Saturday, August 15, 2015

Giraffes & 'Roos

Name: Rachel Williams
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI
Internship: Animal Care Intern (Mammal Department), the Detroit Zoo
Location: Detroit, MI

The final weeks of my internship have been spent in the Giraffes/Outback routine. This includes, obviously, the giraffe exhibit and the outback exhibit, as well as opening the veldt exhibit in the morning. 

The Detroit Zoo has three giraffes, 7 year-old male Jabari, 6 year-old female Kivuli, and their baby boy, 10 month old Mpenzi. All of their names come from the Swahili language; Jabari means "brave one", Kivuli is "shadow", and Mpenzi translates to "love". A big difference in this routine as compared to others is that keepers interact with the public everyday, doing two public giraffe feeds every Tuesday-Sunday, as well as specially booked Breakfast with Giraffes on Saturdays and Mondays. Jabari is pretty consistent on being willing to feed from guests, but Kivuli is much more timid and will only feed from keepers. Mpenzi is somewhere in between. He's definitely still learning and isn't always interested, but when he does come up to the platform he will hand feed from keepers and even a few guests. I've gotten to work with him a lot on this, which has been really fun since he's so cute!

Feeding Mpenzi from the platform

Nineteen red kangaroos and two red-necked wallabies live in the Australian Outback Adventure, an immersion exhibit which guests walk through along a path. We really don't do too much in this exhibit, just clean their indoor stalls every day, put out food, and check all of them to make sure they're still happy and healthy. With 21 animals in one yard it can be hard to find them all! 

Maroo the wallaby

Our duties for opening the veldt building include putting zebras out, putting warthogs out, and feeding the warthog piglet who is being hand raised. Female warthog Lilith gave birth to five piglets back in April, who were all named after Game of Thrones characters (Tyrion, Hodor, Daenerys, Cersei, and Sansa). Tyrion was pulled to be hand raised since he was the smallest, so every morning we bottle feed him formula before giving him his pellets and produce. He was getting bottles four times a day, but its recently been decrease to three. He has grown so much since the first time I saw him earlier this summer!

The biggest thing that I've picked up from working here is that working in a hoof stock unit, especially one that includes huge indoor stalls, is completely different from working with carnivores. With the bears and wolves, we spent a significant amount of our time training and providing enrichment, while with the giraffes and kangaroos, almost all of our day is spent cleaning. Both of these exhibits have indoor stalls that need to be stripped, hosed, and scrubbed daily before setting them back up for the night. It's definitely a lot of work!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

See you China

Name: Kelly Jackson
Class/Year: Class of 2017, Junior
Hometown: Waterford, Wisconsin
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Internship: Animal Behavior Research

            What a crazy last few weeks Macie and I had in Chengdu! First off, I met one of the sweetest girls at the panda base! Her name was Shuang, and she had been working at the panda base for about seven months. Her main job at the base was sanitation/ cleaning the areas and assisting the keepers in helping move the pandas, or restrain them for medical purposes. In the future, she hopes to become a dog groomer, and cut their hair for them! We talked about a lot of other things, like our families, where we are from, and our likes/dislikes. She specifically enjoys the song “Call Me Maybe” and started singing it with me! She also thinks Justin Bieber and the Titanic are “hot.” :P Shuang was very interested in different foods we eat in America and social media we have. It was nice for both of us, to practice our Chinese and English. She was so sweet and spent a lot of her time watching the pandas with me too! I am definitely going to miss her! :(
            James, Song Rei, Macie and I went to Dujiangyan to visit Jake, as well as see the four cubs that we were watching before they were relocated. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Dujiangyan Field Research Center for Giant Pandas, otherwise known as Panda Valley, is a massive, mountainous area where they work on releasing captive pandas into the wild. Compared to the panda base, Panda Valley was so different. There was a lot less people, and fewer pandas available for the public to see. Jake took us on a tour of the facility, showing us how they work with the pandas. It was pretty hot that day, so a lot of the pandas were inside. However, Macie and I did get to see two of the cubs, Xing Yu and Xing Yuen! They were still as cute as they were when they left, and we got to see them playing with each other in their enclosure. :)
            After our tour with Jake, we all decided to go on a walk up towards the mountain. There was a paved path that we walked along for almost a half an hour. The view was absolutely breath taking. As we walked, we saw a lot of interesting things. There was a cave that was at least twenty degrees cooler than the temperature outside, and rivers that winded next to the path. We also saw tons of wildlife! There were several butterflies, a few birds, salamanders, lizards, and even snakes! I also got to hold a little crab too! It was so neat! :D
The last couple of days at the panda base, Macie and I spent a good portion of our time compiling our data together, and double checking to see if everything was entered correctly. We also had time to watch a few more sessions of our little cubs. We took tons of pictures with all of our friends and all of the pandas. On our last day Macie and I gave gifts to all of the people who have helped us so far. We got to watch James train several pandas for one of the intern’s projects. He is going to see if pandas can recognize a smile versus a frown. It will be interesting to see the results of it!
Thursday we headed out for our last adventure in China! James, his girlfriend Delia, Macie, and I all went to Mt. Emei. It is about a two hour bus ride from Chengdu and a very touristy area for foreigners. We stayed at a cute hotel called “The Teddy Bear.” And yes, the rooms were covered in teddy bears. After we checked in, we went hiking around the lower part of the mountain. Mt. Emei is the spot where monkey-style kung fu was invented and practiced so there was a lot of historical information about it. We visited a few temples, one of them being the temple of 500 Arhats. Delia was explaining to us that you pick your favorite Arhat, and then count your age down the line. Whichever arhat you land on is your number then! Mine was number 273! I loved looking at all the different statues there. :)
Once we finished our hike, we decided it was time for the hot springs! We grabbed our suits and headed on down. The water was so warm when we went swimming and very relaxing after hiking! There were so many different pools and areas you could swim in, although the water was not super deep. We swam for a bit until we decided to try what was one of my favorite experiences in China. There was a pool that had millions of fish in it, and the fish eat the dead skin off of your body! The feeling of the fish nibbling on you was so bizarre! At first it tickled A LOT, and eventually you got used to it. I ended up sitting in the water with the fish, and let them eat away! They adored my feet and my legs, and munched on them the whole time. Afterward, my skin was the smoothest it has ever been! Definitely going to do it again when I have the chance. :)
For the next few days Macie and I traveled all around the mountain. We took a bus up to the top one day, but it was very rainy and foggy. Although we couldn’t see much, the journey up to the top was enjoyable. It was scenic and actually cold once we reached the peak! We walked a lot around the mountain too. One day we hiked a solid seven hours! Walking up the stairs at the mountain was by far the hardest workout I have ever done, and if you know my coach us softball players do some pretty intense workouts. ;) Mt. Emei is also famous for the monkeys there. Apparently, they go up to people and try to take their stuff! They love soda and all kinds of fruits. Unfortunately, Macie and I never got to see a monkey while we were there. It was just too wet and rainy I believe. I mean, if I were a monkey I wouldn’t be out in the rain!
Monday Macie and I went to our final Chinese attraction, Leshan’s Giant Buddha! We were looking forward to seeing it since the beginning of our trip, and it was definitely worth the wait! We stood in line for about two hours to see it, and there were several stairs and steps we had to climb to get to the bottom. It was a little scary because they were so steep! The view was breathtaking as you looked out onto the lake. Legend has it if you look out towards the lake and see the lying Buddha in the shapes of the tress, you are blessed for life. I couldn’t see it, but Macie did! :) The buddha was HUGE! It was a struggle to get it all in one picture but we did! We spent a while snapping pics of the historical landmark, and then headed on back to Mt. Emei. From there, we hopped on a bus back to Chengdu.
Our last day in China had arrived sooner than we knew it. We spent a large portion of our day packing, cleaning, and shopping for foods for our families and friends. In addition, we ate at all of our favorite restaurants around our house. For dinner, James and Delia took us out for some traditional Chinese fish! We drank watermelon juice and a delicious cold bean drink Delia got for us. We reminisced about our time at the panda base, talking about which pandas we liked the best, and all of the people who helped us. Macie and I then took a bus back to our house and finished packing. At six in the morning, we met James and he helped us back to the airport. We said our goodbyes, giving James our final departing gift! Twenty four hours later, Macie and I were back in America.
It hasn’t even been that long and I already miss China so much. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for getting such an amazing opportunity to enjoy a whole new world. I learned an immense amount of knowledge from a whole new language and culture, to tons of information about pandas, research in itself, and what I need to do to further my education. Most importantly, I learned the most about myself, and who I am as a person. Out of all of the things I am going to miss about China, it is the people I will miss the most. We had tons of people offer to help us around the area and take us various places. The panda base people, our Chinese teacher, our neighbors, and a few others; I truly appreciated all of the help they gave us, and if it weren’t for them, our China experience would not be the same. I wish I had more time in China. I know I will go back again someday, I will miss it too much to not. But for now, I’ll enjoy my time to spend with family and friends, sharing all of my memories with them. “It’s not a goodbye, it’s a see you later.” :)

Macie and I posing with our favorite red panda, Xiao Qi. :)

 Our intern friends at the panda base (minus Fei-Fei)
No monkeys here! :(
 Macie and I at the Giant Buddha
One of the views on Mt. Emei!
A famous pavilion located on the trails of Mt. Emei
Our view of the mountain from the Temple of Five Hundred Arhats
 Me and three of the pandas we got to watch, Qi Xi, Qi Qiao, and Zhenduo :)

Shuang and I on one of the last days of work!
Macie, James, and I posing in front of the Golden Panda at the panda base
Leshan Giant Buddha, from the top of the stairs
The crazy stairs we had to go down to get to the bottom of the Buddha!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Keeper Talk!

Name: Lauren Silla
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: North Royalton, OH
Internship: Animal Care Intern at Dallas Zoo
Location: Dallas, TX
July 25, 2015

One of my major rolls as an Okapi intern is to give a keeper talk to the public twice a week.  The goal of this talk is to most importantly, inform guests on what okapi’s actually are and give a couple general facts. Then, we try to have the guests form a connection with the animal in hopes that they will care about conservation issues surrounding the okapi.  Okapi keeper talks are everyday at 1:15 PM at the okapi exhibit and all the keepers rotate throughout the weekly schedule.  The main goal the keepers have for the okapi is that he follows us to the front of the exhibit and eats the browse we are offering for about 15 minutes.  Usually they are very cooperative as long as you have browse they prefer J

There is not a set “speech” the speaker has to abide by, but the zoo expects the speaker to introduce themselves, the animal, give some general facts about okapi, and include a conservation message.  One of the biggest misconceptions I try to explain to guests is that okapi are related to the giraffe, and not the zebra, even though they have stripes.  I also try to inform them that the number of okapi are decreasing in the wild everyday and provide them with ways to help.

With only about 15 zoos in the United States exhibiting okapi, the Dallas Zoo’s keeper talk offers a unique opportunity to educate the public on such a unique species.  I truly feel honored each time I give a talk about the okapi and I hope I am able to inspire others to love okapi as much as I have come to love them.

Here are some pictures of Ikenge during our keeper talk:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

American Burying Beetle Release

Name: Courtney Dover
Class Year: 2018
Hometown: Springfield, Ohio
Internship: The Wilds Scholar Internship
Location: Cumberland, Ohio

Hello everyone! When I came to the Wilds I was expecting to work mostly with the hellbenders, but over the last 10 weeks I have learned so many new things about several different species. For example, all of the scholar interns were welcomed to assist with an American Burying Beetle Release.

The American Burying Beetle was the first insect species to be listed as a federal endangered species. It is native to Ohio, and it is now critically endangered. It is a species of carrion beetle that will bury carrion and use it to reproduce. The decline of this species is mostly due to habitat loss.

Fortunately, conservation centers like The Wilds are working to bring back this beetle. The Wilds breeds the beetles and has a mass release once a year. I was lucky enough to be invited to assist.

We started by digging 16 holes in three separate areas for a total of 48 holes.

 We then put a frozen rat into each hole. Here I am adding a rat to this hole.

Next, we added to beetles into each hole: a male and a female. They were transported over in the little boxes you can see on the ground. They are distinguishable by an orange spot on their foreheads that is different shapes depending on the sex of the beetle.

Then we covered the holes back up with dirt. We put two layers of wire over the lines of holes to prevent other scavengers from coming in and taking the rats away from the beetles.

This is what the finished product looked like. We left the beetles like this and in a couple weeks will come back to check for larva.

As we were in the process of releasing beetles, we had to watch where we were stepping. Sometimes the beetles decided they did not want to stay in the nice hole we had made them and they dug back up to the surface. All our work would be worthless if we had accidentally stepped on a critically endangered beetle!

Monday, July 27, 2015


Name: Rachel Williams
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI
Internship: Animal Care Intern (Mammal Department), the Detroit Zoo
Location: Detroit, MI

Honestly, I had no idea what the word "Pampas" meant until I saw it on my rotation schedule and googled it. Turns out the pampas are an area of plains in South America, and at the zoo, this term refers to the exhibit containing guanacos, rheas, southern screamers, fallow deer (not South American but they don't have their own exhibit), and peccaries. Along with these animals, the pampas routine as a whole also includes the bison yard and brand new wolf habitat. 
I was really excited to start this rotation because of the opportunity to work with the wolves. They've always been one of my favorite animals, and now are the zoo's latest addition. Their habitat is two acres and just opened to the public in early June. The residents are two gray wolves; Wazi, a 7 year-old female, and Kaska, a 5 year-old male. The pair came from the Minnesota zoo and are a breeding pair, but have yet to successfully have pups. Its not hard at all to tell the two apart, both by looks and by behavior. Wazi is all white and very interested in interacting with humans, while Kaska is definitely more timid and likes to watch from a distance. We worked with him a lot on coming into the small holding yard in the back of the exhibit, and by the end of my four weeks there, we saw a huge improvement. We were able to get him to willingly come into the yard and building to explore with us standing there, whereas in the beginning he refused to even come close to the building if he heard or saw us. Wazi, on the other hand, would come running and whimpering as soon as she heard the keepers! Every morning, we would apply Swat to her ears to keep the flies away, and to keep her happy while doing this, I would scratch her through the fence with a stick. She loved it and would whimper and cry, and then out of nowhere go silent for a few seconds, and suddenly attack the stick. After a couple seconds of aggression, she would let go of the stick and resume begging for attention. She's adorable, but very bipolar!

This routine also made me realize a new species to add to my list of favorite animals; the peccary. I had no idea what they were until I started working in the pampas building, but the zoo has two Collared Peccaries, and they are the cutest little pigs! They don't go out on exhibit anymore, due to them being bullies towards the guanacos, but they have a couple stalls in the building and access to three small fenced yards. Since they aren't allowed out in the big yard, they receive four different enrichment items everyday, a task I was put in charge of and which was really fun! I loved giving them toys smeared with peanut butter; they would rub it all over their faces and get it stuck in their hair. Since they aren't out on exhibit, I can't post any pictures of them, but here is one from the internet:

Another awesome experience that I really enjoyed was meeting the ring-tailed and black-and-white ruffed lemurs. These cute little guys weren't part of our routine, but the keeper I was working with wanted to make sure I got to experience all parts of the zoo, and this was definitely a fun break from cleaning stalls and yards! Lemurs are one of the few animals that keepers can go in with, so I got to go in the public yard and feed them. They were extremely curious (or maybe just hungry) and climbed all over me, licked my hands, and tried to grab my phone! It was a blast :)