Calves, Cubs, Pups, Oh My!

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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!

IMG_4307Conservation begins with baby animals, and the Neonatal Assisted Care Unit (NACU), helps raise them. Kim Weibel is a senior keeper in the NACU. Ms. Weibel’s explained her role as a keeper in the NACU, and how her position directly impacts the Zoo’s conservation effort.

Ms. Weibel and her fellow keepers work with whatever animals are brought to them to help them grow into healthy, independent adults animals. The five keepers in the NACU are trained for whatever animal comes to them. This requires them to stay on their toes. They work with mammals specifically because they need so much care and attention at a young age. They inform the public on how important the NACU’s role is, and how crucial they are in the effort to save animals. The keepers in the NACU also educate the public on conservation issues through the use of animal ambassadors. Animal ambassadors are raised differently from other animals, because they’re used for educational purposes to teach Zoo guests the benefits of conservation, and the potential consequences of a species dying out.

Ms. Weibel works with many other zoos to help inform them or share information regarding raising different animal babies. Networking is a huge part of the NACU’s job, because they must be prepared for the endangered animals that come to them, and they must be educated on how to care for them. The keepers help conservation efforts around the world by sharing the techniques they’ve learned over the years with other zoos. They share the successful formulas animal nutritionists have figured out because each animal takes different amounts of formula, and a different mixture of formulas. Almost every species requires a special nipple for bottle feeding (if necessary). Keepers even share tips to help raise certain species. For example, Ms. Weibel needed help raising a marsupial, so another zoo gave her very specific tips that would help replicate the feeling the baby received when it was in its mother’s pouch and this would help comfort the baby.

Keepers in the NACU have worked on many successful conservation projects throughout the years. Their most successful is the Giant Panda Project. To help China raise their giant pandas, the San Diego Zoo NACU keepers, including Ms. Weibel, visited China to collaborate with their keepers and share the innovative formula San Diego Zoo nutritionists created for Giant Panda cubs. China’s keepers have even come to the San Diego Zoo to watch how the keepers here care for the pandas. Another project the NACU has worked on is the Baja Pronghorn Project. Some of the NACU keepers went south to Baja to help trainers there rear their critically endangered Baja California pronghorns.

Ms. Weibel has worked on so many different species in the NACU. Her years of experience have helped not only the species in the San Diego Zoo collection, but also other animals in zoos around the world. Information sharing and networking is a power resource especially when it pertains to saving endangered species.

Alon, Conservation Team
Fall Session 2014

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