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Category — Zoo Academy

El Zoologico Experiencia (The Zoo Experience in a Zoo Academy Student’s Words)

Guest blogger: Zoo Academy student, Keri Cross

Hello everyone! My name is Keri Cross, and I am a Zoo Academy senior!!!!!! I started attending the Zoo Academy last year, and the experience has been absolutely AMAZING!!!!!! I have evolved a lot since I first started attending the Zoo Academy, and the journey has been very impactful for me. I have met so many nice people here at the Zoo, and the keepers are the funniest people I have ever been around. They are always in good high spirits, and they keep me wanting to come back and help them the best I can.

As far as picking which department is my favorite, I really don’t have a favorite area. Every area I have worked in has something great about it, and it makes it hard to pick which one would be my absolute favorite. I have picked up skills from each lab, which I carry throughout not only the future labs, but also in my personal life as well.

My favorite animal that I have worked with has actually been the screaming hairy armadillo. They are one of the cutest animals I have seen since I’ve been at the Zoo. Bonnie, which is one of the screaming hairy armadillos, is actually my favorite. She lets me pick her up and hold her. She has made working with the screaming hairy armadillos a real pleasure. The screaming hairy armadillos are used to educate the public about the species. The Zoo usually socializes them, so they are use to human contact, but they really wouldn’t make good pets in someone’s home. The reason is mainly because they are pretty messy, and they are wild animals. The screaming hairy armadillo usually lives in desert, grassland, scrubland, and forest areas. Their diet includes plants and tasty bugs. They have an excellent sense of smell, and they are amazing diggers, too. Usually when it’s very hot, the screaming hairy armadillos dig burrows, which measure up to several meters in length, so that they can be protected from those hot, sunny days. Surprisingly, in the winter, they are very active during the day. Want to know an interesting fact???? Baby armadillos are called “pups”. A female is called a “zed” and the male is a “lister”.

Bonnie, the screaming hairy armadillo

Bonnie, the screaming hairy armadillo

My favorite animal overall would have to be the cheetah. The cheetah is one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen. They have interesting patterns on their back, and they have big, beautiful brown eyes. Cheetahs usually come from the plains of Africa, wandering the savannas. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals on the planet!!!!!!!! With their extremely fast speed and good eyesight, they are able to spot their prey and immediately catch it. They are actually a species that is endangered right now. At this point, dedicated people are working hard to try to restore these beautiful creatures in the wild.

My favorite animal is the cheetah. (Photo: Dave Jenike)

My favorite animal is the cheetah. (Photo: Dave Jenike)

One experience from the Zoo so far that has been my absolute favorite has been actually being able to work with the reptiles. Reptiles are some of my absolute favorite animals, and I have been able to handle different types of reptiles. Crystal, a ball python, has actually been my favorite snake to handle. She comes from Africa. Her scientific name is Python regius, and she belongs to the python family. Ball pythons are also called royal pythons, and they are actually the calmest snakes that I have ever worked with.

Crystal, the ball python

Crystal, the ball python

Crystal is talking to me.

Crystal is talking to me.

With my experience so far this year, I’ve realized that this journey has been absolutely amazing. I take classes actually at the Zoo, which is pretty amazing, so I get to come to the Zoo every day, and work with the different types of animals. I’ve met a lot of great people who want to see me do great things in the future, especially with helping animals. My desire in life is to help animals, and I feel like I’m doing that every day I come to the different areas in the Zoo. My job right now may not be that much, but it all goes a long way in the end. I’m glad that I chose the Zoo Academy because I feel like I’m doing something that will stick with me forever. This experience will help lead me to bigger and better things in the future.

October 10, 2013   10 Comments

Zoo Academy: Experiences that Last a Lifetime

Guest blogger: Zoo Academy student, Tyler Allgeyer

Hi! My name is Tyler Allgeyer. I’m a senior attending the Zoo Academy. This is a special two-year career tech program that runs through Hughes STEM High School. Here we take all of our normal classes such as math and English, but we also take special classes related to a zoological and a botanical field of study in the form of Zoo and Aquarium Management and Environmental Science.

Besides our tech courses, we go to what are known as labs. They are two-hour intervals at the beginning of the day for juniors and at the end of the day for seniors. Here we work as zookeepers in a six-week rotation at various departments in the Zoo.

Some of my favorite labs so far have been the Cheetah Show, Reptile House, and Manatee Springs.

Some of my favorite experiences happened while I was working at the Cheetah Show. Going into enclosures in direct contact with cheetahs is a once in a lifetime experience. This is a special opportunity the keepers let us have provided that we did a good job and worked well with them.

Meeting a cheetah

Meeting a cheetah

Manatee Springs is probably one of the best departments to work in. The keepers there are very relaxed and fun to be around. Lots of positive energy flows through there, especially when Chris is around. He’s always keeping the humor level high. The best part for me while working there was when Lindsey and I would go do the animal encounter with Hermit, a three-foot American alligator. It was the first time I had held an alligator that size. He can be a bit squirmy, but we always had a great time!

My absolute favorite department here at the Zoo is the Reptile House. Reptiles are where my heart truly lies so it makes sense. Lots of jokes and funny stories were told during my time there. I even spent some time over the summer on weekends volunteering for the whole day. I got to do some fun things like taking out snakes for animal encounters and hand feeding the Komodo dragon.

Working in the Reptile House

Working in the Reptile House

Many of the departments have some awesome people that are very easy to work with. You really get to enjoy doing your work in a fun adventurous environment. My time here at the Zoo Academy may be short, but the experiences I’ve had will last a lifetime.

 

March 27, 2013   7 Comments

Insects, Hellbenders and Opossums: A Zoo Academy Story

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.

Here I'm working with the emperor tamarins in the World of the Insect building.

Here I'm working with the emperor tamarins in the World of the Insect building.

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.

Hellbender (Photo by: Brian Gratwicke)

Hellbender (Photo by: Brian Gratwicke)

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.

One of the Educators said, “Wow! Beth you’re the opossum whisperer. I’ve never seen her behave so chill.”

One of the Educators said, “Wow! Beth you’re the opossum whisperer. I’ve never seen her behave so chill.”

Isn't she cute?

Isn't she cute?

February 4, 2013   1 Comment