Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Baby Shower for an elephant? Why not!

Hello, my name is Matt Vieth, and I just finished my sophomore year at Otterbein as a Zoo and Conservation Science major. Sophomore year was an amazing year for me, and it started off with a lovely study abroad time in Costa Rica for the fall semester. Since then, I guess you could say I’ve been bitten by the travel bug, and I’m looking for every opportunity possible to travel, which brings me here, to Tucson, Arizona where I will be spending ten weeks at the Reid Park Zoo! During my time here, I will be working as part of the elephant baby watch team along with fellow Zoo student, Amanda Stillwell. For this blog entry, it will build off of what Amanda has previously gone over with docent training.
Who said we can’t have a baby shower for an elephant? On June 29th we celebrated Semba’s pregnancy and had a baby shower for her! To start things off Mabu, the dad of the baby, predicted the gender. A pink stick and a blue stick were put into the exhibit, and Mabu was told to retrieve one of them, pink representing a girl and blue representing a boy, and the one he retrieved would be his guess as to what the gender of the baby will be. His prediction? Girl! We are all hoping for a girl too so let’s hope his prediction is right! Mabu is already the father of 12 other elephants, making this his 13th. Four of his current offspring are girls, and the other seven are boys. Semba has two kids with Mabu currently and both of her kids are boys, so a girl is wanted to increase future genetic diversity.
A little after Mabu made his prediction, it was time for cake and presents. Semba has a 3 layer ice pop cake. The three layers were made of watered down Kool-Aid with pieces of fruit frozen inside of them. Semba went straight for her cake, and the two boys passed on the cake, and went for the presents. These presents were just boxes with treats inside of them, but that did not matter, the two boys had fun with them, and ripped the boxes apart.  The ice cake was a little more of a challenge, because well, it was a giant block of ice that was hard to break, but it actually lasted all day and all the elephants had their turn at trying to eat some of the cake.

To end the shower, the keepers had a pool training session with Mabu and Semba, but of course the kids had to join in for some fun. This gave the visitors the chance to see training take place, plus a pool training session is always a nice way to cool off the elephants, especially in this heat.

While the baby shower was happening, Amanda and I were busy getting the other baby watch volunteers and docents ready for Semba watch.  As Amanda has previously mentioned, we already had a training session, but this is the real deal! This is the first time since we’ve been here that someone else besides us will be recording her behaviors. Today was the start of daytime watch, and Tuesday July 8th starts 24 hour watch. The daytime watch started earlier for a couple reasons. One was so that the volunteers and docents could practice recording and to see some of Semba’s normal behaviors. The other reason is because when Semba has access to the pool, someone needs to be watching her just in case she was to have her baby by the pool. When she doesn’t have pool access, she has access to a mud wallow or AC so she can stay cool. It was a crazy yet exciting morning for the elephants and the keepers.

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