Sunday, July 23, 2017

First Weeks at Toledo Zoo

Name: Haley Wasserman
Class Year: Junior
Hometown: Medina, OH
Internship: Research and Enrichment
Location: Toledo Zoo

Hi everyone! My name is Haley Wasserman and my major is zoology and conservation science at Otterbein University. I am spending my summer interning at the Toledo Zoo in the animal behavior department. My supervisor is Beth Posta, who is the head of the animal behavior department. I am specifically focusing on enrichment and research. The Toledo Zoo and the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) define enrichment as “the addition or modification of an animal’s environment that encourages the animals to make choices, exhibit natural, or species-appropriate behavior, presents mental challenges, encourage physical activity/exercise and enhances the animal’s overall well-being”. I have been learning the entire process of enrichment; from designing new enrichment items and having it get approved, all the way through to the actual assessment of the enrichment to evaluate its effectiveness. Later on this summer I will also be doing research on some new additions to the zoo to help us gather a better understanding of how these animals like to spend their time.
This is a lowland paca. This is one of the species I will be observing.

One of our aviary birds, a victoria crested pigeon!

A typical day for me starts at 8:30 AM. I come in to the zoo and report to the head gorilla keeper, Mike. I then spend about 45 minutes scattering the gorilla's diet out into their enclosure so that they can forage when they shift to their outdoor exhibit for the day. It is actually one of my favorite things that I do here so far! I usually also scatter enrichment items that I had delivered the day prior to the keepers. Once the enclosure is ready to go, we shift the gorillas outside and I get to watch their reactions to my enrichment. We currently have Western Lowland Gorillas on display. There is one male, the silverback named Kwisha. We have three females and all are approved for breeding with Kwisha. Their names are Johari, Nia Lewa and Kitani. Each gorilla has its own personality and enrichment preferences and they truly keep me on my toes. I return here at 1 PM every day for a roof feeding. Mike, another intern named Diana, and myself head up to the roof of the indoor gorilla habitat which overlooks the outdoor exhibit. The gorillas come running and sit with anticipation because they know that we are about to throw food to them. The silverback Kwisha will perform certain behaviors for his food, such as clapping and making a silly face where he shakes his mouth from side to side. On certain days of the week I stick around after the roof feeding to listen to Mike give a keeper talk, and we answer any questions the visitors have about the gorillas.
Silverback Kwisha using his mouth to get raisins from a raisin log I created for them.

Once this is done, I head over to deliver enrichment to our reptile house's feeder mice. Though these animals may have short lives and are not on display to the public, they are still animals who deserve to have good welfare so I bring them daily enrichment. Most of their enrichment is either food based or something that they can gnaw on to assist with their constantly growing teeth.

On Mondays, after feeder mice are done I head over to the science museum and give a talk on enrichment and training to the weekly zoo campers. I teach them about how we define enrichment and what enrichment looks like here for different types of animals. I keep the talk interactive and pass around plenty of old enrichment items and photos of animals using them. Then I move on to talking about behavior training and explain how we use positive reinforcement to train the animals. I make sure the children understand that the animals are not trapped and come up and stay at training sessions with the keepers on their own free will. I enjoy being able to help the young campers learn more about how these important areas of the zoo work!

I spend a majority of the rest of my day making enrichment for various departments at the zoo. My list usually includes gorillas, feeder mice, Tasmanian devils, maned wolves, aviary birds, aviary mammals, goats, and soon, elephants. I speak to keepers about what they would like more enrichment of or what kind of natural behaviors they would like to see more of from their animals. I have created a monthly enrichment calendar with all of this information in mind and use this to stay on track of what I am responsible for. This past weekend, I worked with the other interns and their respective departments to create some clever Father's Day themed enrichment to celebrate the zoo's animal fathers. Some examples of enrichment I have created include scent bags, paper mache boards stuffed with food, cardboard box animals, oatmeal wreaths, and treat tubes.
Father's Day enrichment for our otters. It is a block of ice with words made from dried seaweed.

Snow leopard enjoying some "box animal" enrichment I created!

I am really enjoying my time at the Toledo Zoo so far. Beth is a great role model and has been teaching me so much information which I can use the rest of my life in this career. I spend time each day chatting with Beth about what we can do to improve enrichment for different species around the zoo. Beth also teaches me more about training of animals here and how we accustom the animals to make them willingly come up daily to be inspected by keepers to monitor their health. Sometimes, I even get to accompany Beth to go and observe her working with keepers on training. All of the keepers have been very welcoming and willing to answer any questions that I
have. It is amazing to watch what goes on behind the scenes here! Speaking of which, the second week of the internship the zoo was having their AZA inspections. It was a great opportunity for me to experience what it is like working in a zoo when these inspections roll around.

I have also worked some events for the zoo. My favorite so far was when Amber Pitsenberger and I ran a table about elephant enrichment for the African elephant Lucas's 6th birthday celebration. I am eager for what the rest of the summer has in store for me here at the Toledo Zoo. I will send more updates later on!
Talking to guests about elephant enrichment.

Amber speaking to guests about enrichment. Behind me is a "pin the trunk on the elephant" game that kids could come up and play.

I like to explore the zoo during my lunch breaks. This week I decided to go and feed our masai giraffes!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Interning at the Tembo Trail in Toledo

Name: Amber Pitsenberger
Class Year: 2019
Hometown: Danville, OH
Internship: Behavior and Large Mammal
Location: Toledo, OH

Hello everyone! My name is Amber Pitsenberger and I will be a junior in the fall. This summer I have the amazing opportunity to intern at the Toledo Zoo in two separate departments. In the mornings, I spend my day in the large mammal department and in the afternoons I am with the behavior department. For this blog, I will be only discussing what I do in the mornings with the large mammal department.

Standing in front of the hippos statues near the Tembo Trail
Throughout the week I work with two separate keepers who work in the large mammal area known as the Tembo Trail. This is where many of the large African mammals are located. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I spend the morning with Trudy the keeper responsible for the brown bear-snow leopard-tiger-dingo-and sloth bear sections of the Tembo Trail. I meet Trudy over at brown bears where Montana and Kodi, the two brown bears, and Dodge, the Kodiak bear, live. I help make their enrichment and place it in their outdoor enclosure. Enrichment is any item or activity used to enhance the quality of life of the animals living at the Toledo Zoo. It is used to help encourage natural behaviors. Recently, the bears were given a new pool and they can often be found swimming in it while enjoying their enrichment. They are a lot of fun to watch and seem to attract a lot of visitors especially when they play around in the pool.

Dodge playing in the pool located in the brown bear enclosure.
After the brown bears are on exhibit, Trudy and I head over to the tigers and then to the snow leopards. First, we drain and clean the tigers' pool and wash the windows. After that, we place their enrichment in their enclosure. I enjoy hiding their enrichment in the barrels they have in their enclosure or in one of their trees because it takes the tigers a little longer to find their enrichment. Once we let the tigers out, we go over to the snow leopards and clean their enclosure and hide their enrichment as well.

When we have finish with the big cats, we head over to the sloth bear enclosure. We say hello to the dingoes Indigo and Tawny as we pass since they are usually outside already when I arrive. Kara is currently the sloth bear that lives at the Toledo Zoo. I love hanging out with Kara because she is really cool to watch. Trudy and I clean her outdoor enclosure and then we hide her enrichment in the hollow logs and on her climbing structures. In the wild, Sloth bears eat a lot of termites and ants which requires the sloth bears to use their claws and tongue in order to get their food. A lot of times Kara's enrichment will come in special feeders that encourage Kara to use her claws and tongue. There are also hollow longs inside her enclosure that we can hide her enrichment in as well. After her enrichment is eaten, you can often find Kara sitting by the windows where the public can interact with her or sleeping under the shade of one of the bushes in her enclosure. After all of the animals are outside, Trudy and I get to work cleaning the animals' indoor homes. There is a lot to clean but with two people it doesn't take too long.

Kara the sloth bear interacting with visitors.

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I work with Robin the hippo-meerkat- and rhino keeper. My mornings usually start off by meeting Robin at the "Hippoquarium" where the zoo's two hippos, Herbie and Emma, live. After preparing the hippos' diets, Robin and I go out into the outdoor enclosure and clean allowing Herbie and Emma some time to eat. Once they are done eating, Robin and I clean and inspect their teeth and then send them outside to their large outdoor pool. One of my favorite parts of working with the hippos is the rooftop feeds we do. We cut up fruit and veggies for the hippos and then make our way to the rooftop to toss the food into the outdoor pool. A lot of times Emma and Herbie will swim below us and wait for us to drop their favorite treats in. It's a neat experience and the guests always seem to enjoy watching Herbie smash a watermelon up. 

After we say goodbye to Herbie and Emma, Robin and I head over to rhino holding where Sam the white rhinoceros lives. We give Sam a shower every few days and then we help exfoliate Sam's skin by asking him to walk inside a training chute so that we can brush him. Robin also checks Sam's feet, ears and horn and then we apply fly repellent to him. Once we are finished, we send Sam out into the rhino yard for the rest of the day.

Sam the White Rhino

Our last stop is at meerkats. Currently, there are twelve meerkats that live at the Toledo Zoo. We have two males that live together in one enclosure and a family of ten meerkats that live in another. It is a lot of fun to watch the meerkats play around. They are expert diggers and enjoy making tunnels in the sand in their enclosure. At the meerkats, I help Robin prepare their diets and refresh their water. We also make and put out the enrichment for the meerkats. One of their favorite snacks is mealworms and it's fun watching the meerkats figure out how to manipulate their enrichment to get their favorite treat.

That is how I spend my mornings at the Toledo Zoo. I have a lot of fun doing it and I enjoy the amazing experience that I am getting. Robin and Trudy are really amazing and I can't thank them enough for the things that they are teaching me. It's really a great experience and I am enjoying every minute of it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More from the Birds Show!

An Update from the Minnesota Zoo's World of Birds Show (with More Pictures!)
Summer 2017

Geezer the Spectacled Owl
Name: Jillian Jorgenson
Class Year: Junior
Hometown: Stillwater, MN
Internship: World of Birds Show Intern
Location: The Minnesota Zoo (Apple Valley, Minnesota)

I have been waiting to write my second post from my internship for a few weeks now for a couple reasons that I will get into with more detail in a moment. First, I planned to take pictures during one of our daily shows so I'd have some quality bird pictures to share and second, I was going to shadow another department for a day and wanted to include it in this post. It has been over a month since my first post so here's part two from the Minnesota Zoo's World of Birds Show!

Daily Activities and Training Sessions 

Piper the Blue Throated Macaw
The Birds Show maintains a collection of 30-40 birds and not all of them are used for summer shows. Our trainers have been working hard all summer with some of the newer birds with hope that they may join our daily shows towards the end of the summer. Two of these birds are Piper (a critically endangered Blue Throated Macaw) and Charlie (a Military Macaw). Piper is about 3 or 4 years old and came to the bird show a couple years ago; at the time, his wings had been clipped and he had yet to learn to fly (he reminds me of Blu from the movie Rio). Over the summer, he has become a more confident flyer and is learning his stage routine quite well; his routine includes flying from the backdrop to a perch on the edge of the audience and then to a perch on stage while the presenter talks about Blue Throated Macaw conservation and then flies to a spot on the backdrop where he exits the stage. We have gotten to the point where he comes out at the end of shows to do his routine for small crowds to get used to the people. Like Piper, Charlie came to us as an nervous flyer and although he has improved greatly this summer (making longer and longer flights from his perch to a trainer), his on stage training has been going a little strange lately. The trainers gradually got Charlie used to the stage - they started by bringing him out in his travel crate and giving him lots of treats to ensure that he associated the stage with positive reinforcement. Then he was brought on stage on a trainer's hand and then he began to make short flights from his perch to the trainer. About a week or so ago, Charlie had gotten to the point where he was flying from his perch to the fake tree on stage and then climbing down a vine to his exit point. At the moment, we've taken a few steps back with his training after a minor cut was found on his foot - nothing too serious but I believe it impacted his confidence in flying on stage somehow. Hopefully with lots of care he will be back to where he was in no time!

Bowie the Male Harris Hawk
 During our daily shows, I rotate jobs with the other two interns. Our tasks include: releasing and catching the two flocks of pigeons that we fly at the beginning of each show, releasing and catching Bowie (our male Harris Hawk) during his routine, playing music throughout the shows, baiting the perches at the back of the amphitheater for some of the birds (Bowie, Orville, and Ivory), pressing buttons to release various birds from release boxes located in the woods behind our amphitheater, and putting up various baits and props for the presenter to use on stage. So far, my favorite thing to do during the shows is to bait the perches at the back of the amphitheater - I especially enjoy baiting during shows when our Lanner Falcon, Lola, does her routine; watching her dive is absolutely incredible! There are however some days when Lola's routine doesn't exactly go to plan... As she has gotten older, Lola has become a more confident flyer and she goes farther than we want her to on some days - we attach a GPS unit to one of her tail feathers each time we fly her in a show and we've definitely had to use it. On multiple occasions, we've had to find her in our Amur Tiger enclosure as well as the zoo's parking lot; there have also been multiple occasions where she's flown off zoo grounds and has been gone for hours before we have been able to get her back!
Lola the Lanner Falcon. Note the blue GPS unit on her tail

Additional Project

In addition to the poster I will be making to present back at school in the fall, I have been working on an additional project that I will be presenting to the Birds Show staff on the 30th of this month. I chose to make an educational display about the Critically Endangered (thought to be extinct in the wild) Spix's Macaw. This species was the inspiration for the movie Rio and the trainers talk about the film a good deal during our shows when we bring out our male Hyacinth Macaw, Gandalf. I wanted to make a display that would be easy enough for the general public to understand and to connect the real species to a popular children's movie. After presenting my display to the staff, I plan to bring it back to campus for the Otterbein Animal Conservation Club to use for events/programs. At the moment, I hope to add a kind of coloring book/activity page to hand out with the display but I'm not sure that I'll have time to make it.

Flash the Red Legged Seriema

Some More Pictures

Orville the Male Eurasian Eagle Owl
Gandalf the Male Hyacinth Macaw
Rusty the East African Crowned Crane

Rousey the Female Bald Eagle

Coconut the Sulfur Crested Cockatoo (the star of the show)

Gladys after receiving a whole quail to eat

Gladys the Female Eurasian Eagle Owl

Shadowing the Northern Trail

One of the Grizzly Bears - not taken the day I shadowed
On July 9th, I had the opportunity to shadow another department for the day and I chose to shadow our Northern Trail which includes three areas of hoofstock and two areas of carnivores. I could go on and on about all the things I did that day but I'll try to narrow this part of my post to my favorite parts. I stayed for the full shift which was longer than my usual shift with the Birds Show (11 hours as opposed to 8.5 hours usually) so I was able to experience almost every aspect of the Northern Trial. In the morning I helped clean the Wild Boar, Camel, Moose, and Caribou/Reindeer holding areas as well as the zoo's retired red panda named Ellyanna - this was definitely one of my favorite moments because I was able to go in to help feed Elly and I got to touch her (it is important that she is used to strange people touching her for medical reasons).  In the afternoon, I watched some training sessions for the Wild Boars, Grizzly Bears, and Dholes - all are trained for medical procedures/check ups/daily husbandry. One of the primary reasons I wanted to shadow the Northern Trail was to have the chance to see our Asian Wild Horses up close; this species was what first got me interested in conservation as a child and it was a really special moment for me to see them up close and personal! The herd seen by the public includes the zoo's mares and their foals (we have three at the moment) and while we have our temporary summer exhibit, they rotate with the Bactrian Camels for pasture time. Off exhibit, we have a herd of male Asian Wild Horses and I was able to go see them, too (another highlight for me). The stallion herd contains four individuals and the "lead" stallion is called Otradnoye. I was able to spend some time spoiling the stallions with fresh grass and treats before heading back to the main section of the Northern Trail where I went with a different keeper to see the Grizzly Bear holding and roof-top training area (where I got to give the bears some fruit). The next area I got to see was definitely a  huge highlight for me - I got to see the Tiger holding area where the Minnesota Zoo's new Amur Tiger cub is housed with her mother. There are some super cute videos of the cub on the MN Zoo's Facebook page and you should totally check them out! At first, I wasn't sure that I would be able to see the tigers and I'm so glad things went differently! I had the pleasure of sitting for a solid fifteen-twenty minutes watching mother and cub and (with the permission and supervision of another keeper) playing with the cub through the side of her enclosure (mostly tug-of-war with a stick). I've always loved working with hoofstock and I had wanted to experience working with big cats so my day shadowing the Northern Trail was absolutely fantastic! If I decide to apply for another internship at the Minnesota Zoo next summer, I would strongly consider applying for the Northern Trail.
Myself and Alex

Back to the Birds: Hands-On Experience

Within the past couple weeks, I have been able to start working with one of our African Grey parrots in a more hands-on setting. His name is Alex and he's about 37 years old (if I'm remembering correctly). For the first week or so of my working with him, all I did was feed him treats on his perch to build a relationship with him. Once we had established a bit more of a relationship, I began stepping him up onto my hand. Currently, I am moving him from his house to his travel crate and then back to his house. Working with Alex has to be one of my favorite things I've done this summer and I can't wait to see what we do next!


Unless stated otherwise, all photographs I post are taken by me either on my phone or camera. All photographs I take and wish to post have been approved by my intern supervisor and department curator. I took many pictures while shadowing the Northern Trail but I didn't have the chance to get any of them approved to post online.

 What's it like living in China?

Name: Miranda Smith and Madison MacElrevey
Year: Juniors
Hometown: Westerville, OH (Miranda) and Lewes, DE (Madison)
Internship: Behavioral Research at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Location: Chengdu, China 

I talked before about how Madison and I got to China, and as crazy as getting to China was, living in China is WAY crazier! Our first week in China was a roller coaster of events, that was hinted at in the first blog post. We pulled into Southwest Jiaotong University at 5 in the morning. As exhausted as we were, the excitement of our new home for the summer (and probably jet lag) kept us up until 6am. At promptly 9am, a group of girls came to show is around and help us get things set up.
                            5 am!
                          Madisons room
                          My room
                              Some girls showing us around! They were English majors

By noon it became apparent to us that we were on the wrong campus. The rest of the day was spent trying to figure out how that had occurred (multiple emails from them confirmed we had housing on the right campus), and how we could get switched (apparently not possible). Staying on the Xipu Campus would mean a 2 hour commute to the panda base and back every day. That was just not possible. SOOOOOOO, Madison and I said “see ya” to South West Jiaotong University, and “hello” to Mix Hostel! Our new home for the summer!

Personally I love staying here. It’s more money than we planned on with the University, but the Hostel has TONS of awesome things that evens it out in the end.

Like this cat! Xiao Me is awesome!

It’s close to a mall, Walmart, the metro, and tons of other fun things!
                             Our first metro run....we had some trouble, so getting it right was exciting!
We have a room with an awesome view, and the hostel has fun activities!

Dumpling Party @mix hostel!

 Madison won best dumpling cause she's boss!

Sachet Making Party/ Rice Dumpling Party! 

The rumors you hear about things here in China are pretty much true.....

Their kids drop their pants right in the street or had a hole to begin with
They ALL want pictures with you!

And they stare at you all the time! I like to take sneaky pictures of the people who try to take sneaky pictures of us!
        I caught him so I took one right back of him! LOL
        Then because he was embarrassed we caught him, he gave us a flower
  That girl kept taking pics of us, and staring at us the whole meal.

Their English attempts are also really funny sometimes!

These are our last few days here in Chengdu and at the Panda Base, and neither of us can believe how fast it's gone by! We've done some awesome things at the Panda Base, and its amazing how close you become to what you observe for 40 hours a week! All the pandas are dear to us and leaving them in going to be hard!

            ML being difficult like always!
         XF being anti-social
        I wont miss the crowds however!
        Feels like our first day was just yesterday!

We got to watch James (our advisor) train pandas (personally my favorite), we have even gotten to touch a few!

One of the most spectacular parts about living in a different culture for 3 months is getting to immerse yourself in it. While we spend a good portion of the day at the Panda Base, Madison and I take every opportunity to go on an adventure!
               Little Great Wall
               Hot Pot
                Mt. Emi
                   Fish that eat the dead skin off your foot!!!
                 Monasteries be EVERYWHERE!
                    Mall are everywhere too!
                     Wide and Narrow Alley
                  The opera
                          Tea at the opera
                         Leshan Buddha

This internship and living here in China has been spectacular! It's sad to think the summer is coming to an end but neither of us will ever forget the amazing time we've had!