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.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Some like it Hot....

....But I don't.....

Sorry about the delay in the second half of the post. I was away for the weekend and was trying to not spend all my time writing.

Thursday- Hot again today. It was supposed to be even hotter than yesterday, almost 103. Thankfully there's a bit of a breeze so it's less brutal.

To begin the day I was on top road with Joe. He's finally earned his wings and is able to be on his own!  So just me and him today. I started out in Bongo again by cleaning everything as quickly as I could. I wanted to try and finish morning chores as soon as possible so that I could be out of the hottest part of the day. By the time I was done with Bongos, Joe had finished all the birds so we focused on getting the zebras out onto exhibit. Strangely enough we were really early, so we couldn't even put them out yet. We decided to see what else we could get done, and went back to Junior. He wasn't very motivated to get out this morning so we couldn't clean his stall. After checking on him we realized that he still hadn't moved. So we putzed around for a bit until we could let the zebras and ostriches out and clean the rest of the yards.

After lunch we learned that there might be a USDA inspection today so we went out to make sure everything was in tip top shape. My job was to go and clean the grant's building, and make sure that everything looked the best it possibly could. After scrubbing things down for about 30 minutes, we were informed that it was a false alarm and that we could stop. I decided to keep cleaning because it needed to be done anyways, and soon was done and went back to the nice air conditioning. Then we went out and did the delivery, and then relaxed in the AC until it was time to close up.

Friday- Friday was a field trip day! We were off to the Stone Zoo, our other extension, to get a tour of the zoo from the interns there and see what they did. It was interesting to see what animals the other interns take care of and how they run that zoo as compared to our zoo and our department.

After the tour we went and got lunch at a Mexican restaurant, and then went back to the zoo for a class on animal training. It was interesting to hear a class on it from another person and it was a good refresher from what I had already heard. Once the class was over we went off to go see the bird show, only to find out that it had been canceled for the day. Joe was able to get us a one on one meet and greet with some of the birds though since he used to work for the company that put the show on, which was really cool.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It was Hot, Hot, Hot

Tues- Tuesday was pretty uneventful. I was on top road with John and Joe. Normally I wouldn't have been with Joe at all but he's pretty much done with his training, so I was helping out. I started cleaning up Bongo which included cleaning the yard, giving them hay and fresh water, and then letting them out so that I could do their stalls.

After that I helped out in Grant's and some of the other animals. That mostly included cleaning the stalls, the yard, fresh water and hay, and then scrubbing and disinfecting all the food/water/hay tubs.

After lunch we had our class for the day. Today it was on AZA accreditation, which is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. We are an accredited facility so we have to abid by their rules and regulations on keeping the zoo in proper order. They come every once in a while to do inspections, so our class was on what they are looking for, what the jobs of AZA members are, what the jobs mean, and what happens if we don't follow the rules.

Class was over early and we had a little bit of time before we were expected to be back so we decided to take a trip and go see the butterfly garden and the budgies. The butterfly garden was pretty boring, many of the butterflies had not hatched yet and those that had were up near the top of the building trying to get out, so there really wasn't much to see. The budgies were a bit more interesting. Budgies are our Australian parakeets which you can feed for two dollars. We skipped the money and decided to just watch. It was just as much fun to watch them zoom around and zip past our faces.
After class and field trips it was delivery and getting things ready for the afternoon cleanup. I was able to work on my intern project a little bit by clearing out an area from weeds and bamboo.

Wednesday- This day was the beginning of some very long hot days. It was easily the hottest of the week. To begin I was on top road again with Joe and Andrea. This was Joe's last day of being trained so I helped out as much as I could. I once again started out in Bongo and by 8:45 I was already drenched in sweat. A sure sign of a long day.

After all of the normal morning chores, and a huge water bottle, and soaking my hair under the water of a fire hydrant, it was finally time for lunch. Thankfully we put an air conditioner in the trailer so that we could enjoy our break time in a nice cold area. Unfortunately the break time didn't last very long and we were off to our next big job: a knotweed delivery!

There was a conservation society that was getting rid of a lot of knotweeds in an area of Newburyport to replace it with native plants. They decided to donate it to us so that we could feed it out to all of the animals and that it wouldn't go to waste. It took quite some time because it was a whole truck load full and needed to be taken out and then wrapped in bundles to be frozen for later use. By the end of it we were soaked in sweat again and extremely thirsty, and we still had to still bring it all to the freezer. Thankfully that was a nice and cool place.

After that we finished up with the afternoon chores and called it a day until tomorrow....

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Peacock Parade

Tuesday- This day was a pretty uneventful. I was on bottom road with John again. Things went as planned. Ciara  (our female camel) seemed to be having a good day. I'm not sure if I told all you folks before or not, but she has some joint problems (or at least what we speculate to be joint problems...we're not really sure) so sometimes she's stiff and doesn't want to stand for long periods of time.

The Kori Bustards are doing well also. We've been doing introductions of our male and female in order to eventually (hopefully) have them on exhibit together. They've been doing well with the introductions with only minor aggression towards each other. Mostly him towards her, but it's to be expected since they only just met each other about a week ago.

Jazzy, the male Kori

After lunch we (being the interns) went off to our class for the day, which was pest control/management. We learned what animals/insects are considered pests and how the zoo manages them. Often times they are caught in some sort of trap, whether it be a mouse/rat trap, have-a-heart traps, or some sort of insect catcher. We also learned how to actually set the mouse/rat traps by setting one right then and there. They're much easier to set than the ones we have to set in Wildlife Techniques class for larger animals.

When the class was over we needed to go move the peacocks to their new temporary home! They've been inside for the winter because there were rumors of a coyote loose and we didn't want to loose any of them. They've been staying with us, but today they were going off to Childrens Zoo for some temporary holding until they could be released on zoo grounds! It's all very exciting since we believe that they would really love to be out and about eating bugs.
Wednesday- I was on bottom again but this time with Nicole. It was a very wet and rainy day, so not much fun. I was soaked within about 30 minutes. That's the down side to having an outside job, you need to be prepared for all sorts of weather.

Right after lunch we were able to watch the hornbills do some training. Right now we are working on getting them to do target, which is where you say target and they press their face (or bill in this case) to a certain area, and getting them to recognize colors. That is proving to be the hardest thing it seems.

Matata with a grass clump

Later on during the day the interns and I went off to work on the tiger exhibit. The day before facilities layed down some cement to cover some rat holes and it was still drying so the tigers couldn't go onto the exhibit anyways. We decided to take advantage of this and clean the pool and do some minor weeding. The cleaning of the pool was the biggest part of the project. Courtney and I were sent to do the weeding portion, while Joe was sent to clean the pool. Which I would have almost rathered because I feel like he got a tiny bit less wet, but by the time that we all were done we were all soaked for the most part.

Thursday- I was on bottom again with John today. Yesterday when I had been on bottom with Nicole I set some rat traps in the wildebeest barn. Today I found that I caught a rat! I was very impressed, the class paid off!

After that excitement we went off to work on the cat exhibits. I cleaned the windows to the lions pen and made them all nice and squeaky clean. When that was all done I helped some of the people on top road to clean bongo. This was mostly the same as cleaning the zebra stalls. A little less cleaning but mostly the same.
Then we went off to get the delivery and then on the way back they dropped off Katie and I to clean the peacock barn. We stripped everything and scrubbed everything down. It was very gratifying to just get everything super clean. Or at least as super clean as it could possibly get.

Friday- Bottom again today, this time with both John and Courtney. We got everything done rather quickly now that the peacocks are gone and their were three of us. We did a deep cleaning of the cat enclosure since we had the man power and the time, and then we did some quick weeding outside near the tiger pen.


Chris taking a nap

After lunch we had a class about PRIDE, which was all about customer service. A lot of it was information that I had heard before from working in the customer service field for so many years, but it was still a good refresher to hear it again.

So that was my week. Nothing too exciting, but it definitely kept me busy. Next week I'll hopefully be starting to work on my project, which I can inform you all about when it starts!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Boston for Some Group Bonding

I decided to give Friday it's own post since we did so much. Friday was a field trip day so I didn't actually do any work at all! It was very nice.

I didn't actually have to be to work until 9am, but since traffic would be so bad if I tried to leave my house later than I normally do, I decided to get there at 7 like normal. Unfortunately this means two hours of nothing to do, so what does any college kid do?? I slept in my car. I felt so weird doing it, but it was almost worth it.

So we started off our day by going to the Aquarium. We were able to catch the last bit of the sea lion show, which was cool. I learned that in one square inch of a sea lions body they can have about 300,000 hairs. That's a lot!!! After the show we were able to get a behind the scenes tour and see a new baby seal that they have. The woman giving us the tour told us a lot about him, but it was hard to hear because I was in the back and there were lots of children yelling outside. From what I could hear though I learned that he was found in Monteray, CA and he was very underweight. When they found him he was 8 months old but weighed the same as a one month old pup. I also believe I heard he is blind in one eye and has some flipper problems. He's super cute though!

Once our behind the scene's tour was done, Courtney, Joe and I went off to explore the rest of the aquarium. We went straight to the touch tank to feel some rays and sharks. It was like we were kids again. Then we decided to look at the big tank in the middle because in September it's going to be redone and will no longer exist. So if you want to go see it, hurry up!! We saw some very interesting creatures there, and actually avoided a lot of the school groups.

Sea Turtle

Underside of a flounder

After that we headed to Quincy Market for lunch. I got a steak and cheese sub and then a coffee milkshake for dessert. We walked around and did a little sight seeing since we had a lot of time to kill. Courtney was actually pulled into a street show!! I almost wish that we had a little bit more time to spend there.

Giant Mac & Cheese Noodle

Once we were done with lunch we hopped back on the subway and headed over to the Museum of Science. We got to see behind the scenes with their live animal department and had a self tour to look at the animals. I wish that this tour had been a little more informative, but they seemed really busy. The do have lots of cool animals there though. Many birds and reptiles, and then quite a few mammals too. My favorite was the groundhog (which I didn't take a picture of for some reason....) and their owl.


Red tailed Hawk

When we were done there the three of us headed off to explore the rest of the museum in a whirlwind amount of time. We were kids again, pressing all the buttons, and playing all the games. We had lots of laughs and I wish that we were there longer so that it wasn't so rushed. We found out that Joe has the lung capacity of a marathon runner, and we saw some pretty cool exhibits.

A Knitted Brain......

Giraffes and Grevys


I'll admit I didn't write down exactly what I did on Tuesday, which is going to make it hard to write about....Shame on me! It started out slow, I was with John down at the Compound working with the Grevy's and giraffes. This is where I was going to be all week!  I was very excited since I had only dabbled in the giraffe barn a little bit. I was also working with a volunteer that I hadn't met yet named Britney. I didn't really get to know her that well since we were very busy cleaning the Grevy stalls, but from what I can tell she's very nice.

In the morning after I helped Britney clean all the stalls we helped John with the giraffes by giving them their supplements and preparing their diets. I'm getting pretty confident with it now and can almost recite all of the ingredients off the top of my head. I still always check the diet sheets though just to be sure.

This week was so rainy that the giraffes were not going out on to exhibit. It has to be at least 65 degrees for them to be out, and with the combination of the rain and the not so warm weather they stayed inside. This allowed us to get things done fairly quickly and I got to spend lots of time getting to know Beau better. Working with them and the Grevy's also lets me get to know my favorite zebra, Kayen, better. He's such a sweetie and although he's going to be a stallion later on in life (which means he will be a bit "meaner"), he's extremely friendly right now.

After lunch we went to a trainers forum with the keepers. The trainers forum allows the trainers from all the departments to get together and troubleshoot on any problems they're having, and they all get to hear what each other are doing. During the forums one keeper does a presentation on their animals and what they are training them today. This one was about Chessie the leopard from Stone Zoo. They're teaching her to do many different things, but right now they are focusing on getting her habituated to the feel of a needle so that they can do blood draws and injections on her without stressing her out too much. They've attempted one blood draw already but she wasn't too thrilled with it and it was unsuccessful. Perhaps the next time they try it will be better.


Wednesday was a lot of the same routine. I worked with the Grevy's in the morning and then after that the giraffes. Before we got a chance to put the animals out onto exhibit though, we had to go work on weeding the exhibit's moat. The moat is really just a dip in the landscape, and it's put there to prevent the animals from walking right up to the visitors. The weeds had gotten very tall though and it was partially preventing the visitors from seeing the animals, and there were some plants in there that the animals shouldn't eat and they needed to be taken out. We only had a little bit done though before we had to put them out for the zoo opening.

After lunch we went to a meeting about the new Green Team that they've initiated at the zoo. The Green Team is basically just a committee dedicated to making the zoo more environmentally friendly. It seems like they have a lot of good ideas, and now they just need to be put into place.

Once that was over Courtney (another intern) and I went off to work on weeding next to the giraffe chute. The weeds there are literally over our heads and are super thick, so it took quite some time to get it down. We only got about half way down the chute before we had to stop.

After that I went back to giraffe to help finish things up.


Thursday was crazy. It was mostly crazy though because we were going to be extremely short people in the afternoon. Originally it was going to be myself, Katie (an intern), Joe (the extern), John, Amanda, Andrea, and Erin. What we ended up with was everyone but Erin in the morning but then in the after noon it was just me, Katie, Joe and John. Amanda had to go pick up cranes from the airport at two and Andrea was only there for a half day. So that left the rest of us to finish up everything in the afternoons by ourselves.

Since this was the case, we got absolutely as much as we could done in the morning so there would be less to do in the afternoon. Myself and Ellie (a volunteer who works half days) went off to Grevy to clean the barn really quick so we could help out in giraffe. Once we finished that we went over to the Giraffe barn and all we could hear was clapping from the inside. This wasn't a good sign since usually we use clapping as a way to get the animals to move when they're being stubborn. We walked in and I asked Andrea what was up. She informed us that just as she was about to move the giraffes the heater near the chute (where they need to go) started making "scary grinding noises" and put the giraffes into a fit. They wouldn't budge, and you really can't force a 2,000 pound animal to do anything. So we tried relentlessly for about an hour to get the giraffes to move and finally with much coaxing they did. Once that was done we cleaned out everything, made diets, and headed up for lunch.

After lunch Katie and I headed over to the Grevy shoot to clear out some weeds that were making it hard to get to the giraffe feeding platform. It went quickly since there wasn't much weeding to do, and many of the weeds were easy to pull out. Of course in the middle it started to POUR and we had to retreat to the zebra building. After that Joe came to help us finish up, which made it go even faster. We powered through the rest of it and then headed up to collect some knotweed for the giraffes to eat later.

While we did this we were able to visit the old antelope house from the 1940s. The building is condemned now so it's not in use anymore, but it hasn't been torn down because it's such a historical building. It was really interesting to see what the animal's pens looked like back then and to see how far we've come in the zoo world. It's also really amazing that even though the building is technically condemned, it seems like the only parts of the building that show it's age are the roof and the metal pipes/cage walls. The brick and cement walls look as though they were put up yesterday! I wish that I had photos to share with you all because it is such an interesting place. I was told that there were some photos on the Boston Public Library website, but I can't seem to find any. Perhaps if we go again I'll be sure to take some quick snapshots. Currently the building is filled with junk that people have dumped there as a holding place over the years and the pigeons have taken over, but you can tell that at one point it was a fancy building. Or at least fancy for those times....

Also in other news, one of the corpse flowers has bloomed!! We were able to see it, and I have to say that it doesn't smell as horrible as I thought it would, but considering I work with poop all day, I bet I'm not the best judge for that....

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Vet procedures, Mash, and Some Weeds


Today was a fairly normal day. Things were a little hectic this week because our department's new extern started and they needed to train him so that he can do things on his own. They wanted to start him off on top road for some reason, so I was on bottom road again. Everything went well. We got our new Kori Bustard named Jazzy (although we've been affectionately calling him DJ Jazzy Jeff) Things are going well with the introductions of him and our other Kori Bustard, Magoo.

At the end of the day I was about to watch some veterinary procedures on our cats though. That was pretty exciting to watch. The vets needed to get blood pressure reading from Chris and Luther. In order to do this they have been trained to lay down next to the metal mesh wall and swing their tail underneath the door. Unlike humans where we read blood pressure through the arm, we read it through their tail.


Today I got to work with the giraffes!!!! I was super excited because although I have met them, I haven't gotten to work with them yet. Working with them is very different from working with any other animal, mostly because they are HUGE. Almost everything that we do with them is up on what we call the catwalk, which is exactly what it sounds like, and it puts us at eye level with them. This is where we hang all of their food from and have our interactions.

To begin the day there we have to check the Savannah exhibit to make sure that the electric fence is working and that there is no dangers to the animals or trash in the exhibit. We also take this time to put out hay for the zebras and beet pulp and hay for the giraffes. The exhibit is a couple acres and provides lots of space for all of the animals in it. The zebra's hay goes on the ground and the giraffe's hay goes into a special hay rack that is at their height. We as keepers have a little platform that we can stand on to reach it.

Half of the exhibit

Hay Rack   
Once that was checked we let out the zebras and then continued to shift out the giraffes. Shifting them takes a while because there's really no way that you can forces them to do anything. They're just way too big!! They're also a little stubborn and like to take their time doing whatever it is they're doing. Once both the giraffes were shifted out we continued to clean their inside area by sweeping, and then spraying it down with a high pressure hose. We scrubbed disinfected and then sprayed again until it was super clean.

When that was done we had two tours to give. A lot of the tours are for people that have donated large amounts of money to the zoo, as a kind of thank you. Sometimes they are for other people as well though. Today I believe both tours were for generous donors. Both tours went very well and everyone loved Beau. He's really the only one that you get to feed on the tour because Jana's a little shy. He's such a sweetheart and he sure loves his squash pieces!! In the second group there was a very young boy (like 3 maybe...) and I thought for sure he was going to be scared of how big Beau is and how he can sometimes get impatient when it comes to food. The little boy was so brave!! He had no fear at all and was absolutely loving the experience. We even showed him how long their tongues are (about two feet!) and he was rather impressed. Beau got me a couple times with his tongue when I was trying to feed him treats and take his photo at the same time.

Once the tours were over we headed to lunch and then helped out with some other small projects. When it was time to do our closing I was able to help prepare the diets for the giraffes. Beau has a disease called giraffe wasting disease and he is the oldest living giraffe with it. Normally once diagnosed they only live for about a year, but he's lived for almost nine! The wasting disease means that they cannot properly metabolize their food because they have too much stomach acid which eats away at the cilia in their stomach. Because of this we have to keep him on a very specialized diet. In the morning he gets 15 Tums (Tums fruity brand only...he won't eat any other) which we put into hollowed out banana peels. He also gets two banana peels worth of Karo syrup to keep his blood sugar levels up, and then another half a banana peel with another liquid supplement. At night he gets his normal beet pulp mixed with 20 lbs of cut up raw butternut squash and high fiber diet, and then he gets his "mash". Beau's mash consists of many things. All together it's about 30 lbs. He gets 18lbs of beet pulp, 8 bananas, cooked squash, 1lb of baking soda, 1 cup of molasses, 1.5 cups of megalax (a supplement), half a cup of min-a-vits (another supplement), and then that gets all mixed together with some water to help mix it. It's quite the process, but it's keeping him alive!!

After all of that excitement it was finally time to go home until......


Today was another weird day. I didn't really have a specific placement so I kind of dabbled in all of the areas. First I went to help on bottom road with the camels. We needed to strip their stalls which takes some time. Stripping means that you take EVERYTHING out of the stalls (in this case shavings, straw, mats, and food dishes) and then spray it down, disinfect/scrub, and then spray it down again. It took quite some time even with three of us doing it.

Once that was done I went to go help them down at the compound (what we call the giraffe/Grevy zebra area). They were weeding around the building and the fence lines because the weeds were becoming taller than us. It took quite some time and continued after lunch.

After lunch we also went to a class about enrichment. They talked about how enrichment is used at the zoo, why we do enrichment, the types of enrichment there are and what it can be made out of. Pretty much all of it was review for me since I had just taken a class on enrichment at school, but it was a good refresher.

After class we went back to weeding. It felt good to chop down all of the plants that have been scratching and stinging me all week. Then something exciting happened! I was weeding near the fence line and all of a sudden I heard a thud near me. Since we are trained to always be alert around the animals in the even that something were to happen, I immediately looked. Next to me, not even five feet away, was a redtailed hawk that had just come down and swooped up a large rat (or small rabbit...I couldn't really tell which it was...) I was shocked!! I couldn't believe that the hawk was that brave to do that. We watched it for a little while enjoy it's afternoon snack up in a tree.

After the weeding was done we headed up to top road, but not before I grabbed some knotweed for the animals up there. Knotweed is one of many plants that grow naturally on the property that we can feed out to the animals. Some other plants are Russian Olive, and Bayberry. The animals love getting fresh plants (browse is what we call it) in the summer and as much as they can in the winter. Today I gave the knotweed to the bongos who quickly ate it up in about three minutes flat. I guess they liked it!!
Izzy, Lady Stanley, and Anna