Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ice Ice Baby

Name: Molly Kukawka
Year: Junior Class of 2018
Hometown: St. Clair, MI
Internship: Animal Behavior/ Arctic Intern
Location: Toledo Zoo, OH
Working in the Animal Behavior department, I’ve experienced and have put into perspective, a lot of things.My whole definition of enrichment has changed. Before my internship I didn’t realize how complex enrichment is. One has to balance a lot of facets. Enrichment does not last as long as you think it does and a big thing to watch is matching the time and effort to make enrichment and time the animal will actually spend with it. This can be tricky in the Arctic, especially when it comes to ice. I can spend days layering ice and the bears will tear through it in minutes, and it’s not as enriching as it such be. Over time I have come to learn the individual bears’ preferences and favorites and I have come to appreciate and enjoy the enrichment process more.

                The other major mind changing aspect of my internship is training. When my family and friends hear that part of my job is to train seals, their mind immediately goes to seals jumping through hoops and balancing balls. In reality training is a whole lot more complicated and takes a lot of patience. Training is used a lot today to desensitize animals to medical procedures and basic body examinations. The repertoire of behaviors is constantly being tested, perfected, and expanded. Communication is a huge gap to bridge (pun intended) and things can get lost in translation. Also, verbal and hand motion cues can get confusing, there are distractions everywhere, and you have to be the calm, patient, and stable epicenter of it all. Helping with training has taught me so much about the nature of perspective and motivation and I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of it. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Enrichment for One, Enrichment for All!

Name: Amber Wuersig
Class/Year: Class of 2018, Junior
Hometown: Port Clinton, Ohio
Location: Toledo Zoo, Toledo Ohio
Internship: Animal Behavior / Ambassador Animal Intern

Where has the time gone!? This summer has been full of amazing learning experiences, but it’s not over yet! As I mentioned before, I am an animal behavior intern that specializes with ambassador animals. Focusing on this department and helping with the daily husbandry of these animals has afforded me the opportunity to really personalize the enrichment process for the ambassador animals that I work with. For example, I spend A LOT of time making enrichment for the many parrots in the Toledo Zoo’s collection. At first, I would make enrichment items that were very generic so they could be given to any bird that the keepers chose. Since I have gotten to know the birds’ personalities over the summer. I now can make enrichment items that are intended for a specific individual by using materials they prefer, or are more challenging for them. It also gives me the opportunity to use my imagination to come up with novel items that I think each individual will enjoy.  

One of the enrichment items I've made for parrots

 Another cool thing that I am currently doing is a small research project. I spend a lot of time in the goat yard, so we decided that the goats should be my subjects. Like most goats, they sure do love to eat! I am using their love for food as the basis of my project. In fact, I am attempting to increase the foraging time of the goats with their morning diets. I have just began collecting data, and am very excited to see what we can find!

Hanging out with Marigold
All animals in the ambassador animal collection have their daily diets planned out so they can stay at their target weights and remain as healthy as possible. If I were to give a food based enrichment item, it must be accounted for. To avoid the hassle of having the keepers change their diet plans, I typically find ways to incorporate their everyday meals into the enrichment or opt for sensory based enrichment items. This way nobody is getting any extra calories and everyone stays in summertime beach bod condition ;)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Welcome to White Oak!

Name: Lauren Silla Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Internship: Wildlife Conservation Intern 

Location: White Oak in Yulee, Florida

Hi Everyone! I am currently a senior at Otterbein University majoring in Zoo and Conservation Science. This summer I am completing an 8 week animal care internship at White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida in one of their ungulate sections called “East.” This section includes giant eland, bongo, dama gazelle, gerenuk, lesser kudu, nile lechwe, roan antelope, slender-horned gazelle, cape buffalo, babirusa, giraffe, and okapi.
White Oak is truly a unique place and much different than a traditional zoo. White Oak has a long history dating back to 1768 when it was used for rice and later timber production. In 1982 Howard Gilman initiated a conservation breeding center on property to contribute to the conservation of imperiled species through reproduction, research, and in-situ support. Today, the 12,000 acre, AZA certified facility, houses roughly 30 species such as the cheetah, rhino, okapi, Pere David’s Deer, Eastern grasshopper sparrow, and many more. What makes White Oak so amazing to me is the large habitats and natural social structures the animals live in. Hoofstock have multi-acre pastures with large herd sizes. This allows the animals to reproduce naturally and interact with conspecifics as they would in their natural environment. 

All of the hoofstock at White Oak have similar pastures to this
My internship entails working closely with the Wildlife staff to provide daily care to the animals. My day starts out at 7:20 AM when all of the interns and I walk to the hay barn for the morning meeting. Most of the interns live in the Animal Science Building on property so we have a short 3-minute walking commute. All of the wildlife staff along with the vet staff meet in the break room and discuss pertinent events from the previous day and any procedures or special projects that need to be completed for that day. We then break off into 4 sections: birds, carnivores, east (antelope), and west (rhinos & equids).
This is when my day starts looking different than a typical zoo internship. Instead of driving to a barn to prepare diets and shift animals onto exhibit, we have a truck and trailer that we fill with all the hay and grain we will need for the day. Then, we drive to each species habitat where we count and examine animals, check fences, then feed and clean. The morning feeding/cleaning run is when the keepers get the best look at the animals and also when we perform necessary medical procedures. In the afternoons we usually have a small project such as limb pick-up, weed-wacking, mowing grass, or bleaching drinkers. The keepers are truly a “jack of all trades” so whether it’s fixing a fence, chain sawing a tree that has fallen, bottle feeding a calf or hand restraining a gazelle for a medical procedure, they do it all! The last task for the day is usually cutting browse for some of the antelope, okapi, and giraffe. This is a very important part of the animals diet and it’s very convenient that White Oak has acres of woods to cut from.

I am having an amazing time interning at White Oak so far and I cannot believe my time here is coming to an end. To be around all these incredible species and experienced keepers everyday sure does make the time fly by!
Mario the Babirusa enjoying his watermelon enrichment    

Filling up the giraffe hayrack is one of my favorite tasks!    

We cut browse daily for many of the species

Hand restraining a lesser kudu for a routine medical procedure