A Safari in San Diego

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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 adventure here on the Zoo’s website!

The interns on November 11th had an extraordinary opportunity to meet with Senior Mammal Keepers: Torrey Pillsbury and Roger Petersen who work at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Petersen gave the interns a tour of some of the field enclosures and introduced us to the various animals they care for including rhinos, giraffes, wild cattle and various hoofstock. The interns were able to meet and feed different animals from two different regions, South Africa and Asia. Meeting with Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Petersen was an experience that was interesting and unforgettable.

Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Petersen start their day early at six in the morning. They start their day by heading into their office then checking their board, the black book and the red book. Additionally, there is a white board which contains all of the exhibits, the type of species, and number of animals in each exhibit. The black book gives information about the animals specific needs. The red book holds all the information about each animal: births, strange behaviors, injuries, diet, and an identifying number of each animal. In the red book, Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Petersen will also log what occurred that day, so the next day another keeper will know what occurred as well. The keepers will then go up to their forage warehouse where they load their trucks with hay for each species they are assigned for the day.

When out in the field enclosure, Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Petersen use ear notches and tags to identify different hoofstock. The notches and the tags are a number that are registered with the San Diego Safari Park. Currently, they can mark up to 600 animals for the same species. When checking for all the animals Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Petersen will write down the number of notches because the animals are constantly on the move.

Growing up around horses and dogs, Ms. Pillsbury’s love for animals came at an early age. She would often visit the Zoo with her grandmother. Ms. Pillsbury attended El Capitan High School in Lakeside, California. At the age of 19, Ms. Pillsbury began working at the San Diego Safari Park as a horse trainer. After working with the San Diego Safari Park’s horse show, Ms. Pillsbury began training elephants in the elephant show. Ms. Pillsbury then worked at the Phoenix Zoo with elephants and orangutans. Following her time in Phoenix, Ms. Pillsbury came back to the San Diego Safari Park and worked at the Neonatal Assisted Care Unit where she cared for a baby gorilla and black rhino. Ms. Pillsbury has worked at the San Diego Safari Park for 25 years.

Mr.Petersen became interested in animals from watching birds on his fishing trips. When Mr.Petersen went on fishing trips, he would bring his binoculars to study and document the different species he saw. Mr. Petersen’s work as a keeper started at SeaWorld with the penguins. Ms. Pillsbury’s favorite part about being a senior mammal keeper is working with the animals and that her day is never the same. Working with large mammals such as wildebeests and rhinos can be dangerous and the animals can be unpredictable, but as senior mammal keepers, Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Petersen never have boring day at work.

Lauren, Career Team
Week Six, Fall 2015