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!
Roaming the plains in search of rhinos, giraffes, and gazelles of all types. Sounds similar to a safari, right? Actually this is the daily routine of Mammal Keepers Ms. Torrey Pillsbury and Mr. Dave Moore, who both work at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Moore took us on a “safari” through east Africa, central Asia, and the Asian plains.
Before our excursion began, Ms. Pillsbury gave us an introduction into the work she does at the Safari Park. An important part of her job is logging everything she does in the “redbook” she is holding in the picture above. This book is a log of everything the keepers do everyday including what food is fed, any injuries to animals or other notes, and field counts of each species. By keeping all this important information, it acts as a communication between all the keepers from day to day.
We plucked off leaves from acacia branches to be fed to the giraffes later on in our trip. Here Laura is removing the leaves from the acacia plant, making it a lot easier to feed the animals by hand.
While Mr. Moore drove us onto the “plains”, Ms. Pillsbury gave us a quick lesson in animal tagging, which is the identification keepers like she and Mr. Moore use for recognition of a specific individual within a species group. Each animal is assigned a number when they enter into the Safari Park’s collection. Triangular notches are removed on specific points of the ear to represent certain numbers. For example, a triangle on the top of the left year represents a value of 20. Once, a species’ numbers get high, different colored tags are added on to represent higher numbers like 100, 200, 300, and so on.
While driving around, I noticed a David’s deer relaxing in a puddle to cool off. Ms. Pillsbury pointed out that the deer was missing his antlers, which I had not noticed at first. She went on to tell us about how a lot of animal species with antlers only have antlers during mating season (to impress or fight for females), and then they fall off, which was the case for this deer. In some other cases with aggressive animals, the antlers can and will be removed for safety reasons.
Over the years, keepers have collected many of the antlers that have fallen off of numerous different species and have placed them here for visitors to admire.
On our mini “safari”, we joined a group of Park visitors who were participating in a Caravan Safari. These tours take you around the African and Asian plains (just like where we went) and allow you to get up close and personal to the animals. You even get to feed rhinos! Taking one of these tours is a great way to interact with animals you wouldn’t normally get to see and I recommend it for any animal enthusiasts out there!
Mr. Moore called over a newer addition to the collection that is under his care; a nilgai named Ben Savage (by the keepers). The nilgai is a large species of antelope from Asia. The peculiar thing about “Ben Savage” is that he is fairly comfortable with the keepers, even though he arrived not too long ago.
The final part of our “safari” involved feeding the giraffes the acacia leaves we had prepared earlier. In actuality it turned out to be only one giraffe we fed and after a while, he got tired of eating just leaves and started searching for more to eat. Sadly though, it was time to say goodbye. Feeding the giraffe was a great ending to an incredible trip with Mr. Moore and Ms. Pillsbury, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Leslie, Photo Team
Week Six, Fall Session 2013