“In Ancient Times Cats Were Worshipped As Gods, They Have Not Forgotten This”

So to be quite honest starting out here, so much is happening it is hard for me to put it all down here. This internship and this experience itself has been just amazing. It is a slight struggle some of the time, but it’s still great.

So let me clarify, by struggle I mean the past few days it’s been storming and cloudy, so I turned to team “I’ll just put a little sunscreen on” and now I’ve burnt to a crisp (I can’t move my arms). I’m sore all over from the hardcore physical labor I’ve been doing. I also spent most of my weekend in the compound and it was asked of my “You work on Sundays??”. Well, the animals don’t really care that its Sunday. They care if someone brings them their food or not. Living in the South is still a bit of a culture shock I have not entirely adjusted yet. Plus I’m just exhausted all around from everything, but I’m excited to get up and go again tomorrow. I don’t at all feel like it’s something I can’t handle or that I might be drowning. It’s mainly just a challenge, but that’s good. Challenges make life interesting.

So far my animal experiences have been pretty neat. I love being able to get this close to these types of animals. One of my favorites right now is the caracal Naja. She is completely precious. Anytime you walk past her enclosure if you just purr at her she’ll run over to talk to you. It’s quite entertaining. I also quite enjoy the tigers (obviously) they’ve always been my favorite. Today as it was quite hot and sunny and while some of the tigers were in their small shift enclosures so we could cut the vines down from their enclosure walls we found ways to keep them cool. Essentially we sprayed them with the hose. They loved it. It was like Disney world for them. The one especially, Freya, the biggest diva in the world was completely content. They made the best happy noises and rolled around and then when the water stopped they just gave us these sad looks waiting for us to keep going.

Today we also did a lot of maintenance. I actually crawled on top of a lion enclosure to re-secure some shea cloth over top of it. I’m very glad the chain link material is so sturdy, even if she wasn’t in that section at the time, I did see a snake on the ground. We also did a lot of weeding and such and just spent some time around the animals. Today I also made my final decision on the enrichment I plan on giving to the binturongs. I figured what does every crazy food motivated fruit loving animal want? I came up with peanut butter. I’m going to put some on and in some balls for them to fiddle with. I think they’ll like it. Or at least maybe Cole will, I hope.

A lot of my internship is learning and educational experiences. The animals don’t know that though and enjoy playing with us. The lemurs today were quite funny, they were running about with each other searching for the food I had prepped and set around their enclosure to give them something to do.They have the best crazy eyes, I can watch them for so long.

I think the ones who cracked me up the most these past few days were the servals. For anyone who doesn’t know a serval is a type of cat. They are bigger than a domestic and look something like a mini leopard but with the ears of a caracal (also a cat species). The Center has many servals and one of the enclosures has four brothers in it: Obi, William, Sammy, and Mojo. Yesterday another intern and I went around and were cleaning out the food chutes for all the serval enclosures (were we drop their meat in). They actually tend to get kind of gross pretty quickly. So the 4 boys were our last enclosure. I saw Sammy and Obi up in a hammock napping together, but not the other two. So I began scrubbing at the bottom plate of the chute with my brush just being mindful of the shared wall I had with the cats. As it happens, Mojo came out from wherever and decided that we were there and doing what we were doing solely for the purpose of his entertainment. So he did what any cat would do and reached through the fence and swatted at my brush.

You little brat Mojo. He then attacked the long brush I had cleaning the inside of the chute. Then William decided to come over and see what was happening. After I moved the brushes and bucket out of Mojo’s reach I got the hose ready to rinse it off. I turned it on low at first as I didn’t want to catch them off guard with a hard stream of water, but they didn’t seem phased by the water stream. So I turned the so on full force and they both scattered looking back at me with incredibly offended expressions.

Turns out it’s not just them who do these kinds of things. Soxy the red row will steal any tools or such that you bring in to his enclosure. Freya will flirt with the boy tiger next door. One of the singing dogs has extra chains on his door because he will wiggle his way out. LG will run up when you set his food down and grab something and run so you don’t take it back. For some reason today I was cleaning someones pool and I emptied it out, by the time I came around to the hose to fill it back up there were little paw prints through it because someone had to come investigate what I did. And if you turn your back for a minute on any of them, they will steal each others food.

So I have in fact been enjoying myself quite a bit and having fun while I learn many different things. I’m learning a lot of facts about the different species -Lemurs live in matriarchal societies, Madagascar had it wrong with “king” Julian. I am learning my own animal preferences -tigers are kind of the shit but the lions are a little scary. Well some of them, not all, some are kind of perfect, they’er just really big and strong and will take the chance to swat at you through the fence. However I am also learning a lot about animal care, especially for animals you cannot share space with and every day diet prep and enclosure maintenance and just the over all treatment of animals in captivity. There is a lot that goes in to planning diets, vitamin supplements, entertainment, and veterinary procedures for the animals and I am coming to appreciate the actual magnitude of a job that it is.

I have to say some of it has been very eye opening – I cut a bunny in half, gutted many chickens and have smelled more meat to check if it’s edible than I would care to admit. I watched a roadkill deer get cut up for storage today. I also skinned like 10 rats yesterday and as it was put it me “it’s like taking off the world’s most disgusting wetsuit”. It’s been definitely trying, sometimes it’s hard to get up in the morning. However I think over all it’s solidifying my opinion of certain aspects of the world, including my views on non profit organizations and really if anything has allowed me to connect with people like me. The people who talk to terrifying lions and huge jaguars in their baby voice and casually bring up watching tigers devour other animals or something else disgusting the animals did that they witnessed over dinner.

Anyway, just for a reference I am at the Center Friday-Tuesday and Wed and Thursday are my days off.

More to follow soon:)

“In Ancient Times Cats Were Worshipped As Gods, They Have Not Forgotten This”

Dammit Cino, You’re Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

So you know how sometimes you feel like your cat does something ridiculously obnoxious and you’re sure he’s doing it for no other reason than to spite you, big cats do that too. The lions are especially bad about it. They can all be a bit naughty, but the little bugger Pacino was the bane of my existence today.

I was working in the large animal side of the compound today. The keeper I was with was shifting everyone to there smaller spots so we could clean their main enclosures and give them their food and one of our last stops was a spot where one can enter one of 3 lion dens. The impatient Pacino was in one of these dens. He had already been shifted into his smaller space. Unfortunately for us, due to the massive storm we had last night, Cino had a roughly 5ft by 2ft essentially pond of water about 6 inches deep. He was running around in it splashing all of us in disgusting muddy water. Lucky for me I didn’t get too much of it, but not all were that lucky.

So besides being doused with muddy rain water, today wasn’t too bad. Except the chickens maybe. That wasn’t so great. My family enjoys the outdoors as much as anyone but we have never been big into hunting or fishing or anything of that sort. So I wasn’t too happy about getting to inspect chickens from head to toe looking for rotting meat to cut off. And I absolutely did NOT like cutting the bottom off and gutting it. In the past 12 hours I have been more intimately acquainted with a chickens internal organs than I ever care to be in my life. Good thing I have a pretty strong stomach.

Quite honestly the only bad part about it was the smell. The rest was actually kinda interesting, even if somewhat bloody. I did find an egg inside of a chicken so that was exciting. It was also pretty cool a few hours later when I (attempted) to launch said chickens over a 30 foot fence to Ra and Thomas. I’m more than tempted to think they hate me now because they believe I was purposefully taunting them for the number of times I tossed their food into the air and it did not fall in front of them.

So that’s mostly all for now it was a pretty cool day, I helped with a lot of construction type things and drove around in the back of a pick-up truck (I felt pretty southern not going to lie) got pretty sunburnt and such. I’m very much excited to go again the next few days.

Dammit Cino, You’re Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

It’s Hot and Everyone Says Y’all

Starting off:

So yesterday, 6/22 I moved into a beautiful secluded (wifi free) house owned by a colleague of my dad. In the scorching 90 something degree weather I subsequently drove around Hillsborough NC trying to familiarize myself with the area enough to be able to buy food and find my way to work the next day. Turns out it’s acceptable to drive up to 20 mph over the speed limit here and everyone tails me as hard as they can whilst I nervously breakdown in my car going 40 in a 35.

However hiccups and wrong turns behind me, today I began my animal care internship at the Conservators Center in Burlington NC and I do not regret a moment of strife that it has taken me to get here. While I am sad to say it will be a while before I can share pictures here as I am not permitted to have my phone on site, I am anticipating capturing some amazing photos before my time there is up. Apparently that’s their big “thank you” to the interns for having us work 240 unpaid hours of manual labor in scorching heat; we get the better “behind the scenes” photos so many people pay a lot of money for. Quite honestly I’m not going to complain about that.

So anyway, as I am not yet entirely well versed in the many species or the specific animal members the Center has right now, I am adding a link here ( http://www.conservatorscenter.org/about/our-residents/ )  in case I mention someone that you as a reader would like to look for more information on. Some of the species may be unheard of, even I had never heard of some of these animals before this morning, and some of the individuals have stories that I would not be able to do justice on here.

Today when I walked in for orientation I really didn’t know too much of what to expect. I have to say I was not disappointed. I was able to meet a group of interesting individuals who work and volunteer at the Center as well as other interns. It’s a very diverse group and I truly feel lucky I am able to join them. I learned today that for the next six weeks my jobs include mainly enclosure maintenance, diet preparation and providing enrichment to the animals. Me, I have to find fun ways to enrich a Binturong (my first assignment) which I could not even really describe what this animal is at the present time. After orientation we went around for a hands on tour of what we would be doing the next few weeks. So I spent the day climbing into an empty leopard enclosure and then sharing space with domestic house cats, a dingo, a friendly group of new guinea singing dogs and a very needy attention loving chausie by the name of Termite. I found myself delivering bowls of a variety of foods (mostly just straight up raw meat) mixed with added vitamins to all these individuals Many of these animals acted just like a house pet, and you would have thought they had never seen food before. I even found myself carrying a rabbit around -2 feet in front of me grimace clear on my face- as a part of the Centers whole prey diet they maintain for most of their large carnivores.

Every experience I had today was amazing and I cannot wait to continue in this program with these people and cannot even imagine all of the wonderful things in-store for me to learn. And while I don’t want to overshadow everything I did this morning, I have to say my afternoon took the cake. If there was ever a doubt in my mind that I wanted a career focused in animal care after Juanita, it was gone by 3 pm, because today I fed a tiger.

Part of the Centers program includes reward training their animals, so when I say I fed a tiger (two actually and a lion) I don’t mean I chucked a deer into the enclosure. I mean I walked up to the fence, told Arthur to lie down and handed him a chunk of meat as praise. Having their animals trained is incredibly important to the Center, especially when it comes to things like veterinary procedures; but I have to say when you’re just working with the animal to keep him or her in practice or just doing it for fun on a tour, it’s just plain exhilarating.

It’s Hot and Everyone Says Y’all