Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Zoo Academy

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

Learning from Elephants, Cheetahs, and King Snakes

Another great post from a Zoo Academy student guest blogger:

Hello, I am Brian Garcia.  I am a Zoo Academy senior.  The Zoo Academy is a high school program offered through Hughes STEM High School for Upper Classmen. In the morning, the juniors are at the Zoo and seniors are at Hughes, and in the afternoon, the seniors are at the Zoo and juniors are at Hughes. This school is one of a kind. We are the only school in the world that can see giraffes out the window. Also, at the end of our senior year we get a certificate stating that we have had training in exotic animal husbandry, which is another thing that this school is known for.

I am now going to talk about my one of my lab experiences. In my junior year, one of my first rotations was in the elephant house where I had to clean up after them. After a couple of weeks of hard work, I had an experience of a lifetime; I was able to give Mai-Thai (the Zoo’s oldest elephant) a bath and got my picture taken with her. I was amazed at how well she listened to the keeper.

This is me and Mai-Thai.

This is me and Mai-Thai.

Another experience that I had earlier this year was when I was doing a project on cheetahs. I interviewed the Cat Show keepers. After I interviewed them, they asked if I needed any pictures of the cheetahs. The keepers told me to come back the next week to take some pictures. So when the next week came by, I went back up to the Cat Show. I didn’t think that I was going to go into an actual cheetah pen, but I got to go in with Tommy T! It was so cool, I got to meet him and get some funny pictures of a cheetah. It was a little hard because cheetahs don’t stay still, but it was fun!

This is one of the many pictures of Tommy T. that I was allowed to take.

This is one of the many pictures of Tommy T. that I was allowed to take.

My most recent experience was handling the newest members of the interpretive collection, the Apalachicola king snakes. It was awesome. For a week, I got to handle and help socialize two beautiful creatures. They were very shy at first, but once they got to know that I was not going to hurt them they were so active and liked to explore.

Here I am socializing the king snakes.

Here I am socializing the king snakes.

This program for me is a godsend.  I was contemplating dropping out of high school because I lost my drive to go to school and to better myself.  Coming here and learning about animals sparked my inner drive to finish high school. I could honestly say that if it was not for this I would have no idea on what I would want to do with my life. Now I know that I want to be an Environmental Scientist working on waste water management, to help stop the pollution of our water ways.

December 10, 2012   1 Comment

Exciting Labs as a Zoo Academy Student

Guest blogger: Jaelynn Wright, Zoo Academy Senior

Hi, my name is Jaelynn Wright and I’m a student it the Zoo Academy.

My time in the Zoo is really awesome and I just love it. Every day I am ready for a new day in my lab.  Since I am a senior, it’s much different from being a junior. I remember when I started the Zoo Academy one day and it was my last day working in with the cheetahs. Well, me and my classmate were cleaning the cages and the keepers came in and told us that some kids were here on a field trip and that they were putting on a show for them, so we were allowed to watch the show. Now I’ve really never been up close and personal to a cheetah, so I was all happy outside and scared inside. The keepers let Tommy (one of the cheetahs) into the yard and he ran like he had never been outside. Afterwards, he came up and sat right next to me. I even touched his head and I couldn’t help but grin like a little kid on their birthday.

 

Cheetahs have personality, too!

Cheetahs have personality, too!

Now I’m in the Education lab in the afternoon. I get to socialize with animals, give my advice in the meetings and just have fun. I meet new people. The latest animals I have socialized with were the opossums and the baby screaming hairy armadillos. They’re so small and so cute, and the way they moved in my arms was really cute. I have to pay really close attention to their behavior because we want them to feel safe around people they don’t know. They really like me and they have grown to trust me to take them to people who won’t hurt them.

Here I am with a Brazilian opposum.

Here I am with a Brazilian opposum.

I’m so glad I get to be a student at the Zoo Academy!

November 2, 2012   1 Comment