Monday, April 10, 2017

Perth Zoo

Name: Victoria Turbyfill
Class/Year: Class of 2017, Senior 
Hometown: Danville, Kentucky 
Location: Perth Zoo, Western Australia 
Internship: Animal Husbandry 

My internship at the Perth Zoo in Western Australia was one of my favorite experiences in college. Not only was I in beautiful sunny Australia but I was working with incredible animals and dedicated keepers and conservationists. There were a couple things that really stood out to me during my time as an intern at the Perth zoo. 

When I began my internship I was shadowing the keepers in the zoo's conservation breeding program. I loved being more intimately involved in ex situ conservation in the zoo because it helped me to gain a better understanding and appreciation for local Australian wildlife in need of conservation. They were breeding two frog species, the western swamp tortoise, dibblers, and numbats (both marsupials). All of these animals were being bred, studied and released into native habitat. The keepers not only worked ex situ but some were even able to go to the site of release and work in situ. Being a part of a breeding program helped me to truly feel like I was involved in conservation and making a difference. I had never worked with a program such as this one or even heard of one within a zoo. The breeding program was not open to the public but was a huge source of funding for the zoo. It was interesting to work not only behind the scenes of the enclosures but behind the scenes of a breeding program.

One other area of the zoo I had the please of working in was with their large carnivores and ungulates. The animals and keepers here were all incredible. The relationships the keepers had with these animals were deep and truly made the keepers some of the most dedicated animal caregivers. It was while I was working with these keepers that one of the male lions got sick and had to be brought into their vets office. He was very sick and in the end they had to choose to euthanize him because surgery would have been too difficult of a recovery. It was extremely difficult to hear the news. I couldn't image what the keepers who had known him for so long felt. Although it was very sad it was a good experience for me to see the impact one animal can have on a whole group of keepers and the community throughout Perth. Dealing with loss is real part of being a zoo keeper and coping with the loss of the lion was a group effort where the keepers truly supported each other. 

Working with the other native Australian animals was also a great experience. I learned a lot about the multitude of marsupials and reptiles of the land. These were animals I had yet to work with. I highly enjoyed all of the animals and keepers at the zoo and the community they built together. 
Short beaked echidna (education program animal)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hand-rearing and Hand-restraint

Name: Lauren Silla
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Internship:Wildlife Conservation Intern
Location: White Oak in Yulee, Florida

            Throughout my internship at White Oak I have had the opportunity to be very involved in everything the keepers do everyday, including two very important tasks: hand rearing neonates and hand restraining hoofstock for routine procedures. The decision to hand rear an animal is never made lightly and is often the last resort in order to save an individual’s life. Hand rearing becomes necessary if there are health issues for the mother or calf, or maternal neglect (poor parental care sometimes due to a dam being a first time mother). During my internship there were a couple calves being hand reared. My role in this process has been to prepare bottles, feed the animals, and document notes on the progress of the animal including the amount of formula eaten and general behavior. Although this has certainly been an extremely adorable part of my job, it also comes with great responsibility. Interns are entrusted to care for these calves, most of which are threatened species, especially for the late night feeds, and because we want these animals to grow up with the appropriate behaviors we limit our interactions with them so they do not become overly friendly with people.

            Another really unique aspect of my White Oak internship is my involvement with medical procedures, particularly when hand restraining is necessary. Since all the hoofstock are housed in large pastures, the keepers are mostly hands off in the daily routine. However, when animals require medical care it is necessary to get hands on them. Deworming, vaccinating, or receiving annual check-ups all require getting the animals in hand. There are several options for getting animals in hand, but often the safest and least stressful option for smaller hoofstock is hand restraint. The process is fairly simple once one gets the hang of it. We herd the animal into a smaller space, one keeper gets ahold of the animals head and neck then lowers the animal into a laying position, and a second person holds onto the animal’s shoulder and back. The veterinarians are then able to examine the animal and administer any medication needed. The keepers and the vets work together quickly and efficiently to get this process done.
             Before my internship at White Oak, I had practically no experience hand-rearing or hand-restraining hoofstock. I was able to learn the skills and methods necessary for these procedures quickly because of the valuable instruction from the keepers and vet staff.  
One of the gerenuk males I assisted in hand-rearing
Restraining a critically endangered dama gazelle calf for vaccinations
Manually restraining a bongo antelope calf for a routine blood draw