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.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Third Week's The Charm

This week we had two seminars that the interns had to attend. The first was about the USDA and the most common violations that can be avoided once we knew about them. I learned about USDA standards for animal enclosures, exhibits, facilities, etc. I now have a healthy respect of USDA visits. The second and much more entertaining one was the first of a series about animal training, specifically about bridging. It made me remember (barely) my animal training class, and it was a much needed refresher. We also had a brief seminar on edible browse (plants) for the animals found in and around the park. I also learned how to whistle on a leaf! Useful life skill right there. Sunday, June 8 was World Oceans Day,a day to celebrate conservation efforts for our oceans . The Topeka Zoo had tables and activities set out so that children (and lucky interns) could enjoy some ocean-themed fun. We even got to make shark hats!

This week I've worked in the same three areas: Children's Zoo, Animals and Man, and North Range. While I was working in NR there was a decent sized thunderstorm, so it was interesting to see the differences in morning routines when certain animals had to be kept inside for their (and our) safety. I got to feed the mountain lions, the otters, and the ponies that are at the zoo for the month! Cleaning up the enclosures in the rain was a challenge in some areas.

In A&M I got to help with giraffe feedings, which is always fun. I also got to feed Vision (the West Nile Hippopotamus) some and lettuce as a treat. We interns got to see Jessie (Reticulated Giraffe) get some hoof work done and get some blood drawn.

CZ was entertaining because we introduced Molly the baby cow to a ball and she was both terrified and interested in it at the same time, so she'd sniff it then run around freaking out then sniff it again. Adorable.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Weeks 1 and 2

Due to some technical difficulties (my hard drive decided to crap out on me) I've decided to combine my first two weeks's shenanigans into one post! Never fear, I will continue to update weekly!

Sunda the Asian elephant
Hope (left) and Sgt. Peppers (right) or "Sarge" for short 
On my first official day at the Topeka Zoo I worked in the Animals and Man (A&M) area of the zoo. There's an African Elephant, an Asian Elephant, a Nile River Hippopotamus, four Reticulated Giraffes, two Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, and an African Crested Porcupine. I learned how to clean the hippo and giraffe enclosures in the morning, then got to watch elephant training in the afternoon! Both elephants knew a surprising number of behaviors, and were very motivated by animal cracker snacks. Over the next few A&M shifts, I learned the basics of how to clean the lemur enclosures, the giraffe areas and the elephant areas, and now that I have the technique down, I can work on improving my speed a little so that there's more time for side projects. Some examples so far include putting together a lemur exhibit, learning how to weave fire hose for enrichment purposes, and a fellow intern even made some frozen treats that the animals really liked! 

Jesse (left) and Dolly (right)

Hector (let) and Fernando (right)

I also worked in the Children's Zoo (or CZ) section. The children's zoo has several goats one sheep one llama, and its newest addition, a two month old baby cow. The children's zoo section is also in charge of the three African Wild Dogs, two Addra Gazelles and two adult Sumatran Tigers, as well as the three tiger cubs that were born about a month ago. The cubs won't be on exhibit until they're a little bigger unfortunately. Sad face.

The last section that I've worked in so far was North Range (NR), which has two Black Bears, two Golden Eagles, two coyotes, a bobcat, two Mountain Lions, and two North American River Otters. I got to see a painting session with one of the black bears, a training session with one of the coyotes, and several training sessions with the otters. I even got to feed one of the mountain lions!

All in all I've had a great time at the Topeka Zoo and my summer is only beginning!


Hi, my name is Chaz and I have the amazing opportunity of interning at the Topeka Zoological Park ( in Topeka Kansas! I'll keep you up to date with all the great stuff I'll get to be a part of as an animal care intern over the summer! Excitement! Adventure! Animals!