Monday, August 4, 2014

One More Week!

I can't believe my internship is ending so soon! I wish I could stay longer but I suppose I should go and finish schooling and get my degrees. I'm slowly saying my goodbyes to my favorite animals and keepers. 

 Dolly my most favorite giraffe in the ENTIRE world is being super cute when she sees me. She gets all excited and I realize that I'll most likely have separation anxiety when I have to leave her and the zoo. Her target training is going great! She's come a long way from being terrified of the target pole to targeting with authority (even if she's a little slow).

My wildlife shows let me spend quality time with "Pudge" the Lesser Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec and some of the lizards and snakes between shows. I really noticed a change in my public speaking from before I started doing shows and I feel like I improved a lot.

"Luna" is the adorable Eastern Striped Skunk. She's just a baby and is super cute. We get to spend time getting her accustomed to people. Darn, the intern life is a tough one sometimes. She's had her scent glands removed so she can safely be used as an educational animal, and I only wish she was a little bit older so that I could have maybe worked with her more.

Tiger cubs! The tiger cubs are now out on exhibit in the mornings to get them used to it. They're extra cute and so much bigger than how they were when I started. I can't wait to see them when they're all grown up! It's crazy to see how fast animals grow; both the tiger cubs and the baby American Alligator "Peanut" have visibly grown in the time that I've been here, and they still have years of growth left.

My enrichment project ended up making a cube out of fire hose, some hardware, and an extremely durable ball that is by itself often used as a toy. The cube itself took about an hour to make, with a considerable portion of that spent sawing the lengths of hose to the right size. It's intended for one or both of the elephants to play with, so hopefully they will enjoy it.

The elephant keepers finally sent me photo evidence that the elephants played with it after I finished my internship. One of the elephants tried to eat it, and the other one stepped on it. They've never seen a boomer ball that warped before, so I hope the elephants had fun!

The tiger keeper sent me this picture of "Rojo" the Sumatran tiger having a grand time playing with the fire hose ball/cube. He really liked that it smelled like elephants!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

And the Countdown Begins...

My internship is winding down and I'm sad to say that I have less than three weeks left in Kansas! I feel like I want to stay a bit longer, but I suppose I still have to finish school. Last week was a fantastic mid 70s temperature-wise, but today it was 101 feels like 110 and I was glad it was my day off. Lucky for me it's supposed to be just as hot tomorrow! I'm starting to work on my intern project, which consists of making some form of enrichment for any animal in the zoo. Still working out the kinks at the moment, but never fear! I will definitely post the finished results.

I've gotten much more comfortable with my Wildlife Stage shows! I wouldn't say I'm scared of public speaking, but doing live education animal shows twice a week has definitely helped me grow more comfortable with talking to complete strangers. My favorite part is when I interest people enough to come to back-to-back shows, because that means I did a good enough job that they wanted to come back.

In rainforest the summer heat is getting to the animals because the glass dome and the heat are overworking the air conditioning there, so we've started the extensive task of catching the free roaming (within the dome) birds and bats and relocating them to more air conditioned enclosures. UPDATE: All the bats were caught successfully! Huzzah!

Keeper Appreciation Week kicked off yesterday with a friendly game of Assassin (I lost today unfortunately), using small amounts of water. We have a fun week's worth of activities planned for keeper staff and interns that I'm really looking forward to!

My training with Dolly is going well for the most part. She's gone from being scared of the target pole to usually touching the target with only a little hesitation. Unfortunately the Topeka Zoo had to euthanize Jesse, the older male Reticulated Giraffe. The full story is here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Halfway Through!

Hit the halfway mark!. There was a lot going on these past two weeks, so there were many special projects that I got to be a part of. The major one was the first ever World Giraffe Day on June 24th. We got to make awesome giraffe hats for the kids (and staff of course) and there was face painting and giraffe feedings going on for the majority of the day, with all proceeds going directly to giraffe

I also started doing Wildlife Stage shows twice a week; short ten to fifteen minute shows with live education animals. I do five shows a day, so I get to mix up the variety a lot. My favorite shows are the ones where I take out "Peanut" the baby American Alligator. Zoo visitors are always excited to see and touch an alligator, even if it's a little one. 


I worked in Diets for the first time, and it wasn't too bad. It was interesting to see which animals can get certain kinds of foods, and it was mildly entertaining cutting and measuring food out. I'm obviously easily entertained.

I also worked in Rainforest for the first time too! The rainforest is a domed building with glass panels that allow sunlight in and keep the animals and plants nice and warm. There are tropical birds and Giant Indian Fruit Bats in free-flight, along with several animal exhibits with animals such as Golden Lion Tamarins and Dwarf Caimans.

In DA I got to see more of the Lion's Pride section of the zoo. The lions, especially the male, were feeling pretty lazy but once their keeper showed that she wanted to train with them they were pretty energetic and enthusiastic. 

Some friends/interns and I decided to visit nearby zoos on our days off, and this week we went to the Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska. It is huge, and has several of the country's and world's biggest exhibits. I am of course biased, and whenever I saw an animal that the Topeka Zoo also had in exhibit, I preferred our own in every comparison. Especially the giraffes. That being said, Omaha was really impressive, and I'll be sure to go back again someday. Their aquarium was intense, and they had a tunnel that you walked through and you could look up and see sharks, rays, fish, and two sea turtles swimming above and around you.

I was VERY lucky and was asked to help with an elephant bath! I got to scrub "Tembo" the African Elephant along with Lauren, and afterwards got to help with elephant painting and got to be a living canvas for her painting on a shirt.Completely awesome (and safe).

Giraffe training is coming along slowly but surely. "Dolly" went from being terrified of the target pole to touching it when asked to, even if she's a little slow since she's an old lady. I tried making my own target pole, but she was scared of it and wasn't used to it, so I decided to switch back to the original target and she responded well!

We officially welcomed the newest addition to the Topeka Zoo, a Black Bear cub "Independence" or "Indie" for short! She's super cute, but usually a little skittish especially around "Sneak" and "Peek", our adult Black Bears. She was an orphan from Oregon, and is a little underweight, but she is gaining weight and being cute while doing it. For the local news story covering the event, click here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

First Month Down!

The Topeka Zoo had a special event for Father's Day called Campout with Dad, where families spent the night at the zoo and had a lot of fun activities along with seeing the zoo and the animals at night. The zoo looks and feels completely different at night, mostly because there are very little lights. I started working for guest services starting this weekend, so my first shift I spent double-booked between helping guests and doing intern volunteer stuff. It was a great night though, and I got to watch "Rojo" the male Sumatran Tiger play with some enrichment made by guests and also help with a behind-the-scenes flashlight/glow stick tour that ended with an elephant feeding. In the morning I had to be back at the zoo bright and early at 4:30 am to start making breakfast for the families that braved the sudden 2 am thunderstorm. After working until 9, I then did my normal intern shift in A&M which was fun as always just a little more tiring than usual.

I am SUPER lucky in that I was chosen to train "Dolly" one of the giraffes. "Dolly" was born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo on October 8, 1984. She has had five calves, including "Hope" who is also at the Topeka Zoo. Her pattern is unique, with much more white between her spots.Since she has been historically scared of the target pole, we're starting out slow by first getting her accustomed to me, taking food from me, then taking food from my hand while it's near the target pole. In today's session she actually touched the target a few times on her own which is fantastic. Eventually we do plan on training to make health checks easier for both her and vet staff that might need to draw blood or look for any health concerns, but for now my job is to get her to reliably touch the target on command.

 I worked in North Range this week, and got to see a training session with "Johnson" the Bobcat. He was being crate trained, and from what I see, his training is going well. A special project was weaving fire hose and bolting it to a tire for black bear enrichment.

I worked in Disappearing Apes for the first time this week. The animals covered in this range are the zoo's five Bornean Orangutans, a Western Lowland Gorilla, and oddly enough also includes three African Lions (two lionesses and one male). The youngest Orangutan, "Bumi" is super adorable.