Thursday, December 10, 2009

I "Heart" My Job!

Did you know that walrus breath really smells like fish?  I suspected as much, but got to find out first-hand today.

As most of you know, I am currently working at the zoo in my town.  I get to spend lots of time in various areas at the zoo doing programming with kids and teens.  I have never gotten to spend a whole day in just one area of the zoo.  Back when I worked at Northwest Trek, I got to shadow the free-roaming area keeper several times, but have never done that here at our zoo. 

Today, I got to spend the whole day in our Rocky Shores area.  This is maybe the most fun I have had at the zoo since I started working there....hard work, but fun.

Here are the feeding/training highlights:

1.  Sea Otters.  If, as you're feeding them, you say the name of the otter you are feeding and then stamp your feet, they will rhythmically pat their own front paws on their chest while floating in the water.  I also got to do what's called a scatter feed where at the end of the day, to give them something to do at night, we scatter a bunch of clams and whole crab into their water so they have to forage.

2.  Walruses.  We have three, ET, Joan and Basilla.  It is currently breeding season for the walruses and are a little ummmm 'spacey' and distracted right now.  Today was also blood draw day.  So, the Walruses, who normally get fed on-exhibit got fed at least once today off-exhibit. I got to distract ET for a bit while we shifted the girls into position for the vet to come later in the day by feeding him a little.  Then, that afternoon, after the vet came to attempt a blood draw, I got to feed Joan.  She's the most 'silly' and active of them all.  She's long been my favorite walrus (shh....don't tell Basilla or ET).  So, I got to feed her and ask her to do some of the behaviors that she has on cue like "vocal" or "flipper."  Too fun.  (By the way, none of the blood draws were successful, but it is still amazing to me that these walruses let the vets stick a 5-7 inch needle into them voluntarily.)

3.  Arctic Foxes.  Because of how cold the weather has been lately, the foxes, whose regular exhibit is under renovation, have been let out onto exhibit into our Asian Forest Sanctuary exhibit so that there are some animals that are out on the cold days. (Our A.F.S. animals can't be out, except the tigers, if the temps are below 40 F).  What was so fun about this is after our second feed, we got to "play" with the foxes by chasing them. Apparently they love this!  Who knew!?

4.  Harbor Seals.  There are 5 seals,...this can be hard because the Rocky Shores area is actually kind of short-staffed right now.  So, since I was there, they could feed them all easier.  I got to feed Qilak, one of our newest and youngest seals.  She was very sweet and gently ate the food I gave her.  She also has a few things on cue like "spin" and "up." 

It was a VERY cold day, but it was a very fun day.  In another time and place, I could have seen me doing something like this for a living.  Anyone who has ever seen me with my own (OK, really ANY) animals will attest to my genuine love for animals.  I just wish I'd taken some pictures!


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