Saturday, July 2, 2016

My Journey Continues at the Dallas Zoo

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

It is the end of my fourth week here in Dallas and the time is flying! As the weeks go on I am getting more accustomed to my daily routine. One thing I am still not used to is the weather. For the past two weeks it has been in the upper nineties with heat indexes of over one hundred degrees in the afternoon and temperatures are expected to continue increasing. To combat these high temperatures it is important to drink lots of water to stay hydrated and always wear lots of sunscreen. Although, fortunately for me, I am usually inside during the hottest hours of the day.  The rain here is also intense. One minute it will be sunny and blue sky and the next it will be thunder storming out of nowhere.  Sometimes it causes problems because in the main savannah exhibit heavy rain causes trenches in the soil/sand that can be dangerous for the animals.

I have been working hard to learn to be able to identify individual animals and so far I can identify all giraffe and the two warthogs. Giraffe include: Katie, Chrystal, Jade, Ferrell, Tebogo, Five, Jesse, and Auggie. Warthogs include: Toby and Teddy. I am working on identifying individual ostriches but they are a little more difficult. Ostriches include: Paprika, Sage, Nutmeg, Saffron, and Cinnamon. We have one greater kudu whose name is Bo and five lechwe (which are a type of antelope) whose names I have not learned yet. By the end of my ten weeks here I will hopefully be able to identify all animals in my section by name. This is an important skill to have especially in case one of the animals is injured, it is important to know which one. It is also for the reasons of keeping track of behaviors of individual animals over time.

Warthog training
As I am getting more comfortable in my internship I am being trusted with more responsibilities. Last week I was able to help with warthog training one morning. The warthogs have training sessions at least once a day, preferably twice a day. The two brothers, Teddy and Toby, were born at the Dallas Zoo in the Savannah section, but were moved to a different section for an extended period of time. Just a few months ago they returned to the Savannah, but they have forgotten how to enter and exit the barn. We have been working to get them to enter the barn when they are given a “cue” by a keeper.  To do this we start getting them used to following commands. We ask them to “come” and reward them with fruits and veggies when they do so and then we ask them to “go” and another person on the other side of the exhibit rewards them for going to them. These are called “A to B’s” because they are being trained to go from point A to B. Last week they passed the milestone of entering the barn all on their own, hopefully soon they will be able to do this consistently and be comfortable with spending time there when we clean their exhibit.

On a normal day I am normally tasked with stationing giraffes when we shift them from the barn to the exhibit. It has been getting tougher to do so because we have ran out of the giraffe crackers we normally reward with and the company is no longer in production. As a substitute we have been using produce, but it is not nearly as effective and the giraffes loose interest very quickly. We have ordered a different brand of crackers and will hopefully be trying them out soon.

Four out of the five ostriches
Besides stationing giraffe, when we have enough people, I have been observing the stationing of the other animals such as greater kudu, zebra, and ostrich. So far I am allowed to station ostrich on my own. This includes calling the ostriches to me when they enter the exhibit and rewarding them with pieces of lettuce through the fence. This is keeps you on your toes because getting lettuce to five ostriches at once requires speed, while at the same time making sure they don’t get your fingers!
Distracting the Ostrich

Normally I spend most of my time working with the giraffe, but this past week I have been trained in the hoof stock barn and in “Donga”. The hoof stock barn is where the greater kudu, lechwe, ostrich, and guinea fowl are housed. We have two types of guinea fowl: vulturine and helmeted. The vulturine are a beautiful blue and black color and the helmeted are mostly black and white. Working in the hoof stock barn is nearly the same as the giraffe barn. It has been interesting learning about how to take all the different animals there. The lechwe are new to the barn and are still being trained to enter and exit, similar to the warthogs. This past week we set up what is called a “boma” which is essentially a temporary fence in the main exhibit. This serves the purpose of allowing the lechwe to be in the main exhibit, but not yet integrated with the rest of the species.  During the process of setting up the boma I got to help by distracting the ostriches with lettuce.
Setting Up the Boma

Back in the barn, I found an ostrich egg and two guinea fowl eggs when cleaning. This was my favorite part of the day! The ostrich egg is from Paprika, who I am told lays eggs “on the regular.” After many eggs are collected a small hole is drilled in the bottom to drain them and they are sold in the gift shop. Sometimes they are also used for art projects.
Guinea fowl egg (left) ostrich egg (right)

The other place I was trained in is the Donga which is where the warthogs are kept. I learned how to prepare produce, clean the exhibit, and take care of the barn upkeep. A part of working in the Donga is providing enrichment for the warthogs. On Friday we gave ice treats to the warthogs made out of orange Gatorade and various fruits and veggies. This serves to keep the warthogs entertained and hydrated because they do not sweat. It was fun watching the boys go at their treats. Teddy got into his the fastest by pushing it into the water so it melted faster.
Toby with ice treat


In the afternoons I normally go to observe the baby elephant on the cameras, work on my registrar project, or go browse collecting with an elephant keeper. One afternoon however, I got to go on a tour of the gorilla building. I really enjoyed getting a sneak peak into a different section. Gorillas are code red animals, which means that they are considered a serious threat if they were to ever escape. Because of this the keepers always have to have two doors between them and the gorillas.

After three afternoon browse collecting sessions I am starting to be able to consistently identify many of the plants we can feed to the elephants. I am also developing an eye for catching things we can feed. We can’t feed anything with vine growing on it or anything with the common parasite: mistletoe. Before I came to Texas I though mistletoe was an innocent plant that was used during Christmas celebrations. I now know that it is a parasite that grows on diseased trees and is toxic to elephants in large quantities.

Mistletoe growing on American elm

 Besides all of the fun I am having at the zoo I have been on a few outings with Myra and Eliza. We went out to see Zootopia, which was really good! We also got free tickets from the Dallas Zoo to see The Beauty and the Beast, a musical. I had never seen the movie before, but now I want to! We also got to go to a screening of the BFG provided by the Dallas Zoo as well. One of the most exciting things we did was going to Chipotle and the Fort Worth Zoo for my 20th birthday and Myra got me a cake with my name on it! Overall I would say it was a successful birthday.

Fort Worth giraffe
Dallas night
Screening the BFG
I’m having a great time here in Dallas and I apologize for the very lengthy blog post. Look for another in a few weeks!

Welcome to Texas: Dallas Zoo Vet Hospital Edition 1

Name: Eliza Hanes
Class Year: 2018
Hometown: Vestal, NY
Internship: Vet Hospital Intern
Location: Dallas Zoo

Hi Everyone! My name is Eliza Hanes and I am a senior Zoo and Conservation Science and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology double major at Otterbein University. This summer I am completing a ten week internship in the  vet hospital at the Dallas Zoo. I am staying about half an hour away from the zoo with North Savannah/Registrar intern Abigail Smith and Advancement department employee Myra Lummus. At the house, we are always surrounded by pets. The permanent residents are two puppies, Jetta and Whiskey, two rats, Ivy and Lexi, a cat, Savannah,  and a ball python, Leroy. When we were first here, there were eight puppies, but they have all since found loving homes. We also dog sat a Schnauzer poodle mix, Elmo. 

It is the end of my fourth week here in Dallas and I am really enjoying my internship. While it has been hot, with the heat index being above 100° daily, we have also seen a good amount of rain and thunderstorms.  When it rains in Texas, it really rains. The street that we live on has some problems in the rain. The end of the road, it begins to flood with most rains, especially the torrential down pour that is seen here in Dallas. One minute it is sunny, the next thing you know it is raining cats and dogs. Luckily this rain has been mostly on the days that I am not interning at the zoo so I am able to stay inside and wait out the rain.

Elmo and I 
Every day that I intern, there is something different going on. We always start the day with the ever entertaining morning meeting. This is pretty much the one time when the whole hospital staff is together during the day, so we see a lot of derailments. The intended agenda is how the animals are doing that day, what procedures there are, what treatments are scheduled, general schedule stuff, and then miscellaneous stuff. This is a very interesting part of the meeting because the hospital manager, Dianna, comes up with a list of things that have happened on 'this day in history.'

After the morning meeting, I go with one of the techs to either set up for the morning meeting, or to fill blue sheets (medication schedule sheets) for the animals that are on medications. The techs are really nice and do a really great job of getting me as involved as possible. The techs are Laurel, Deb, and Cass. They rotate by week whether they are in the lab or on procedures. This makes it so that I get to work with each of them. Normally, the hospital would have another tech, however they are currently in the interviewing to fill the empty position.

Some lunches I go out and walk around the zoo to see the animals
Then the morning is usually filled with one or more procedures. These procedures are scheduled so they aren't emergencies. Typically the procedures are either diagnostic, quarantine, or annual exams. Some mornings we have a dental work, or are moving an animal between two exhibits, and about once or twice a month, there will be a surgery performed. This procedure is typically done by one of the vets, Dr. Bonar, Dr. Raines, or Dr. Connolly, but if it is a code red or high profile animal, there are at least two vets present. There is one vet scheduled on procedures for a day, then the other vet is on emergency calls. If there are three vets present that day, then the third is scheduled for paperwork that day.

After the procedures I will help the techs clean up after the procedure. This can take anywhere from half an hour or a few hours depending on what the morning procedure was. Throughout this time, if the emergency vet gets a call to go look at an animal, or if an animal gets brought to the hospital for emergency treatment, the emergency vet will bring me with them to observe the treatment.

Through the past few weeks I have been able to see procedures on animals small through large and I have gotten to learn a lot about veterinary medicine. The vets are super knowledgeable about many species, even including species that are not housed at the zoo. One day, Dr. Bonar told me a lot of information about black rhinos, his favorite species to work with. Black rhinos are very susceptible to diseases, and as he put it, 'can be peeing blood one day, and dead the next.'

Depending on how busy the day was, it will typically end with setting up for the next day's procedure.

Fort Worth Zoo with Abigail
One of the big projects that I have gotten to work on with the techs has been monthly meds. This is done for the beginning of each month and it is filling prescriptions for animals that get meds just at the beginning of the month. These meds are pretty much all anti-parasitical medicine that prevent things such as fleas and ticks. While this is not too hard of a task, it is time consuming, as after the prescription is filled, they have to be sorted into sections and then further broken down into departments. This project can take anywhere from one day to one week depending on how many people are working on it.

The other big project that I am working on is one that I will be presenting to the vet department at the end of my internship and will have a side brown bag (a presentation for the whole zoo over the lunch hour) that relates to it. For this project, I am looking at the urinary tracts of cats, particularly Sumatran and Malayan tigers, with an emphasis on the kidneys. This is because I am looking at the keeper daily reports to note one particular occurrence in their urine.

I am really looking forward to the rest of my time here in Dallas and the future knowledge that I will gain. 
Abigail and I at the pre-screening of The BFG

In Dallas, I have gotten the opportunity to do many things with Myra and Abigail. We got the opportunity to go to the off-Broadway showing of Beauty and the Beast and  pre-screening of The BFG. We also went to see Zootopia together. All three were of no cost to us, with two opportunities being from the Dallas zoo. Abigail and I also decided to go to the Fort Worth Zoo to celebrate her 20th birthday. There is so much to do here in the Dallas area, and many adventures await this summer.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Don't Want This Trip to End!

Name: Taryn Chudo
Year: Junior, Class of 2018
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Internship: Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding, Animal Research

Wow it is hard to believe that we are more than half way done with this trip! It has been a blast so far and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store. We have so much that we want to do, but so little time to do it all! Last Wednesday was a typical day of data collection, except for on the way up to the Moonlight Delivery House, we saw a peahen pacing around the drains and several people watching. Kelly and I went over to investigate and we found a baby peacock had fallen into the drain and couldn’t climb out! With the help of a couple of the visitors we were able reunite the chick with the mother and no one got hurt!
The next day was probably the roughest day for data collection that we have had so far! The cubs were all running through the exhibit and piling up on each other! We had to weave through all of the visitors that were there! The data that we got though is great for our study, but it certainly was exhausting running around the enclosure and through the crowd! That night we helped Ju rescue a baby rat that she had found on the sidewalk at the Panda Base. 
           On Friday we tried to take care of the paperwork in order to renew my visa. Unfortunately, we still needed some paperwork, so we will have to come back soon to take care of it again. We did a lot of running around and at the end of the day we ended up at a mall with Ju. It was the mid-autumn festival and the mall had animatronic dinosaurs and fossils of several dinosaurs. They were pretty awesome and it was a great way to end the day.
It was kind of rainy and gross on Saturday, so we went and saw Finding Dory and a documentary about the Jinsha Site Museum, which we were planning on going to the next day. Finding Dory was super cute! For dinner, we tried this new restaurant by Ju’s hotel. It was delicious and had amazing Kung Pao Chicken! We also had these delicious spicy noodles a spicy tofu dish.
Sunday was a beautiful day, so we went to the Jinsha Site Museum. It was an amazing experience. The Jinsha Site was discovered while doing road work and helped enlighten archaeologists to the Shu culture. They found all kinds of pottery, jade artifacts, elephant tusks and various gold objects. There were several artifacts that we saw that were key to the Shu people. The first were several sculptures of peoples that are believed to represent sacrifices. They were found with tiger sculptures. Another object was a sculpture of the Shu king who was made to be holding something, but no one is quite sure what. A third object was a large store of elephant tusks that were believed to be a part of the sacrifices made to the water gods and to the king. The last and possibly most important artifact was a gold mask that is believed to be worn by the king during religious ceremonies. It is also believed that when the king wore the gold mask, he became a god to his people. After walking through the museum, we went outside and got to walk through the actual Jinsha site. It was so cool to be able to see where these relics had come from and how an archaeological site is organized! The Jinsha Site museum is on a relatively large piece of land, so we walked around for a while. We walked through the Ebony Forest, which was made from large petrified wood pieces. Then we made our way to the deer park where we got to see lots of deer. All three of us were so glad that we went and we strongly recommend it to those that visit Chengdu!
Top left to bottom right: Deer antlers, grave sites, the Jinsha dig site, stone snake, God-king golden mask, sculpture of the God-king, decorated pottery and the roots of a giant tree that was believed to be worshipped by the Shu people.
The king's chariots were buried with him in his funeral site. The horseman and the horses were buried with it.


We went back to the Panda Base on Monday and had several great data sessions! After work we had a movie night with James and Ju. Kelly and I also got the chance to try durian. Durian is a fruit that is pretty large and covered in spikes. It smells pretty gross, but we were pretty adamant in trying it! Ju likes durian and insisted that she take pictures as we tried it. I tried it first and it does not taste all that great. Kelly tried it after me and we all had a ball watching her try it!

Wednesday marked the 1st birthday of Ke Da and Ke Xiao, the first cubs born last year. We watched the keepers give them a birthday cake made from ice and topped with carrots, apples, and panda bread! It was so cute to watch them eat it!
We had a lot planned for this weekend! We planned on going to both Leshan and Mt. Emei with one of the other interns at the Panda Base, Sherry. We woke up early on Saturday to catch a high speed train to Leshan. We got to Leshan and hiked to see the Leshan giant Buddha. It was such an amazing thing to see! We waited in line and then climbed down the stairs to the bottom of the Buddha. The stairs were definitely an adventure. They are extremely steep and at points only one person could go through! After walking around some more, we took a bus to Mt. Emei. Once we got there we checked into the Teddy Bear hotel and went to dinner. Sherry took us to hot pot, but this was different from any hot pot that we had ad before. We got to pick exactly what we wanted. Almost everything was on a stick. We got so much food. We tried intestine and some sort of local vegetable. Kelly also tried a small local catfish. We all had some of our favorites. We had lotus root, potatoes, ox tripe, various mushrooms, squid tentacles, and so much more!
Top left to bottom right. An adorable dog that we passed leaving Leshan, golden buddha statue holding a snake, the stairs from above the giant buddha to the bottom of the giant buddha, and then Sherry, Ju, Kelly and I in front of the buddha.
We woke up extremely early on Sunday to catch one of the first buses to the half way point of Mt. Emei. When we got off the bus, we immediately saw wild Tibetan macaques which made everyone so happy. Last year Kelly and Macie spent a lot of time on the mountain and never got to see them, so that was the main thing that Kelly wanted to do this year. After the monkeys we hiked up to the cable car station and took a cable car to the very top to see the Golden Summit temples. It was pretty misty at the top, but it was absolutely gorgeous! After spending lots of time at the top and taking lots of pictures, we took the cable car and the bus back down to the bottom of the mountain. We caught the last bus back to Chengdu, putting an end to a very exhausting but completely amazing weekend!
Kelly's first monkey sighting on Mt. Emei!

The temple at the Golden Summit at the top of Mt. Emei.