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Crowdfund Development of a Bluetooth Foobler Based Toy to Improve Foraging in Captive Rhinos at the San Francisco Zoo

The team that crowdfunded the Foobler and the behaviorists at the San Francisco Zoo are working together to raise funds on to build a 3 foot diameter puzzle toy for the Rhinos at the San Francisco Zoo and research it's use with their Rhinoceros Boone and Gauhati.

Novato, CA, May 20, 2015 --( The animal wellness team at the San Francisco Zoo in collaboration with TGiF Design, the creators of the Foobler, are out to engage with and challenge Gauhati and Boone, the San Francisco Zoo’s greater one horned rhino and black rhino respectively.

The Foobler, crowdfunded last year by TGiF Design on Kickstarter is an automatic self-reloading puzzle feeder for your dog with a real bell that challenges, stimulates and nourishes your dog for up to 9 hours. The TGiF Design team that developed it has been working with the behaviourists at the San Francisco Zoo to develop the Foobler smart toy into a project that can be applied to wild mammals and used in their habitats.

The original Foobler has six feeding pods that dispense with it’s time delay mechanism. Each of the pods deliver food or treats into the puzzle area in increments of 15, 30, 60, or 90 minutes for up to 9 hours of active and engaged play or feeding. Rather than getting treats all at once, Gauhati or Boone, the zoo’s rhinos, can earn them over the course of a day. With the Bluetooth module the unit can be triggered from up to 1000 feet away and programmed to deliver on command, or with specific scheduling. The unit is designed to hold up to 24 large size apples inside the 3 foot diameter plastic sphere.

The campaign is seeking support to fund the research of the use of the Rhino Foobler as well as the fabrication of 2 prototype units for use with Gauhati and Boone. The funds of the campaign will be used to pay for prototyping, research, and the logistics at the zoo. provides a way to directly fund the science the will come with the work of the prototype Rhino Foobler use. The campaign is slated to complete on June 18th 2015. After that date work begins in earnest on the creation of the Rhino Fooblers by TGiF Design, alongside preparations, protocols and logistics planning at the San Francisco Zoo for the research phase of the program with Dr. Krebs and Dr. Watters.

Dr. Jason Watters received his Ph.D. in animal behavior from the University of California at Davis and is currently Vice President of Wellness and Animal Behavior for the San Francisco Zoological Society. His research and publications focus on animal behavior and methods to enhance zoo animal welfare – with a concentration on doing this through meeting animals' behavioral needs for over 20 years. Jason also serves as the executive editor of Zoo Biology – the primary scientific outlet for zoo and aquarium based research.

Dr. Bethany Krebs received her Ph.D. in ecology, evolution and conservation biology from the University of Illinois. Her research interests include animal behavior, animal welfare, and emerging infectious diseases in wildlife and humans.

The Rhino Foobler is from TGiF Design, the group behind the Foobler, Treat and Train, as well as other pet friendly items. They have always worked closely with an internationally-acclaimed veterinarian/animal behaviorists when developing toys for animals. The team believes in positive reinforcement and rewards for training and behavior.

Gauhati's love of toys is partly what inspired this project. Watching 3,500 pounds of rhino barrel through his exhibit knocking around a 50 pound ball tends to make an impression on you. When he's in a playful mood, Gauhati is a crowd favorite. The Zoo’s wellness staff have counted over 500 visitors to his exhibit in an hour while he's playing! Gauhati's popularity is a great example of how animal behavior can drive visitor connection and learning from animals at the San Francisco Zoo.
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TGiF Design
Fred Schechter

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