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


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Raptors and Opossums and Squirrels, Oh My: Interning with Ohio Wildlife Center

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

Hi there! My name is Rachel Dalton, and I am a junior Zoo and Conservation Science major. If that sounds vaguely familiar to you, it is probably because I also blogged this past summer about my experiences at the Wilds! I am excited to be blogging again, and to have more experiences to blog about.

This semester, I am a wildlife hospital intern at Ohio Wildlife Center. This is actually my second time interning for this organization, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to learn from their fantastic staff and volunteers.

Learn more about OWC at!

Ohio Wildlife Center is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation and education organization located in Powell, OH. They are one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities in the country, and admit approximately 5,000 animals to the wildlife hospital each year. OWC also does a lot of fabulous educational outreach programs.

As an intern in the hospital, I am responsible for performing daily animal care, handling animals with species-appropriate techniques, preparing and administering medications, interacting with people bringing in injured or ill wildlife, filling out animal daily treatment log sheets, helping to train new volunteers, and helping out however else I can. No two days are ever quite the same, and I absolutely love this; there are always new cases and new challenges, and I learn something new during every shift.

During the winter months we generally don’t have as many animals in the hospital, as many species are in various states of hibernation/decreased activity. However, we have had an influx of waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors (hawks, owls, etc) as of late due to the extreme cold. Surviving cold temperatures is a very energetically costly ordeal, and food resources are very limited for these birds due to the cold and snow. As such, we have had good Samaritans (thank you!) bring in quite a few waterfowl species, robins, and hawks that are lethargic and very underweight in recent weeks. Fortunately for these animals, OWC is a great place to be; in addition to providing a warm cozy place to recuperate, we work very hard to reintroduce food, proper nutrition, and weight gain in a way that won’t shock their systems. This is very important when an animal has not eaten much for quite some time. We have several patients who are in the process of recovering from emaciation right now and gaining weight fabulously. One of my personal favorites is a canvasback duck:
Image courtesy of
I had not seen a canvasback in person before, and it truly is a stunning bird.

There are times when animals come in with injuries that are extensive enough that they will not be able to be re-released successfully. However, some of these non-releasable animals are great candidates for becoming educational ambassador animals. This is the case with a female wood duck that currently resides at the OWC hospital:

This wood duck was found in a parking lot with injuries that strongly suggested she was hit by a car. She is blind in her right eye, as well as having other challenges that would make it difficult for her to survive in the wild successfully. She is a delight to have around the hospital, and she will be a great ambassador for her wild counterparts.

Recently I had the opportunity to work with a family who brought in a house finch they had found in their yard. While walking through the intake paperwork process and talking with them, I found out the older daughter who was 13 or 14 was very interested in veterinary medicine. When they found the bird in their yard, she had very carefully researched what species it was (she was correct!), and gave me a very detailed account of what the bird looked like when they found it. She reminded me very much of myself at that age, and I was all too happy to spend some extra time with that family sharing with them about the hospital, animals we see, pointing out incubators and other various features of our exam room through the viewing window, etc. Her face was glowing the entire time, and I love talking about wildlife with kids, so I’m fairly certain mine was as well! I still think of that family whenever I care for that house finch.

I have decided to close my posts with a fun fact related to wildlife biology or medicine. I am particularly fond of snapping turtles, so here are a few facts about Ohio’s largest species of turtle.

Image courtesy of
*The common snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, is estimated to have an average lifespan of 30+ years in the wild. 

*Snapping turtles can weigh upwards of 35 pounds when full grown.

*Snapping turtles have what is called temperature-dependent sex determination; the sex of a snapping turtle is determined by the temperature around the egg. Warmer eggs will hatch out as females, and cooler eggs will hatch out as males. Many other species of turtles in Ohio also exhibit temperature-dependent sex determination.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hello From Down Under!

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

Hello from the Land Down Under! My name is Mara Eisenbarth and I am a sophomore Zoo and Conservation Science major at Otterbein University.  This semester I have the amazing opportunity to be studying abroad in Perth, Australia along with an internship at the Perth, Zoo.  

Perth is the capital city of the state of Western Australia, and one of the most isolated cities in the world.  Western Australia is the largest state in Australia, and the second largest country sub-division in the's huge.  However, it is very sparsely populated by people for its size.  Western Australia is home, though, to many endemic species of plants and animals that can be seen in Perth but mainly outside of the city limits.  For example, I have not seen a kangaroo yet, but if I would travel just a little north outside of the city and its suburbs, I've been told they are everywhere.  

For most university students here in Australia, there are programs called work experience.  Generally, it's a week or two that you get to essentially shadow someone who is involved in the career you want to pursue and follow their every move for that period of time.  This is very different to the US version of internships, so I set up my internship to more resemble ours.  Essentially what I am doing, is getting a little taste of every part of the zoo for the four months that I am here.  I've just expanded their work experience to last four months.  Every Tuesday and Thursday I catch the 6:15 am bus to arrive at the zoo by 7 am.  The first section that I'm working in is the Australian Fauna section.  So every time I go for my internship, I spend the day with a different keeper in a different part of the Australia section.  Eventually I will be doing sections more than once, but for now I get to test everything out.  

While I'm with the keepers, they explain everything they are doing and why, answer all my questions, and have me help with tasks or involve me in other ways.  Some of the things I've done so far include holding quokkas (look them up, it'll make your day), feeding fairy penguins, putting my knowledge of operant conditioning to the test with cockatoos, hanging out with wallabies and echidnas, and just generally being around amazing marsupials in one of their few native habitats.  

While this internship is so different from the US, it's very interesting and helpful in the sense that I will be getting to see the Australia section, the Exotic section, and their Native Species Breeding program.  Every time I'm with a new keeper, I also get to ask them the questions that will help me get a job later in life.  I always ask what led them to having the job they do now, and how they got their foot in the door.  For anybody interested in keeping, they've told me, you need experience and connections.  After this internship is over, I will have worked with the majority of the staff at the zoo, and those connections are invaluable.  Experience in the zoo world is scarce and important all at once, and one experience is not more or less valuable than another.  The amount of dishes I've washed since I started my internship is unreal, but I can already tell how much more efficient I have become.  As I've come to really realize, efficiency is a key quality to have as a keeper if you want to get anything done during the day.  

With everything that I'm learning, I could put up a post each day that I go there, but I don't want to bore you with the details.  Every other week or so I'll try and post a summarized version of what I did and learned that week.  So, for the summary for the past two weeks I'll just list the animals that I've gotten to work with.  

  • Quokka
  • wallaby
  • skink (multiple kinds)
  •  bearded dragons 
  • snakes (multiple kinds)
  •  Axolotl 
  • radiated tortoises 
  • Red-tailed Black cockatoo
  • Major-Mitchell's cockatoo
  • short beaked echidna 
  • splendid tree frogs 
  • Australasian Shoveler
  • Black Swan
  • Black-necked Stork
  • Blue-Winged Stilt
  • Blue-billed Duck
  •  Glossy Ibis
  • Great Egret
  • Freckled Duck
  • Little Pied Cormorant
  • Pied Heron
  • Plumed Whistling Duck
  • Royal Spoonbill
  • Bilby
  • Boobook Owl
  • Chuditch
  • Dibbler
  • Ghost Bat
  • Feathertail Glider
  • Green Tree Frog
  • Long-nosed Potoroo
  • Northern Quoll
  • Owlet-nightjar
  • Red-tailed Phascogale
  • Spinifex Hopping-mouse
  • Squirrel Glider
  • Tawny Frogmouth
  • Water Rat
  • Western Ringtail Possum
  • Woylie
  • Western Blue-tongued Skink
  • Woma
  • Little Penguins
  • Australian Pelican
  • Eclectus Parrot
  • Purple Crowned Lorikeet
  • Western Ground Parrot
Phew...I think that's it so far.... here are some pics of these adorable creatures and my adventures so far :)

**Photos approved by Perth Zoo**

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Born August 20, 2014
10:55 pm
245 lbs
not yet named 

I'm happy to announce that this not-so-little bundle of joy was finally born! 

Matt and I had already planned to leave August 15th in order to come back to east to prepare for school and spend a little time with our families before heading back to Otterbein for fall semester. Through out the summer we had hoped Semba's baby would come with plenty of time for us to observe and take data on the newborn. Then as time went on and still no baby we began to just hope that the baby would come before we left.  Semba contently carried on with her daily activities showing no signs that labor would be happening anytime soon. 

It was extremely difficult to leave Tucson for multiple reasons. Obviously it was difficult knowing that after all that time we had not been able to see the baby but over the eleven weeks I'd spent there, I made connections with all of the elephant staff and I now felt apart of their family. They had brought Matt and I in with open arms. They even threw a surprise party for my birthday;  the  first year I was away from my family. While they may not realize it, meeting each of them has impacted my life and inspired me to continue doing the work I was a part of this summer. 

In the early morning of Wednesday August 20th, Semba began showing signs the baby was coming. Even being hours away from it all I was still over the moon to know it was finally time! A few hours after the birth Matt and I were told the baby had arrived and it was in fact a girl, what we had all been wishing for! She was seemingly in good health and had no problem nursing from her momma. I was thrilled but it did not come without the sting of sadness knowing I wasn't there to celebrate with the elephant team. But the most important part of it all was the baby was healthy and finally here! 

She began exploring quickly after birth and it wasn't long before the elephant team decided to let her out into the grass yard (much sooner than they had previously thought). She has now met everyone in the herd including her father Mabu. It will probably be awhile before she is allowed on to the pool yard which is closest to the public's view but that is for her own safety. 24 hour watch is still going on as the staff continues to monitor the babies progress and health, along with Semba's and she recovers from labor. As of now the baby elephant will continue to explore the grass yard, building relations within the herd and getting to know the elephant staff. 

Now I'm making plans to return to Tucson and meet the baby I waited eleven weeks to see. I'm trying to fly out over fall break in October and Matt plans to return in December. Unfortunately this time neither of us will have a stipend from the college that helped with travel expenses in the beginning of the summer. I've started a page for donations for anyone willing to help me return to Tucson and see the baby elephant. This page is in no way officiated with Otterbein University or the Reid Park Zoo. 

This will most likely be my last blog post, but I would like to thank Otterbein University Science dept. for awarding me this internship that has changed my life, to the elephant staff and Reid Park Zoo, to everyone that has read my blog and followed me throughout my summer internship. If you would like to continue to see the elephant baby I was recommend following Reid Park Zoo on Facebook as they post pictures, videos and baby updates almost daily (including a video of baby's first mud wallow, too cute not to see!) Also check out their website for more info and access to elephant cams that stream live footage of the herd. 

Thank you!

**All baby elephant photos on this blog were provided by the Reid Park Zoo's Facebook page**

Sunday, August 17, 2014

'Till Next Time, Fishes.

Hello my fellow vertebrates!  It is with the greatest amount of sadness that I share I have finished my internship at the Newport Aquarium. An incredible experience, I do not have the words to describe just how thankful I am to have been given this opportunity.

 My last few days were spent doing a lot of things. There was a lot of the usual window cleaning and house-keeping, but I also had to spend a day in the Water Quality Lab. While I was only in there for a couple hours, I learned a lot about all of the chemistry that goes into running and sustaining aquariums; making sure certain tanks have appropriate pH levels, salinity, and monitoring the presence of nitrates. Even though the people in the water lab aren’t responsible for particular animals, they’re responsible for EVERYTHING else. They make sure the animals have a place that they can live in! And that’s a lot of work! I acquired a new level of respect for those biologists, for I admit that I didn’t understand just how much they did and were responsible for in the aquarium.

One of the days I was there, the aquarium had scheduled a time for some of the biologists to meet and give a presentation about the shark ray pups that were born earlier this year. A lot of questions have recently been re-visited about what happened to the pups and why things didn’t go the way people expected them to. While the presentation was intended for the workers and volunteers of the aquarium, it was given out of importance for the certainty of correct information to share with the public. Haz and Jolene, as well as one of the head people of the husbandry department, gave this presentation. It wasn’t a very long presentation, but it was very, very informative. Given in a “semi-scientific, professional” format, they talked about everything from the rarity of shark rays to the complications after the birth of all seven of them. I’m not going to go over every single thing they discussed, but if you’re interested, feel free to ask me! Shark rays are incredibly rare in the wild, which leaves us so little information about them, and makes them a [quite] mysterious responsibility to an aquarium. The Newport Aquarium was the first aquarium to successfully have FOUR shark rays, and also have a successful breeding program. So why did the pups die? Because shark rays pups have never before been bred, birthed, and cared for in captivity. Newport tried all sorts of ways to try and care for their new babies, but ultimately deemed unsuccessful, first time around. They were under CONSTANT care, non-stop from day one until the last pup died. Weights, diets, activity levels, and general observation of the pups was constantly being taken and recorded, in order to try and find out what the shark rays needed the most. While this attempt was unsuccessful in resulting in a surviving pup, it was extraordinarily successful in groundbreaking information; obtaining information that has never been done before! And hopefully soon, the aquarium will be able to successfully present more shark ray pups to the world.

Scratches from a sea turtle. Who knew THAT was possible?
I’ve ripped heads off of shrimp (dead, frozen ones), stuffed lobsters with vitamins, ripped frog leg muscles off of the bones, and squeezed juice out of a handful of krill. I’ve been splashed by a shark ray, scratched by a sea turtle, smashed by a magnet, and stepped on by a crab. I’ve learned that people skills are just as good to have as animal skills, and that being organized is one of the best practices you should have. I’ve also learned to never ignore the idea of writing your name with a Sharpie on anything that’s yours. I’ve seen my mentor wrestle an albino alligator, and I carried said alligator to a truck (don’t worry, it was in a box). I’ve fed the most venomous fish known to man, I’ve seen one of the largest captive alligators swallow a chicken whole, and I’ve been spit on by a fish. I’ve scraped salt off of floors and ceilings, and I’ve cleaned lobster antennas out of a sink.

Although my time at the aquarium was short, I learned and witnessed so much, it makes me look forward to being in this working world, but also for other people that enjoy this career as much as I, to experience these things as well. The biggest thing I learned? Never expect a strict schedule. Just like human health, the animal world is unpredictable, and things happen. Fish get sick, animals die, water salinities change, life support systems malfunction or need tuning. The hardest part of this job? You can’t communicate with the animals; they can’t speak for themselves. They can’t tell you “hey, I’m not feeling too good. I think I’m getting sick.” Sometimes you have to make decisions that you don’t want to make, and no matter the amount of experience you have, difficulties are ever present. This kind of job can’t really be a part-time effort, simply because you won’t understand what a strange behavior is in your animals if you only see them a couple times a week. The animals need to get to know you just as much as you need to get to know them. Yes, they are wild animals, which is REALLY important to remember, but familiarity is better for them. Biologists and zoo keepers don’t get near enough the amount of attention, or a salary, as I think they deserve, simply because they do all sorts of things. I’m not saying they don’t get paid enough because I hope to be a biologist one day. I’m saying it because, like moms, they are multiple things in one. They’re researchers, record keepers, veterinarians, chefs, maintenance keepers; they’re all sorts of busy and occupied.

I’ve enjoyed my summer, and I would like to thank everyone for your support and encouragement. Your words of praise and congratulations warm my heart, and your questions and exclamations of excitement for me really make me believe in myself. So, once again, thanks so much for everything my loved ones have done for me. I know I wouldn’t be writing these blogs if it wasn’t for you!!

P.S.  Of course there’s no way that I can post every experience or picture on this blog. Sharing is caring, so if you ever want to talk to me about this or have any questions about what I study or do, just ask! Science is wonderful, and I won’t turn down an invitation to talk about it!          -Jill :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Still waiting

Still waiting. Waiting waiting patiently. It’s starting to feel like Semba isn't pregnant and that it’s just a giant food baby! It’s obviously not, but that’s the way it feels!Amanda and I have both worked the evening shift and the overnight shift. As of now the main difference on watch is eating or sleeping. During the evening shift, 2:30 PM-11 PM, Semba mainly eats. During the overnight shift, 10:30 PM-7 AM, Semba mainly sleeps. She sleeps in roughly an hour to hour and a half increments two or three times a night. She gets up to use the bathroom, aaaannnnddd eat some more. She will also interact with Lungile or Punga through the fence, but most of the time is spent eating and sleeping. She is pretty much a baby in that sense.
Now, Sundzu on the other hand will entertain himself when he gets tired of eating or sleeping. He’s only 3, so some of the things he does are pretty cute.
1)      One morning at about 5:30, Sundzu stood in a stall and started twirling his trunk like a helicopter.
2)      He will randomly start to walk backwards around the stalls. When he does this, Amanda and I both think of the Spongebob episode where he says “Backing up. Backing up. Backing up.”
3)      This is what the keepers call the sprinkler. African Elephants have to “fingers” at the tip of their trunk while Asian elephants have only one. Sundzu will fill his trunk with water and pinch the fingers together and blow the water out in spurts to make it look like a “sprinkler”
4)      Sundzu is a mamma’s boy to say the least. He’s always hanging around Semba and just won’t give her the space she needs. This includes when she is sleeping. Sundzu will occasionally wait for Semba to fall asleep and then he will go try and squeeze next to her. Most of the times, Semba will sleep in a corner of a stall leaving very little room for Sundzu, but that doesn’t matter for him! He will do his best to squeeze in right next to her no matter how uncomfortable it looks.
5)      Some nights, there is not enough room for Sundzu to wedge himself next to Semba. He still tries to find a spot as close to her as he can get, sometimes waking her up. One night, Sundzu was searching for his spot by Semba and he woke her up, and if you ask me, he did it on purpose. Well right when Semba stood up, Sundzu immediately laid down right where Semba was sleeping.
6)      And the last one. I’m not sure how he does it, but he’ll put his trunk in his mouth and makes a fart-like noise. This usually happens multiple times in the morning, and I still laugh every time he does it.
Outside of the elephants, there are still some differences between the evening and night shift. At about 5 in the morning, it starts to get light out, and the flies swarm. One morning I counted 6 flies on only one of my legs. During the evening, there aren't as many flies, but the flies are there longer.
Amanda Primarily does night shifts, usually 5 nights in a row, and I primarily do evening shifts and cover the two nights that Amanda is not there. If a volunteer is unable to make their shift, then Amanda or I will step in when needed if we are able to. I find myself being a couple steps behind in the morning. I am riding the struggle bus for sure whenever I work a night shift.
Sue, the elephant manager, will also give us projects to work on while we are there. Since there is always a keeper with us, we rotate Semba watch, which allows us to work, aaannd to give us a break from watching Semba eat or sleep. Our most recent project has been a map of Africa with elephant populations which will be used in informing people about 96elephants. The Reid Park Zoo has recently partnered with 96elephants. This organization gets its name from an average of 96 elephants being killed every day for their tusks. There is a federal ban on ivory in the US, but that does not put a stop to the black market ivory trade or selling ivory that has been around. New York and now New Jersey are the only two states that have put a complete ban on the sale of ivory! 96elephants works to educate and help put an end to ivory trade.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Waiting, Hoping, and Wishing

Still no baby! 
Twenty four hour watch has been going for close to a month but still no signs that we are any closer to having the new member of the elephant herd joining us. Semba appears quite content and she continues her normal activities, and her appetite has not slowed down. 

Litsemba, Semba's full name, is swahili meaning "hope". Semba is approximately 24 years old. She, along with Mabu and Lungile were born at Kruger National Park in South Africa. From there many of the elephants in the park were moved to Swaziland in 1994. The elephant populations started to become overpopulated in the area. Because of this two family herds were moved San Diego Safari Park in 2003. Breeding within these herds was very successful at San Diego. That is where Semba had her first and second calves Punga and Sundzu. Both were fathered by Mabu. Due to the success of the herds at San Diego, it was decided that they needed to be expanded and in March of 2012, a small breeding herd of five elephants was moved to Reid Park Zoo. Semba is the matriarch of the herd. In elephant social dynamics, one female will lead the family herd. Most males once they reach sexual maturity will go off on their own, sometimes joining a separate bachelor herd. 

Mabu and Semba were observed breeding in October of 2012. It was quite the display of the entire herd running and trumpeting through out the exhibit over multiple days. Mabu also mated with Lungile but it didn't result in a pregnancy. The news of Semba's pregnancy was a delight to the zoo and community. This was exciting for everyone because this will be the first elephant born in the state of Arizona!

Now we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the baby (sex unknown). Semba is still within the healthy window for delivery. Urine analysis predicted between July 16th and August 21st. At this point this pregnancy has surpassed Semba's previous two due dates with Punga and Sundzu and has also gone pass the mean delivery date. Everyone is on edge waiting for some sign that labor is coming. Matt and I are especially anxious because our internship and time at the zoo is coming to a close. We leave soon and we want more than anything to get to see this baby born. So keep fingers crossed that this bundle of joy comes soon!

*Photo taken from Reid Park Zoo's Facebook page*