Working with Matilda, the Black Vulture, has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of working at Shaver’s Creek for me!
I began my journey with Matilda when I first started working as a Shift Leader for animal care. She was known for being very high-strung and difficult to work with because of her speed and highly curious nature. When I first started training her, I didn’t feel I had the proper training skills to do well, but with direction from my co-workers, I kept trying.
Eventually, I learned how to communicate with her and how to read her body language better and became her lead trainer, which was intimidating, yet rewarding. Once I was her lead trainer, I was able to take the initiative to teach her new behaviors, and I took on the role of teaching others how to work with her.
Teaching others how to train a “challenging” animal was a lot more difficult than I thought! When I asked new trainers to pause, they wouldn’t pause for long enough, or if I asked them to step backward, they would step too little or too far. Eventually, I learned how to communicate training steps more effectively, and through collaboration with my co-workers and other volunteers, we were able to train Matilda to come outside of her enclosure on supervised walks: a longtime goal!
Working with Matilda also required doing programs with her, since she is popular among the public due to her sociable personality. I have always been intimidated by public speaking, but when in the mew working with Matilda and focusing on her skills, I felt a lot more confident and was happy to share her uniqueness with the public!
Three years later, I am still her lead trainer and am loving training with her! We are currently working on learning voluntary medical behaviors, and I am still learning and gaining skills every day from this wonderful bird.