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Category — Keeper’s Komments

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   No Comments

Binturong, Bearcats and Bite Sized Snacks

During the course of my day, I have the privilege of being around Binturongs. As a former University of Cincinnati student, and a lifelong resident of Cincinnati, I am also very familiar with the Bearcat mascot. Furthermore, being a snack food fan, I am also well aware of the satisfaction of a good bag of popcorn. So, you probably understand some of this, my experience with animals and mascots, but are a bit confused about what the topic of snack foods has to do with me working at a Zoo.

Lucy the bearcat (with trainer Eddie Annal peaking around)

Lucy the bearcat (with trainer Eddie Annal peaking around)

First, a bit of information on Binturongs for you; Binturongs (Arctictis binturong), are also known as Bearcats. They are found in the forests of Southeast Asia where they easily climb trees, using their prehensile tails for balance and to hold onto branches, as they search for the small animals and fruit they eat. When they are not moving around, which is about half of the day, these viverrids prefer to curl up over a branch or fork in a tree to rest and relax. While active at night, they don’t have a set pattern of activity and can be found foraging for food during the day too. Binturongs communicate with each other by leaving scent markings. These olfactory signals (scents/smells) are great, since these “messages” last for days and even weeks. The messages can say that this is their territory, a good keep out sign, or be similar to a posting on one of the dating services we see on the web; SBw/WFB seeking SBw/WMB (Single black and white haired female Binturong seeking Single black and white haired male Binturong!)

Mike and Alice

Mike Dulaney and Alice in the 1980s

A quick note about the mascot, before we talk snacks. The University of Cincinnati, “Bearcat” originated in 1914 while folks were cheering during a football game. UC was playing the Kentucky “Wildcats” and we had a fullback named Leonard Baehr. The cheerleaders encouraged the crowd to repeat, “They may be Wildcats, but we have a ‘Baehr-cat’ on our side.” So after many years the Bearcat became the official mascot of the school. In 1985, Mike Dulaney, Curator of Mammals for the Cincinnati Zoo (CZBG) began taking “Alice” our Bearcat to UC games, for the fans to enjoy. Today, Alice’s successor “Lucy” can be seen walking along the sidelines at football and basketball games. [Read more →]

March 25, 2013   3 Comments

Adventures with Aardvarks!

My introduction to Aardvarks was on Saturday mornings, when “Aardvark” chased a red ant named “Charlie”, always unsuccessful in catching his meal, in the cartoon “The Aardvark and the Ant”.  I did like the Aardvark, although I must admit I rooted for the ant!

Later, I found out that Aardvarks aren’t blue and don’t wear shirts and shorts.  They do eat ants and beetles, but the majority of the food they eat comes in the form of termites.  They use their long and sharp claws on their front feet to dig into the hard ground and open termite mounds.  A long, thin tongue is used to pick up the termites from the exposed tunnels.  To make the process of eating thousands of termites more efficient the Aardvarks don’t chew their food (a lot like my bulldogs at home), and use the heavily muscled walls of their stomach to crush anything that they eat.

Padmae in the Children's Zoo Nursery

Aardvarks are solitary animals and spend most of their time out of their burrows at night.  The burrows and the piles of dirt they excavate are important in providing dens and habitats for a large number of other animal and plant species.  When they leave their burrows, Aardvarks will travel up to three miles in search of food, usually taking a path that zigzags through their home range.  Aardvarks have scent glands and males are attracted to females in estrus when the female emits a particular scent.  Females will give birth to a single offspring (sometimes twins are produced) after a seven month pregnancy and the male doesn’t help raise the young.  The youngsters are born in the dens and will have their eyes open at birth and also have fully developed claws.

Because of their nocturnal habits, and the fact that they like to lead a more secretive life than the blue Aardvark I watched on Saturday morning, Aardvarks usually do not interact with humans.  Unfortunately, farmers in Africa would prefer that these animals stay off of their property, since their burrows cause problems for livestock and the earthen dams that are built to contain water for the farms.  Populations in Africa are hard to determine, due to that secretive lifestyle, and there is some concern that these animals are being taken for the bush meat trade.

Aardvarks are somewhat difficult to breed in captivity.  Here at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden we have enjoyed a successful program involving the propagation of Aardvarks, over the last several decades.  “Padmae”, our young female that is now almost four years old was acquired for use as one of the animals that walk through the Park to meet our guests, up close and personal.  The keeper staff noticed that she became very active and there was a distinct odor that she was producing, in April of 2012.  The thought was that she was probably in estrus, meaning that she was probably ovulating and could produce a baby if she mated with a male.  Padmae was moved to the Veldt to visit with our breeding male Aardvark and remained there for several months.  The staff noted that the pair did breed during the last week of August and into September.  On December 18, 2012 an ultrasound was performed on her and it was confirmed that she is pregnant.  Based on the sonogram, below, and the recorded breeding dates, we are expecting a baby Aardvark between April 15 and May 15, 2013.

In preparation for the birth of a baby Aardvark, which has been described as looking like an alien creature, we are making modifications to the area in the Children’s Zoo Nursery.   A closed circuit surveillance system is being installed, so that volunteers can monitor Padmae as her due date approaches.  A whelping box is going into her stall soon, so that she has a secure place to give birth.  The Nursery Staff is getting ready too.  Since the females roam so much at night, sometimes they are too active in a captive situation for a newborn.  The staff will be ready to pull the baby, during the nighttime hours, hand feed the youngster, and place the infant back with the female when she would be caring for it in the den during the day.

Stay tuned!  We will keep you up to date on Padmae’s progress and our hope is that this first time mother will produce a healthy baby, this spring.  Stop by the Nursery, at the Children’s Zoo, to visit our expectant mother and see how well she is doing for yourself.

March 13, 2013   1 Comment