Category — Animals
If you’ve been to the Zoo lately, most of you have seen that the painted dog puppies don’t really look like puppies anymore. The largest pup, Luke, weighs in at 66 lbs. The smallest is Lucy at 54 lbs. Imara is still slightly larger at 68 lbs, but the kids are not far behind. A couple more months and the puppies should be about done with their growth. At almost eight months old, they have their adult teeth in and their faces are starting to look more adult-like. The most adult-looking dog to me is Hugo. He has a bigger head and even though Luke weighs more, Hugo seems larger in stature.
In addition to growing like weeds, the puppies and their personalities are still evolving.
On one hand, you have Bruce and Riddler, who seem to enjoy interacting with the keepers, and on the other hand, you have Alfred and Luke, who are a little shy and take some time to warm up. In my opinion, Luke is the most like his father, Brahma, in personality. He is a pretty reserved dog, very vigilant and observant. He is usually the one to sound an alarm call. Lucy and Riddler appear to enjoy hanging out solo on occasion, while everybody else likes to be on top of each other. The hierarchy is also still developing, but for now, Oswald is displaying traits of an alpha. Selina, sometimes with the help of Quinn, is the top female. This will probably change and depending on how the pack continues to develop, it could happen at any time. However, for the time being, Imara is still in charge, although her interference with the puppies has lessened. They are at the point where they need to work things out themselves. It is the way of the pack.
In the middle of July, we fed the pack their first carcass while on exhibit. Imara and the pups received a 70-lb processed (no head or guts) goat carcass. They had a great time with it, and being able to observe all of the natural behaviors that go along with this style of feeding was fantastic! In the wild, the entire hunt and kill is the best way for the pack’s bonds to strengthen. In captivity, it doesn’t get more natural than a carcass. Behaviors were exhibited that I hadn’t seen before. The amount of cooperation and sharing between Imara and the pups was amazing. You can see these behaviors in videos of dogs in Africa, but rarely get to see them in captivity. The puppies would take turns breaking down the goat. It was like a revolving door of dogs; as one dog tired, another one would take its place. They had it picked clean in under two hours.
We still do not have an answer to the most popular question that I hear while chatting with our guests – will we keep all of the puppies, and if not, where will they go? It seems likely that all or some of the males will move to another facility. There is a good chance a couple of them will form new packs for breeding. It’s also possible that a couple of the females will move out as well. Since Brahma’s passing, the pack has had to be managed a little differently than if we had an alpha pair. I am happy to say that I have been accepted into the Painted Dog Species Survival Plan (SSP) management group and I hope to contribute to all of the aspects of managing this species in captivity. The SSP officially meets next month and more decisions will be made, including the possibility of getting an adult male to breed with Imara. So come on out and see Imara and the pups while they are all still here!
September 4, 2015 2 Comments
Guest blogger: Sarah Lang, Zoo Intern
You can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. It’s the classic conundrum everyone is facing as they emerge from college dorm cocoons and are stretching their new adult wings. As if that isn’t hard enough, the animal field is incredibly challenging to break into. Don’t worry; there is a way it can be done. It’s a hard, long road. There will be lots of obstacles that look unsurpassable. You may need to take detours to get where you want to go. Don’t be discouraged. If this is what you love, then it will be worth it. The first path I took was the path of internships.
I did my undergraduate at Berea College, majoring in Ethology (animal behavior) and Theater, minoring in Film and Philosophy – an interesting spectrum of hodgepodge skills. The dream job is to educate through entertainment–that means animal shows, documentaries, or even a traveling circus to let my mother know the classical education she got me has not gone to waste. During my last semester at Berea, I started my first internship here at the Zoo. That introduced me to the Advanced Inquiry Program through Miami University’s Project Dragonfly, which is a graduate program based at certain institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums such as Cincinnati Zoo. I was accepted and only have one year left in the program at this point. Hopefully after my Masters, I can get my Ph.D. in Neuroethology of Metatherian Cognition, but you can imagine how large the market is for that. The internships are like stepping stones: get your foot in the door, the basics of how to educate within a zoo, the basics for visitor engagement and outreach, the basics for animal husbandry, the basics for animal showmanship, get a seasonal/temporary keeper position in an animal show, get a full-time benefitted position, develop own animal show, inspire and change the world. That’s not too hard, right?
I’ve done three internships at the Cincinnati Zoo so far, and there has been a distinct evolution in just a short time. Internships that were once seen as full-time free labor have transformed into what internships were intended to be–immersion with education. I’ve done an internship where I worked 24 hours a week, commuted between the Zoo and school at Berea College two hours away each week, and worked with supervisors to help me meet up with certain people to talk about certain topics for my capstone. I’ve done an internship where I was working 40 hours a week, and if you wanted to do anything special like a behind-the-scenes tour, you set it up yourself by talking to other interns or boldly asking a keeper in a different department. And then they reworked the internship program. Now there is a new lesson to be learned every week. You may be working the 40-hour week, but lectures have been set up to let you meet and hear about what goes on throughout the entire Zoo.
We had lectures with Lyn Lutz about browse. We heard from Deb Zureick about the history of the Zoo. We learned about operant conditioning with Amanda Chambers. Dr. Greg Levens showed us tidbits about veterinary medicine in zoos. Cecil Jackson showed us about elephant foot care and introduced us to the elephants themselves. We talked about nutrition with Barbara Henry. We listened to how keepers came to be here at the Zoo with us, and what they did and still do that allows them to bring special perspectives. Not only that, but we did things that they didn’t even warn you about in school. Molly Szabo showed us things like resume building and what zoos look for in your representational piece of paper. We even had mock interviews with our curators.
It isn’t just a work horse gig anymore. It’s an introduction into the field. A taste of what is to come, or what will discourage. I can’t say it was all sunshine and giggles though. It is working 40 hours a week in Cincinnati weather–heat, humidity, freezing ice storms, all of it. It’s working with the public, even if you are behind the scenes; they will ask you anything and everything. It’s working for love and not pay, and trying to figure out how you will pay for school and bills. It’s smiling and being kind even when you are sick and exhausted because you never know who you are talking to. It’s trying to learn procedures, time management, and skills as quickly as possible and being corrected. It’s being happy for someone who started with you in the same place and who might be further ahead. It’s being okay with sitting in rush hour traffic, sweaty and covered in fecal matter at the end of the day after your deodorant has worn off, and people still expect you to go out and have a social life. But it’s also working in a field you love. It’s getting your foot in the door. It’s getting a taste of what you want to do with the rest of your life. It’s making connections with people, hearing their stories, learning from their journey, and making incredible and memorable friendships. It’s making memories and having experiences you would never imagine having done before. It’s creating an adventure for yourself and those around every day you step on grounds. It’s conveying knowledge to peers and to guests, sharing facts and information to understand the way things are and why they are that way. It’s inspiring a call to conserving nature and appreciation of the world around us through respect and thoughtfulness, because this planet, this life is a truly beautiful one. It’s serving those around you because we are all connected through our numerous communities.
What a long strange trip it’s been.
I have to admit it is hard, and it might take a while. But this is the path I have chosen and it is going to be worth it. If it wasn’t worth it, I wouldn’t have done it so many times, and I would keep doing it. As I continue my journey through life, it is a path worth remembering and that will make all the difference. So I’m letting my wings dry, because I look forward to the greener pastures that lie ahead.
August 31, 2015 2 Comments
For more than 10 years, the Zoo has partnered with Miami University’s Project Dragonfly to lead graduate courses that take educators into the field to experience community-based conservation, participatory education and inquiry firsthand. This year, I had the fortunate opportunity to co-facilitate Earth Expeditions Kenya: People and Wildlife in Integrated Landscapes with Dave Jenike, the Zoo’s COO. We took 17 educators with us, including formal classroom teachers as well as informal educators from zoos and similar institutions. This is the fifth and final post in a series about our experience. Read the previous post in this blog series here.
Today was Community Day! Following a wrap-up of the ecological monitoring projects and our last group discussion on balancing human land use and conservation in the morning, the afternoon brought us a special treat. Students from various local schools were transported to Lale’enok Resource Centre for a cultural day. Other community members, including Maasai elders and members of the Women’s Group, came to partake in the festivities as well. The students presented on the theme of “Water is Life” in the form of traditional song, dance, poetry and debate. They even invited us to join them in some of the dancing.
I had prepared the Earth Expeditions group that they might want to come up with a presentation of their own. In years past, groups ended up singing silly songs like the Hokey Pokey. This year, one of the students, Jen, brought the idea of doing the BioBlitz Dance. The Bioblitz Dance was originally created for National Geographic’s Bioblitz Event and is a celebration of the outdoors, human diversity and biodiversity, and national parks. I’m not sure it was any less silly than the Hokey Pokey, but at least it had a connection to people and wildlife. The best thing it did was break down barriers between the local community and our students, make everyone laugh and smile, and allowed us to do something in return.
Later that afternoon once the students had departed, we had the chance to mingle and have small group conversations with the community members. No topic was off limits, and they were just as curious about us and our culture as we were about theirs. We talked about marriage, family and more. Everyone was so open and friendly.
Soon, we all moved to the campfire for a traditional Maasai dinner featuring fire-roasted goat. There was much more conversation, singing, dancing and star gazing before heading to our tents for the night.
Our last full day in the South Rift began with an early morning walk just after sunrise to a ravine overlooking the river. We walked down to the riverbank and spent some time hanging out and reflecting on all the wonderful experiences we’d had so far. On the way back, a lone hyena burst out of the bush just ahead of us and booked it across the dirt road. Amazing!
We finished up the last of our coursework with a discussion about what the students planned to do for their Inquiry Action Projects once we returned home and how it fit into their Master Plans for those in the graduate program.
Then it was time to shop! Another way we can support the community and their conservation efforts is to support their livelihoods. As a group, we had the chance to purchase a variety of hand-crafted jewelry, belts, shukas (colorful cloths) and more directly from the women who made them.
At the Zoo, we have created a Lions and Livelihoods Bracelets program. More than 200 local Maasai women showed up to sell us bracelets made in a particular design to symbolize the coexistence of people and wildlife. Each color represents an integral component: red stands for lions, black for the Maasai people, blue for peace and white for clarity. Guests can then purchase these bracelets back at the Zoo. Revenue goes back to the Olkirimatian Women’s Group to provide tuition for local school girls and contribute to the operation of the Lale’enok Resource Centre.
We spent our last evening having a sundowner with the Lale’enok staff on top of a hill overlooking the South Rift and Mount Shompole. There were plenty of laughs, hugs and pictures as we said our farewells. It was a fantastic, life-changing expedition that no one will soon forget.
August 27, 2015 No Comments