For those of you new to our blog, my "testing apparatus" is a multi-access puzzle box. It's a box that's baited with food on the inside that has four different "doors" or ways of opening the box to get the food inside. During a familiarization trial with the hyenas, I take the lid off of the multi-access box and put it on its side so that hyenas can just walk up and eat the food from inside the box. This way they get used to the smell and texture of the box and learn to associate it with food (and not scary things).
|Hyenas investigating the box during a familiarization trial.|
|Hyenas investigating the box during a test trial. Many of these hyenas had familiarization trials, but TERV (no familiarization trials) ended up solving it.|
Then I had this trial yesterday with Burger (BRGR). I put out the box for ADON, whose had 2 familiarization trials but ADON wasn't interested and remained sacked out in her spot under a shady bush. After I put out the box BRGR emerged from the bushes. BRGR has watched other hyenas' trials with the box but she'd never contacted it herself before nor had a familiarization trial where she fed from the box. Yesterday, however, she was quite curious about it; after less than a minute she opened it using the door knob. My excitement slowly turned to dismay as BRGR never got up the courage to eat the food from inside the box after the initial shock of the door knob opening. Most hyenas who open the box once are fairly good at opening it again. But since BRGR didn't feed, she won't be able to form an association between solving the box and getting food. I have no idea what her reaction to the box will be next time she sees it! Now I've learned though what the benefit of a familiarization trial can be! If BRGR had stuck her head inside the box to eat during a familiarization trial I'm sure she wouldn't have been afraid to stick her head inside this time. I've decided that I should still attempt to give all hyenas at least 1 familiarization trial which will hopefully balance the cost of potentially teaching the hyenas to be lazy with the benefit of teaching them not to be afraid.