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 

Week 10 in the Desert

Name: Mara Eisenbarth
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Internship: Elephant Intern
Location: Reid Park Zoo, Tucson, Arizona

Over the 10 weeks I spent in Tucson I have learned so much.  Not only have I learned a lot about elephant management, but I've learned how a successful team of keepers works together.  It has been really interesting seeing how differently keepers work together in small zoos compared to larger ones.  Here at Reid Park, all of the keepers have a morning meeting run by the zoo curator, whereas in Columbus, the morning meetings were split up by section to make them more efficient.  

So along with cleaning with the elephant team in the morning and observing or helping the team in the afternoon, I've been working on a project.  Before I came down to Tucson for the summer, my supervisor proposed that I make a compilation of videos that can be used to help incoming or new keepers learn how to train the elephants.  Over the course of the past ten weeks, I have been opportunistically filming the keepers while they train the elephants.  Ultimately I ended up with a slide or two dedicated to each behavior, and around 37 slides total.  After showing it to the keepers for feedback, I submitted it to my supervisor who also approved.  This project was beneficial to both myself and Reid Park zoo in that it taught me the basics and complexities of elephant training, while providing a resource with which to train the new keepers.   I was able to observe many many hours of training and go out to other parts of the zoo to observe other animals as well.

After three years in the Zoo and Conservation Science major, this opportunity was an incredible way to back up my knowledge of training, animal behavior, and zookeeping.  The elephant team was one of the most wonderful groups of people I've had the honor of working with.  Everyone was constantly looking to improve their already progressive management style.  No idea is too big if it means improving husbandry or welfare.  As a whole, the team taught me that you can never be overly qualified in the zoo field, as there is constant new research to be explored.  We are entering into a field that is changing by the day, and requires teamwork across the country and throughout the world.  It was very hard to leave this group of people after everything they taught me inside and outside of the zoo, but I am definitely more ready now than ever to jump into the mounds of work yet to be done to make a difference.

Thanks Reid Park!!!


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Enriching My Afternoons

Name: Nathan Tarr
Class Year: 2018, Junior
Hometown: Milton, West Virginia
Internship: Behavior and Large Mammal Intern
Location: Toledo, Ohio

Hello, again.  In my first blog, I gave a rundown of my normal morning as an intern for a Large Mammal keeper.  In this blog, I’ll be telling about the second half of my day working in the Animal Behavior department here at the Toledo Zoo. 

The Animal Behavior department does many things to help increase the welfare of animals here at the zoo.  We interns get to assist this work by supplementing keepers with enrichment, designing and creating new enrichment, and helping design and carry out welfare assessments. 

The majority of our work is done in the Museum of Science, one of the Works Progress Administration era buildings at the zoo.  It used to be a functioning museum with items in their collection such as suits of armor, old weaponry, and much more.  Now it contains the amphibian (one of my favorite areas) and insect collections at the zoo.  We have a kitchen and office in the museum where we make enrichment, design welfare studies, hold discussions about the zoo and animal world in order to better our understanding of the field we are currently working in. 

My job as the Large Mammal intern is to provide enrichment for the rhino, hippos, meerkats, brown bears, snow leopards, tigers, and sloth bear.  It makes for a good variety of enrichment that I get to construct and give to the keepers for the animals. 

We make enrichment for animals in order to stimulate behaviors that that animals’ wild conspecifics would demonstrate.  Encouraging these behaviors assists in keeping the animal healthy, both mentally and physically.  It also creates great opportunities for educating the public.  Watching a meerkats forage for insects coming from a PVC feeder allows guests to see behaviors that wild meerkats would be performing while foraging for insects coming from a rotting log.  This in turn provides opportunities to teach guests about the conservation of a species.  It all ties together to create a positive impact on the animal, the guest, and the species as a whole when animals are provided enrichment. 

It also falls on the Behavior department to assess the welfare of an animal through research and observation.  We design many studies aimed to achieve this goal by researching what behaviors an animal should exhibit and how often, and by observing and recording behaviors that our animals here at the zoo demonstrate.  Depending on what the study’s goal is, the results can tell us what the animal is doing, when it’s doing it throughout the day, where it’s doing it in the enclosure, and how often.  This makes for a great resource to track changes in the animal’s behavioral repertoire and figure out if there is anything we need to change to increase the animal’s welfare. 

All of these things are what my afternoon consists of; making and delivering enrichment, and studying animal behavior through data and observation.  It makes for a great experience educationally.  I particularly enjoy the research aspect and there are few things more rewarding when working here at the zoo than seeing a piece of enrichment you made successfully used by animal to stimulate a species-specific behavior. 

 An enrichment item I made called a brush box.  It contains brushes with insects scattered in them for the meerkats to forage for.