Walking with Hendrix & Lizardcam
Meet Hendrix, our adorable two-year-old male perentie. Hendrix arrived at Lone Pine in March 2019.
Perenties belong to the monitor lizard family and are Australia's largest lizard (fourth largest in the world). They can grow up to 2.5 metres long and can reach about 30km/hour when hunting for prey.
Perenties are a highly intelligent species and so require a lot of enrichment to keep them mentally stimulated. Since his arrival, Hendrix has had his keepers stumped as to which enrichment he enjoys best, often largely ignoring the wide variety of activities and items offered to him.
Not to be deterred, his keepers kept brainstorming and eventually came up with a winning enrichment solution; harness training.
As you can imagine, you can’t train a lizard to walk in harness overnight, so Reptile Keeper, Courtney Hawkins, has had to put a lot of thought into how best make sure Hendrix is happy throughout his new training process.
Firstly, Courtney had to build her relationship with Hendrix. She did this by sitting quietly in his exhibit and allowing him to initiate interactions. This built his trust in her to such a degree that he now greets her every morning, and asks for back and chest scratches. What a friendly fella!
Hendrix then began target training, where he learnt to walk to his 'target' (a large red disc on a pole). When Hendrix successfully touches the target with his snout, he is positively reinforced with a clicker sound cue and some of his favourite food - quail.
Most recently, Hendrix was introduced to his harness. After becoming comfortable wearing his harness, he started small walks on-lead with Courtney around his exhibit.
"Hendrix is very intelligent, and picked up on target training very quickly. This allows us to move him wherever we need, and was the base behaviour to build on for harness training success,” says Courtney.
“His harness and target training will also be helpful to our vet team when Hendrix needs to have medical checkups. Eventually, Hendrix will be able to go for longer walks throughout the sanctuary with his keepers, which will be fantastic enrichment and exercise for him.”
At Lone Pine, we endeavor to provide a wide variety of enrichment for the animals in our care. This follows the guidelines laid out by the Zoo and Aquarium Association, which we are accredited with for positive animal welfare*. By offering walks throughout the sanctuary, we’re allowing Hendrix to experience the positive states of exploration, foraging and play.
You can also check out our Dragons & Skinks live webcam on YouTube, to keep up with the antics of our smaller lizard friends.