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!

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