Here’s a program from our archives.
ambience: Shetland Geese
When farmers raise pigs and sheep and goats and horses, one of the key questions is how those animals will interact with humans. Well, it turns out that the way we treat those animals in their earliest days will effect them for the rest of their lives. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.
We’re at Cabbage Hill Farm in Mount Kisco, New York, where many rare breeds of animals are being raised, among them, Shetland Geese. The goslings we’re listening to were hatched in an incubator. Animal curator John McMahon tells us what happens next.
“We recently reintroduced them with their parents. They need to learn how to be geese and not be so imprinted on humans. They need to know how to take care of themselves. And when we release them outside, to be able to survive.”
Imprinting on humans means that the young animals mistake their human handlers as parents or kin. With the Shetland geese, that’s to be avoided, but in the case of another rare breed, the Exmore pony, the farmers want to accustom the animal to the near presence of humans.
“When the foal is first born we put the human touch on the foal for the first five days so that he will remember it. That means catching the foal, and for about an hour each day, spending time with it, rubbing our hands over its body, putting your fingers in its mouth, around its eyes, its ears. He will remember the human touch the rest of his life. And he’ll now be allowed to develop and grow like a pony, more or less without human intervention. He still will have a lot of training that he needs to go through, but he won’t be so wild that no one can manage him. The philosophy behind the animal and everything here is that it runs wild in its native state, yet is still workable.”
You’ve been listening to a program from our archives. Check out our website, pulseplanet.com for a link to my latest project – it’s a novel. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.