LWOA Great Apes Intern
The Dallas Zoo
Although I spent the majority of my time at Dallas working with the gorillas, I also gained experience working with a troupe of chimps and three mandrills. Both of these primates have very distinct social structures, so getting to see how each species interacted was very interesting and really cool. The chimps and mandrills also had a lot of energy, and were constantly jumping around and playing with each other and their enrichment. Each group had a baby: 4 year old Mshindi the chimp, and 4 year old Obi the mandrill. For these other species, most of the day is still spent cleaning and preparing the diet for the next day, but these animals can also have some pieces of enrichment that the gorillas cannot (either they are too big or they will eat it). Therefore, enrichment is something that must have some more time devoted to it with the chimps and mandrills. One of the favorite enrichment items of the chimps is boxes. Mshindi liked to jump into the box from a high platform and scoot himself around on the floor. And the mandrills loved ice treats. I made a lot of ice treats this summer due to how hot it was, and I like to think the mandrills appreciated it.
One of the great things about being an intern at the Dallas Zoo is their professional development classes and their ability to let interns shadow different departments for a day. While at Dallas, I took advantage of these opportunities, especially shadowing different departments and making professional connections. I had the opportunity to spend a day with the reptiles department, the Wings of Wonder bird show, and the wilds of Africa bird department. While at reptiles, I got to see some really interesting veterinary procedures on one of the green mambas, and got to help take care of some of the frogs and tortoises. I also got to help get some weights on some Haitian Galliwasps (skink-like lizards), and watch the staff get weights on some of the other “hot snakes” (venomous snakes).
Even though the bird show and the WOA birds had some of the same animals, each department was run very differently. At the bird show, I was able to observe what goes on behind the scenes for two performances, and to see what happens when an animal does not want to cooperate. I helped clean and prepare diets, and set up and tear down the shows, and got to see some of the enrichment and training used for these animals (including a hadeda ibis and a capybara). At the Wilds of Africa bird department, I helped out with daily cleaning and husbandry and helped put up a new perch for some ibis, helped take care of some baby spur-winged lapwings, and helped chase a blue crane back to where it was supposed to be. These shadow days were an amazing opportunity and I wholeheartedly believe that if you intern at Dallas in the future, you should take full advantage of this.
Working at the Dallas Zoo was incredible, but there are also so many things to do on a day off around Dallas. Delaney (the records/nutrition intern, check out her blog too!) and I went to the Fort Worth Zoo, the Alamo movie theater, and got lots of IN-N-OUT! We also went to the Bowling for Rhinos fundraiser for the Dallas Zoo with some other interns. There is a lot of very good Mexican food in Dallas, and some really great farmers markets. Even though I am sad to have left and come back to Ohio, this was an amazing opportunity where I learned so much and made professional connections in the zoo world. Hopefully I’ll get to go back someday and see how much baby Saambili, Mshindi, and Obi have grown!