Monday, August 22, 2016

Hand-rearing and Hand-restraint

Name: Lauren Silla
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Internship:Wildlife Conservation Intern
Location: White Oak in Yulee, Florida

            Throughout my internship at White Oak I have had the opportunity to be very involved in everything the keepers do everyday, including two very important tasks: hand rearing neonates and hand restraining hoofstock for routine procedures. The decision to hand rear an animal is never made lightly and is often the last resort in order to save an individual’s life. Hand rearing becomes necessary if there are health issues for the mother or calf, or maternal neglect (poor parental care sometimes due to a dam being a first time mother). During my internship there were a couple calves being hand reared. My role in this process has been to prepare bottles, feed the animals, and document notes on the progress of the animal including the amount of formula eaten and general behavior. Although this has certainly been an extremely adorable part of my job, it also comes with great responsibility. Interns are entrusted to care for these calves, most of which are threatened species, especially for the late night feeds, and because we want these animals to grow up with the appropriate behaviors we limit our interactions with them so they do not become overly friendly with people.

            Another really unique aspect of my White Oak internship is my involvement with medical procedures, particularly when hand restraining is necessary. Since all the hoofstock are housed in large pastures, the keepers are mostly hands off in the daily routine. However, when animals require medical care it is necessary to get hands on them. Deworming, vaccinating, or receiving annual check-ups all require getting the animals in hand. There are several options for getting animals in hand, but often the safest and least stressful option for smaller hoofstock is hand restraint. The process is fairly simple once one gets the hang of it. We herd the animal into a smaller space, one keeper gets ahold of the animals head and neck then lowers the animal into a laying position, and a second person holds onto the animal’s shoulder and back. The veterinarians are then able to examine the animal and administer any medication needed. The keepers and the vets work together quickly and efficiently to get this process done.
             Before my internship at White Oak, I had practically no experience hand-rearing or hand-restraining hoofstock. I was able to learn the skills and methods necessary for these procedures quickly because of the valuable instruction from the keepers and vet staff.  
One of the gerenuk males I assisted in hand-rearing
Restraining a critically endangered dama gazelle calf for vaccinations
Manually restraining a bongo antelope calf for a routine blood draw 

Week 10 in the Desert

Name: Mara Eisenbarth
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Internship: Elephant Intern
Location: Reid Park Zoo, Tucson, Arizona

Over the 10 weeks I spent in Tucson I have learned so much.  Not only have I learned a lot about elephant management, but I've learned how a successful team of keepers works together.  It has been really interesting seeing how differently keepers work together in small zoos compared to larger ones.  Here at Reid Park, all of the keepers have a morning meeting run by the zoo curator, whereas in Columbus, the morning meetings were split up by section to make them more efficient.  

So along with cleaning with the elephant team in the morning and observing or helping the team in the afternoon, I've been working on a project.  Before I came down to Tucson for the summer, my supervisor proposed that I make a compilation of videos that can be used to help incoming or new keepers learn how to train the elephants.  Over the course of the past ten weeks, I have been opportunistically filming the keepers while they train the elephants.  Ultimately I ended up with a slide or two dedicated to each behavior, and around 37 slides total.  After showing it to the keepers for feedback, I submitted it to my supervisor who also approved.  This project was beneficial to both myself and Reid Park zoo in that it taught me the basics and complexities of elephant training, while providing a resource with which to train the new keepers.   I was able to observe many many hours of training and go out to other parts of the zoo to observe other animals as well.

After three years in the Zoo and Conservation Science major, this opportunity was an incredible way to back up my knowledge of training, animal behavior, and zookeeping.  The elephant team was one of the most wonderful groups of people I've had the honor of working with.  Everyone was constantly looking to improve their already progressive management style.  No idea is too big if it means improving husbandry or welfare.  As a whole, the team taught me that you can never be overly qualified in the zoo field, as there is constant new research to be explored.  We are entering into a field that is changing by the day, and requires teamwork across the country and throughout the world.  It was very hard to leave this group of people after everything they taught me inside and outside of the zoo, but I am definitely more ready now than ever to jump into the mounds of work yet to be done to make a difference.

Thanks Reid Park!!!