Guest blogger: Brianna Williams
Hey you guys! My name is Brianna Williams and I am currently a senior at the Cincinnati Zoo Academy and I am so excited to share my story with you all!
Well, for starters, I have always loved animals. Growing up I had 5 dogs, 2 turtles, and some fish. My mom grew up in a large family and she always brought home abandoned or hurt animals such as squirrels, rabbits, frogs and even birds. My mom always let me be my own person and adventure outside to be in nature and observe animals.
When I was in 8th grade my family and I began searching for a high school for me to attend and we came across Hughes Stem at a high school fair. I was intrigued by one of the programs they offered in the 10th grade called the Zoo Academy. I had never even heard of it, but I had a passion for animals and education, so I took the offer and began at Hughes as a freshman. Throughout my freshman and sophomore year at Hughes they prepared me for the Zoo Academy and I was so excited to start working with animals!
At the Zoo Academy, I have gotten to see and experience some REALLY cool things from feeding a manatee to touching a cougar!! Being at the Zoo Academy has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I have met so many great and amazing people here and made a lot of new friends. You feel as you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. I feel like I have another family and home here.
These are my two best friends in one of our classrooms.
Since being here it has opened so many new doors and opportunities. I have been offered several job opportunities and have the chance to be a volunteer this summer. I have also grown fond of the people I have met so far such as the wonderful crew at the Education Department. I have worked with some cool animals here such as Bonnie the Screaming Hairy Armadillo and Crystal the Ball Python.
Having fun hanging out with Bonnie, the screaming hairy armadillo
The Zoo Academy has given me a backstage view of how the animals are taken care of and handled. I have prepared food for the animals, helped clean their enclosures and even interacted with some of the animals we have here. Seeing animals such as cheetahs, cougars, elephants, and rhinos up close is something I will never forget.
The Zoo Academy teachers are also amazing and the class sizes are small so you really get to know your peers and your teachers, not just by name, but as a person. It’s not every day you get to experience the amazing things that happen at the Cincinnati Zoo. The Zoo Academy prepares its students for college, and so many careers! We also learn about conservation and what we can do as a person to help make the world a better place.
This is my environmental science teacher, Mr. Schulte.
In the future, I plan to attend Wright State University and become an educator for preschoolers. I want to continue my story through my students and teach them about the Zoo Academy and maybe one day when they are older they will attend this amazing school that is like no other! I hope that after I graduate my adventure here continues whether as a volunteer or a paid employee. I have come to love and appreciate the Zoo, the people and the animals.
Hey! Did you know that the Cincinnati Zoo is the ONLY zoo in the country that allows high school to interact with animals and work with keepers on a daily basis? Well you do now, so if your children love animals and plants, I would HIGHLY recommend the Zoo Academy. It will be one of the best decisions you will ever make.
Best of Luck, Brianna
February 25, 2014 No Comments
John and Imani, our two African lions, are getting to know each other behind the scenes. To make their eventual pairing as successful as possible, the introduction process is slow, strategic and multi-phased.
Today we gave John some straw from Imani’s enclosure. You can see his response in the above photo. The smile-like expression on his face, called a Flehmen Response, indicates that he’s “smelling” the scent using his mouth. There is a special organ between the roof of the mouth and the palate that helps detect certain pheromones and chemical cues. Basically, John is trying to figure out if Imani is sexually receptive by smelling her urine. In the animal biz, we often call it “stink face”! It looks pretty good on John!
Imani showed far less interest in the pile of John’s straw that she received, which is not surprising since we are not seeing any estrus behaviors from her right now.
Check back for more updates on John and Imani’s introduction process.
February 21, 2014 1 Comment
By Kim Klosterman and Jenny Gainer
At the Cincinnati Zoo, the beginning stages of duck breeding season on Swan Lake are just around the corner. Most people associate spring time with cute little ducklings, but at the Zoo’s bird house we have to start preparing in the winter. In order to promote natural breeding behaviors on our lake there are a few things bird keepers have to do to encourage our feathered friends. We have successfully bred, raised, and released ruddy ducks, bufflehead, goldeneye, wood duck, and several species of merganser over the years. This is due, in part, to the hours of work our keepers spend on making duck boxes, installing them, monitoring them, and rearing chicks.
Cavity nesting bird populations have been in decline in the last few decades due to the loss of mature and old growth in our forests. Mature forests provide larger, dead standing trees, called snags. These snags are typically in various stages of decomposition. Certain species of cavity nesting waterfowl will use abandoned woodpecker holes or natural tree cavities. These same species will also use artificial nest boxes, so providing these sites for our ducks helps increase our captive and wild waterfowl populations.
Nest boxes are installed on posts above the water in mid-February, or as soon as the ice thaws on Swan Lake. This gives the ducks several weeks to get acclimated to seeing the boxes, swimming around them, sitting on top of them, and eventually going inside. It’s around the beginning of April that egg-laying begins. Keepers check the boxes every two weeks for eggs to ensure we do not miss any hatching. Any eggs that are found are pulled for artificial incubation. Eggs are weighed, candled for fertility, numbered, and set up in our incubator.
Eggs cannot be left with the parents for a very important reason. Although our ducks are in a somewhat captive setting on the lake, there is still risk of predators on zoo grounds. Any duckling that hatches is at high risk of predation by raccoons, cats, possums, foxes, and even some of the bigger fish that reside in the lake. So Cincinnati Zoo keepers take over parental duties by incubating, hatching, and rearing the ducklings. Once the ducks are full grown, eating very well on their own, and are acclimated to the outdoors, they are re-introduced to Swan Lake.
So, the next time you are at the Zoo, be sure to look for our ducks and their nest boxes out on Swan Lake.
February 13, 2014 No Comments