Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Detroit ...Bears?

Name: Rachel Williams
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI
Internship: Animal Care Intern (Mammal Department), the Detroit Zoo
Location: Detroit, MI

Hello everyone!

Like many other zoo majors, I will be spending my summer interning at an AZA accredited zoo-- the Detroit Zoo to be exact. My familiarity with the zoo and its proximity to my house in metro-Detroit make it the perfect place to be this summer.

(Unfortunately, their policies prohibit posting any behind-the-scenes pictures, so all of my photos will be either taken from the front of the exhibits or found online.)

My area assignment for the first third of the summer is the Arctic Ring of Life and includes all of the bears (polar, brown, grizzly, and black) as well as the arctic foxes and the seals. Today, my first day, I got to experience working with all of these except the foxes.

We started off the morning by calling all the bears inside so we could clean and place food in their outdoor areas. That took a while, but once we were done we let them out and cleaned their inside stalls. Afterwards, the doors between inside and outside were opened so they could move as they pleased. I then moved on to seals, where I was taught how to prepare diets (basically just weighing fish) and got to observe the keepers feeding the seals. The feeding was really cool because the keepers use it as a time to practice trained behaviors, such as touching a target and opening their mouths. I got to see this again later on in the day, as the seals are fed around 11 am and 2 pm, but before that I was able to observe some really cool research being done on the black bear, Migwan. A researcher from Oakland University is using her to study how animals think. Her research includes placing a touch screen computer directly outside of a door to the inside stall and rewarding Migwan when she sticks her nose through the bars and touches the correct shape on the screen. The second part of the study is asking her to do the same thing but to touch a pink toy ball on one end of a pvc pipe instead of the plastic yellow shovel on the other end. She got it right for every trial on this part!

For those of you who haven't been to the Detroit Zoo, I included some pictures I've taken from my previous visits. (The Arctic Ring of Life has a really cool tunnel that you can walk through to see the seals and polar bears!)

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Lions, Tigers, and Bears OH MY! (and other equally as awesome animals)

Name: Mara Eisenbarth
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Internship: Animal Care Intern, Perth Zoo
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Hey Everyone!

Since I last posted on here, I've done a couple weeks on different rounds in the exotic animal section of the zoo! So I was able to experience the African Savannah round, the bear round (Sun bears, lions, hamadryas baboons), the tiger round (Tigers, red pandas, otters), and the Elephant round (only includes Ellies, because who needs more than that!).  I've had such positive experiences on all of them...but Ellies was my favorite! Each round has taught me something different, but some things remain the same too.  Cleaning nightquarters, washing dishes, and scooping up poo are all the same no matter what round you are doing.  You might not think so, but hosing and raking are aquired skills.  There is definitely a right and wrong way to do both of those things, and practice just makes perfect! So here's a quick rundown of what I learned on each round.

  1. Tiger round
    1. Animal Husbandry for a dangerous animal involves a lot of locking and unlocking.  And making sure every lock that should be locked is locked....and every lock that should be unlocked is unlocked.  And then triple checking that! Obviously you don't want a tiger roaming the zoo....
    2. Really knowing the animal as an individual is so important for their welfare.  Two of the tigers get really stressed when there are two keepers in the back while they are being fed in the morning, so I waited outside until they were done, since I looked like a keeper to them.  If you don't know the animals, you wouldn't know specific things that stress them out. 
    3. Red pandas are amazing and are generally aboreal.  Their exhibit was expanded 100% by a large fig tree in the very middle that rose up a few stories high.  They don't jump from branch to branch, so this is a good way to give them a more natural enclosure while also not taking up too much land.  Thinking outside the box for enclosure design is so necessary
Image result for Red Pandas
  1. Bear round
    1. Hamadryas Baboons are quite possibly the most interesting animal I've encountered.  Their social structure is so complex and intricate.  A group of baboons that consists of a male and his harem of females is called a family.  Two or more families that have grouped together for whatever reason (food, safety..etc..) is called a clan.  Multiple clans can come together to form a band of around 200 individuals.  This band will come together to travel and sleep (safety in numbers).  Each male controls and disciplines his own females and is very protective of his dominance, especially when there is a lower ranking male in the family.  What's different about hamadryas compared to other baboons is that they follow the "possession is 9/10 of the law" rule.  So if an individual can get possession of food (i.e. put it in their cheek pouch) then it is rightfully theirs! Other species of baboon actually reach into subordinates mouths to grab food if the dominate member really wants it.  In Perth Zoo's collection of baboons, there are two geriatric females who need arthritus medicine.  Currently, one of them will take food from the keeper (Jess), but the other is too fearful of people.  Since sneaking food to a subordinate really upsets the hierarchy, Jess is trying to start a cooperative feeding program.  This is a long, time, consuming road that will hopefully end in Chad (the dominant male) allowing the keepers to give the subordinate geriatric baboons extra food.  It's been really interesting to watch the process in its beginning stages! 
    1. Jess is also taking on another project with the fennec foxes who are fairly new to the zoo and are having a hard time adjusting to zoo life.  Since they will be living their lives out in the zoo, she wants to desinsitize them to the keepers coming in and out of their exhibit.  What she's trying currently is putting some food in a little bowl attached to a long stick and having them feel comfortable enough to take the food right out of that little bowl with her sitting there.  One of them caught on pretty fast, but the other hasn't really made much progress...until this morning! I was the lookout from outside the exhibit while Jess went in to try and do some feeding.  When she first walked in, they both ran and hid, but then the braver one came out ready to get some food from the stick.  Then right after that the other one came out and actually took food off of the stick for the first time! Jess and I were trying to contain our excitement, but it was so hard not to make too many sounds.  Long story short...don't give up! Never kno when you're gonna have a breakthrough. 
alright.....well I could go on and on forever and ever just about the last few weeks, but I think I'll pause for now.  Hopefully I can talk about the amazing elephants I got the opportunity to work with in my next post! 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Knowledge Gained: CHECK

Name: Nicole Enochs
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Kimbolton, OH
Internship: Ohio Wildlife Center, Hospital Intern
Location: Columbus, OH

Hey everyone! 

Sorry about the post so recently after my last one, but I thought I'd share some of the most important information I learned at my Internship this past semester. Since I'm a Pre-Veterinary student, any of the veterinary-specific experience I can gain is invaluable. Veterinarians may have to handle difficult animals, prescribe medication, and recommend a euthanasia for an animal. In this blog, I will give you examples where my involvement at the Ohio Wildlife Center has allowed me to experience the previously mentioned veterinary jobs.

First, animal handling happens every day for veterinarians. For some vets, the animals are docile pets. But what if that animal has a habit of biting? It may not be practical or safe for the animal to administer anesthetic for slight amounts of handling. So new handling methods may need to be used for individual animals. For example, there is a woodchuck at the hospital who has been nicknamed "Chompers" because of his unfortunate high frequency of biting. And so, we attempt to minimize direct handling by scooting him out of his enclosure with a tote lid and into a waiting tote covering the front of the enclosure. This is generally done so his enclosure can be cleaned, but in the event he needed to be seen by a veterinarian, the design and smaller size of the tote would make the woodchuck more accessible. Sometimes animal handling isn't about directly handling the animal, but finding new ways to gain access to the animal without physically handling it.

Further, prescribing medications is a vital part of being a veterinarian, and so knowing which medications to prescribe and why is necessary expertise. While at the hospital, I frequently saw the medications Baytril, Metacam, and Capstar administered to the animals. Baytril, or enrofloxacin, is an antibiotic used to treat difficult infections in animals. Part of the reason it has such a high administer rate is because it's non-steroidal. Steroids can have terrible effects on captive wildlife and they're avoided at all costs. A non-steroidal antibiotic is valuable. It can also be used in many different types of animals, from raptors to mammals to reptiles. Another medication that can be administered to all of the above animals is Metacam, or Meloxicam. It is a non-steroidal, NSAID pain reliever and anti-inflammatory drug. Since Metacam and Baytril often complement each other, they are generally given together. To illustrate, young squirrels will sometimes nurse on the genitalia of their male enclosure-mates. This leads to their genitalia becoming swollen and painful. In these instances, the squirrels are given Baytril and sometimes Metacam. Finally, Capstar is a flea medicine that can be given to the mammals. It is frequently given because the pill can simply be crushed and mixed with water to produce a solution and a few drops can be given to the animal orally. The ease and fast working time of this medicine is important especially for young animals. Fleas can be deadly by consuming blood, blood the young animals don't really have to spare. Ultimately, the medicines I choose to use in a veterinary clinic will have their positives and negatives, and it is important to understand those before I prescribe any medication.

Finally, a third veterinary experience, and one of the worst, is recommending euthanasia for an animal. Though those decisions can be more complicated in a vets office with owners for the animals weighing in, the decision is still hard at the OWC Hospital. While watching the veterinary technicians working through a euthanasia choice, I almost always ask about their logic so I can understand their choice. Sometimes the choice is made by Federal and Ohio law; sometimes the choice is obvious; sometimes the choice is completely ambiguous. Some choices required by Federal and/or Ohio Laws are those related to invasive species (ex: Mute Swans) and species that cannot be rehabilitated. If a Mute Swan is brought into the hospital, it must be euthanized according to law because it is invasive. Further, species such as the Whitetail Deer and Coyote cannot be rehabilitated and must be euthanized by law. Times when euthanasia is expected include when the animal is seriously injured without possibility of recovery or diseased animals. For example, bone breaks at a joint cannot be healed and it's in the animal's best interest to be put out of its pain. As for diseases, raccoons admitted with Canine Distemper cannot be treated in any way and have to be euthanized. Ambiguous times can be when animals come in with neurological injury signs. Sometimes they can be brought out of the lesser stereotypical signs, but only sometimes. So the animal must be assessed for survival rate. 

Though many veterinary experiences will be gained in any veterinary office, the places to learn the most about the crazier and sometimes more heart wrenching parts of the job are in trauma centers like the Ohio Wildlife Center. The animals brought to us are generally already sick or injured, so we're fighting an uphill battle from the very beginning. In comparison with volunteering I have accomplished in a domestic pet veterinary office, the higher sheer volume of animal knowledge came from the OWC hospital for other reasons too. In a privately owned veterinary office, volunteers will get put on duties that the regular staff don't have time for, like cleaning. But every hand is needed at the OWC hospital: if you're qualified to do it, you're going to be doing it, no questions asked. And so ultimately, this internship has been one of the most valuable experiences to date in my life. If you're considering working as a veterinarian or with wildlife in almost any capacity, I would greatly recommend considering this location for an internship. 

Have a great day ya'll!

A Day In The Life

Name:  Nicole Enochs
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Kimbolton, OH
Internship: Ohio Wildlife Center, Hospital Intern
Location: Columbus, OH

I'm a Junior Zoo and Conservation Major at Otterbein University and I had the great pleasure to spend this past semester working as an Intern at the Ohio Wildlife Center Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Since I'm also a Pre-Veterinary student, these blogs are typically going to focus more on that aspect of any experiences I have. And since this happens to be my first blog, I've decided to take you through a typical day in the life of an Intern at the hospital. To start, your veterinary technician supervisors are great people that are willing to help you understand anything. So know that any question will be answered, and possibly with a visual if possible. And so, I've chosen a day to describe where that willingness to help was put very much in the forefront. 

Since this day is during warmer weather, we have many young mammal babies consisting of rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, and opossums. I began by feeding the cottontail rabbits because we were already behind because of the sheer volume of admissions we'd had over the past few days. Because I had previous experience, I was told to teach the newer volunteers how to tube feed rabbits. But one of the volunteers got a little too confident in their abilities to tube and didn't wait for confirmation from me that she had fed the tube correctly before she began depressing the formula. Unfortunately, the volunteer had sent the tube down the trachea and punctured a lung, so when she depressed the milk, it filled the rabbit's chest cavity with formula. This almost immediately ended the rabbit's life. Though very sad, this type of event can happen frequently when working with animals as small and fragile as cottontail rabbit young. To prevent the event from being all bad, we necropsied the rabbit to view the formula in the chest cavity and also what it looks like on the inside when we have placed the tube correctly versus incorrectly. We could feel what the tube should feel like when it is placed correctly in the rabbit's stomach and use that knowledge for future rabbits. Kristi Krumlauf was excellent about allowing us to ask many questions and also feel the rabbit while we tried to figure out its anatomy. I was also able to ask about finding the rabbit's bladder. After I located it on the deceased rabbit, I was much more comfortable finding it on the healthy rabbits and could more accurately judge when their bladders were full. The picture below shows a comparable-sized rabbit to the one described above.
                                                             Picture from: http://www.ewildagain.org/

After we completed the necropsy, I finished feeding the rabbits and then moved on to helping with squirrels. Because we have a few older squirrels, we also have to keep their enclosures stocked with food so I did a lot of cleaning and feeding. There was one squirrel that had her bushy tail and was sitting similar to an adult squirrel while eating: in other words, she was making the transition from baby to adult squirrel and it’s really rewarding to see. The pictures below show the difference between what she looks like, a miniature adult squirrel, and a baby squirrel. Notice especially the tail and fur differences.

                              Picture from: http://www.wildcarebayarea.org/    Picture from: http://swiftfoxsteamco.webs.com/ 

The final project before I needed to leave was the flight room, the room where song birds go once they have become well and are one step closer to release. For cleaning, the room has sheets on the floor that need removed and switched out for new ones. Feeding is a bit more difficult: because of the difference in species of birds in the flight room, it needs to be stocked with multiple types of seed and different sizes of fruit.

Because of the many different types of animals that come into the Ohio Wildlife Center, no day is ever the same. And there's always positive experiences and negative experiences. For example, in the day I just described to you, we lost a baby rabbit but also got to witness the growth of a squirrel at the hospital. It would be easy to lose sight of the positive, but part of working in any hospital is accepting the bad and clinging to the positive to get you through the day.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Tale of Two Eagles

Name: Rachel Dalton
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Internship: Wildlife Hospital Intern, Ohio Wildlife Center
Location: Columbus, OH

Hello again! Now that spring is upon us, life has gotten much busier at the wildlife hospital. Baby bunny (eastern cottontail rabbit) season is now in full swing. It is not uncommon to get 10+ in a day. We have also been getting in a lot of baby squirrels, a few baby birds, and baby opossums (my personal favorite!). Baby waterfowl season is beginning as well; our first mallard ducklings came in this week.

A baby Virginia opossum. Image courtesy of animalia-life.com.
Orphaned baby wildlife is a big contributor to the spike in admissions we see in the spring. If you happen to find neonatal wildlife in your yard, we always strongly recommend that you evaluate whether it is actually orphaned. We have great wildlife hotline volunteers who can help you with this! We do our absolute best for the little ones that come through our door, but allowing wildlife moms to do their job whenever possible is the most ideal. FOX28 Good Day Columbus recently came to visit Ohio Wildlife Center to learn about this very subject. Here is a link to a clip from their visit featuring our Director of Educational Programming, Barbara Ray, demonstrating how to reunite baby birds with parents:

Baby bird reuniting clip!

If you have any questions about baby wildlife you have encountered and what you should do about it, you can check out Ohio Wildlife Center’s FAQ page and/or call our wildlife hotline at 614-793-9453. You can also learn more about orphaned wildlife in this article from Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been involved in a few different wildlife rescue missions. OWC does not generally have the resources/manpower available to go retrieve animals in distress (our fabulous hotline volunteers are great at walking people through how to handle and bring in animals safely!). However, a few unique situations came up recently that I was sent to go help with. These instances have involved two literal wild goose chases, and a Cooper's hawk that flew into a window. I really enjoy being able to use what I have learned about wildlife biology and handling not only at OWC, but also in the “real world”! Here is a picture of the Cooper’s hawk nestled in the box I brought him back to the hospital in:

He appeared to be stunned from his collision with the window when I first retrieved him, but I’m happy to say he was successfully rehabilitated and released!

Another recent success story was this redhead duck:

Redhead duck and I!
He came into the hospital back in February with an injury that made it difficult for him to walk. As he recovered part of his treatment plan involved physical therapy in the form of daily walks around the hospital. This is what I was in the process of doing with him when this picture was taken. I had not seen this species in person before, and they are very neat birds. I highly recommend looking up redhead duck vocalizations, as they sound somewhat like a kazoo!

Two bald eagles have been admitted to the hospital over the last few weeks. I have always considered them majestic birds, but I did not fully appreciate how incredible they are until having the opportunity to see them up close and work with them. When mentioning the eagles to friends I am often asked how we handle them, and my response is always very carefully! They are designed to hunt and be able to tear flesh, which is something we have to be mindful of when handling them and our other birds of prey. It has been incredible to have the opportunity to work with these eagles and help them get back on their feet.

Image courtesy of Don Burkett via Flickr Creative Commons.

One of our eagle patients is a particularly neat fellow, and was featured in a Facebook post by Ohio Division of Wildlife: 
"An injured bald eagle was recently reported in Knox County. What makes this incidence a little different was that the eagle was banded, and the initial observation noted the bands were well worn. Knowing the division hasn't banded eagles for a number of years, we were very curious about this bird. As it turns out, the eagle was banded in 1996 at the Ft. Seneca nest in Seneca County making it 19 years old! The bird had surgery to repair the injury and is currently doing well at the Ohio Wildlife Center."
Here is a picture of this eagle that Ohio  Division of Wildlife shared:

Image courtesy of Ohio Division of Wildlife.

In honor of our bald eagle patients, I will close with a few facts about this species!

*Just a few decades ago, the bald eagle was endangered as a result of excessive hunting and the unrestricted usage of DDT. This pesticide ran off into waterways and accumulated in fish-- a primary food source of bald eagles. As a result of consuming the contaminated fish, bald eagle egg shells were significantly weakened to the point where few eagles were surviving to adulthood. In 1972 DDT usage was restricted, and bald eagle populations have been recovering successfully. They are no longer considered endangered, and have been reclassified as threatened.

*Bald eagles do not acquire their signature white heads until they are between 3 and 5 years old. One of the bald eagles in the OWC hospital currently is just beginning to develop some white feathers on its head.

*Bald eagles construct very large nests out of sticks; according to National Geographic, the largest on record was 9.5ft in diameter and 20ft tall!

PS: Here is a link to a bald eagle nest cam. Shout-out to Friday morning volunteer Deb for sharing this with me! 


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Don't Forget Where it All Started

Name: Mara Eisenbarth
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Internship: Animal Care Intern, Perth Zoo
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Hello again! So after my intern experiences today, i'm feeling a bit sentimental and would love to share some thoughts with you!  I will, in the process, also share what I had the honor of experiencing today.

To start off, I just want you to think back to the first time you remember really falling in love with animals.  Generally us animal-lovers will just say we've always loved animals.  But, I bet if you really think, there was one time (or a collection of times) that really struck something deep within you.  It doesn't have to be anything outrageous or once-in-a-lifetime to make it memorable.  For me, it was the atmosphere of the Pittsburgh Zoo when I volunteered in high school.  The program taught me a lot of things and really opened my eyes to see all the possibilities there were to work with animals.  

Maybe yours is an experience you had, or maybe it's a person you met.  The zoo world isn't only about animals after all.  But that something that started your love of animals, hopefully, has stuck with you to this day.  

That being said, today at the Perth Zoo I was working in the exotic animal section on the African Savannah.  I worked with hyenas, painted dogs, tigers, lions, rhinos, fennec foxes, meerkats, and guinea fowl.  Today was a mish-mash of a lot of things, and the keeper kept apologizing and letting me know that I would get a better representation of the section on a different day.  I, however, absolutely loved today and would not have wanted it to go any differently.  First thing in the morning we went in and fed the group of meerkats.  The group consists of 1 adult female, 4 adult males, 4 juveniles, and 5 kits.  The kits are just 6 1/2 weeks old and honestly as cute as a button.  Just look at their little faces! 

From Perth Zoo's website

So that was an amazing way to start the day off! Right after we fed them, the keeper said that the media were coming and we had to stay there for a little while.  Well, the media came, and told Jess, the keeper, that she was going to have to answer some questions for them on camera.  Turns out, they were from National Geographic and were shooting a piece for a series about zoo babies.  My keeper is going to be on National Geographic! She was so nervous, but did an amazing job.  That was a really cool thing to watch.  

Later in the day, Jess and I were drafted to go behind the tiger exhibit to test out one of the male's reactions to unfamiliar visitors to his off-exhibit area while he eats.  So the tiger keeper hung a large piece of meat on a chain hanging from the ceiling of the enclosure and we stood in the walkway and watched this incredible animal rip and tear the meat off the chain with the grace and ferocity only a tiger can get away with.  The tiger had a very positive experience overall so they are confident that they will get an eye-to-eye experience up and running with that guy soon.  

As the day went on, I was able to give a hyena a good scratch, and a southern white rhino a nice muddy pat, as well as see some painted dogs up close and personal.  While those things are absolutely amazing, it was my keeper who was truly inspiring.  She just kept getting more wonderful by the minute.  Jess has been in the business for about 8 years, but still has the enthusiasm of us students.  Everything fascinated her, including experiences with animals that she has every day.  It really made me think and hope that someday, that's how I'll be: showing future generations just how wonderful every animal experience is, and that every moment should be cherished.  

That's our goal, isn't it.  To share our love with the world, in the hopes that something will click with someone, and lives will be changed for the better? I was certainly inspired by today to keep pushing for the good outcomes, even when there is so much negativity and hopelessness out there.  I hope this meant something to you as well.  Thanks for reading, until next time! 

Friday, April 17, 2015

A look into my future life

Name: Mara Eisenbarth
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Internship: Animal Care Intern, Perth Zoo
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Hi again! So I know last time that I said I would update every other week or so, but unfortunately the semester started to become a bit busy.  But I'm back now, with lots of fun and exciting stories! (don't worry I'll try not to tell them all).

So over the last few weeks I've been continuing my work in the Australia section.  When I finished going through every round once (nocturnal house, reptiles, wetland birds, southwest birds, bushwalk, education, discovery) I doubled up on ones that I really enjoyed.  Bushwalk was by far my favorite because it held some of the most recognizable Australian animals, as well as some of the cuddliest.  
The Bushwalk animals included: dingoes, kangaroos, wallabies, quokkas, wombats, koalas, echidnas, and tasmanian devils.  The husbandry for most of these animals was very similar, so here is a recap of a typical day on bushwalk:

  1.  In the morning we would go around and check to make sure all the animals were accounted for and not injured or sick (you don't want an injured animal on display when the public arrive) and that they had sufficient water.  
  2. We would do some cleanup of their exhibit, and this consisted of raking up most of the poo and picking up food bowls from the previous day along with any browse that was dried up or chewed up completely.  
  3. Hopefully this would be finished before 10:30 when they had morning tea, or as they called their 20 minute break: smoko (this was just a slang term for the quick little food and water break, obviously no one smoked in the zoo).  Along with cleaning enclosures, dishes were also done before break.  The dishes that were left in the yards where any wild animal could reach were also sprayed with a disinfectant called Trigene and left to soak for 30 minutes before they were rinsed and put on the drying rack.  This was to stop disease from spreading if a sick possum, or similar animal, used an animal's bowl. 
  4.  Between morning tea and lunch, the afternoon food was prepped.  This was a cool experience for me, and had a bit of a learning curve, as I tried to quickly pick up on the routine the keepers had that was the most efficient way of doing things.  Throughout my time here, I've gone from feeling anxious about hindering the keepers and lengthening their day, to knowing that they wouldn't let me do anything I wasn't capable of doing (or quickly learning).  So, after deciphering the feed board, with the help of the keeper, I got to work on preparing the bowls of food for the animals afternoon meal.  I drew on my experience at the Ohio Wildlife Center food preparation when weighing out and distributing the food into the right bowls.  While doing the food prep, I got to ask a lot of questions about the process of making an animal's diet.  At the Perth zoo, the vets are in charge of making the animal's diet so as to keep its weight in check.  However, it is obviously the keeper's job to make sure that diet is actually being received well by the animal.  For example, one day the keeper noticed that one of the wombats was not eating most of her food, so she notified the vet through the daily log, and made a change to the food that was given.  When that didn't help, they decided to chop the food into smaller pieces to see if that was the issue. When that had somewhat of a positive effect, they checked out the wombat's mouth and saw that her bottom teeth were much too long and it seemed painful for her to eat.  Up until the day of the vet appointment to get them trimmed, the keepers had to grate her food completely.  That seemed to do the trick as all of the food was gone the next day.  It was really interesting to watch the process of seeing a problem (no food eaten), reporting the problem, and trying one solution after another until something worked.   
  5. After lunch, we would go around and deliver everyone's food for the day and give them some fresh new browse.  For some animals, especially the quokkas, the browse was not just an extra goody but an important part of their diet.  At this zoo, the browse for each section was placed in one giant refrigerator by the horticulture team.  This made it easy to grab, but sometimes frustrating if the team cut the same thing several days in a row. 
  6. While giving out the food, we would do another head count and check of each exhibit and as soon as the last dish was done for the day, we would head back up to the office to fill out the daily report.  Everything was noted in the daily report that wasn't the daily routine.  So since I was not normally with the keeper, my presence for that day was noted in their logs as well as other things.  Then, depending on what was happening with their animals (for example if they weighed them that day) they might go into the online zoo database ZIMS to record weights and things.  It was interesting to see what we learned in class put into practice.  

So that is a typical and hectic day spent with some of the most wonderful animals on earth.  

To finish off this post, i'll just share a few key things I learned while working with the keepers in the Australia section. 
  • Being a keeper is not an independent job.  You are an important member of a very close knit team, and working together is imperative for your animal's well being.  Whether or not you agree with how your team mates choose to do things, you have to work together for the animals benefit.  That includes knowing when to speak up if something isn't working, such as routines need to be updated or something of that nature.  
  • One of my discovered passions is formally and informally talking to people.  While a keeper was giving a close encounter talk to a couple in the Galapagos Tortoise exhibit, I got to chat to a few five year old's and their mothers about the beautiful creatures and just felt truly happy sharing my love and knowledge of the animals.  This was only one instance that repeated itself over the six or seven weeks I was there.  You know you're on the right career path when you get that feeling of just pure joy while doing your job.  As keepers, don't forget about the requirement of the job that includes educating and working with the public.  Also, don't downplay that aspect either.  Sharing our love of all living creatures and the knowledge we have gained is an amazing and incredibly important part of our future careers.  If we don't do that, there won't be any animals for us to take care of.  I got to see this education first hand as the keepers were sharing their passions and careers with me.  
On that note, I think I'll wrap this post up with some more pictures and will say see ya until next time! Thanks for reading! 

Echidnas (easily one of the coolest mammals ever