About Active Environments – Our History

Tim Desmond and Gail Laule, founders of Active Environments, began their careers as marine mammal trainers at Marineland of the Pacific. They were pioneers in the use of training to gain the voluntary cooperation of whales, dolphins, and sea lions in husbandry and medical procedures. They developed the highly effective social management technique called “cooperative feeding” which has since been documented to reduce aggression and increase positive social behavior with numerous species. With this experience, and a strong interest in animal welfare, Active Environments was formed in 1985 as an animal behavior consulting firm specializing in the application of positive reinforcement training techniques. In 1996, Margaret Whittaker joined AE as a behavioral consultant, coming with valuable experience in the care and training of a variety of species including primates, pinnipeds, and elephants. Since its inception, AE has been a leader in innovation and documented results. The most noteworthy contribution to animal welfare was the development of protected contact as an alternative management system for elephants. PC has been recognized by both the zoological and animal welfare communities as being a safe, effective, and humane method for managing elephants. They also introduced the term “behavioral management” to describe a comprehensive, system-based approach to caring and managing captive animals of all species. AE works with exhibit designers and architects to design facilities that maintain healthy, well adapted animals who engage in a full range of species typical behavior. Today, Active Environments remains the leader in providing assistance to zoos, sanctuaries, and laboratories to achieve the highest quality of care and welfare for captive animals through the use of positive reinforcement training techniques.

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