THE METHOD I'M USING
Are llamas colour blind? Do they see in shades of grey? No-one seems to know! I don't. All I know is that they can differentiate between what humans see as colours.
the past three years I have done much work with Oscar and Dillon using the click
'n' reward method and the four plastic boxes shown below. The final goal was for
the llama to nudge a particular one when given the relative cue..
Both boys learned first of all that nudging any box on verbal cue earned a click and grain. Easy! This was simple targeting.That took all of three minutes, literally.
Then I moved on with Oscar with the plan of getting him to select just the blue box, on cue. I started by first asking him to choose black from white, using two cardboard boxes. He readily selected the black box on cue, no matter where I put it on the table. He could obviously tell dark from pale! Then I moved onto selecting the blue box from the set of four coloured ones on the cue "Blue Box". Success! No matter where I put it on the table, he picked it out.( See video on right.)
My problems began ... and I finally abandoned the exercise ...when I tried to introduce a second colour with its own verbal and hand cue. At least, this was successful until I tried to mix them up. And then it was random success. I worked at this exercise off and on for dozens of hours, trying different methods, but in the end I had to give up. I should really have tried adding a "white" cue to the black/white exercise at the time., because when I returned to it, I found the same confusion.
Looking back, I dont think it was colour recognition that was the problem. The problem was probably the complexity of linking in the mind of the llama, the cue, both verbal and hand-signalled with the colour.
The story so far: As anyone reading this section over the past year or so will know, this is a story of failure, despite devoting many many hours to the exercise.
I have left on this page a couple of the videos I made during the exercise:
Dec 27th 2014
I have recently returned to working with Banksy, my (only) alpaca, on colour recognition. To recap:
I started by teaching him the Toys Away game, a game in which he picks up identically-shaped knitted balls and drops them into a box. The balls are the primary colours red, blue and yellow. Banksy is able to do this now with great accuracy, dropping them into the box rather than beside it! He was being click/rewarded for each delivery.
I then moved on to rewarding just the red deliveries and have been working at this for several sessions. Disappointingly at first, indeed, for many, many sessions, the selection was random. I was on the point of giving up. And then it all happened! Something clicked! ( besides my clicker, that is!)
I have tried this exercise with Banksy again and the results are encouraging.After a couple of random selections, he began picking out red consistently.The association between the colour and the reward was clearly evident,
I returned to do colour work with Banksy after a gap of many months...and he was straight after his colour, which is red, after maybe a couple of false starts. Certainly the "false starts" weren't about colour, but he had reverted back to picking up any colour of knittred ballsa, because thgt's how he was rewarded in the first instance.
Are they seeing in colour...or shades of grey?
And does it really matter?