Thursday, July 2, 2015

My Days With The African Unicorn

Name: Lauren Silla
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: North Royalton, Ohio
Internship: Animal Care Intern at Dallas Zoo
Location: Dallas, Texas
June 16, 2015

Hi y’all!

I am just finishing up my fourth week here at Dallas Zoo so I thought I’d share some of my adventures so far.  I am an Animal Care intern in the Upper Wilds of Africa section.  Since the Dallas Zoo has such a large African themed section, it is broken up into many smaller keeper sections.  The Upper Wilds section houses okapis, yellow-backed duikers, bongos, a waterbuck, elands, dik-diks, a blue duiker, and caracals.  For most of my time here so far I have been working with and caring for the five okapis and three yellow-backed duikers.

Ever since I was little and started riding horses, I have always had a fascination with hoofstock so I am so thankful to be given this amazing opportunity to work with these exotic species!  Over my time here I have learned so many interesting things about the okapi and duiker.  For example:
·      Okapi have the ability to lick their own eyes.  Yes, that’s right, their eyes!  They have about a foot-long tongue that is used to grab browse out of trees, much like giraffes.  They also use this long tongue to clean their face and bodies.
·      Okapis are covered in this natural oil, which turns your hand red almost instantly when you touch them.
·      Okapi generally only make two vocalizations, a “honk” when they are interested in breeding and a “chuff” when they are excited.  They also communicate through infrasound at a much lower frequency than human hearing can detect.
·      Okapi are currently only found in the Ituri rainforest in the wild, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and are solitary animals.
·      Duikers are the only hoofstock that consume meat (mostly rabbit at the zoo). 

·      The word “duiker” means “diver”; the name was used to describe the way they dive through the brush when frightened.
Our daily routine starts with a morning meeting at 7:00 AM to discuss the previous days events and discus plans or projects for the afternoon.  We then head to our designated route, which for me is the okapi and duiker barn. 
  • We start by doing a visual check of the animals and feed breakfast.  Next we clean out each individual’s yards and the exhibit.  Checking the exhibit is a very important part of a keeper’s day.  Since okapi are rainforest animals, their exhibit has a lot of trees and ground covering plants.  It is very important for the keepers to check all the tree limbs for any instability and also the ground to make sure it is not slick for the animals.  Our most time consuming part of our day is cleaning the barn.  Each animal has his or her own stall with a hay bed and free choice alfalfa.  Everyday all the hay is picked up from the stall, the stall is hosed and squeegeed, and then a new hay bed is made.  Each hallway and grate is also hosed to make sure all the hay and dirt goes into the drains.  This whole process usually lasts from about 7:30AM until noon. 
  • In the afternoon we usually do a “project” that needs to be done around the barn.  For example, fixing the animal transfer lane after it gets washed away from rainwater, cutting browse, trimming hooves, fixing gutters, providing enrichment, ect.  We also are training the okapi to receive injections and have radiographs taken.
  • The Dallas Zoo has an awesome intern program that allows the interns to see all different sections of the zoo.  We have the opportunity to attend a behind the scenes tour each week along with career and professional development seminars. 
One of the most important career ideas I’ve learned about zoo keeping- it’s really not about working with animals as it is working FOR the animals.  All day everyday is spent making the animal’s days better and their lives more fulfilling.

As a side note-if you have not heard Dallas has had the rainiest May on record this year, so yes its been very wet and mucky and flooded pretty much everywhere!  As I am writing this tropical storm “Bill” is making its way out of the city, leaving behind another 5+” of rain.   Not exactly the way I pictured Dallas weather, but I’m sure it will get much drier and hotter in the weeks to come.  

Anyways here are some pictures of my Dallas Zoo adventure so far

Niko on Exhibit


Squeegeeing one of the stalls

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lavaging in the Lonestar State

Name: Rachel Dalton
Class Year: 2016, Senior
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Internship: Veterinary Hospital Intern, Dallas Zoo
Location: Dallas, TX

Hello there! My name is Rachel Dalton, I am heading into my senior year as a Zoo and Conservation Science major at Otterbein, and this summer I am interning with the veterinary department at the Dallas Zoo.

I am a pre-veterinary student in the process of applying to vet school, and very interested in pursuing a career in zoo and wildlife veterinary medicine. Learning more about this field from the fantastic veterinary team at the Dallas Zoo has been an incredible opportunity. Every day is different, and I always leave the hospital at the end of the day having learned something (usually many somethings!).

I am here with fellow zoo major Lauren Silla, who is also interning at the Dallas Zoo. We have been in Dallas since late May, and explore the DFW area together on our days off. As you may have heard, it was a little rainy around here during the month of May… Thankfully things have been drier as of late, and the toasty Texan summer is in full swing.

A typical day for me begins at 7:30am with morning meeting at the zoo hospital, where all of the veterinarians, vet techs, and hospital keepers go over what is scheduled for that day in terms of treatments, procedures, meetings, etc. After the meeting, we begin the scheduled morning procedures. This may involve loading up the hospital van and heading out into the zoo to go to the animal, or making sure everything is ready for animals to be brought to us at the hospital. It has been interesting to learn about the many nuances involved in making sure procedures in both contexts go smoothly. There are a lot of different species-specific considerations to account for in addition to the typical procedure-specific considerations, which is one of the unique and fascinating challenges of zoo vet med. The Dallas Zoo veterinarians, Dr. Bonar, Dr. Raines, Dr. Connolly, Dr. Gentry, and Dr. Oh, have been very gracious about allowing me to come along for procedures, treatments, and necropsies, which I appreciate tremendously. I have also had the opportunity to spend time with Dr. Lynn Kramer, who is the Vice President of Animal Operations at the Dallas Zoo and an Otterbein alum (go Cardinals!).

The Dallas Zoo has had a busy spring full of zoo babies, including not only the internet-famous giraffe calf Kipenzi, but also a plethora of unique avian species! I am an unabashed bird nerd, and have loved getting familiar with the many avian species at the Dallas Zoo. It has been neat to see several of the feathered new arrivals up close during physical exams. Here are a few pictures of some of my favorite avian zooborns:

   Yellow-billed Stork                                 
Kori Bustards

White-backed Vulture

Images courtesy of the Dallas Zoo ZooHoo blog. 

You can read about more of the incredible bird department’s successful spring here!

Recently we did routine blood work for some of the Galapagos tortoises. In addition to being in charge of the tote containing blood draw supplies, I was also assigned the very arduous task of offering chunks of various vegetables to the tortoises and petting their necks while the vets performed the blood draws. It was rough, but someone had to do it. J


When there are not procedures or treatments happening, I can be found in the conference room/impressive library of the hospital reading through necropsy reports of bushmaster pit vipers. 

A bushmaster. Image courtesy of
The bushmaster (Lachesis muta) is the longest species of pit viper, and native to South America. They are beautiful animals with truly stunning coloration that is hard to do justice in pictures. Sadly, this species is one of many at risk due to habitat fragmentation by deforestation, and is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

The Dallas Zoo has a very successful bushmaster breeding program, and as such a lot of archived bushmaster records. The vets asked me to analyze these records to look for trends in different diseases this species is particularly susceptible to. This has been a great opportunity for me to not only learn about necropsy and histopathology reports, but also about reptile veterinary medicine and snakes in general.

I will now close with this picture of one of my favorite little ladies at the zoo, Kipenzi, with mom Katie. J Giraffes are incredible animals.

My Unbelizable Adventure: Part 1

Name: Hannah Tucky
Class: 2017, Junior
Hometown: Delaware, Ohio
Internship: Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center
Location: Mile 29 Western Hwy, Belize

      Hi there everyone! I am so excited to finally get to share my summer adventures with you although I am already back in the states! Unfortunately there were some wifi issues that came up as the rainy season started so I was unable to post during my actual internship. I was also waiting for the zoo to post a picture with one of the baby animals it received during my internship so I could include him in my posts!

Well, to start off, I spent a total of 6 weeks in the beautiful country of Belize in Central America! I spent the first two weeks traveling and studying with Dr. Lescinsky and a group of us from Otterbein who were part of the coral reef ecology class. On the last day, as everyone else headed home, I began my month long internship at the Belize Zoo. Having had an internship at the Columbus Zoo, I was very interested to see how the internships would differ and compare.

One of the many hand painted
signs throughout the zoo!
To explain my internship a little better I thought I would give a little background on the zoo as a whole. The zoo was first founded in 1983 when founder Sharon Matola was left with a collection of animals after helping film a documentary in the country. Within weeks the zoo began with a humble start. Now, over 40 species and over 120 individuals are housed within the zoo. Within the zoo itself, the atmosphere differs greatly from any U.S zoo I have been to. All the animals that the public sees are all native animals to the country of Belize. The paths are also placed through natural canopy and every sign is hand painted by the zoos maintenance staff.

Unlike other zoos, having only native animals to that region allows the Belize Zoo to play a crucial role in the direct conservation of nearby wildlife. For countless people, superstitions about wildlife have driven them to kill many animals for no reason. Ideas like barn owls living near your home means the death of a family member have pushed isolated populations of animals in Belize to the brink of extirpation.

Me and Indy, one of the tapirs!
During my first week here I once again became accustomed to the hard physical labor that is involved in any animal management job. Being a small zoo, the staff is very small, with only one or two keepers in one of the three sections per day. The majority of my first week I dealt with the zoo's mammal section. This section includes the Central American tapir, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and the ever so rare white tailed deer. The majority of my time here was spent preparing diets for all of the animals as in one day 7 large buckets of fruit and vegetables had to be cut, as well at 18 plates of food prepared. It was a lot bigger task than I first assumed!

One of my first pictures with little Manny!
During the middle of the week we also gained a new addition to the zoo. An infant jaguarundi cub (who we ended up naming Manny) was found on the side of the road. At only around 3 weeks old the little kitten was extremely tiny. During the remainder of the week I helped one of the supervisors Gliselle act as a foster mother for the kitten, job that continued the rest of my time at the zoo. 

Overall, the first week at the zoo was a whirlwind of activity and excitement. I look forward to updating everyone on the rest of my time there!