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Reverse Socialization

Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Reverse socialization refers to the act of nursing injured or abandoned animals to health and training them to survive in a natural habitat.
In literal terms, reverse socialization is a deviation from socially acceptable behavior in younger generation. In usual circumstances, a child gets his/her lessons on life from his/her parents, however, in reverse socialization a child may teach the parents a thing or two!
A classic example of this type of socialization is kids teaching their parents a few things on computers, cell phones or other advanced gadgets. However, it mostly applies to animals rather than human beings.
In animals, this term assumes an altogether different meaning. Reverse socialization in animals means the act of nursing and training young animals in such a way that they are able to survive by themselves.

What is Reverse Socialization

Many young jungle animals are abandoned at a very young age by their mothers. Sometimes, wild animals get killed during hunting or wildfires, which leaves their young ones orphaned. When these young animals are found by activists, they are often in a deplorable condition.

In a rescue shelter, they are nursed back to health by volunteers. These animals are bottle fed and housed in shelters especially designed for them. Their nutrition is also adjusted as per their individual requirements. During this process, animals grow fond of humans and rely heavily on their touch.
If these young animals are to survive in natural habitat, they need to be weaned from human interaction as soon as they are fit to be able to survive on their own.
However, it is dangerous to return these animals to their natural habitat without providing them any training about jungle rules. The process of training these young animals to make them worthy of living in natural habitat is called reverse socialization.

Steps of Reverse Socialization

Reverse socialization begins several months before an animal is ready to live on its own, in its natural habitat. In natural circumstances, a young one derives its basic instincts from its mother. The mother gives practical training to her young ones, which enables them to derive the characteristics of their species.

This is not the case with animals that have lived in rescue shelter since they were very young. A tiger cub living in a shelter would be oblivious to its hunting instincts as it has been fed by human hands until now. In reverse socialization, an animal is made aware of its natural behavior through human intervention.

Isolation from Humans

It is but obvious for a young animal to become fond of humans around it. As humans are the only ones who care and nurture for it, it starts relying heavily on human interaction. However, a contact with unknown human in natural habitat may spell danger for wild animals. Hence, they must be taught to stay away from humans. This can be done by moving animals to bigger, isolated shelters where human interaction is minimum.


Animals must be taught how to fend for themselves in natural habitat. This is done by imitating the scenarios in natural habitat. Firstly, animals are fed foods that are their natural diet. For instance, a young bear or raccoon is first taught to eat fish by feeding it. Then, it is encouraged to catch fish on its own by exposing it to a small pool of water with a live fish in it. Young ones of monkeys or squirrels are exposed to fruits hanging from branches, so that they know what they are supposed to eat once outside the shelter.


The training period may stretch over several months. Once, the animal becomes trained enough to be able to survive on its own, it can be released in its natural habitat. The location and time of release is often pre-decided.
Reverse socialization is achieved only through herculean efforts of volunteers. More often than not, these volunteers fend for young animals out of their own pockets. Fortunately, there are still such people in our society who place the interest and well-being of animals before their own.