Friday, June 23, 2017

Love and Loss: A Glimpse into the Ups and Downs in a Wildlife Rehab Clinic

So this might seem like an awfully serious topic to discuss, but it is a very very real part of life and everything that lives: death. I mentioned in a previous post that in the world of wildlife rehabilitation, sometimes our losses outnumber our successes. When you walk in to tend to a creature that has been in your care to find them stiff, it is haunting; even worse are those patients that you have to make the life or death decision for, due to their irreparable condition. But if nothing ever passed away in the care of the clinic, where would our inspiration to try new methods and improve our care come from? If none of the critters that we loved passed away, how would we be able to learn what we could do better next time?

This past week has been really hard. I walked in to tube feed a severely emaciated raven that had come in, only to find him too far gone for my care. A jackrabbit who had come to the center as a small and helpless orphan a month earlier, passed away due to digestive complications. A handful of animals have come in very messed up due to human carelessness. And hardest of all, a little songbird that I had become far too attached to had reoccurring fractures and could not support his weight due to a metabolic bone disease, and had to be put out of his misery.

Why do I tell you this? Because I wouldn't be giving you a complete and accurate picture of the labors and dedication of wildlife rehabilitation if I didn't. Death never loses its sting. Even the staff who have been rehabilitating animals for years, and have experienced many losses, are not numb to the shock that comes when animals pass on. True animal lovers can never truly "get used" to the passing of a patient, but that is the very factor that gives us the drive to strive on. When an animal is discovered gone or has to be put down, the clock still rings to signal that it is time to provide the next round of hourly nestling feeds, medicate a raptor, give formula to a baby squirrel, stimulate a rabbit to go to the bathroom, or weigh some barn owls to check their progress outside.

Care goes on. And when you are forced to process death while continuing to work tirelessly to provide life, something beautiful care for the next critter as if you were doing it to make up for the death of the last. You keep intense records for every single patient that comes in and run more accurate tests. You change formulas and feeding schedules and the supplements you give. You improve the enclosure set ups, become more attuned and aware to the individual needs of each patient, and you work to make sure that each death provides more enlightenment upon what you can do to save the next patient that comes in with the same predicament. That is how progress is made. Progress in the world of wildlife medicine comes from failure, just like in any other challenge in life, and I am proud to be a part of this force for the care and conservation of the beloved backyard creatures with which we share this Earth.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

In the Face of a Disaster

Name: Sofia E. Contreras
Class Year: 2019
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Internship: Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary
Location: The Crags, South Africa

On June 10th disaster struck here in the forms of wind and fire. At around 13:30 news came to us at Monkeyland that a fire had broken out at Jukani, one of the three SAASA sanctuaries that houses big cats and other predators, and around us there were winds so strong that trees were being pushed over like they were twigs. It's one thing to read about how to react to an emergency and another to actually experience it.

Before I say any more about what happened let me give you some context. For the week leading up to the event there were two major things building up. The first was the wind. When we first saw the news advisory for a storm going through the Western Cape Victoria (an Otterbein ZOSC alum) and I were confused. Checking our weather apps we saw that the chance of rain was low, so how could there possibly be a storm? We were told that it was the wind, rather than the rain, that was the concern. So we experienced our first major wind storm here in South Africa. The winds were so strong that they kicked up dirt into the air and we lost power to our house for a while.

Additionally, while these wind storms were happening a wildfire was making its way throughout the Eastern Cape. In the beginning we weren't too worried about our own safety. It seemed that the fire was far enough away. But over several days the fire became more and more difficult to control, and it was slowly moving towards us. With limited wifi and help from family back home we stayed up to date on the state of the fire. And what we learned wasn't good. This fire had destroyed buildings and part of a college campus in Port Elizabeth. It was quickly becoming the worst fire seen in the area in the last 150 years. And it was moving towards us.

I wasn't too concerned about either the wind or the fire. The wind would eventually pass and I was accustomed to wildfires because of my experiences growing up in Southern California, which is somewhat notorious for its annual brush fires.

That changed on the day of the event when, sitting in the dark kitchen for lunch, we were told that a fire had broken out at Jukani. As some of you may know fire+ wind= more fire. This is particularly bad because Jukani is 7 km away from us at Monkeyland. At that moment the main concern of everyone at Monkeyland was to gather all the fire extinguishers and go to Jukani to help. As volunteers, Victoria and I were barred from helping for our own safetly. So we sat inside the restauraunt with another guide and waited for news. Those two hours seemed to last forever.

It was only after everything had settled down and the fire at Jukani was under control (all the animals were fine) I learned about the help we got to put the fire out. All the other sanctuaries in the area, except for one, went to Jukani to help. Whether they were our neighbors, like the Elephant Sanctuary and Tenikwa, or came from farther away, everyone came together to help one of their own. I find this to be admirable and awe inspiring because it showed that they were willing and able to set aside their differences and disagreements and focus on the one thing that is important to all of them. And that one thing is their dedication to caring for the animals they have.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Securing a Future For Wildlife

Name: Kyle Turner
Class Year: Class of 2019
Hometown: Pickerington, OH 
Internship: Conservation and Science
Location: Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo new logo
Hello, my name is Kyle Turner, I am a third year Zoology and Conservation Science Major at Otterbein University.  This summer I have the opportunity to Intern at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in the Conservation and Science Research department.  I am working under their Curator of Conservation Kym Gopp and their Conservation Engagement Specialist Emily Baber.  I was brought on board to assist them while the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is going through a re-branding.   For this re-branding they are focusing on highlighting their conservation program: Future For Wildlife.  This program has six main conservation efforts: Andean Bears, Asian Turtles, Giraffes, Gorillas, Lions and Cheetahs, and Illegal Wildlife Trade.  I found it quite fascinating how the Cleveland Zoo works with each of these efforts, and I am excited to see how the Future For Wildlife program will bring them to light for a broader audience to see.
            For my time here I am getting to see not only how the zoo runs their conservation programs, but many different aspects of how a zoo functions.  Emily Burland, the other Otterbein Intern in Conservation Education whom I am partnering with, have been fortunate to be able to attend some different sessions for interns around the zoo.  We have attended one that showed us around the show program and we learned the history and evolution of that program up to what it is today.  We also had the pleasure of talking with their director of development, Kim Epley. There we learned about her job and how the Zoo works with both the Cleveland Zoo Society and the Metroparks, a very interesting mixture to see working.  There are still more session to come and I personally cannot wait to attend them. 
Emily and I meeting with Isaac after his lecture
            One great part of working with in the conservation department is that Emily Burland and I have been able to meet with some of the conservation partners.  June 9th we met Isaac Goldstein who is the partner with the Andean Bear Conservation Alliance, June 14th we met Bob Montgomery who is a partner for giraffe conservation and the lion and cheetah conservation efforts, and June 16th we met with Amy Dickman who is the partner of the Ruaha Carnivore Project.  Each one gave a lecture on what they are doing to help support conservation and the connection they had with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.  Each one had a deep connection with the zoo and were very proud to say that Cleveland was their partner. After the lectures I was fortunate to go to a lunch with the partners, and it was great getting to talk to them and hear both amazing stories of their past and then some exciting plans for the future. 
Emily Burland (Left), Amy Dickman (Center), and Me (Right)
            When there are no sessions or talks happening, I am working in the office on a hand full of projects.  Most projects are focused on trying to create ways to facilitate the conservation messaging to the Cleveland Zoo’s audience.  I have created quizzes and come up with different tools of engagement that I hope can create a valuable learning experience for guests.  I have also become an extra brain with Kym and Emily Baber to work on questions that the zoo has to come up with a possible answer. Emily Burland and I have also joined together on some projects put before us.  We are in the process of creating and conducting a few different surveys for the zoo, and we hope to produce valuable finding by the end of the summer.  To help with explaining to the public about the conservation programs, Emily and I have created engagement kits that will help facilitate learning and that can be used for the conservation department any way they want, on or off site. 

            It has been three weeks here, and I am loving everything I am learning.  Everyone is extremely friendly and some I have had great conversations with.  I have learned that sometimes an interaction can open up opportunities to learn and experience new things.  I feel that I have learned a lot already, and I am excited for what the rest of the summer holds. These projects will hopefully uncover useful information and there is one that has caught my attention.  More to that when it comes. Thank you for reading and I hope to have some exciting things to share in my next post.

Welcome to Monkeyland

Name: Sofia E. Contreras
Class Year: 2019
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Internship: Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary
Location: The Crags, South Africa

Here I am writing another introductory post about my intership and the experiences I have/ will be having. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted my previous post. In it I mostly described my daily routine here at Monkeyland. It's not a particularly exciting schedule. I get up, walk to work, do some feeding, help with guests, help with food delivery, and then am back at the front gate greeting and helping guests. My day starts at 7:15 and ends early at around 22:00 with work going on between 8:00 and 17:00.

Not much has changed since my first post. The biggest difference between then and now is that I am now leading guests on tours through the forest on my own. I defeinitely like what I do now better becasue guiding tours gives me something to do with myself and is a good way to meet new people from all over the world.


There is so much that has happened since I first started working on May 20th. However, in order for most of my experiences to make sense, it is important to understand the goals, values, and history of the Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary.

Monkeyland first opened up in 1998 and is the first of three sancutaries that are run by the SAASA (South African Animal Sanctuary Aliance). The other two sanctuaries are Birds of Eden and Jukani. As an organization, SAASA aims to provide rescued animals a permanent, final home. Each sanctuary tries to provide a sustainable habitat that is as close to the natural habitats as possible.

What sets Monkeyland apart from other primate sanctuaries is that it is a free-roaming, multi-species enclosure. The main forest
is 12 hectares large, with 4 hectares where there are no paths and no one goes through. The forest houses 11 different species of primates from all over the world. They include: Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, Ringtail Lemurs, Capuchins, Bolivian and Common Squirrel Monkeys, Vervets, Geofroy's Spider Monkeys, Black and Gold Howler Monkeys, Black Backed Bearded Sakis, Lars Gibbons, a Hanuman Langur, and a Spectcled Langur. In addition to these species we are temporarily caring for two Buff Cheeked Gibbons and there are Chacma Baboons in the forest surrounding Monkeyland. In total there are an esitmated 600-700 individuals!

In addition to the primates in the forest, there are others who cannot be released into the forest for various reasions. They include a group of Capuchins that are too friendly to people, a pair of Lars Gibbons who are too aggressive, and our special monkey home, where monkeys with severe injuries, illnesses, and other abnormalities are housed.

Caring for all these animals mostly consists of feeding and some cleaning. In the forest there are 15 feeding stations that are refilled twice a day. Feedings are in the early morning and again in the afternoon. All food is prepped up at the farm, and their diet consists of a variety of fruits and vegetables, bread or cooked pasta for carbs, and sometimes cooked chicken or hard boiled eggs for proteins. A popular food amongst all of the animals, though, are peanuts. For the species that primarily eats leaves there are more than enough produced by the trees in the forest.

It is because of a combination of having excess space and food that all of these species are able to live together.

Overall, Monkeyland is an amazing, unique sanctuary that operates to give a final, wild home to animals who need it. Whether they came from private homes, circuses, closed down zoos, or from zoos with a surplus of animals, if an animal can be taken it will be.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

New Mexico "Land of Enchantment"!

     Now that I have officially been working here at the New Mexico Wildlife Center for a full week, I think it is time to tell a bit about what I have been doing, and what it is like here in the “Land of Enchantment”, New Mexico!

     First, New Mexico. Have you ever thought of a desert being 7,000 feet above sea level? Neither had I! The climate I am in is called the “High Desert”. The views are breathtaking, and never get old. I can look out my window and see sandy mesas rippling through my dry and arid backyard, and yet still see snow- covered mountains towering in the distance at the same time. The temperatures range anywhere from 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, but then drop down into the 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit range after the sun goes down. Sometimes it “rains” here, but it evaporates before it even hits the ground and creates these wild and wispy cloud formations overhead. Warm winds gust by anywhere from 15-30mph almost every day, so as you could imagine, the dust and sand blowing everywhere can be quite frustrating. But nevertheless, this peculiar and fascinating climate is thriving with plenty of flora and fauna to discover. Not to mention, the sunsets and stargazing are amazing!

     What kinds of critters live in this strange environment anyway? Well, New Mexico is actually made up of five different ecosystems: Desert, Grassland and Prairie, Forest and Foothills, Mountain and Alpine, and Riparian. Where I am located, in Espanola, New Mexico, just north of Santa Fe, we are surrounded by all five of those. In the desert ecosystems, animals like the spotted skunk, coyotes, badgers, the western diamondback rattlesnake (which I had a class on how to handle with snake hooks), and horned lizards are common. In the prairies and grasslands, turkey vultures, desert cottontail rabbits, red tailed hawks, pronghorns and the ever-so popular roadrunners find a home. Some creatures who thrive in the forests and foothills include the great horned owl, gray fox, elk, mule deer, black bears, and many songbirds. In the alpine climate, like the snow-covered mountains I told you about earlier, are things like tiny black-chinned hummingbirds, barn owls, mountain lions and butterflies. Finally, in the riparian forests of New Mexico, bald eagles, American kestrels, sandhill cranes, raccoons, osprey and even the occasional jaguar come along. So, we see an incredible bio-diverse clientele here at the New Mexico Wildlife Center.

     How do we manage it all? Well a sign that hangs on the office door of the center says it all, “If you think our hands are full, wait until you see our hearts”. Wildlife rehabilitation is a hard job, where sometimes your losses outnumber your successes. But boy is it incredibly rewarding to be able to give animals a second chance at life in the great outdoors. I have learned to do so many new things here already! I now consider myself a mother bird, and have tended to many hatchlings every hour. I have learned how to do a complete initial intake exam for new patients, draw blood and prepare a blood smear slide for testing, process and evaluate an x-ray (the x-ray processing room is so dark, and it is very tricky to know what you are doing without any lights!), and administer wing wraps and tail guards to injured birds. I am discovering a lot about anatomy, learning how to evaluate emaciation and dehydration in animals and give keel/body condition scores and administer fluids subcutaneously (yes, that means through a needle!), memorizing what medications treat which ailments and how to administer them, and I have learned a great deal about the importance of strong organization and communication skills within the clinic. The shifts are long and busy, but at the end of the eight hours, I truly do feel like I have made a difference in the animal world and that I am doing my part to take care of the wonderful creatures that we roam this Earth with. I look forward to telling everyone more later!  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Relieve Stress by Surrounding Yourself With Loud, Irritated Birds

Name: Eileen Connon
Class/Year: Class of 2019
Hometown: Mandeville, LA
Internship: Cape Parrot Project
Location: Hogsback, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Hello again! It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks here in Hogsback since my last post. The title of this one comes from an article title that I saw on Facebook- quite the entertaining read! I feel like it pretty accurately summarizes what I'm doing this summer. Interning here is a weird mixture of routine and surprising because we wake up just about every morning around 5 to leave by 6, but where we go varies. We’ve gone to Zingcuka Forest, a pecan orchard in nearby Alice, a large hill/small mountain in Sompondo, and some suburban streets in King William’s Town. I haven’t actually been to Zingcuka in a while, but Delaney and Cassie went out to observe while Kate and I observed in Hogsback one morning. Delaney and Cassie then did a tree phenology survey on a transect in Zingcuka while Kate and I did the same on a transect in Hogsback.

Kate checking for fruit on one
of the transect A trees- they're
pretty tall!

The phenology surveys are to see which trees are fruiting when, both in terms of times of year and stages of life. There are 70 trees on each, so it's definitely a decent expedition to do each one, and the surveys happen monthly. Kate and I came back via Swallowtail Waterfall, which was an intensely steep trek, but very fun. 

After that, we spend almost an entire week in Alice trying to catch a parrot to track, but no luck. The mist net we use is pretty tall, but the parrots kept flying right over it! We spent a lot of time getting very, veRY EXCITED ABOUT THE PARR- aw,  he flew right past it again.

To the right is the mist net we use for catching- the tallest one I’ve ever used! It takes all four of us about fifteen minutes to set up. Below is a photo of Cassie and Delaney setting up the sampling station in the back of the bakkie. The sampling station has all the tools we need for taking measurements, blood samples, feather samples, photos, etc when we finally catch a parrot. Delaney and I have tried to set it up ourselves a couple of times, but Cassie always rearranges it, so we just let him do it now. My job is to be on camera, so that when we do catch a bird, I can photograph every step of the process, as well as take photos for data collection, so that we have a good record of the process.

Despite the lack of capture, being in Alice did finally give me a chance to take some pictures of the parrots! They’re very photogenic.

Smize that Tyra Banks would be proud of

And it gave Delaney time to get in touch with nature with some arts & crafts.

Queen of the Pecan Orchard

But mostly, it’s just waiting around.

this picture was only SLIGHTLY staged..
There's something breathtaking about hiking above the clouds.
Or maybe that's just the altitude...
With no luck catching and Kate taking a day off, Cassie, Delaney and I headed out to Sompondo to, in Cassie’s words, “Climb a little hill.” The mist was quite heavy as we arrived, so we couldn’t see just how big the “hill” (and Cassie’s lie) was. When we stopped for a moment next to a reservoir, Delaney and I thought we had reached our destination, only for Cassie to tell us that we were only an eighth of the way there! Finishing the hike was worth it, though, as we got a beautiful view of the valley as the sun rose and burned away the mist, and we were right next to a tree that the parrots foraged in.

On our way back down the “hill” we stopped again at the reservoir, only this time we saw something moving in the little well-it was a sheep! Luckily, Delaney jumped right in to help.
He wasn't very grateful

At the beginning of this past week, I ended up getting pretty sick, so Kate insisted I stay home, and I ended up missing the first catch! She wasn’t a good candidate for tracking, though, so she was released. The next day, I was again home sick, and while they didn’t catch another parrot, they did accidentally catch a crowned hornbill! It was quickly freed from the net and released, and man am I jealous! I’ll let Delaney elaborate on both of the catches since she was actually there. Unfortunately, as soon as I was feeling better, a huge storm hit Cape Town that affected us all the way up in Hogsback. 

One of the other project staff added the
mattress and we appreciate it!

We had some pretty intense winds, so we knew that catching a parrot was not going to be an option. That’s when we decided to head over to King William’s Town and look for parrots there. Our first day, the wind was still incredibly strong, so we didn’t see a lot of parrots and we didn’t get any useable vocal recordings, but we did get some errands done. Errands included a trip to the South African DMV, where Cassie was in and out in less than FIFTEEN MINUTES! The next day we returned to King William’s Town, and this time we were able to get some pretty incredible recordings, so we were happy. The tough thing about King William’s Town is that it’s about an hour away, and at least one of us always has to ride in the back of the bakkie. It gets pretty bumpy back there! I figured out pretty quickly that it’s a pretty good place for a nap, though, and Delaney agrees.

I'm sensing a theme...

We were planning on heading  to a new observing location yesterday morning, despite it being Saturday, but the wind had kicked back up and it was definitely not worth it! Delaney was not exactly thrilled to be told that she had woken up so early for nothing…

And that catches us up to today! We had a very nice day off; we took a short hike close to home, stopped by the shop, cleaned up around the house, Cassie made some delicious sandwiches for lunch, and now we’re sitting in the local coffee shop/pub watching the French Open. I'll leave you with just a few more pictures. I'll try and update again soon!

Cassie, Delaney, and me at the 39 Steps waterfall earlier today

Cassie really, really loves trees

Here's a picture of Kate and Cassie, so you all
have a picture of who I'm always
talking about

Friday, June 9, 2017

Working with the Prettiest Butts!

Name: Taryn Chudo
Class Year: Class of 2018
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Internship: Upper Wilds of Africa Intern at the Dallas Zoo
Location: Dallas, Texas

            This summer I am interning in the Upper Wilds of Africa section at the Dallas Zoo. The animals in this section include caracal, dik-dik, yellow-back duiker, spur-winged geese, bongo, red river hogs, hippos, and my personal favorite, okapi! I have been here for a couple weeks and I absolutely love it! 
Adhama (front) and Boipelo (back)
            Despite all the animals my section cares for I help mostly with the red river hogs and okapi because they are housed in the same barn. Almost every zoo keeper will say that their days are never the same, however, certain things must be done every day so there is a routine in place. I start my day at 7 with a morning meeting. This is where the keepers talk about what has been going on lately, if anything special is happening that day and anything else we need to know. Then all the keepers go to the different areas for the day. When we get to the okapi barn we do a well-check before we begin feeding. We measure and sift their grain because okapi aren’t big fans of ‘dusty’ grain. While everyone is eating their morning grain, we clean all the outside holding yards and replace any alfalfa that wasn’t eaten. Then we start to clean the rest of the barn. This means picking up all the old bedding, hay and water; hosing, scrubbing, and rinsing the floor; and squeegeeing any remaining water. We refill the hay holders and balls and give each okapi a bed made of coastal hay. Okapi are very particular animals and like their beds to be in the right place every day. Most of ours want theirs directly in the middle of the stall. One female, Kilua, wants hers against a wall and another female, Kwanini, doesn’t like to walk on concrete floors, so we cover her stall completely with coastal hay. This barn houses 4 red river hogs and 5 okapis. Each one has their own personality and it’s hard to choose a favorite!
Niko in his habitat after the okapi keeper encounter chat. 
            After cleaning the entire barn and hosing the floors we go to lunch and enjoy our hour in the air conditioning. The keepers I work with are great and made me feel like a part of the team from day one! They even have invited me out to lunch. One of the keepers constantly encourages me and tells me what a great job I am doing! Nothing feels better than being acknowledged for hard work and it just makes me want to work even harder.
            After lunch we go back to the barn to finish any cleaning that we didn’t get to and to gather browse for the okapi keeper encounter. This is where a keeper brings browse to the front of one of our yards to bring Niko closer to the public while giving a keeper chat. Part of my internship is to give some of these talks. Luckily, I am not having a hard time learning the material since I knew most of it already, but I’m not quite ready for the public speaking part yet. I'm sure I’ll start giving them in the next week or so.

Training demonstrations with Adhama throwing the
open behavior at the keepers to ask for more food in his mouth!
After the okapi keeper encounter at 2:15 p.m. every day, the keepers give a hippo chat and training demonstration at 2:30 p.m. with our two Nile hippos, Adhama (male) and Boipelo (female). During this chat, they work on target training and a few other behaviors such as opening their mouth to show off those massive teeth.

After this chat it is time to start closing down the section. We go back to the okapi barn and get their evening diets ready. Here is another great example of how particular okapi are. For produce we offer carrots, apples, bananas, greens and red onions. Not every okapi likes every food item so we have to tailor each food dish to the specific animal. Everyone gets greens, carrots and bananas. Niko doesn’t like any apples, but he likes onions. Kwanini and Kilua get a little of everything. We also feed the hogs, but they aren’t picky about anything.
Right after the training demonstration the hippos usually get out of the water.
They sometimes even nap in the sand. Right behind them is Kilua's habitat.
            That’s the typical routine for the day, however, as things come up you must be flexible with your plans. Earlier this week it rained and our okapi don’t like to go out in the rain so we had to work cleaning around this. Then I was also asked to assist and watch aoudad grabs. This is where keepers control the animals by using a squeeze chute and body power to contain the animal for vaccines, hoof work and other simple medical procedures. As an intern, I wasn’t allowed to have hands on the animal, but I did get to help push one of the walls of the squeeze chute.

Adhama with a mouth full of food during a training demonstration.