Category — Education
Hi, my name is Beth Knox and I’m a Zoo Academy student. I’ve experienced a lot of amazing things here at the Zoo. My favorite species here are insects and reptiles. I’m very fortunate to work in the Insectarium as a guard/interpreter. It’s cool to get out insects and show everyone their cool adaptations up close.
I’ve worked in Reptile house and I’m currently doing a project on getting our aquatic hellbender salamanders on display. This unique species is rarely known and its populations are declining. They are currently located behind the scenes in what we call the Salamander Hilton. We feed them baby crayfish and they live in water tanks. We would like to get them in natural lighting for better breeding conditions.
One of our head Amphibian/Reptile Keepers Kristin Bennett would like to breed them, stating that the Missouri Department of Conservation has been putting artificial nest boxes in the Eleven Point River in Randolph County. So far they’ve found a few clusters of eggs. Hellbenders in their natural flowing streams are great indicators of healthy water and it’s now up to us to breed and repopulate them so that others can enjoy them. Watch a video here – Hellbenders.
I’ve started in Education and already I’m enjoying all the animals we socialize and use in educational programs. I was a bit nervous my first time socializing our Brazilian opossum, Victoria. She’s a burst of energy and wants to constantly treadmill on my hands. She’s the most outgoing and is really cool about allowing people to rub her back. We want her to calm down a bit while in the hand. When I softly massage her neck, she sits down and cuddles in my hand.
February 4, 2013 No Comments
I think you need some background on our “three little pigs” before I can just tell you about my latest training session with our Mini Juliana Pigs, Cinder, Magnolia, and Thatcher.
Eunice, a keeper in the Children’s Zoo, asked me one day for some ideas on what other animals we could get for the Barnyard Bonanza Show. This show is designed for children and the stars of the show are goats, chickens, a dog and of course the kids that are in the audience. My first thought was how much fun a pig would be, knowing how incredibly smart they are.
From that moment on I began researching pig breeds and what kind of pig would be the most intelligent, nice, good with kids, small, clean, and accessible in the Midwest. I finally settled on Miniature Juliana pigs and found a small farm where the owner gets his entire family involved with raising the pigs. After much paperwork and facility checks it came time for Eunice and I to drive to Terrific Teacup Pigs and pick out our three favorite piglets.
After looking at nearly 20 piglets we settled on these amazing three. Their first month at our zoo was in our nursery, where Children’s Zoo keepers and Nursery keepers spent hours with them. Once they were out of the nursery, Eunice and I were with them, nearly non stop. They were just wonderful! Quickly we began off leash training them so they would follow us around the zoo, as we knew they needed quite a bit of exercise. Before long they were out with the visitors, walking the entire loop of the zoo and loving it!
Then there came a time when Cinder, our little orange pig, was getting picked on. He couldn’t be left with his siblings and knowing pigs don’t do well alone, there was only one option… he had to come home with me! Good thing I live on zoo property! So every night he stayed with me and came back to the zoo each day to try to get re-acclimated with his siblings. It took a few months before all the siblings were happy together, but let me tell you, I didn’t mind having him at home with me at all! He was a wonderful companion and got along very well, even with my dog.
Now the pigs can be seen walking in the zoo nearly every day (as the weather allows) and are also everyone’s favorite animal in the Barnyard Bonanza show!
In cold weather, Eunice and I take them into our large building, called the Club House, where we can work on recall training, asking them to come when called. The pigs LOVE Eunice and every time she talks they are all ears and headed her way. However, Cinder will always have a special place in my heart!
February 1, 2013 4 Comments
Several weeks ago, Dr. Terri Roth, Vice President of Conservation and Science, at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), mentioned that she would like to try giving “Berit”, the Zoo’s female polar bear, hormone injections to help her get pregnant. Scientists at CREW have been hoping for a polar bear pregnancy for quite some time and this is the next obvious step in helping that along. However, the typical method of injecting bears in captivity requires sedation. Knowing this, I instantly had something else in mind. I proposed that we condition Berit to accept injections on her own terms.
That we ask her to come in to her den, lean up against the training wall, and get a special treat for allowing us to inject her. This has never been done before at the Cincinnati Zoo (on polar bears) and folks had reservations, for good reasons. Fortunately, Dr. Roth was very excited as she knows it’s much less stressful on the bears to be trained to work with their keepers for something like this. So that is my (polar bear) challenge.
I have approximately one month to get Berit trained. The first injection needs to happen towards the end of February. The really exciting part is that the ladies that care for the Zoo’s bears, Lisa V, Debbie, Lisa P, and Tanya, are amazing and are on board and supportive of the training that will need to take place to accomplish this in such a short period of time.
For the next month, we will all be working together twice a day to help Berit learn to come in, target on her nose, and then target on her side. Eventually we will bring the target closer and closer to the enclosure door, so she understands to come in and turn to her side. Once we have mastered that behavior, we will work on getting her to hold still and stay against the training wall.
Everyone is working hard to make this a comfortable and fun new enrichment activity for Berit. I am happy to report that she is loving the extra attention and yummy treats she is receiving for training. It’s really wonderful to see her run down to the training wall and get so excited for the sessions. If we are successful we may not only be aiding in her individual pregnancy but also in the conservation of this amazing species. (No pressure!)
Wish us luck!!
January 25, 2013 6 Comments