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.