Louisville Magazine

SEP 2016

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.16 95 gocards.com No doubt Louisville Zoo visitors who've seen hunks of meat fed to 300-pound tigers think it's a show, a twice-daily wow-fest that allows antsy kids to sit a few feet from a wild cat that could shred things no one wants to think about. Well, it's not a show. It's a training exercise. And that shiny prod-looking thing poking through a mesh steel door isn't a piece of scrap the zoo found lying around. It's called a bait stick. Rather appropriate, as its sole function is to feed chunks of horse sirloin to tigers during positive-reinforcement training sessions. The sticks vary from one- to four- feet long. (The longer used with a new animal zookeepers want a little more distance from.) The tools are made of stainless steel or fiberglass and are shaped to have a dull point at the end, sharp enough to pierce meat but round enough not to harm the animal. Fiberglass is quite light. "About the weight of three Bic pens taped together," says Sam Clites, lead keeper for most of the zoo's large cats. Using food as a reward, Clites and other keepers have been able to teach tigers everything from sitting in one place to presenting a shoulder at the steel mesh for a vaccination. Clites is in his 28th year working at the zoo and says bait sticks have been around for at least two decades. He's not sure what was used to feed tigers before that. Must have been something. "You wouldn't want to put your finger in that cage," he says. "Probably never get it back." — Anne Marshall

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