Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet profesionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here!
Peter Gilson, a Reptile Keeper at the San Diego Zoo introduced us to just a few of the reptile animal ambassadors he works, and also took us behind-the-scenes at the Reptile House.
The interns got to meet Ptery, a 12 year old New Caledonian giant gecko. This species is also known to be the largest gecko in the world and also actually doesn’t have any eyelids!
Grumpy, a prehensile-tailed skink is a species of skink that gives live birth instead of laying eggs like most reptiles do. She is ovoviviparous, which means the egg hatches inside of the mother and allows for her to give live birth.
The Zoo has been breeding pancake tortoises since 1965. This African tortoise is known to be one of the fastest in the world, and unlike most tortoises its shell is soft and slightly squishy, allowing it to wedge into crevices to avoid predators.
Mr. Gilson gives us a look at the different sizes of snake hooks the Zoo uses for safely picking up and handling different kinds of snakes. It was surprising to see the size range from how large and sturdy to how small and thin their snake hooks can be. It gave us a good idea of the different sizes of snakes that the keepers deal with.
Inside the Reptile House, Mr. Gilson opens up the backside of a desert tortoise exhibit which is a reverse look at its habitat. It was a cool experience for us to be able to see the reptile’s point of view and how it sees us peering into its enclosure!
In the incubator room, Mr. Gilson shows us six Baja, California rattlesnake eggs that have been incubating. This room is important to the Zoo because it allows a controlled, safe environment for hatching different reptile eggs.
Different sizes of tubes are used to handle certain venomous snakes. When needed, the venomous snake would be fit into the appropriately sized tube to keep it from biting anyone, so the snake can be transported and/or sedated safely.
Mr. Gilson allows us to practice our keeper skills with the snake hooks by picking up a ball python named Monty. This was an exciting moment for the interns to experience since it involved handling a live animal. How exciting!
Hayden, Photo Journalist Team
Fall 2012, week one