Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Internship: Animal Care Intern, Perth Zoo
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Since I last posted on here, I've done a couple weeks on different rounds in the exotic animal section of the zoo! So I was able to experience the African Savannah round, the bear round (Sun bears, lions, hamadryas baboons), the tiger round (Tigers, red pandas, otters), and the Elephant round (only includes Ellies, because who needs more than that!). I've had such positive experiences on all of them...but Ellies was my favorite! Each round has taught me something different, but some things remain the same too. Cleaning nightquarters, washing dishes, and scooping up poo are all the same no matter what round you are doing. You might not think so, but hosing and raking are aquired skills. There is definitely a right and wrong way to do both of those things, and practice just makes perfect! So here's a quick rundown of what I learned on each round.
- Tiger round
- Animal Husbandry for a dangerous animal involves a lot of locking and unlocking. And making sure every lock that should be locked is locked....and every lock that should be unlocked is unlocked. And then triple checking that! Obviously you don't want a tiger roaming the zoo....
- Really knowing the animal as an individual is so important for their welfare. Two of the tigers get really stressed when there are two keepers in the back while they are being fed in the morning, so I waited outside until they were done, since I looked like a keeper to them. If you don't know the animals, you wouldn't know specific things that stress them out.
- Red pandas are amazing and are generally aboreal. Their exhibit was expanded 100% by a large fig tree in the very middle that rose up a few stories high. They don't jump from branch to branch, so this is a good way to give them a more natural enclosure while also not taking up too much land. Thinking outside the box for enclosure design is so necessary
- Bear round
- Hamadryas Baboons are quite possibly the most interesting animal I've encountered. Their social structure is so complex and intricate. A group of baboons that consists of a male and his harem of females is called a family. Two or more families that have grouped together for whatever reason (food, safety..etc..) is called a clan. Multiple clans can come together to form a band of around 200 individuals. This band will come together to travel and sleep (safety in numbers). Each male controls and disciplines his own females and is very protective of his dominance, especially when there is a lower ranking male in the family. What's different about hamadryas compared to other baboons is that they follow the "possession is 9/10 of the law" rule. So if an individual can get possession of food (i.e. put it in their cheek pouch) then it is rightfully theirs! Other species of baboon actually reach into subordinates mouths to grab food if the dominate member really wants it. In Perth Zoo's collection of baboons, there are two geriatric females who need arthritus medicine. Currently, one of them will take food from the keeper (Jess), but the other is too fearful of people. Since sneaking food to a subordinate really upsets the hierarchy, Jess is trying to start a cooperative feeding program. This is a long, time, consuming road that will hopefully end in Chad (the dominant male) allowing the keepers to give the subordinate geriatric baboons extra food. It's been really interesting to watch the process in its beginning stages!
- Jess is also taking on another project with the fennec foxes who are fairly new to the zoo and are having a hard time adjusting to zoo life. Since they will be living their lives out in the zoo, she wants to desinsitize them to the keepers coming in and out of their exhibit. What she's trying currently is putting some food in a little bowl attached to a long stick and having them feel comfortable enough to take the food right out of that little bowl with her sitting there. One of them caught on pretty fast, but the other hasn't really made much progress...until this morning! I was the lookout from outside the exhibit while Jess went in to try and do some feeding. When she first walked in, they both ran and hid, but then the braver one came out ready to get some food from the stick. Then right after that the other one came out and actually took food off of the stick for the first time! Jess and I were trying to contain our excitement, but it was so hard not to make too many sounds. Long story short...don't give up! Never kno when you're gonna have a breakthrough.
alright.....well I could go on and on forever and ever just about the last few weeks, but I think I'll pause for now. Hopefully I can talk about the amazing elephants I got the opportunity to work with in my next post!