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 professionals 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 on the Zoo’s website!
From birth, animals need an extensive amount of care. But what happens when a newborn animal is left without its mother or is injured? This is where the keepers working in the Neonatal Assisted Care Unit (NACU) step in. Kim Weibel, Senior NACU keeper, becomes the animal’s acting mother. She feeds the newborn around the clock if necessary, take its temperature, burps the baby, and cleans up after them. It is no surprise that when the animals grow up they often remember their “mothers” from the NACU.
When a newborn animal arrives at the NACU the right nipple must be determined for the animal’s bottle. It is important that the hole on the nipple is the appropriate size, otherwise the newborn may aspirate. Holes are made by heating wires of various sizes and poking it through the nipple.
When keepers are feeding more than one animal at the same time, they use markers to mark each animal in the litter. This process is called litter marking, an important step to avoid over feeding by being very clear about which individual has been fed. The markers are non-toxic posing no harm to the newborns if the residue is ingested.
Almost every newborn, regardless of its species, requires warmth to survive. This incubator does just that: keep the newborn warm and cozy. This mimics the warmth the mother would have provided for its baby.
Ms. Weibel explains the process of making formula that is fed to the newborns at in the NACU. The formula is made according to the gastric capacity of the animal, which is the amount of food the neonate can ingest. This is obtained by taking the animal’s weight in kilos and multiplying it by fifty. Through this, you can also figure out your own gastric capacity!
Making formula is much like mixing cake batter. Here interns Victoria and Cam whisk and strain the formula to obtain a smooth consistency. This is crucial because if the formula remains clumpy, it could cause the baby mammal to aspirate.
Formula must be bottled and dated with its expiration date and time. Once the formula has expired, it must be immediately discarded. If two types of formulas were mixed together in one bottle, the formula with the earlier expiration date determines length of time the formula can remain in the refrigerator.
Ms. Weibel shows us the different types of formula used for Zoo animals. Combining the formulas Esbilac and Enfamil is ideal for nursing primates, bears, and gazelles. If an animal is not fed the right formula it could develop stomach or intestinal problems.
Tinka, the Parma wallaby was found as a tiny joey on the floor of her exhibit. Miraculously, NACU keepers were able to restore her back to health. This means that the keepers worked around the clock to save her.
Intern Victoria holds a pouch that is designed to mimic the pouch of a marsupial. The fabric is extremely soft and keeps the baby warm. The pouch is also seamless to prevent the newborn from ingesting any loose fabric.
Isa, the fossa, demonstrates his affection towards Ms. Weibel who helped to raise him in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Only found in Madagascar, fossas have lost 94% of their original habitat. Consumers– be aware of where your products come from to make sure you don’t contribute to the loss of their habitat!
Charlene, Photo Team
Week six, Winter Session 2013