It’s not really what you think. Last week I set up a drill for the Keepers. It’s what we call “emergency training”. The keepers stay after work and they are presented with some sort of scene. I would never really let the “real” bears out, so I had to find alternates. You can see “Ursula” to the right and “Gus” below. These are two of the bears they had to find. I basically told the keepers that there were two bears out of their exhibit. The Keepers had to find the bears and get them back to the exhibit. At about 6:25 the keepers were told their task, and by about 7:45 the bears were found and “moved” home. Some were darted and others were motivated with marshmallows and peanut butter back home.
There’s no way to safely and perfectly create reality for the keepers, but it’s drills like this one that help the keepers work together as a team and experience things they haven’t had to deal with before. The drill before this one was about one of the keepers having a heart attack in the bear exhibit and the others had to get him out safely. The one before that had the keepers dealing with a child that had fallen into the bear pool and his hysterical parent.
Look in the comment section of this post as maybe some of the keepers will write about what they learned from the drill or what they like about doing these drills in general.