animals eaten them yet?

Problem: the lion does not respect the tiger

Three lions and seven tigers are released into the arena fenced with a metal mesh. Inside the grid-cell are Askold and Edgard Zapashny and two assistants: Uncle Vasya, who is caring for predators, and circus dzhigit Vlad, who dreams of becoming a trainer, but for now acting as an apprentice. Everyone has containers with meat on their belts, metal sticks in their hands, and a whip in Edgard’s hands.

Animals run out into the arena in different ways: some jump, others - playing, still others - looking around cautiously. Lion Bono is a teenager: in a minute he managed to make several circles on the arena, sharpen his claws on the carpet, pick it up with his paw and wrap himself in it.
- Bono! Not!! It is impossible !! - trainers shout in chorus.

But Bono does not obey, does not want to get out of the carpet. They pull it out, give the meat, take it on a leash and take it to the place where Bono again receives the meat.

Tiger Merlin is also a teenager, but shy: he comes out slowly, cautiously. He sits in place, eats meat.

Edgard Zapashny explains:

- Merlin performed only two times. In the second performance, the lion Philip attacked him - he severely tore his legs and side. And for six months now Merlin has not been working, we can’t enter him in the room. Not so much injuries are dangerous, the psychological moment is important. Merlin didn’t fight back in time for the lion, and now Philip considers Merlin, excuse me, for schmuck. And schmuck, in his concept, should not live. Therefore, the lion opened the hunt for the tiger. My brother and I have to monitor Philip very carefully, in the hope that over time the thought of murder will cool off with him. Although completely it is unlikely to disappear, ”says Edgard.

According to him, young Bono is also in danger from his "colleagues."

- Bono is the most undisciplined, for his antics other animals can kill him - for example, the white tiger Dieter or the lion Philip. Tigers Barpet and Thomas are not gifts either. This is not to say that they are very aggressive, but if you need to tumble, they will tumble. Therefore, we keep Bono on a leash so that he doesn’t rush off somewhere uncontrollably. And he can! About six months later, Bono will grow up and stop making attempts to run wild fun, as happens with young people, ”says Edgard Zapashny.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Instincts work: grab, that's all!

Zapashny give the names of popular singers to all their predators. Lion Philip is Kirkorov, Bono is the vocalist of U2 Bono, Tigers: Merlin is Marilyn Manson, Dieter (Sick), Jeanne (Friske), Lola (Lolita Milyavskaya), Anita (Tsoi), Kurt (Cobain) and so on. How animals refer to such names is unknown.

Askold Zapashny jokingly calls Philip the leader of the organized crime group. The trainer approaches the lion, hugs him, scratches the mane, sides, and caresses: “Where is my lion cub? Here is my lion cub! ” The lion rumbles.

- Any lion can rush. If the beast has decided to attack - neither the stick nor the flashlight weapon will stop him. We had a case when predators attacked a girl-trainer. They lifted us to death, and then for another forty minutes we could not take the corpse from them. It is a mistake to think that animals attack only for food. They attack because they can! Predators are a killing machine; for them, killing is the norm. They cannot be humanized, human qualities cannot be attributed to them: they say they are jealous, envious ... Animals are simpler, they don’t think like people. They attack because instincts are triggered: "Oh, I can!" Grab it and that's it! A lion, for example, can gnaw lion cubs so that the female does not protect them, and he could easily mate with her. If a lion once clings to a person, his main barrier breaks down, which must be present in the training:

Why sticks and whips?

Both trainers say: the main thing in the trainer is meat. Edgard explains why sticks and whips are needed that trainers do not let go of their hands for a minute.

- The secret of obedience is a lot of meat! Beef. But the main delicacy is chicken. My stick is called "stack", it is very multifunctional. This is a continuation of the hand, and a pointer, and an instrument of protection. We also plant meat on it. When they show, for example, how a trainer allegedly hits an animal with a whip, and at the same time a sharp clap is heard - jf! Do not believe it! This is a lie! The whip only snaps when it doesn't hit the subject, ”explains Edgard.

At this moment, he notices that Bono's lion is again tearing the carpet: “Bono, you can't! Hesitated, creature! ”The trainer shouts.

Bono was quiet.

Edgard teaches the young tigress Lola to execute commands. He backs away, throwing pieces of meat in front of him, saying "to me!" The tigress comes after him. He puts a chicken leg on a stick, lifts it up, commands “auf!”. The tigress stands on her hind legs to reach for the goodies. “Ah, well done!” - praises the trainer.

Lola broke out and hit Vlad with his paw - the one who dreams of becoming a trainer. The claws left bloody marks on his leg, albeit a shallow one. Vlad leaves to treat wounds. Edgard explains:

- The wounds inflicted by predators are very infected. Animals do not clean the remains of meat from teeth and claws. Therefore, even a small wound can cause serious trouble. Once, during a rehearsal, a lion bit Alexei Makarenko’s hand on the hand of a trainer. The wound healed for a very long time - four months! There was a hole on the arm, even a bone was visible.

According to Edward Zapashny, predator attacks on trainers are not uncommon. The profession is among the ten most dangerous in terms of mortality.

- The tigers bit my grandfather-trainer, it was in Kuibyshev. I was three years old then. Fortunately, I don’t have a single serious scar. But there were two serious attacks on his brother. Once I saved his life when the tiger almost sat on it, and the second time he managed it himself, ”says Edgard.

- The tigress was light. On the fly, I grabbed her by the whiskers, fell. Then the assistants ran up and dragged her away. We then acted in films. In the story, a tiger was chasing me, and I was running away. The cordon was put up incorrectly, the tigress was not stopped on time, and she jumped on me, ”recalls Askold Zapashny.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Is it right to blame the circus for cruelty

Predators in the arena do not look unhappy - rather, well-fed and happy. But the circus is still violence. Over animals. To stop the use of wild animals in the circus - these requirements have been heard more and more lately lately. Trainers have a different opinion on this. This is what Edgard Zapashny says.

- I see in these requirements a certain form of cynicism. If we lived in the vegetarian world, if we could learn how to test drugs without experiments on animals, if we didn’t use fur and skin - in clothes and shoes, handbags, salons of expensive cars, then it would probably be right from the animals in the circus refuse. But it seems to me wrong to blame the circus for cruelty if you eat burgers at McDonald's and ride a Mercedes with a leather interior. Have you ever seen zoodefenders picketing Mercedes or McDonald’s offices? Isolated cases! Because corporations are multi-billion dollar, capable of easily destroying any animal protection organization. And the circus is not financially protected, but any protest against it is very resonant and immediately attracts attention, Edgard Zapashny believes.

According to him, circus with animals is popular in many countries.

According to animal rights advocates, about 50 states have imposed restrictions or total bans on the use of animals in circuses.

Elena Rotkevich


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Switzerland Spalea Offline
Wildanimal Lover

@RakeshMondal @Shadow @peter : fascinating accounts, links included, thanks a lot...

Finland Shadow Offline
( This post was last modified: 08-24-2019, 03:57 AM by Shadow )

(08-24-2019, 12:57 AM)Spalea Wrote: @RakeshMondal @Shadow @peter : fascinating accounts, links included, thanks a lot...

Even though translation isn´t the best one, that was interesting to read what Zapashny brothers said.
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