the zookeepers

Berlin gives celebrity welcome to 2 giant pandas from China

BERLIN — Two giant pandas — Meng Meng and Jiao Qing — received a celebrity welcome Saturday in Berlin from the German capital’s mayor and the Chinese ambassador after they safely weathered a long flight from China.

Meng Meng and Jiao Qing flew the animal equivalent of first class, getting royal treatment on their 12-hour-flight from Chengdu in southwestern China. Their entourage included a Berlin veterinarian, two Chinese zookeepers and a bunch of journalists.

“They slept a bit, munched on their bamboo and nibbled on some cookies,” veterinarian Andreas Ochs told reporters at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport shortly after the arrival. Medication for motion sickness was not needed.

“They did just fine,” he said.

The German capital is going nuts over the impossibly cute bears, who will be presented to the public at Berlin Zoo on July 6. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping are also expected to visit the new animal stars ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Germany in early July.

“It was my personal wish to come and welcome our new residents,” Mayor Michael Mueller said. “We are delighted that Berlin has gained another fantastic attraction with these bears.”

Jiao Qing, which means “darling,” is a 7-year-old male and weighs 108 kilograms (238 pounds). Female Meng Meng, which translates as “sweet dream,” is three years old and weighs 77 kilograms (169 pounds).

The pandas were taken from the airport to the zoo with police protection so they didn’t have to stop at any red lights. They also brought their own food on the plane — one metric ton of bamboo from China. Once they’ve chewed up all of that, the zoo will start importing special bamboo from the Netherlands.

The furry couple will move into a ritzy new nine-million-euro ($10 million) compound, furbished with Chinese-style pavilions, red lanterns, a climbing area and a mountain landscape. They will be the only pandas in the country, the German news agency dpa reported.

Expectations are high the two will have babies soon, even though Ochs warned that Meng Meng is not yet sexually mature.

The arrival of the black-and-white bears was preceded by yearslong bilateral negotiations, since giant pandas are unique to China and sent abroad as diplomatic envoys.

“In China, pandas are regarded as a national treasure,” Chinese ambassador Shi Mingde said. “Therefore the breeding and conservation of these animals is a top priority for us.”

The pandas will be on loan from China for 15 years — a deal for which the Asian country is charging 1 million euros ($1.1 million) each year, dpa reported.

Berlin’s last panda, Bao Bao, was sent in 1980 as a gift from then-Chinese leader Hua Guofeng to West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Bao Bao died in 2012.

Berlin’s most famous zoo animal, the polar bear Knut, died of a sudden illness in 2011.

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Follow Kirsten Grieshaber on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kugrieshaber

Kirsten Grieshaber, The Associated Press

posted by a zookeeper friend on facebook

As someone in the zoo/aquarium field, I want to say something to everyone who is not…

It is not appropriate or respectful for you to publicly question the death of any animal under the care of zoo professionals. It is also not appropriate to say things that suggest you are more heartbroken than the people who cared for that animal. In case you weren’t aware, all living things must die. Sometimes it’s unexpected, sometimes it’s tragic, and sometimes it’s peaceful and planned for in a humane way.

When a human dies, the health care professionals who took care of that person are not typically questioned or accused of wrong doing. The same should be true for animal care professionals. I can assure you, with all my heart, that no one is more upset about the death than the people who personally knew that animal.

Wild animals die, captive animals die, and human beings die. It’s the natural order of things. I promise you, zoo animals have teams of caring, educated people looking after their well being from day 1 until the very end (and beyond, since every zoo animal gets a full post-mortem examination).

So please, next time you read a press release about the death of a zoo animal, think twice before you assume the worst and make any comments that imply something could have been done to avoid the situation. Zoos don’t intend to cover up the truth. But sometimes it takes weeks or even months to learn the whole story. Feel free to express your condolences and support. Send flowers or cards to the staff if you’d like. But please be patient and respectful. If the health care staff can figure out the cause of death, have faith that they will tell the public… But also understand that sometimes there are questions that may never be answered, due to the great amounts of unknown when caring for wild animals.

Thanks for listening.

How to Zookeep: Job Interview Basics

So I was tagged by @why-animals-do-the-thing in a post about what not to say in a job interview. It’s a bit overdue, but I figured this was a good opportunity to continue some of “How to Zookeep” and give y’all some insight on interviews. I’ve actually conducted quite a lot of interviews for an entry-level position. Here are just a few Do’s and Don’ts…

Originally posted by principessadesu

General Maybe Do’s:

  • Wear an outfit that looks pretty nice, but don’t go too formal. You should be able to get muddy or hop a fence - just in case. Most of the time you’ll know if it’s a true working interview, but some interviews will involve a tour, meeting an animal, or other situations where you might get messy.
  • Show that you’ve researched the facility and the position. This is especially true for phone interviews or if you’re not from the area. If you’ve ever visited the facility, mention that. Mention specific parts of the job description and why you’re interested or why you would excel at it. I know I always make a good note if candidates reference something on our website or from the job description because it lets me know they’ve done their homework. (One time a candidate quoted something verbatim and it was a little jarring only because I wrote that part of the website and it was strange to hear someone quote me).
  • If at all possible, have specific examples from your past experiences that you can talk about. These could be examples of training, working well with others, strengths & weaknesses, general animal care, etc. Try to be able to tell a story about when you worked around a training difficulty or resolved an issue with a coworker. And yes, have a real answer for “strengths and weaknesses”.
  • Try to use the most ‘updated’ zoo language you can. Zoo terminology changes so fast it’s hard to keep up. Try to use some of the research (website and job description) to see what kind of language this particular facility uses and attempt to mirror it. Examples are “in human care” instead of captivity or “habitat / enclosure” instead of cage/exhibit. It’s just a bonus way to make a good impression.

Originally posted by a-night-in-wonderland

General Maybe Don’ts:

  • Don’t get political. This is what @why-animals-do-the-thing was asked about - mentioning animal rights activist groups in the interview. Unless you are completely sure that it is specifically relevant to the position try not to get into any heavy areas of debate, any controversial news stories (think Harambe), or politically charged organizations like PETA, HSUS, etc. And even though you might think that everyone in the zoo world agrees that US politics are terrible for zoos/the environment or something along those lines, a job interview is not the time to mention it.
  • Don’t ask for tips about a specific facility on a public forum. It’s important to do research, but this one crosses a bit of a professional line. I would advise against going on any public forum (like the facebook groups You Know You’re a Zookeeper When and Zookreepers) and asking for interview advice about a certain facility. Most people won’t want to comment publicly about their facility as it can be seen as unprofessional and a lot of their coworkers will see it. Most of the time the research you need can be done on the website and with some googling, but if you feel you just need to talk to someone who works there, try flexing your networking muscle a bit.
  • Don’t say you love animals. This sounds contradictory but hear me out here - this job is about much more than loving animals. A lot of interviewers are used to hearing this answer or seeing it in cover letters of people who think that liking animals is all you have to do for a job. Yes, you love animals, we know that. But what do you love about working with them? Do you like enrichment, exhibit design, training? What do you love about the career of zookeeper / aquarist / etc? It’s important to go beyond the surface of just wanting to be around animals and go into the details of how you will improve their lives when you literally have their lives in your hands. I’ve heard from a lot of interviewers that they’re tired of hearing about ‘passion’, they want to hear about action. They want to hear about cleaning, hard work, the real nitty-gritty of the job. This don’t also leads to a general tip (what if you don’t have examples of what you like yet?)

General Tips

Here’s a common problem: you’re applying for your first entry-level position and you don’t have any animal experience yet. What do you talk about? Here’s some ideas:

  • Academic research or fieldwork - did you go on birding trips? Did you do mist-netting? Have you worked in a lab that uses live animals? Those things can be beginner animal experience.
  • Volunteering - zoos, vet clinics, etc.
  • Formal domestic animal experience - even if it’s not with exotic animals, the basics of caring for small domestics (cats, dogs, rodents, fish, etc.) in a formal setting (vet, pet store, rescue) has some aspects that apply in zoos, such as restraint and medical care.
  • Personal pets (very carefully) - It’s not that personal pet experience isn’t helpful when you’re just starting out, but sometimes newer keepers come in with an idea that their pet experience is on the same level as caring for animals in a formal career setting. It is not. Caring for your own animal in your own home is VERY different from caring for it in a zoo, aquarium, vet’s office, etc. In a formal setting, there are legal guidelines to follow, teams of people to communicate with about animal care, and lots of formality/red tape that doesn’t exist in a home setting. Pets can be useful as examples in interviews if it is relevant (medicating, enrichment, restraint) but they are almost never seen as an actual qualification. Side note, please don’t list personal pet care on a resume. 

Overall in an interview, you want to try to be as collected and confident as possible. BUT if you get nervous and you’re really struggling, just tell us! It’s better to just laugh a bit and say sorry, I’m nervous, than to completely freeze up. I have done plenty of interviews where the person is nervous and that’s okay. I’ve hired people who were nervous or misspoke in their interview.

If you have any other questions, feel free to drop me a line. I’ve interviewed and hired people for just three years now, so I may not be particularly seasoned, but I can lend a little of my expertise.

I’m not sure my job could get any more fun. Discovered that dwarf mongoose enjoy popping bubbles. 

 This is the first time they received this enrichment- they weren’t sure what to think at first (especially because the machine makes a whirring noise) but then they got into it. Zookeeping win. Obviously mongoose would never see bubbles in the wild but this enrichment provides them with a novel, fun thing to watch and play with!

@aquaristlifeforme pls tell me your otters love bubbles

(Ignore the audio- I took this video in the public area and there’s just general chatter and some snippets of another animal demo in the background)

Where my animal enthusiast blogs at??

So I run mostly a zoo/exotic animal blog with the occasional splash of petblr and fishblr. Please like/reblog if you:

-are a zookeeper
-are an aquarist
-have a fishblr account
-have a petblr account
-post about wildlife or nature
-post animal facts
-post about zoo or exotic animals
-are a vet/studying to be a vet
-have an exotic pet that you post about

And I’ll check you out!!

PS.. I’ll follow you on my main which is @variations-on-a-kfc
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So, because I love telling people what’s what, I sent an email to @lushcosmetics AND posted on their facebook page telling them why I believe their support of CompassionWorks International is harmful. I was slightly encouraged when I received the reply on Facebook as it seemed they were taking my concerns seriously, but I was disheartened when I received the same canned response via email. Since I’m sure replying further will get me little response, I’m ranting my thoughts here.

Giving a platform to organizations like CompassionWorks is not engaging in “healthy debate.” CWI has made it clear they do not want debate - they want silence from zookeepers, conservationists, and others who recognize zoos and aquariums CAN do good. They have proven themselves to be intolerant of disagreement. They present a biased and absolutely false picture of what occurs in zoos and how they operate. I am disappointed that a company such as LUSH is being sucked into the extremist animal rights propaganda (although, tbh, they already had one foot in the door).

Anyway, who has suggestions for charities? I would love to let LUSH know just how many unbiased, non-extremist groups there are who deserve support over orgs like CompassionWorks.