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The Safari Experience

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!

This week we met with Torrey Pillsbury, Senior Keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Working out in the field, Ms. Pillsbury takes care of a myriad of animals from giraffes and rhinos, to various hoof stock species. She allowed us to go out with her to observe what her job requires on a daily basis. It was an amazing experience not only because of the new knowledge we learned, but also because of the encounters we had that just made us fall in love with these incredible animals even more. We all had a blast!

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Since there are not any carnivores roaming around in the Safari Park field enclosures, the animals living out there are herbivores which means they eat, you guessed it, plants! It is part of Ms. Pillsbury’s job to make sure the animals get the proper diet suited for their nutritional needs.

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When out in the field, it would be extremely challenging to identify individual animals without a form of identification. This is why every hoof stock animal has “ear notches” as diagramed in the picture. The location of each notch represents a certain number, which then allows the keepers to identify the animal based on the numbers the ear notches yield.

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Interns Carly, Charlene, and Victoria get comfy on the truck before we head out into the field. Little do they know that they are in for a HUGE adventure out there!

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Before going out into the field, our task was to strip acacia branches of their leaves. Giraffes enjoy acacia leaves very much, consuming about seventy-five pounds of foliage a day!

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Interns Jade and Marcel are enjoying their last week of Zoo InternQuest. They look excited for the treat in store for them!

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We found out that Indian Rhinos love apples very much! While we were feeding them, we could touch their skin and horns. Many people do not know that a rhino’s horn is the same substance as our finger nails.

The Safari Park is home to many giraffes, the tallest living land animal, growing up to sixteen to twenty feet tall! Each giraffe’s pattern of spots acts like its own unique fingerprint.

The Safari Park is home to many giraffes, the tallest living land animal, growing up to sixteen to twenty feet tall! Each giraffe’s pattern of spots acts like its own unique fingerprint.

On February 25th, 2013, the Safari Park had a new addition of baby Southern White Rhinoceros. The baby rhino, Kayode, is enjoying his new life here with the other rhinos and animals in the field. He has quite the personality, that one!

On February 25th, 2013, the Safari Park had a new addition of baby Southern White Rhinoceros. The baby rhino, Kayode, is enjoying his new life here with the other rhinos and animals in the field. He has quite the personality, that one!

It is not very hard to feed giraffes considering their tongues are eighteen to twenty inches long! Intern Jade, or rather our modern day Pocahontas, enjoys her experience with the giraffes ⎯ what a fun way to finish up the day!

It is not very hard to feed giraffes considering their tongues are eighteen to twenty inches long! Intern Jade, or rather our modern day Pocahontas, enjoys her experience with the giraffes ⎯ what a fun way to finish up the day!

Abby, Photo Team
Week six, Winter Session 2013

 

 

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Conservation Without Borders

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! 

abbey_W5_picThe struggles of elephants in the wild due to human conflict and habitat fragmentation have become well-known topics in the conservation world. While efforts to prevent the extensive poaching for tusks and the ivory trade are very important, there are other efforts in place to help out this magnificent and extremely intelligent animal. The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research all contribute to elephant conservation by supporting conservation programs and doing public outreach of their own.

This week we met with Lead Elephant Keeper for Elephant Odyssey at the San Diego Zoo, Ron Ringer. While exploring the new facility, I was able to talk to Mr. Ringer about elephant conservation efforts occurring in the wild as well as within San Diego Zoo Global. He noted that poaching is still occurring heavily, with approximately 40,000 elephants being killed per year either to sell their ivory, or because of human conflict. He mentioned a program supported by SDZG− called Elephants Without Borders− which really caught my attention. Elephants Without Borders (EWB) is a charitable organization committed to wildlife and natural resource conservation. Specifically with elephants, EWB maps out their migration routes, tracks them, works with local villagers, and communicates with the public.

Elephants in the wild cover a lot of ground. Therefore, being able to track their movements and patterns is essential for their protection. This will yield information on whether they pass through national parks, international boundaries, or changing environments. From an agricultural perspective, elephants consume vast amounts of food because of their immense size. Unfortunately, due to do habitat fragmentation, elephants are coming in contact with local villages. If this occurs, elephant herds might destroy the land and eat all of the crops growing there. The disgruntled villagers might become hostile toward the elephants, often hunting and killing them. EWB is trying to create protected routes for the elephants and protected areas for farmers to avoid elephant and human contact. Thanks to the collaboration between Elephants Without Borders and San Diego Zoo Global, not only is new research and fieldwork being done, but also public education as well.

By just being at the San Diego Zoo, guests can learn about elephant conservation. Mr. Ringer acknowledged that a huge part of his job is communication and interaction with the public to foster an appreciation for elephants. If people ever inquire about the Zoo’s efforts with elephant conservation, he is quick to tell them about EWB, and even another special story about seven orphaned elephants that came to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This herd of elephants was going to be culled in Swaziland, however, these elephants were saved and brought to the United States. If people ask what they can do to help, Mr. Ringer responds with suggestions such as never buying items made of ivory, trying to do background checks and research on items before you buy them, and donating to elephant conservation efforts.

Thanks to Mr. Ringer and his colleagues, San Diego Zoo Global, and Elephants Without Borders, elephants have a chance to live safely and peacefully in the wild. Not only are these groups helping elephants’ lives, but they are helping human lives as well. For more information about Elephants Without Borders, visit the Zoo’s website: http://blogs.sandiegozoo.org/tag/elephants-without-borders/. 

Abby, Conservation Team
Week five, Winter Session 2013

 

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Hotel or Day Spa?

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!

abby_w5_picWhen people visit the San Diego Zoo, to see all of the amazing animals, they often forget what really goes into making the animals comfortable and happy. Hidden atop a hill in the Zoo is the Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine at the San Diego Zoo. It is a fully functioning hospital for the Zoo, equipped with an advanced radiology department and an impressive surgery room; however, few know its true value to all the animals.

After meeting with Senior Hospital Keeper, Kristin Clapham, we got an inside look at all of the hidden treasures within the Zoo’s hospital. She showed us around the facility, allowing us to see its various amenities for the animals there – whether for medical reasons or just a needed vacation away from their home in the Zoo. Ms. Clapham acknowledged that when people first think of her job at the Zoo’s hospital, they think every animal there is a critical case in dire circumstances. She assured us this assumption is very wrong, and in fact, the hospital often functions as a sort of “spa” for the animals

Ms. Clapham referred to the “spa time” as “ins and outs,” meaning the animals can come in when needed and then go out, or leave, when they are ready to. She explained that often the animals just need a break from their important ambassador lifestyles to relax and get some “TLC.” We happened to stumble upon Pori, a spot-necked otter, who had just had a hysterectomy because “she and her uterus did not get along.” Although Pori did have a medical procedure at the hospital, after the surgery, she was in need of some spa time. Pori’s “spa room” was accommodated with heated floors, a pool, a comfy bed, and even some music as well! She seemed to be enjoying her time up at the Zoo’s hospital.

Attendance to the animals is key in making their stay comfortable. In order to make sure Pori and the other animals staying at the hospital are content, there is an advanced camera system that streams live videos of each room and area. This way the hospital keepers and other staff can monitor each animal so they remain “clean, quiet, and content,” a main goal of the hospital’s. Whether it is providing tasty meals or other accommodations, the Zoo’s hospital has exemplary customer service.

Thanks to the Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine at the San Diego Zoo, the animals living in the Zoo not only have top notch veterinary services available for them, but they also have an additional place to call their “home away from home” when a relaxing and soothing vacation is needed. I know if I was an animal at the Zoo, I would enjoy my visits to the hospital day spa too.

Abby, Real World Team
Week Four, Winter Session 2013

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A Bear Hug for Conservation

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!

abby_W3_picThis week we met with Senior Research Technician Suzanne Hall. Ms. Hall began her journey at UCSD, majoring in ecology, behavior, and evolution, with a minor in psychology and political science. She now has worked in the Applied Animal Ecology Division at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research since 1998,  dedicating her life to animal behavior, specifically with Asiatic bear conservation. Essentially, her life’s work has been like a giant bear hug for conservation. Being a part of the Giant Panda Conservation Unit, she and her colleagues have helped bring awareness and new knowledge to the public about these bears.

According to Ms. Hall, she became involved with Asiatic bears through “serendipity and necessity,” or chance and opportunity, because people like her were needed in that field of conservation. Through her research of panda cub development, mother-to-cub relations, and other studies, she has helped to enhance panda awareness. With such great success with the pandas at the San Diego Zoo, allowing them to become panda “ambassadors” for their species, she hopes to continue further Asiatic bear conservation.

Although Ms. Hall has put in so much effort for the pandas, she has an immense passion for the sun bear as well! Unfortunately, sun bear habitat is declining at an astronomical rate. Little work is done with them in the wild, and there are not many conservation efforts in place to help them. Few people are as familiar with the sun bear as they are with the giant panda. Ms. Hall hopes to bring recognition to them through the panda’s success.

There are often many challenges that come with wildlife conservation. It can be extremely difficult to create new conservation projects because of a lack of funds. This is one of the biggest challenges for Ms. Hall and can lead to a lot of discouragement. Luckily, her passion for sun bears can outmatch any discouragement she may face. Another challenge for the sun bear is palm oil. Palm oil harvesting is causing sun bear habitat to decline rapidly, because it is such a lucrative product. Ms. Hall hopes that by spreading the word about the sun bear crisis and unsustainable palm oil, she can have the chance to save them.

Whether she is traveling around the world, helping with research, or recommending new techniques for conservation, Ms. Suzanne Hall has had an extraordinary impact on Asiatic bears. Although she may not be able to hug her beloved bears, she can still give them her own special bear hug through their conservation. It is people like her who really make a difference in the world.

“It’s important to do research in a white coat, but what really matters is to mobilize the public to make a change.” – Suzanne Hall

Abby, Careers
Week Three, Winter Session 2013

 

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Watch Out For The Spines!

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!

This week, we met Colleen Wisinski, Senior Research Technician for the Applied Animal Ecology and Applied Plant Ecology Divisions. Ms. Wisinski allowed us to observe her field of expertise, literally in the field! As we learned more about the coastal sage scrub habitat, cactus and cactus wren conservation became the central topics of discussion and observation. Through these species of plants and birds, we learned the importance of habitat conservation and restoration. It was a unique experience to see fieldwork in action!

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After listening to Ms. Wisinski’s presentation about cactus wren habitat, she showed us the Shade House. In the Shade House, as seen in the picture, cacti are grown in pots so that later they can be planted to expand habitat for the cactus wren. It has been observed that cacti grown in pots prior to planting, survive and flourish with greater success.

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Here we see intern Charlene observing a planted cactus. The flags surrounding the cactus indicate various things, such as pad types and how much watering is needed. This way those working in the field can identify the needs of each cactus.

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Cacti not only yield protected homes for species, but also they provide fruit! Various animals eat and utilize the cactus fruit, along with the cactus wren.

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Although seeming treacherous at first glance, cacti actually provide a protected home for the cactus wren. The nest pictured was built by a cactus wren; they build them in the shape of a football. Unfortunately, due to urbanization, cactus wren habitat is quickly being destroyed.

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If captured, researchers will place identification tags on the cactus wrens. This way individual cactus wrens in the population can be recorded, helping to track their population numbers and movements.

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Here we see Ms. Wisinski and educator Sarah Barnard observing a coyote brush plant and other various invasive weed species surrounding it. These invasive species have become a nuisance to coastal sage scrub habitat, making them dry and more prone to wildfires.

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At the end of our day, we got to look out over the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Interns Marcel, Cam, Charlene, and Victoria enjoy this special opportunity. What a view!

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The San Diego Zoo Safari Park dedicates nearly 900 of its leased acres to native species. It constitutes the largest patch of coastal sage scrub in the county!

Abby, Photo Journalist Team
Week Two, Winter Session 2013

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Opening Doors for the California Condor

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 jobs, and then blog about their experience online.  Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

abby_W1_picI have often heard about the outstanding conservation efforts of the San Diego Zoo, yet I had never quite understood all of the logistics and strategy behind the success. To the inexperienced mind, conservation might seem simple; try to help species by providing  protected habitat, breeding grounds, and other various necessities. However, I have come to find out that conservation is much more challenging and involved than what meets the eye.

The San Diego Zoo is famous for its thriving conservation efforts with the largest bird in North America, the California condor.  With its impressive nine and a half foot wingspan, the California condor originally ranged all the way from Canada to Baja California; however, in 1967 they were declared an endangered species, due to habitat loss and various other human-inflicted problems. By 1987, there were less than two dozen condors left on the planet. The Zoo and its partners decided to take matters into their own hands by initiating recovery efforts by taking in all the birds from the wild. Only two decades later, there are now more than four hundred California condors on Earth. By learning and observing more about this species, new methods of conservation developed like “triple clutching”- taking eggs after being laid, so the female would continue to breed and end up laying three eggs instead of one in a breeding period. Although these efforts are imperative to the California condor success, work in the lab and public education have been key factors as well.

At the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, the research arm of the zoo, scientists work in the lab, in addition to the field, to improve conservation efforts. Regarding the California condor, identifying genetic issues, such as chondrodystrophy, a type of lethal dwarfism found in these birds, and gender determination, have helped in recovering this critically endangered species. Also, these birds are scavengers, which means they feed on the remains of other animals, including game left behind by hunters. Necropsies of deceased birds have yielded findings of lead bullets in the digestive systems of the wild condors. Most people don’t realize that condors will ingest lead bullets used for hunting and thus die from lead poisoning. Luckily, thanks to this discovery, new laws in California prohibit using lead bullets when hunting in areas where condors are free flying; a great start to a long recovery process. Yet how do we get these new findings out to the public? How can we really make a difference in conservation on a bigger level than just an elite group working to help save this species?

Not only does the Institute for Conservation Research contribute to lab and field conservation work, but it also shares its research with the public. Students, teachers, and others can come into the lab and have a unique learning experience, thanks to Maggie Reinbold, founding member of the Institute’s Conservation Education Division. With her expertise, she teaches and spreads the word about conservation efforts, strategies, and findings to interested people like myself! Hands-on lab experiences really make you appreciate and better understand all of the hard work put into conservation. For instance, not having listened to Mrs. Reinbold, I would not have known about “microtrash,” small pieces of plastic and glass found in baby California condors’ stomachs. The parents released back into the wild are mistakenly, based off their instincts, feeding their offspring these pieces of trash, thinking they are bits of bone essential for calcium levels.

People do not realize how much of an impact they really have on the environment. Thanks to people like Maggie Reinbold and her colleagues, the public can become involved in conservation as well. It seems unimaginable to me that trash and litter can reach California condor habitat, since they do not live near cities or urban areas. This really shows us how much we need to take responsibility, care for, and conserve the environment. While a few people can spark a change, it takes many to make a difference.

Abby, Conservation Team
Week One, Winter Session 2013

 

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Just One of Those Crazy Horse Girls

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!

AbbyWeilPictureHello, my name is Abby. I am a junior in high school, and I have lived in San Diego, California my whole life! Some of my interests include reading, art, graphic design, photography, music, horseback riding and, of course, animals!

Growing up, I was destined to be an animal lover. My mom painted my room with lions, monkeys, and elephants, I had three dogs, and my first birthday cake featured Simba from the Lion King. I have always been drawn to animals, wanting to go to the Safari Park, San Diego Zoo, and Sea World every weekend (according to my parents). I was never much of a doll kind of girl; I preferred a myriad of stuffed animals.

When I was six, I began horseback riding and I have stuck with it for eleven years. Horseback riding has been a huge part of my life and has had an immense impact on my character today. It really enhanced my love and appreciation for animals, showed me the amazing bond humans and animals can have, and taught me how to overcome my fears when faced with adversity. It is one of the best feelings in the world to have a connection with an animal that cannot talk to you with words, but through emotions.

As high school is nearing its end, and the real world is fast approaching, I have had to ask myself what I want to do in my life. Animals are my passion, so it seems logical to be interested in veterinary medicine. It is an option. However, I know there are more animal related careers out there. I am excited to be apart of the Zoo InternQuest because it will allow me to observe and understand various fields within research and wild life conservation.

I hope you read and enjoy my blogs to come, please share my new adventures with me!

Abby
Winter Session 2013