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Category — Zoo Academy

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

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