Saturday, June 18, 2016

Welcome to the Dallas Zoo

Name: Abigail Smith
Class Year: 2018
Hometown: Troy, OH
Internship: North Savannah/Registrar Intern
Location: Dallas Zoo

Dallas Bound
Hello all! I am a Zoo and Conservation Science major at Otterbein University and I am pre-vet as well. This summer I will complete a 10 week internship at the Dallas Zoo as a North Savannah/Registrar Intern! I am accompanied by another Otterbein student, Eliza Hanes, who is completing an internship in the Hospital at the Dallas Zoo. We are also very fortunate to be housed by Miss Myra who works in the Advancement Department at the Zoo. 

Eliza (left), Myra (middle), Myself (right)

It is the end of my second week here in Dallas and I am finally getting accustomed to the swing of things.  I work Monday-Friday 7 A.M to 4 P.M. Every day I wake up at 5 A.M. to get ready and eat a huge breakfast because I need the energy. The day starts out with a morning meeting in the North Savannah section. This is when the keepers decide what animals are going out on exhibit and what the goals of the day are. Then I normally accompany a keeper or two out to the various exhibits to clean up from the animals the day before and prep them for today. This includes scooping poop, checking the automatic water dispensers, pulling weeds, filling in huge hoof prints, and putting fresh food out. We also set up the feeding platform where guests can feed giraffes lettuce, carrots, etc. This includes bringing up the food to be dispensed and affixing browse to the platform as a reward for the giraffes when they come out on exhibit. After all is prepped, we shift the designated animals out onto exhibit. 
First Day
Cleaning the Holding Yards

Shifting animals can be a complicated process involving many people with specific roles. Someone to open the doors/gates in the barn, another to open the gate to the exhibit, and many others to station animals at their posts. Stationing an animal is calling an animal(s) to a designated location in the exhibit and giving them a reward for doing so. This is important because we do not want the animals to attempt to go back inside before the gates get closed. The North Savannah has giraffe, zebra, ostrich, lechwe, greater kudu, and guinea fowl. Many of these are featured on any given day in a mixed species exhibit. So far I have been trained to station giraffes. I stand on a platform above the exhibit and my job is to call them over and reward them with giraffe crackers until all animals are on exhibit and the gates have closed. I have also observed the stationing of the zebra, ostrich, and greater kudu. This whole process can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour.

After the animals have been shifted we go to cleaning the holding yards and the barns. We have two barns: "hoofstock" and "giraffe." So far I have been trained in the giraffe barn. We spend about two hours each day cleaning, feeding, and putting up enrichment. A lot of the enrichment we have are logs and browse attached to the walls for chewing. We also hang various items up for them to investigate such as tubes filled with lettuce, a pipe with dangling spoons, a christmas tree, etc.

Browse Collection
That concludes the morning activities. After lunch is the registrar portion of the internship. I was trained on how to operate ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System) and input information into the system. My supervisor has assigned me a project where I sort through necropsy files dating back all the way from 1995 to the early 60's. My job is to input the diagnosis from the final histopathology report for all the records so it is easily accessible from the database. Unfortunately my supervisor had to take leave almost as soon as I arrived, but fortunately there were a lot of other sections needing my help! Two days a week I monitor the cameras on the new baby elephant and record observations on him for their department. This is one of the best ways I could imagine spending an afternoon! For another two days a week I work on my records project at the hospital where I have a stand-in supervisor to answer any questions I may have. And for one day a week I help the elephant department again, but not monitoring baby cams. With all the new elephants they recently rescued from Swaziland, the demand for browse is larger than ever. So every Friday I go out with a keeper to collect browse from the surrounding neighborhoods. Each week the city collects brush/trees/large items from different sections of the city, depending on the schedule. We go out in a large truck and pick up browse-able items for the many elephants. It has been really fun learning all the different types of browse they have in Texas and how to identify them all!

 One of my favorite things about this summer is that I am doing something different every day. At the end of my first week I was fortunate enough to watch and be of help in a veterinary procedure where we shifted an animal from one section of the zoo to another. I was responsible for helping carry the animal to the van and then into its new home. I was also able to observe the routine checkup!

Myself and Chris
I am very fortunate to be trained by, in my opinion, some of the best keepers in the world. Everyone I have met has been very helpful in showing me the ropes and answering my many questions. We all work together to give the best care we can for all the species in the North Savannah and have a great time doing it! One keeper specifically, Chris (pictured right) has given me great advice on all things from my poop scooping technique to tips on achieving my greatest goals.

Overall I am having a wonderful time in Dallas and I cannot wait to see what else it has in store for me! Look for more posts from me in a few weeks!

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