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 :)

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