Monday, July 30, 2012

My Last Week

Finally it had arrived. My final week at the zoo. It was bittersweet, happy to leave because that means I won't have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning anymore, and sad because I'll miss the animals. I've decided that I'm not going to divide  this entry into different days 1) because I forgot to write a daily log of what happened and 2) I'd much rather reflect on the things I've learned and seen.

Over the summer I've gotten to know many of the animals, how to take care of them, and why we do the things we do for them. I've learned about the daily jobs of a zoo keeper, a little bit about zoo medicine, zoo history, training, ethics of a zoo, and many more things. Everyone at the zoo was great about answering my questions and usually had a good answer for the question. Sometimes they didn't know, which is fine of course, but if they didn't know they tried to find out the answer for me. Which was much appreciated.

On my second to last day I was asked "What was your favorite moment this summer, and what was your least favorite thing to do?" My least favorite thing to do was easy to say because it was the thing I was doing at that exact moment, cleaning the camel barn. Erin laughed at this response, because I'm pretty sure it's everyone's least favorite thing to do. As for my favorite moment this summer, I couldn't pick just one. I really enjoyed the first time that Anala chuffed at me (which for those of you that don't know, chuffing is the sound they make when greeting a friend), getting to interact with Beau and Jana, watching training sessions with Chris, and watching the ostrich dance on exhibit. All of those are memories that will stay with me forever I think.

Overall I think that it was a great summer, and the things I learned will really help me in the future. I've made great connections and lasting memories. I want to thank all of you that supported me this summer, even if it just meant reading this blog each week.

Izzy, Lady, and Anna

Beautiful Male Peacock



Kotze dancing for us


Freida being curious...

Monday, July 23, 2012

History Friday

Friday- This post is going to have a lot of photos so I decided to make it it's own entry. Most of the day went normally with me in giraffe with Nate, getting done early and going to an encounter. I even got to answer some questions for visitors which made me feel pretty good.

After lunch though we went to our class. Today's class was all about the history of zoos, but our zoo in particular. The man giving the class was Rory Brown, who I believe is on the board of directors and was also a professor at Harvard. Instead of our normal class, this one was all outside and we were able to see some of the old buildings that are still standing from when the zoo was first built. Some were added a little later, but they are still very old.

Rory started out talking about the general history of zoos and how they came to be, starting off with Botanical Gardens that held some animals in France and then working his way across the world to the U.S.A and how they were influenced by these early zoos.

Our next stop was the Antelope House. I've talked about that on here before since it's technically part of our department. All of our buildings have numbers, the bongos being 2, and then working it's way to 14 I think, but I had always wondered what building 1 was. I assumed it was the trailer since it's so close to Building 2, but turns out it's the Antelope House! I noticed a block of wood with the number 1 painted on it as I was leaving.

I still can't find the old photos of the house online, although I did find another album from the Boston Public Library that shows many photos from when the zoo was first opened. I took some photos of my own this time though so that you could see exactly how it looks in there (and the outside which looks AMAZING.)

Inside of the Antelope House, looking from the visitor area

Animal holding area inside Antelope House

Outside of Antelope House

Label of the Antelope House, with an amusing sign...considering it's been condemned for years.
After the Antelope House we headed off across the zoo and off grounds to take a look at the Raccoon Den and the Bear Dens. These two exhibits weren't actually located within the zoo because the idea was they wanted to get visitors to also visit the park...and these two exhibits would lure them into it. I didn't get any photos of the Raccoon den since it was really really overgrown with plants, and would have been hard to tell what it was, but here are some of the old photos of it, with some it it's residents.

Once we had viewed this area we went off to the bear dens. It's amazing to think that these are still here after all these years and that they haven't torn them down. The only thing missing from them are some of the bars that held in the bears, but everything else is still there. It's also amazing to hear how many bears were kept in these small little areas. One of the dens held upwards of eight bears I think....I don't even know if I would have put two in there...

Staircase up to the dens

Side view of two dens, which were once divided by bars

Back view of dens, the tube pictured is to protect a tree once held in it.

Really cool emblem?

Den #3, the one that held about 8 bears

Polar bear den, I'm not sure why there was a hill in this one...what could it have been for?

Their teeny tiny holding area.

So that's what it looks like now....This is what it used to look like before, with it's very comical residents.

Note the very lazy looking bear in the back...hahaha

Just hanging out...

"Okay kids, time for your synchronized swimming lessons..."

The small doors in the back were for their holding areas.
Overall it was a very informative trip, which I rather enjoyed. I hope you all enjoyed looking at these photos and seeing how far zoos have come with their exhibit design.

And then the rain came...

Monday- On giraffe again this week. It'll be my last week with them since my final week at the zoo is next week. Didn't this summer just fly by? I think it did. It seems like only yesterday I had arrived at the zoo for orientation. Crazy.
Also, I'm starting off with Monday of this week because I needed to make up the hours that I took off from the Fourth. So it'll be a little bit longer of a week. I flew through giraffe very quickly with Nate. I'm very comfortable with the routine in there now and can pretty much just go about my business without needing to ask a question. When we were done cleaning we went off for an encounter with a good sized group of people. One girl had lots of questions about being a zookeeper and the giraffes. It was nice to see that she was really taking advantage of the encounter and getting all the information that she could. Most people just want to feed Beau. Which isn't a bad thing, but I know that if I was in the situation I would ask as many questions as I could.

In the afternoon we went off to do delivery and then there was a delivery of knotweed from the same organization that brought us some before. We ended up getting 30 or so bundles out of it I think, which is good. I think that brings our total to something like 150 or so. That will certainly keep the giraffes happy over the winter months.

Tuesday- Today I was on giraffe with Hope. It was extremely hot so both of us weren't very motivated to go outside, or in the giraffe barn for that matter. I tried to keep in the path of the wind as much as I could to stay cool but I had already soaked through my clothes by 8:30 am. It was awful. I think this whole working in the city thing has really made me realize how hot it can get in cities.

We were also having some problems with the electric fence this morning so the giraffes didn't even end up going out onto exhibit until about 1:20. Which is extremely late for them since they're supposed to be out at 10am. Well what can you do, we certainly couldn't put them out there without a safety barrier!

My afternoon was filled with meeting after meeting. First I went to the "Ethics" class which was all about how people view zoos and what the public thinks. We discussed how some people look at zoos as a bad thing, and what we could say to support zoos/what are some things that people see badly about zoos.
When that was over we had our bi-weekly staff meeting to talk about what has been going on in the department. It was good to catch up on everything and to put my own thoughts in. It was quite the drag though to have to sit through multiple meetings back to back. Those lasted until about 4:30pm and by that time it was off to go do close up.

Wednesday- I was on giraffe with both Andrea and Katie today. Which made our job go by super fast. Katie did all the diet stuff while I helped prepare the greens and helped clean a little bit. We were done way earlier than we normally are, so we made sure that everything was sparkling clean.

We also had the chance to put Kayan on exhibit today. If I haven't mentioned him before he's one of our male Grevy zebras, who is the younger of the two. He hasn't been on exhibit since he was much younger and we had been previously worried that his rambunctiousness would cause him  to escape. So we tried it out and everything worked out perfectly.

After lunch we went off to watch a presentation that one of the other keepers was giving that was on his studies of Puffins off the coast of Maine. I believe the island that he was working on was about 20 miles off the coast of Rockland, so it's not that far from Unity. It was really interesting to listen to him.

Once that was over we started to walk back to the trailer from Tropical Forest and we got a call over the radio that there was a severe weather warning. This meant that we needed to get some of the animals in to safety, like the giraffes for instance. Things that are really tall tend to get hit by lighting, and we wouldn't want that to happen. No sooner had we gotten the giraffes in than it started to downpour. I was a little sad that I was going to have to be working in the rain, but I was happy because it has been so hot all week and we definitely needed the water.

Thursday- Today I was actually on bottom road instead of giraffe. We went through both the Wildebeest and the Kori's very quickly and then decided to strip the camel stalls. Which is my least favorite of all the jobs because it's so complicated, but it of course needed to be done.

Later on during the day we went off to bundle some Beech. A very large branch had fallen down in the storm yesterday and we were going to take advantage of it as best we could. All in all we got 53 bundles out of it, which is just an enormous amount for one branch if you ask me.

Bundles of Browse

When that was all done, it was pretty quiet around the department so I decided to work on my project a little bit. I moved over the ostrich feeding platform to the other side of the hut so that the doors could be made around it. I wanted to get a picture of it, but of course my phone died, so just imagine a piece of plywood that makes a shelf.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Zoo Camp and Free Fun Friday

Tuesday- To start the day the interns, Britney the volunteer, and I went off to weed the overlooks of the Congo exhibit. The overlooks are the areas that the visitors can look out onto the exhibit from above. The weeds can get very tall in this area and can obstruct the visitor's view so it's important that they're taken out.
When that was done I went off to top road to help Joe. There wasn't a whole lot to do since he got started before I showed up. Also, we were having the zoo camp kids come to help us so I didn't have to do the stalls. Which was nice because that allowed me enough time to do all the zebra stalls, which can take a long time.

Later on, once lunch was done, we went on a tour given by the interns of different departments. First up was Birds World, which was interesting. They have some really cool birds there and they also have some Australian mammals. I personally like the tree kangaroos. We also have regular kangaroos, once of which who just had a joey recently. He's very cute. After Birds World, we went onto Tropical Forest which was really cool. It doesn't look very large from the outside, but inside the keeper area it's like a maze. There's so many levels and twists and turns. We were also able to watch a very short gorilla training session with one of the males, Kit.  We were also able to see an anteater feeding which was really cool. For tours they do a special feeding in a tube that allows people to see his very long tongue. Which I thought was pretty cool. I think I would be more freaked out if he licked me than when Beau licks me.


After the tours I decided to work on a small project of weeding between the family of Siberian cranes and Khanty, another Siberian crane. It wasn't too bad, the ground was loose there so it was easy to pull them up. All the cranes made sure that they had a good eye on me the whole time.



Wednesday- I was on top again today so I started out with cleaning bongo. I really enjoy working with them, they're such sweet creatures. Junior is particularly my favorite out of them, I give him daily rubs when I can. He always gets up to greet me and puts his face up to the bars so that he can get a good scratching. This day I noticed that he was particularly dusty so I decided to take the time to brush him a little. He really enjoyed that! I tried brushing the girls as well, but they didn't enjoy it that much. Lady was quite interested in the brush itself since she's very curious about everything. I let her sniff it a bit but she was too unsure to let me brush her.

My other big project for the day was creating an ostrich wallow for the birds. The wallow is essentially going to be a large hole that will the edged with some garden edging so that it will hold water for at least a short amount of time. It's a lot of work to make it, but it's coming along nicely.

Thursday- Today I worked with Amanda and I only had to do Bongo, Zebras, and Cats which was nice. I quickly cleaned the bongo yards, said good morning to everyone and then a very special good morning to the birthday girl Annakiya who turned 9! She didn't seem to notice it was her birthday. After that I went off with Amanda to clean the cat building

When the cat building was clean I went off to go work in bongo again, but this time with the zoo camp kids. We only had them for an hour so I put them to work stripping the stalls. They did a good job and cooperative. After they were done I gave them some bamboo so that they could feed the bongos, which I think was a good reward for their hard work.

The rest of the day I spent my time getting browse for many of the animals and then did some other small projects around the department.

Friday- Free Fun Friday! This day was when admission to the zoo was free for everyone, which makes it packed. The day is sponsored by the Highland Foundation. They sponsor many different free days at different locations in MA. It's good for people that can't afford to go to these places normally, and it gives them a chance to get out.

What that means for us is tons and tons of people. In the morning we quickly cleaned up all the barns so that we could devote the rest of the day to the visitors. Since there are so many people there are often kids that get lost in the crowds that we need to help find, or help find their parents, or sometimes when it's really hot people get heat stroke. There's also just answering questions, picking up trash, making sure that people aren't abusing the animals.

That was what pretty much the rest of my day consisted of. We took walks around the zoo about every 45 minutes and took care of some problems. I haven't gotten the official word of how many people were at the zoo that day, but I did hear unofficially there were 22,000 people that visited over the course of the day. That's a lot considering we normally have about 2,000.

Monday, July 9, 2012

What a Week....

Tuesday-  Tuesday went like any other day usually does. To start the other interns and I went off to the tiger exhibit to cut down some bamboo. That stuff grows like crazy....who's idea was to put it in there! Oh least the red pandas at Children's Zoo can eat it...

After that I went off to bottom with Nicole and we started the routine by cleaning the wildebeest house, which is normally left for last. I enjoyed getting it out of the way though so that we would end at camel, which is only a short walk away from our service yard. Cleaning it was quick since it was just a spot cleaning. Nicole left me alone to do this because she had to go medicate our female camel, which can take a long time.

Once that was done I headed off to Kori to strip their stalls. Which is super easy because they're very clean birds so it's really just getting all the shavings up off the floor. No scrubbing involved. Later on in the day Jazzy seemed a little unsure of the new clean shavings....I think it might have been the first time we striped it since he arrived.

When Kori's feel threatened they make a low sound with their throat. If you can't hear it, watch his throat. It puffs up each time he does it.

After cleaning camel and lunch, the interns and I went off to do some minor projects on our own. We de-scratched some carvings in the lion's windows, cleaned the educational skulls that are on display, and weeded in front of a service gate to the Savannah.

When that was all completed we got to watch some camel training being done by Nicole and Erin. Most of the training was to get Ciera's medication on her. Recently she's been itchy and has scratched so much on the fence that she got some little cuts which turned into a bacterial infection. So now twice a day she has to get two different topical medications along with the other medications that she's on for her arthritis. She's quite a piece of work haha.

Gulliver trying to get in on a piece of the action.

Then it was time for close up and everything went smoothly until Chris didn't want to come in. Thankfully we were able to entice him in after several minutes.

Wednesday- OFF! 4th of July.

Thursday- Once again I was on bottom and we did wildebeest first. Which I thought was good, right up until I accidentally let the bottom of the hay tub hit me and it was covered in mud. So instantly I was filthy. Oh well...

Then we went off to camel to clean and decided to strip the stalls. We also scrubbed the walls down and that was very satisfying to watch all the grime come off. The stalls looked so beautiful after!! I'm sure the camels were so happy.

After lunch we went to go on delivery where we received some banana leaves from the horticulture department. They were trimming their plants and had huge stalks to give us. At the zoo we try not to let anything go go waste, particularly plants. If something will eat it and can eat it, they should be able to have it.

This picture was taken from the far end of the truck bed looking out...they were pretty much as long as the bed.

Once that was over and the leaves had been given out, we went off to weed a yard for the camels. Because of Ciera's condition it makes it very hard for her to get up and down hilly areas. Normally their big yard would give them lots of area and grass to munch on, but the hill is so long that if she gets up their it's very hard for her to get back down. So currently they're in a smaller yard with sand to help with the pain of walking. There is a yard next to their current enclosure though that has almost no slope at all that we are hoping we can put them in. It hasn't been used for a long time though so we need to get rid of all the toxic plants and just clean it up in general. So we worked on that for a while until I had to leave.

Friday- We started in the wildebeest house and put the girls out onto exhibit, but they were being very stubborn this morning so it took a bit of effort to get them out there. After that we went down to camel to get Ciera started on her meds and I went to clean the yard. The stalls looked so nice from scrubbing, although Gulliver clearly thought they should be dirtier since he pooped on the wall. Typical camel. Oh well.

When the outside yard was done and Ciera had her meds, we headed off to cats to get them ready for the day. I was very happy about this because I hadn't gotten to see them in a while and I particularly enjoy talking with our female tiger. Today the tigers were going out particularly early because the summer camp kids at the zoo had made an enrichment "antelope" for them. Basically the kids painted some boxes, attached them, and gave it some paper towel roll legs. We sprayed it with some perfume before the cats went out so they would be a little more interested in it. I didn't see the cats destroy it, but Anala did knock it off the rock we had perched it on accidentally, which made the kids happy. One of them had fun with it later on though because when I went in to get it at the end of the day it was torn to pieces.

Once the tigers had their prize, I went off on a little field trip. Pearl, my supervisor, chose me to join her on a trip to home depot, which isn't the most exciting trip in the world, but it was a good chance to talk with her one on one.

When we got back it was time for lunch, and then after lunch the other interns and I went off to a class. Today our two classes were on the do's and dont's of zookeepers, and then another class on how zoos work with each other. It was interesting to hear how things work behind the scenes.
After class was over we headed back to the service yard, and I went to go to the bathroom. As soon as I walked in I saw two baby mice on the ground that looked as though they were dead. All I could think of was "Great, now I've got these guys to clean up." So I grabbed a paper towel, picked up one and then went to pick up the other when..."Squeek!" The second was still alive! So now I was thinking, well what they heck am I supposed to do with you?! So I brought it to Pearl who asked me if I'd like to raise it (uh, no thank you!), and upon my answer decided she would give it to the cranes as a treat. So I went back to the bathroom and upon further inspection found another little guy hiding behind the door. So I brought that to her, she offered them to the red crowned cranes, but they didn't want them. So they went to the hornbills who gladly took them and displayed their treat in their bills to anyone that would watch.

So once that ordeal was done we went over to bongo and noticed that the two adult female were having an argument over something and we duking it out and chasing each other. I hadn't seen them fight before so it was interesting to see them so active. I caught a small clip of it on my phone to show you all...

Once we were done watching them we went to go work in that camel yard again for a little while, and then helped out with medicating Ciera. My job was to distract Gulliver with a Russian Olive branch, which worked out pretty well.

Then it was time to close up and head home for the weekend!

Monday, July 2, 2012


Tuesday- This week I'm on giraffe! Which is very exciting since it's my favorite to be on. I was on it with Nicole and volunteer Brittney. I started out by taking off all the diet buckets from last night, weighing them to record what was eaten for our records. After that I helped clean up the buckets and the stalls. When that was all done I helped Hope in Grevy by cleaning up the stalls. Britney and I worked on this together to get it done quickly.

After that it was time for the all staff meeting. At these meetings all of the staff (hence the name) gets together so that we can catch up on whats going on in different departments and with the zoo. In this meeting we talked about lots of different things, but two of the main topics were the corpse flower and our episode on Chronicle.

Class was canceled for the day since we were going to be outside and it was supposed to rain, so no class information to report of.

Wednesday- I was on giraffe with Nicole again today. I once again helped with food prep and cleaning, and then again headed over to help Hope in Grevy. Thankfully she was almost done so it took almost no time at all.

When that was done I went with Nicole to a giraffe feeding encounter which we do everyday now, three times a day, for $5 a person. It's a really good deal considering how close you get to Beau. The people that we were with doing the encounter was a small family of four, with two very young girls. I'd say they were no older than two or three. The older of the two wasn't too sure about feeding such a large animal, but the little one was so brave!! I was so surprised that she had no fear of feeding him!

After that we had a staff meeting just to check in with everything that's been going on in the department. It was good to heard from everyone and just catch up on stuff.

Once that meeting was done we did our delivery, and then started the close up for the day.

Thursday- To begin the day I went off with Amanda to help fix some of the mesh around the trees in the savanah exhibit that was falling off. We keep the mesh there so that the animals don't eat at the bark and kill the trees. There were three of us that went out to do this project, but it really only needed two, so I went off to rake up some old hay. Once the raking was done, there wasn't much for me to do so I decided to clean under the bed of the truck where hay often gets caught around the spare tire.

After that I headed off to giraffe to help out Andrea. I did the normal things like diets and cleaning. When that was done we headed to lunch and then went to go help weed out the giraffe path a little so that it would be easier to get to the feeding landing.

Friday- Was wet!! We started out weeding the lion exhibit so that visitors can see Chris better, but of course it started to pour rain and we were soaked by 8:30am. Which of course lasted all day because work clothes don't dry out very quickly.

After all this was done I went to go help John with giraffe which included cleaning under the mats and getting a really deep clean.

After lunch we headed off to two classes, PRIDE and EPIC. PRIDE was mostly about customer service and solving problems that customers may have in a professional manner. EPIC was about creating resumes and cover letters so that they look good. Both are helpful for when we all have permenant jobs.

After all that we went off to close up and head out for the weekend!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Just a Note

The zoo will be featured on Chronicle at 7:30 pm this Friday (June, 29th, 2012) if any of you are interested in watching it. I'm not sure what will be shown, I know that I was not filmed, so you won't see me, but many aspects of my department are supposed to be on there.

Just figured I'd give you all a heads up since I don't usually get the chance to write until Saturday.