Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Detroit ...Bears?

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

Hello everyone!

Like many other zoo majors, I will be spending my summer interning at an AZA accredited zoo-- the Detroit Zoo to be exact. My familiarity with the zoo and its proximity to my house in metro-Detroit make it the perfect place to be this summer.

(Unfortunately, their policies prohibit posting any behind-the-scenes pictures, so all of my photos will be either taken from the front of the exhibits or found online.)

My area assignment for the first third of the summer is the Arctic Ring of Life and includes all of the bears (polar, brown, grizzly, and black) as well as the arctic foxes and the seals. Today, my first day, I got to experience working with all of these except the foxes.

We started off the morning by calling all the bears inside so we could clean and place food in their outdoor areas. That took a while, but once we were done we let them out and cleaned their inside stalls. Afterwards, the doors between inside and outside were opened so they could move as they pleased. I then moved on to seals, where I was taught how to prepare diets (basically just weighing fish) and got to observe the keepers feeding the seals. The feeding was really cool because the keepers use it as a time to practice trained behaviors, such as touching a target and opening their mouths. I got to see this again later on in the day, as the seals are fed around 11 am and 2 pm, but before that I was able to observe some really cool research being done on the black bear, Migwan. A researcher from Oakland University is using her to study how animals think. Her research includes placing a touch screen computer directly outside of a door to the inside stall and rewarding Migwan when she sticks her nose through the bars and touches the correct shape on the screen. The second part of the study is asking her to do the same thing but to touch a pink toy ball on one end of a pvc pipe instead of the plastic yellow shovel on the other end. She got it right for every trial on this part!

For those of you who haven't been to the Detroit Zoo, I included some pictures I've taken from my previous visits. (The Arctic Ring of Life has a really cool tunnel that you can walk through to see the seals and polar bears!)

Thanks for reading!

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