European Elephant Management

Steve Martin (Natural Encounters, Inc.)

Steve Martin is one of the best-known animal trainers in the world. In 1976 he set up the first bird show of its kind at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. His use of non-traditional, free flight birds combined with an inspiring conservation message set this show apart from all other animal shows. Four years later, Steve left the Wild Animal Park to establish "The World of Birds Show, Inc." and present his programs at zoos across the United States.

In 1991, The World Of Birds Show, Inc. was renamed Natural Encounters, Inc.(NEI). This new name better defined the direction and goals of the company, which are to Engage, Inspire, and Empower people at their shows through the exhibition of animals demonstrating natural behaviors, carefully designed dialogue, and entertaining choreography. These shows now entertain and educate millions of people each year.

Natural Encounters, Inc. quickly grew from a bird show provider to a company specializing in animal behavior and visitor experience. Over 25 years ago Steve helped the elephant trainers at the Singapore Zoo transition their training program from negative reinforcement to positive reinforcement while at the same time maintaining full contact with the animals and establishing many new behaviors that formed a highly successful show. While at the zoo he also helped set up a primate show, sea lion show, reptile show, and a nocturnal animal show a the new Night Safari, all through the use of positive reinforcement.

Steve and his staff at NEI have now trained hundreds of species from marmosets to elephants and even reptiles and fish. Plus, they have taught their animal training techniques to thousands of people in over 20 countries.

With experience at over 80 zoos and aquariums, Steve has participated in the design of many new facilities, including: the facility design of the Georgia Aquarium, Night Safari in Singapore, Europe Wild Project in The Netherlands, Elephant Exhibit / Show area at Singapore Zoo, Asian Tropics Elephant exhibit at Denver Zoo, Giants of the Savanna Elephant exhibit at Dallas Zoo, plus many demonstration and show areas at zoos around the world. Steve’s contributions to exhibit design are generally aimed at 1) creating environments where animals have the opportunity and motivation to use their senses and adaptations to earn a living and 2) Creating experiences that are respectful to the animals and inspire caring and conservation action in the guests.

Natural Encounters, Inc., now employees over 40 professional animal trainers and has on-going projects at San Diego Zoo, Dallas Zoo and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Steve spends well over 300 days a year on the road consulting at zoological facilities.

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