Today I was giving a scheduled talk at one of our exhibits, and the crowd was small so I was basically just having short conversations with people as they passed by.
One lady, after asking several questions about the hoofstock, asked: “Is it weird working with animals?”
I didn’t really know how to answer that. “Is it weird?” I repeated. “In what way?”
“You know,” she said. “Do you ever just think, wow, this is weird? Like, you’re at work, and there’s a zebra. Is that weird?”
At that point I knew what she meant, and I had to laugh, because yes, it can be weird. I’ve just never had anyone ask me that before.
I’ve definitely had those moments that are like out-of-body experiences where, just for a few seconds, you think too hard about what you’re actually doing and it’s so absurd that it boggles your mind a little. Things like riding in a golf cart with a penguin. Or sharing a snack with a giraffe. Or chasing a runaway peacock through the golf course. Or giving a rhino a bath. Or having a conversation with a grumpy tiger. Or making Jell-O for meerkats. Those moments that make you think, wow, how many people will ever do this?
I feel very fortunate to be able to work around my animals every day, and I take the responsibility of being their caregiver very seriously. But when I really think about it, yeah, what I do every day is super weird, and I love that about my job.
If you’re a keeper or you work with animals in some way, take time this week to notice and appreciate the weird moments, those moments that would make a non-keeper say, “Wait, you what?!” Embrace the weird. Enjoy it.
A zoo is like a high school cafeteria: people tend to be grouped and classified with others like them. Oh, and someone’s always throwing food.
Certain types of people prefer to work with certain types of animals, and on the flip side of that, certain types of animals attract certain types of people. Don’t even act like that’s not true, y'all. Many keepers (including me) work with a variety of species every day, but even then, almost every keeper has a niche where they fit best.
Curious to see where you land? Under the cut, if you dare…
[DISCLAIMER: Jokes, people. These are them. Don’t get offended.]
[Also, reblog and let me know if you agree or disagree, and add your own! These are really general categories, but the possibilities are endless…]
But keeping animals in an exhibit isnt just opening up a door and letting them out and watching them frolic. Senses are extremely important to animals; it helps them to understand their environment and who is in it. Sensory enrichment includes visual, olfactory (smell), auditory (hearing), taste and tactile stimulation. New and young animals are actually quite skittish, enrichment ideas help them break out of their shells. This idea is one of my favorites for kangaroos; I like to call it Whiffing Wilffleballs. They combine two basic enrichment ideas of Smell with Novelty objects.
Providing new smells in an animal’s exhibit can encourage exploration and sometimes triggers territorial behaviors like rubbing and scent marking. A wide variety of scents are used for enrichment including spices, cooking extracts, perfumes and animal urine.
Novel objects are enrichment items that can be manipulated in some way with hands, paws or hooves, mouths, horns or even tails. Placing these objects in an animal’s environment can cause the animal to display all kinds of natural behaviors ranging from exploration to play. .
Non-natural objects, such as these balls though, are usually used in the animals’ off exhibit spaces. The balls are coated with a liquid extract then rubbed down with a powdered spice. Then we just walk out and spread them around
And as you see Clayton here can already smell his favorite flavors(banana and coffee)
To learn more things people dont realize about zoos here ~> Zoos Queues
One of the reasons I love and admire zoo atlanta is their strive to keep the animals health(both physical and mental) the main priority.
Last week we were finally able to obtain an ultrasound image of our rhino fetus! We have known since December that our eastern black rhinoceros, Andazi, is pregnant because of hormone results from fecal assays. Since then the hoofstock keepers have been training Andazi to participate in ultrasound procedures to monitor the fetus. Without the use of a squeeze shoot!
That’s right as you can see in the picture Dr. Sam is literally risking life and limb performing an ultra(and later a rectal exam) on a free standing willing rhino. Squeeze shoots are a normal practice in husbandry, so it is a viable solution. But stressing our animals is something we never want to do. So instead of restraints we try treats.
Despite diligent efforts by the keepers and our veterinary team, Andazi did not cooperate well enough for an image to be obtained using transrectal ultrasound for the first 6months. This is the usual way that ultrasound images are obtained of rhino fetuses. Because rhinos have thick skin and are very large bodied, it is difficult to obtain an image using the probe on the abdomen.
However, the keepers and vets did not give up and continued to try this method with Andazi. Last week it paid off. We were able to see the fetus’ ribs and to see it moving. We are very excited about this and will continue to try to obtain more images. It’s nice to know that the fetus is alive and well. Andazi is due sometime from September 23 and November 25. This will be the first black rhino born at Zoo Atlanta and it will be the first calf for Andazi and her mate Utenzi. Black rhinos are critically endangered primarily because of poaching for their horns. We are eager to welcome this calf to our family and to use this high profile birth to educate people about the plight of black rhinos in the wild.