Outback in the Wild Animal Park

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Zoo InternQuest is a career exploration program for high school students. For more information see the Zoo InternQuest Journals. For more photos see the Zoo InternQuest Photo Journal.

The heavy-duty jeep moved steadily along the dirt trail within the back enclosures of the Wild Animal Park. I was perched on a bale of hay in the back of the truck and from there I was able to see many of the Wild Animal Park’s magnificent creatures and amongst them were some Southern White rhinoceroses. It was so incredible to see them from a couple hundred meters away, but it was even more amazing when Michele Gaffney, a Wild Animal Park Keeper, slowly pulled up right next to a mother and baby rhinoceros to feed them apples. We excitedly leaned over the edge of the truck’s rails to toss apples right into their mouths. Torrey Pillsbury, a Wild Animal Park Keeper, explained to us how well the breeding program at the Wild Animal Park has been going. I was amazed at how many rhinos have been born through the breeding program!

So Ms. Gaffeny and Ms. Pillsbury are keepers at the Wild Animal Park, and in correcting the common misconception that keepers just clean and feed animals, they do way more than just that! The keepers can identify animals by name, they also observe their behaviors, keep track of health conditions, have to communicate with the vets and nutritionists, as well as bring animals in for any necessary medical procedures. A keeper’s job is a lot more than what is expected.

They also assist with conservation of species in a number of ways. First, they educate the public about the animals and get people to understand why it’s important to preserve Earth’s species. Second, they take care of the animals and help assist in decisions on which animals will breed, which helps ensure a sustainable population. The keepers have a very hands-on job and one that is needed to conserve a species. Through this experience I learned that only through combined efforts can conservation goals become possible.

Kate, Conservation Team