Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Don't Forget Where it All Started

Name: Mara Eisenbarth
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Internship: Animal Care Intern, Perth Zoo
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Hello again! So after my intern experiences today, i'm feeling a bit sentimental and would love to share some thoughts with you!  I will, in the process, also share what I had the honor of experiencing today.

To start off, I just want you to think back to the first time you remember really falling in love with animals.  Generally us animal-lovers will just say we've always loved animals.  But, I bet if you really think, there was one time (or a collection of times) that really struck something deep within you.  It doesn't have to be anything outrageous or once-in-a-lifetime to make it memorable.  For me, it was the atmosphere of the Pittsburgh Zoo when I volunteered in high school.  The program taught me a lot of things and really opened my eyes to see all the possibilities there were to work with animals.  

Maybe yours is an experience you had, or maybe it's a person you met.  The zoo world isn't only about animals after all.  But that something that started your love of animals, hopefully, has stuck with you to this day.  

That being said, today at the Perth Zoo I was working in the exotic animal section on the African Savannah.  I worked with hyenas, painted dogs, tigers, lions, rhinos, fennec foxes, meerkats, and guinea fowl.  Today was a mish-mash of a lot of things, and the keeper kept apologizing and letting me know that I would get a better representation of the section on a different day.  I, however, absolutely loved today and would not have wanted it to go any differently.  First thing in the morning we went in and fed the group of meerkats.  The group consists of 1 adult female, 4 adult males, 4 juveniles, and 5 kits.  The kits are just 6 1/2 weeks old and honestly as cute as a button.  Just look at their little faces! 

From Perth Zoo's website

So that was an amazing way to start the day off! Right after we fed them, the keeper said that the media were coming and we had to stay there for a little while.  Well, the media came, and told Jess, the keeper, that she was going to have to answer some questions for them on camera.  Turns out, they were from National Geographic and were shooting a piece for a series about zoo babies.  My keeper is going to be on National Geographic! She was so nervous, but did an amazing job.  That was a really cool thing to watch.  

Later in the day, Jess and I were drafted to go behind the tiger exhibit to test out one of the male's reactions to unfamiliar visitors to his off-exhibit area while he eats.  So the tiger keeper hung a large piece of meat on a chain hanging from the ceiling of the enclosure and we stood in the walkway and watched this incredible animal rip and tear the meat off the chain with the grace and ferocity only a tiger can get away with.  The tiger had a very positive experience overall so they are confident that they will get an eye-to-eye experience up and running with that guy soon.  

As the day went on, I was able to give a hyena a good scratch, and a southern white rhino a nice muddy pat, as well as see some painted dogs up close and personal.  While those things are absolutely amazing, it was my keeper who was truly inspiring.  She just kept getting more wonderful by the minute.  Jess has been in the business for about 8 years, but still has the enthusiasm of us students.  Everything fascinated her, including experiences with animals that she has every day.  It really made me think and hope that someday, that's how I'll be: showing future generations just how wonderful every animal experience is, and that every moment should be cherished.  

That's our goal, isn't it.  To share our love with the world, in the hopes that something will click with someone, and lives will be changed for the better? I was certainly inspired by today to keep pushing for the good outcomes, even when there is so much negativity and hopelessness out there.  I hope this meant something to you as well.  Thanks for reading, until next time!