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Category — Zoo Academy

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

Changes at the Zoo Academy

Guest blogger, Emily Benjamin, a Zoo Academy senior:

Changes

By Emily Benjamin

This year the Zoo Academy has gone through a lot of changes and it has been an adjustment for us students. Last year, we reported to the Zoo Academy and were released from the Zoo Academy. This year we spend half of our day at the Zoo Academy and half of our day at Hughes STEM High School. For juniors, you report to the Zoo Academy and are bused to Hughes. Seniors are reversed. This is because we have one less teacher here than last year due to financial reasons. She was moved to Hughes and we take our Math and English courses there now.

For someone who experienced the program last year, it’s been tough to adapt. Even though it’s changed, the best parts are still the same. We still get hands on experience with the animals and experience in a work place (unconventional as it may be). We still work hard for the Zoo and it still is just as rewarding.

For example, I worked in the Primate Center for my first animal lab. It was probably one of the worst to start off with because I hadn’t really gotten used to the smell of the Zoo (now I can identify most departments from smell alone). Though it was hard work, it was also lot of fun. We popped popcorn for the gorillas and we’d give them raisin boards as enrichment. A raisin board is a small piece of very thick plastic with small holes drilled in them. We would push raisins into the holes for the gorillas to dig out. One time we even made sacks of hay, popcorn and other vegetables. We left them in the gorilla yard and Ron Evans, the lead keeper, shifted the gorillas into the yard. It took them less than five minutes to find each one and tear it apart. So much for all of our hard work.

Kwashi eating a carrot

Kwashi eating a carrot

Cat Show was also a great lab to be in. I’ve always loved cats and so it was like a dream come true. I loved working around the cheetahs and the dogs. They were total sweethearts. Quilliam, the adorable porcupine, and the common housecats didn’t hurt either. I like small cats better than large cats with a few exceptions. I even own a cat myself. Anyway, one of the highlights of this lab was the time I came in on a Saturday morning to make up hours and I got to pet Tommy T the cheetah. It was a lot more relaxed and there was a very interesting story that day.

Cheetah (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

Cheetah (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

Another note, the animals aren’t always the highlight of my time in each lab. Sometimes the keepers make it a great lab to be in all on their own. Some of them have cool stories to share or maybe they’re just extra enthusiastic about their jobs (after all, being a zoo keeper is cool). I’ve had just as many good experiences with the people as I’ve had with the animals.

So yes, the Zoo Academy has changed but it isn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be. I still go to lab and just last week I was socializing a mini-Juliana pig. A few weeks ago I worked with Bonnie, the screaming hairy armadillo. Today I get to write about the Zoo Academy for the blog. Isn’t that exciting? I’m still learning and loving animals more and more.

 

Here I am with Bonnie, the screaming hairy armadillo

Here I am with Bonnie, the screaming hairy armadillo

September 7, 2012   2 Comments