So it’s been a hot minute or so since I’ve had the chance to update this, but in awesome news my laptop is working at a time that coincides with me having wifi. For the win.
This past week I had my class on the animal care industry. I have had the absolute privilege of working along side and getting to listen to a woman named Julia Wagner. I found out about two weeks ago she is being brought forth as one of the world’s leading experts on the animal industry (she is also coincidentally the Center’s assistant director). I’ve learned a lot of new information that I think is so incredibly pertinent to anyone going in to any sort of animal care field. Things like information on captive assurance species seeing as the wild is no longer an option for most of these animals. Looking at it in the big picture it may seem greedy or selfish for humans to want to keep these animals in zoos or commercial animal centers, but I think its great. The human race is 20 years too late on trying to prevent a mass extinction, and I want my kids to be able to see a rhino. I would love for there to still be wild rhinos and elephants and such 20 to 40 years from now, but in most likeliness I will never be somewhere where I can see them. I would like to still be able to view them in a zoo. I’d hate to see them uncomfortable or cramped in the “wild” that is left. I know for a fact that a lot of animals living in captivity are spoiled rotten and get pampered all the time.
I also have to say I’ve had my eyes opened to the “zoo” industry. As it is now, there is no set definition of a zoo in the United States. There are roughly 2,800 business that commercially show animals (this actually includes stores with petting zoos) and the AZA accredited branch only accounts for about 300 of them. The Center I am currently at is not an AZA accredited place. I also learned to not automatically assume that AZA accreditation makes a place more upscale or better in anyway than another animal park. The AZA is a business model for the most part. It means that a certain percentage of the admissions earnings in a zoo go to the organization. It means gift shops have to be stocked a certain way and the parking lot has to be a certain size and there has to be a certain number of bathrooms per square feet. It does mean that some places have easier access to certain species and it does guarantee taxpayer funds to provide space for certain species, but it does not necessarily equate to better.
I’m pretty excited too because on Tuesday we get to go on a behind the scenes tour of the Greensboro Science Center. I’ve never been there but I asked about it and I’ve heard some good things. They have the brother and sister tigers of two of the tigers that I work with so I’m excited to meet them. I’ve also been investigating their website and it seems they have a broader range of animals than the center does including some birds and amphibians. It definitely seems more zoology directed than the Pittsburgh science center.
It has also recently come to the attention of the Center that the canine virus (H3N2) has been running around in North Carolina. So we’ve been taking extra precautions around or canid species. Anyone with a dog at home has to take clothes from the dryer and bag them up. Before going in to the enclosures, everyone has to either disinfect their shoes or cover them with surgical type booties. These have to be changed between each enclosure, and anything done in these enclosures (feeding and cleaning) must be done first thing and whoever is doing it shouldn’t have contact with our roaming friendly neighbor Saint Bernard Domino that morning. It’s actually pretty scary and I’ll definitely be looking for cases when I return home. I wouldn’t want my dog getting exposed to anything like that.
On a lighter note I still believe watching tigers play in their pools is absolutely the cutest thing in the world. It is still so unbelievably beyond annoying when they decide to drown their (already dead) food before they eat it and then the water gets bloody and disgusting. Good thing I love them and I’m willing to climb in and scrub around the bloody water so they can have a clean pool.
I also had an embarrassing moment where I was attempting to throw a (actually pretty heavy chicken) over a USDA height approved fence and I missed, in front of a tour group. My bad. I’ve been getting better at it however; and I was present (but fortunately it was not I who threw it) when a chicken got stuck on the top of the fence. And then 5 minutes late when a chicken ripped in half mid air.
As I head into my last 10 days here I am starting to actually get really sad about leaving this place. I’m still not a fan of the South (it really is ridiculously hot) but these animals are just great. All of them, even the chubby little genet LG. LG cannot wait for you to set his food down in the morning and quite often stands in front of the door and waits. Every time I walk in I have to sit and explain that he really needs to move if he wants me to open the door. Then before I even get the bowl all the way down he jumps and grapes something from it and runs off to start eating.
The lions all also have such distinct and great personalities. Yesterday we were on the roof of an enclosure (Hannah and Enoch), hanging shade cloth up so they wouldn’t overheat. The lions where in the shift next to us and Hannah decided to sit on top of her den box so she could be close to level with us. She then just watched and stalked us the whole time, ready to pounce at any minute. It would have been terrifying if we didn’t know there was no way for her to reach us.
That pretty much describes how I spend my days though. Oh just walking around on what is essentially a cain link fence over top of a lion or tiger enclosure, NBD. I was sitting cross legged on the ground next to a beautiful lioness named Kira today after rearranging some platforms for her in her enclosure. I would be scared to fall in with most of the animals, but honestly it’s the leopards that are truly terrifying. I never turn my back to them if I’m near their fence. Ever. And come of the smaller animals you really have to watch out for. They will reach right through the sense to take a “playful” swat at you. I spent a while yesterday getting screamed at by a binturong.
So pretty much I’m planning on attempting to treasure every hot sweaty dirty bloody moment for the next week and a half. Whether that means digging in dirt for three hours, watching the tigers play with their toys, cleaning enclosures all day, getting covered in some form of prey species blood or just hours of physical labor in the hot sun I’m ready for it, and I’ll honestly just miss it when I have to go.