Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Keeper Talk!

Name: Lauren Silla
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: North Royalton, OH
Internship: Animal Care Intern at Dallas Zoo
Location: Dallas, TX
July 25, 2015

One of my major rolls as an Okapi intern is to give a keeper talk to the public twice a week.  The goal of this talk is to most importantly, inform guests on what okapi’s actually are and give a couple general facts. Then, we try to have the guests form a connection with the animal in hopes that they will care about conservation issues surrounding the okapi.  Okapi keeper talks are everyday at 1:15 PM at the okapi exhibit and all the keepers rotate throughout the weekly schedule.  The main goal the keepers have for the okapi is that he follows us to the front of the exhibit and eats the browse we are offering for about 15 minutes.  Usually they are very cooperative as long as you have browse they prefer J

There is not a set “speech” the speaker has to abide by, but the zoo expects the speaker to introduce themselves, the animal, give some general facts about okapi, and include a conservation message.  One of the biggest misconceptions I try to explain to guests is that okapi are related to the giraffe, and not the zebra, even though they have stripes.  I also try to inform them that the number of okapi are decreasing in the wild everyday and provide them with ways to help.

With only about 15 zoos in the United States exhibiting okapi, the Dallas Zoo’s keeper talk offers a unique opportunity to educate the public on such a unique species.  I truly feel honored each time I give a talk about the okapi and I hope I am able to inspire others to love okapi as much as I have come to love them.

Here are some pictures of Ikenge during our keeper talk: