Uncategorized

About Author: Kalee

Posts by Kalee

0

Surprising Safari Adventure

Zoo Intern Quest 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!

Interns and I got to experience a day in the life of a mammal keeper at the Safari Park. We were expecting a ride in the keeper’s truck, but what we got was so much more…

Torrey Pillsbury (passenger’s side) and Jennifer Minichino (driver’s side) are hardworking Senior Mammal Keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. They get up bright and early every morning to begin their rounds, feeding and checking on their animals. By caring for the mammals at the Safari Park, Ms. Pillsbury and Ms. Minichino are helping wildlife conservation efforts worldwide by contributing to breeding programs for endangered species. We had the privilege of riding in their four-wheel drive beauty for the day.

Torrey Pillsbury (passenger’s side) and Jennifer Minichino (driver’s side) are hardworking Senior Mammal Keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. They get up bright and early every morning to begin their rounds, feeding and checking on their animals. By caring for the mammals at the Safari Park, Ms. Pillsbury and Ms. Minichino are helping wildlife conservation efforts worldwide by contributing to breeding programs for endangered species. We had the privilege of riding in their four-wheel drive beauty for the day.

Ms. Pillbury is displaying the keeper book that is used in all areas of the Safari Park to keep track of the animals, record any animal observations, and/or important information concerning their exhibit. If an animal looks injured or pregnant, it is noted here. Anything a keeper observes during their shift that they deem important is written down in the handy dandy notebook. Without it, keepers would have a difficult time communicating with each other between shifts about what the animals need to stay healthy and happy.

Ms. Pillbury is displaying the keeper book that is used in all areas of the Safari Park to keep track of the animals, record any animal observations, and/or important information concerning their exhibit. If an animal looks injured or pregnant, it is noted here. Anything a keeper observes during their shift that they deem important is written down in the handy dandy notebook. Without it, keepers would have a difficult time communicating with each other between shifts about what the animals need to stay healthy and happy.

The essential tools of a keeper: a rake, a shovel, a truck, and some food. The green branches on the left are acacia branches and the hay is excelsior hay, which many of the hoof stock at the Safari Park consume by the pound. Seriously though, scooping poop is a very important part of the job, so making sure you have a quality rake and shovel in essential.

The essential tools of a keeper: a rake, a shovel, a truck, and some food. The green branches on the left are acacia branches and the hay is excelsior hay, which many of the hoof stock at the Safari Park consume by the pound. Seriously though, scooping poop is a very important part of the job, so making sure you have a quality rake and shovel in essential.

(From left to right) Interns Samantha, Emily, Libby, and Tori are peeling acacia leaves off of their branches to feed to some animals unbeknownst to us. As we soon discovered, removing leaves from a tree is much easier if you are a giraffe. The sweet, sappy smell of the leaves wafted through the air of the Safari Park as we traveled towards our destination, the open fields.

(From left to right) Interns Samantha, Emily, Libby, and Tori are peeling acacia leaves off of their branches to feed to some animals unbeknownst to us. As we soon discovered, removing leaves from a tree is much easier if you are a giraffe. The sweet, sappy smell of the leaves wafted through the air of the Safari Park as we traveled towards our destination, the open fields.

While driving through the Asian Plains Exhibit, we encountered a prancing Indian blackbuck. His ears are turned downward because at the moment, another male was attempting to encroach upon his herd, and that, of course, just wouldn’t do. Although this animal is relatively miniature and cute, the acacia leaves were not for them. So who were the leaves for?

While driving through the Asian Plains Exhibit, we encountered a prancing Indian blackbuck. His ears are turned downward because at the moment, another male was attempting to encroach upon his herd, and that, of course, just wouldn’t do. Although this animal is relatively miniature and cute, the acacia leaves were not for them. So who were the leaves for?

This curious little orange east African Sitatunga also came over to check out our vehicle. The red tag in its ear helps the keepers identify who is who in the exhibit. A certain tag in combination with the ear notch can relay the number identification of the animal, the sex, or which family it belongs to. Since keepers often cannot get close enough to the animal to read a nametag, this system is very effective, especially at a distance.

This curious little orange east African Sitatunga also came over to check out our vehicle. The red tag in its ear helps the keepers identify who is who in the exhibit. A certain tag in combination with the ear notch can relay the number identification of the animal, the sex, or which family it belongs to. Since keepers often cannot get close enough to the animal to read a nametag, this system is very effective, especially at a distance.

A small group of deer seemed to take an interest in our truck. Maybe they know that it carries food?  These fluffy deer are called Indian Barasinghas, they are endangered in the wild, but the population at the Safari Park appears to be doing just fine. These deer are both healthy and happy!

A small group of deer seemed to take an interest in our truck. Maybe they know that it carries food? These fluffy deer are called Indian Barasinghas, they are endangered in the wild, but the population at the Safari Park appears to be doing just fine. These deer are both healthy and happy!

This Cape buffalo, whose relatives live in Africa, was just too cute to simply pass by, I mean, look at those big blue eyes! Since we had branches left over from our leaf stripping exercise, we gave these guys a snack. After all, they do need to eat several pounds of food a day.

This Cape buffalo, whose relatives live in Africa, was just too cute to simply pass by, I mean, look at those big blue eyes! Since we had branches left over from our leaf stripping exercise, we gave these guys a snack. After all, they do need to eat several pounds of food a day.

Here, we met Bhopu (pronounced BOH-POO). He is a greater one-horned rhino from India. He has great genes and is a fabulous candidate for breeding. When we fed Bhopu apples, he used his prehensile upper lip to (which acts like a finger) to grab the apples out of our hands. This resulted in some laughing and a large amount of stinky rhino slobber.

Here, we met Bhopu (pronounced BOH-POO). He is a greater one-horned rhino from India. He has great genes and is a fabulous candidate for breeding. When we fed Bhopu apples, he used his prehensile upper lip to (which acts like a finger) to grab the apples out of our hands. This resulted in some laughing and a large amount of stinky rhino slobber.

This beautiful greater one-horned rhino also coveted our apples and we were happy to oblige. However, tossing apples into a rhino’s mouth is not as easy as it looks, there were a couple missed shots that other animals cleaned up. She opened her mouth so wide we could see the molars in the back of her mouth, which are used for grinding plant material.

This beautiful greater one-horned rhino also coveted our apples and we were happy to oblige. However, tossing apples into a rhino’s mouth is not as easy as it looks, there were a couple missed shots that other animals cleaned up. She opened her mouth so wide we could see the molars in the back of her mouth, which are used for grinding plant material.

 

The giraffes see us coming! They are ready to chow down on some acacia leaves. From personal experience I can tell you that giraffes run and walk surprisingly fast for their size and height. Their necks are craned forward trying to get to the food as fast as they can! So that’s who the leaves were for…

The giraffes see us coming! They are ready to chow down on some acacia leaves. From personal experience I can tell you that giraffes run and walk surprisingly fast for their size and height. Their necks are craned forward trying to get to the food as fast as they can! So that’s who the leaves were for…

This is a Uganda giraffe. Check out that long tongue! Each inch of a giraffes tongue corresponds to one foot in neck length. Giraffes use their tongue to strip leaves off of tree branches. Their saliva is very thick and mucousy because acacia trees in Africa have long, sharp, thorns, and if a giraffe swallows a thorn, its saliva protects its esophagus and throat from being damaged. Needless to say, I discovered that giraffe spit is very thick.

This is a Uganda giraffe. Check out that long tongue! Each inch of a giraffes tongue corresponds to one foot in neck length. Giraffes use their tongue to strip leaves off of tree branches. Their saliva is very thick and mucousy because acacia trees in Africa have long, sharp, thorns, and if a giraffe swallows a thorn, its saliva protects its esophagus and throat from being damaged. Needless to say, I discovered that giraffe spit is very thick.

Sarah, our program supervisor, tries to hide the box of goodies unsuccessfully and the giraffes grab some easy leaves. Eventually, we were able to get the box out of their long-necked reach.

Sarah, our program supervisor, tries to hide the box of goodies unsuccessfully and the giraffes grab some easy leaves. Eventually, we were able to get the box out of their long-necked reach.

As I fed the giraffe a fresh green leaf, I could feel it’s breath of my hand and it didn’t matter that it was rather stinky because feeding a giraffe is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Being this close to such a unique and exotic animal was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As I fed the giraffe a fresh green leaf, I could feel it’s breath of my hand and it didn’t matter that it was rather stinky because feeding a giraffe is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Being this close to such a unique and exotic animal was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On the way out of the plains, Ms. Pillsbury told us stories of her past keeper days and how she went from riding horses to riding elephants all when she was only nineteen years old. Of course, no one at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park rides any of the animals now, for the safety of the keepers and the animals. We ended our amazing day by thanking the keepers for this amazing opportunity and left with an even stronger sense of admiration for the passion Zoo Keepers exhibit on and off the job.

On the way out of the plains, Ms. Pillsbury told us stories of her past keeper days and how she went from riding horses to riding elephants all when she was only nineteen years old. Of course, no one at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park rides any of the animals now, for the safety of the keepers and the animals. We ended our amazing day by thanking the keepers for this amazing opportunity and left with an even stronger sense of admiration for the passion Zoo Keepers exhibit on and off the job.

Kalee, Photography Team,
Week Six, Winter Session 2014

0

Big Animals Make Big Poops

Zoo Intern Quest 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!

kalee_week5_picEvery week, Mary and her friends get pedicures at the San Diego Zoo. Mary is the elephant matriarch of the elephant herd at the Zoo. All of the elephants receive world-class animal care at the Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey exhibit. These large, lucky mammals have twelve people dedicated to the job of picking up after them.  Elephant keepers are responsible for picking up about one ton of poop per day, that’s about three hundred pounds of poop per elephant. As Lead Elephant Keeper, Ron Ringer plays a big role in the daily care of the elephants. Although he is the Lead Keeper, Mr. Ringer still picks up his fair share of the over 1,000 pounds of poop produced every day.

Scooping elephant poop is a gargantuan job, but Mr. Ringer has many other tasks to attend to throughout the day as well. Mr. Ringer administers some pretty serious foot care, which includes special recipes for each elephant. These foot care remedies range from apple cider vinegar to Epsom salt. It is very important that elephants have excellent foot hygiene because foot infections are one of the top causes of elephant sickness and fatality. As the Lead Keeper, Mr. Ringer also monitors and administers the medicine that the elephants receive.

Mr. Ringer also deals with the nutritional needs of the elephants. This mostly involves transporting one hundred and twenty five pounds of hay, per elephant, per day. However, the elephants are not spoon-fed. I mean, there aren’t any spoons in the wild right? The keepers make sure to provide the elephants with more challenging and natural ways to obtain their food, such as placing the hay in a barrel or hanging it from one of the tree-like apparatuses, otherwise known as “utili-trees,” in the exhibit. Where does all this hay go? Why, it turns into poop, of course, and so the cycle of feeding and pooping continues.

Before Mr. Ringer was a zookeeper at the San Diego Zoo, he was a keeper at a much smaller zoo in Kansas where he worked with nearly all of the zoo’s animals. Before that, he was basically a “jack of all trades,” he has worked for a soft drink company, shipping company, the city of Manhattan, and at one time, even held the position of a tree clipper. Once Mr. Ringer transitioned from the Kansas to the San Diego Zoo, he received highly- specialized, on-the-job-training to work with elephants. Even though he is very experienced and knowledgeable, Mr. Ringer told us that he learns new things every day and that the intelligence of the elephants never ceases to amaze him.

Mr. Ringer works with the elephants using a positive reinforcement technique (by which I mean behaviors rewarded with food, of course). These behaviors include stepping onto a scale, displaying their ears, sides, and feet, and coming when called. All of these behaviors are taught for the benefit of the elephant because it makes it easier to administer medicine, perform check ups, and keep tabs on the general health of the animal. These behaviors are also beneficial for the keepers and crucial to maintaining the health of these magnificent megavertabrates. They are also an excellent way to bring mental and physical stimulation, or enrichment, to the elephants’ day.

By this point, some you might be wondering, “Wow that sounds like a cool job, but do I have what it takes to be an elephant keeper?” The answer is yes, if you have the right mindset. Mr. Ringer said that to work with any large animal, you must have confidence.

If you want to be an elephant keeper, or any kind of keeper for that matter, Mr. Ringer says that it is very important to gain a lot of experience with animals. The Humane Society, animal rescues, shelters, sanctuaries, and zoos have great volunteer opportunities. Mr. Ringer told us many fascinating and exciting stories about his life as an elephant keeper, but I will save those for another time. Besides, if you have a passion for animals, I might be hearing your stories someday soon.

Kalee, Careers Team
Week Five, Winter Session 2014

1

Never Fear, Chickens Are Here!

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!

kalee_week4_picTom Jensen is attempting to save kiwis… with the help of chickens.

Dr. Jensen works at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research as a research scientist. Originally from Denmark, he has made his love of birds well known here in California by doing all he can to help preserve his beloved avian friends. Dr. Jensen is currently working on the kiwi project. This project involves researching the causes for the species decline, the biological make up of the animal, and new methods of breeding the kiwis. Kiwis are an endangered species indigenous to New Zealand and, not surprisingly, look very similar to the fruit that shares their name, minus the neck, head, and leg bits of course.

The causes for their dangerously low population include habitat loss and predation by non-native animals such as ferrets, dogs, and cats. The non-native predation that kiwis are experiencing is especially harmful because New Zealand is an island, which mean that the kiwi populations s under threat cannot migrate out of harms way. Luckily, Dr. Jensen and his chicken sidekicks are making their way towards saving these endangered birds.

Dr. Jensen explained that since a kiwi can only lay one large egg at a time, reproduction is a slow process. Also, it is too often the case that a breeding pair just does not produce an egg. When a species is rapidly becoming extinct, a slow reproduction rate can be detrimental to their chances of survival. To help the kiwi, Dr. Jensen is investigating the use of stem cells to increase the reproductive potential of these birds. He produces male kiwi reproductive cells (sperm) with the help of chicken eggs. First, he gathers stem cells from a kiwi (these cells can be obtained from blood). He then grows the stem cells in a culture, which usually consists of food for the cells and a medium or solution.
Once the stem cells have been cultured, they can be injected into a blood vessel inside of the chicken egg. To do this, the eggshell is sanded just enough to expose the membrane. (If you cannot visualize the membrane, just think of that thin, clear layer under the shell when you try to peel a boiled egg.) The stem cells are injected using a needle with a microscopically small tip. The egg is illuminated from the sides with high-power lights and if you look closely enough, you can see the tiny, partly formed heart beating.

Following this process, known as xenotransfer, the egg is placed back into the incubator to develop. These male chickens, when developed, should theoretically produce both kiwi and chicken sperm. The kiwi sperm are genetically “tagged” with a color marker, so that scientists can collect only the sperm they want. Once the sperm is collected, it could be used to artificially inseminate a kiwi ova, or egg. Then…. TADA! A baby kiwi would, hopefully, be born!

By making kiwis from chickens, Dr. Jensen hopes to preserve this exotic species by increasing the reproductive lifespan of genetically valuable individuals. His research will ultimately increase breeding success and enhance the genetic variation of kiwi populations in captivity, which will act as a safeguard against extinction. Genetic diversity is very important! If a species only has a few individuals left, many of these individuals might be closely related. When related animals breed with each other, it can result in genetically weaker offspring as a result of prone to genetic mutations. This that could make them less adequately adapted to the environment. Inbreeding can also increase the risk of genetic disease.

Why go to all this trouble? What does this research accomplish? As wildlife populations around the world continue to decline, science has the potential to help rescue endangered species. Dr. Jensen’s research is the cutting edge of conservation efforts. With the development of these new techniques, there is hope for kiwis. Further, Dr. Jensen and his team will be able to use the knowledge gained from the kiwi project and expand it to contribute to the breeding success of other endangered birds. As these techniques are refined, other research institutions and conservation organizations can look to their techniques as a model to solve their own reproductive challenges.

Kiwis are important, not just because they are cute, but because they are intertwined into the ecosystems that we share. In saving an endangered species, we are also preserving diversity and, in turn, saving the environment that we depend on. Every animal plays a role in sustaining the environment they inhabit. Kiwis are seed dispersers and help to control insect population. Without kiwis, New Zealand’s native ecosystems could collapse. The loss of just one species can cause, an entire ecosystem to suffer. As humans, we have a large roll to play in conserving both individual species and the ecosystems habitats is in which they live.

Kalee, Conservation Team
Week Four, Winter Session 2014

0

The Eight-Armed Human: Kim Livingstone

Zoo Intern Quest 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!

kalee_week3_picKim Livingstone is an octopus. Well, a metaphorical octopus at least. Ms. Livingstone has her arms in so many different areas of the San Diego Zoo, it is a wonder she can keep up with all of her activities. She is the master multitasker, the cool keeper, and a friend of bonobos and birds alike.

Ms. Livingstone’s first job at the Zoo involved caring for the birds in one of the aviaries. Literally overnight, she was thrown from caring for birds to training bonobos. However, the transition went smoothly because of Ms. Livingstone’s previous education and general experience in animal training. On the keeper side of things, she feeds, medicates, studies, and generally cares for the bonobos. She knows all of their names, from Kali to Mikasi, and is aware of the peaceful primates as well as the more dominant personalities. Ms. Livingstone informed us that Kali is usually the instigator when it comes to giving Mikasi and Aaron a hard time, who are the only males in the group. This is because bonobo society is matriarchal, meaning that the females run the group. However, males are not excluded all the time. In fact, bonobos also have a tender side, which Ms. Livingstone has seen first-hand. She once witnessed the bonobos fighting, but after the quarrel was over, she observed them hugging each other. To humans, this kind of interaction resembles “making up.”

Ms. Livingstone is both the keeper and the traveling companion for these primates. When four of the Zoo’s bonobos were relocated to a sanctuary in Japan, they traveled in a large, open cargo plane. Ms. Livingstone accompanied them so that they would feel comforted throughout the trip. Zoos will often loan an animal to other organization to participate in a breeding program in order to keep the population of that species genetically diverse. Genetic diversity is important because it increases a species’ chance of survival.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Livingstone has also been involved in the engineering and design side of the Zoo. Following the theme of primates, Ms. Livingstone helped to design the Zoo’s orangutan exhibit. When designing an exhibit, she knows that it is important to keep in mind the natural behavior and habitat of the animal. In the case of the orangutan, she took great care to make sure these hairy orange primates could move from one side of the exhibit to the other without having to walk with the use of tree-like structures made out of metal and rope. This is because the orangutans, and the siamangs that cohabitate their exhibit, are built for living in the trees and therefore must have some mode of treetop transportation. Another goal for the exhibit was to get the orangutans and people as close as possible without posing a potential risk to either the people or the primates. This is because people enjoy being close to the orangutans and the orangutans like watching humans, which also doubles as a form of enrichment for the primates. The glass serves as a barrier, which acts as a form of security to prevent the harm of both people and orangutans and the spread of disease. Ms. Livingstone said that because humans and primates share more DNA than most animals and diseases can be transmitted between the two species.

As if being a bird keeper, primate keeper, traveling ambassador, and exhibit designer weren’t enough, Ms. Livingstone is also passionate about conservation education. Did you know that palm oil, an ingredient used in many processed foods, is detrimental to endangered species such as orangutans and their habitat? Ms. Livingstone informed us that palm oil, which comes from the fruit of palms, is farmed in the tropical areas of Asia, Africa, and South America. In many cases, these tropical habitats are already in great danger. In order to plant the palms, companies will clear a large area of forest, which leaves less space for orangutans, other animals, and native plants to survive. This type of farming is a form of monoculture, which means only one crop is planted over a very large area of land. Over time, the farming of palm oil takes land away from native animals and the monoculture method used to grow the palms depletes the soil of all its nutrients.

If Ms. Livingstone could stand on her soapbox and spread one message to everyone, it would be to decrease the amount of stuff we buy. Seriously, do you really need the latest and greatest of every electronic device when your old devices probably work just fine? Ms. Livingstone told us to “Really ask yourself whether or not you need something before you buy it.” Basing your purchases on need instead of want can reduce your consumption of materials and your waste output, which in turn, saves habitat. The little actions that you take every day can always help to bring the war on endangered species closer to an end. Ms. Livingstone is the master multitasker. We should be taking lessons from her and her positive impacts she has on not only at the San Diego Zoo but wildlife conservation.

Kalee, Real World Team
Week Three, Winter Session 2014

0

Everywhere At Once

Zoo Intern Quest 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!

kalee_W2_picHave you ever had a lot on your plate? Well, Kristin McCaffree’s plate is absolutely overflowing. Luckily, Ms. McCaffree has the experience and skill to handle her busy schedule. As a Registered Veterinary Technician, Ms. McCaffree plays a role similar to that of a nurse. She takes and tests blood samples, administers emergency medicine, takes radiographs, administers medications, monitors anesthesia during surgery, and will sometimes assist veterinarians during surgery. In the spacious Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center right next to the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, Ms. McCaffree helps to care for exotic animals both big and small. Doing an operation on a hyena? You can call Ms. McCaffree. An elephant is giving birth in the field? Better ring up Ms. McCafree. Need blood drawn on a hornbill? Well, you get the picture.

Ms. McCaffree also acts as a undercover agent for the residents staying at the hospital. If an animal is in quarantine, meaning that they are separated from the resident animals because they are either sick or new to the Safari Park, they are usually under surveillance. A baby giraffe, which came out of the womb septic, is currently recovering from treatment and is under surveillance in the hospital. When a baby comes out of the womb septic, it means that they have bacteria fermenting inside a part of their body, which causes the organ or tissue to become infected. Most animals do not show signs of being weak or sick in the wild, because showing sickness could get you kicked out of the herd or eaten by a predator. This is the same for animals at the Safari Park. So people like Ms. McCaffree use the cameras inside the holding areas at the hospital to monitor animals, such as the baby giraffe, without them being aware.

Ms. McCaffree has a passion for ensuring the health of the animals she cares for, but she also enjoys the excitment that her job provides. On a daily basis, it is determined which animals need to be tested, taken care of, or operated on. However, things rarely go according to plan. Ms. McCaffree’s most exciting day at work included being with a gorilla that began to wake up from anesthesia a little earlier than expected. There are always new situations that arise each morning and throughout the day, whether it is an antelope giving birth, or a tiger with a toothache, the veterinarians and vet technicians are always on call.

Ms. McCaffree treats a great variety of animals, and with each animal, comes new accommodations. For example, it is very easy to bring a lemur into the hospital, but what about larger animals? An animal the size of a rhino can be transported into the hospital using a belt that is built into the ceiling. This belt looks like something out of a car factory and has a sling suspended from it, so larger animals can be transported from the operating room to the recovery room. Just imagine trying to haul a sleepy rhino through the front door without having some heavy-duty lifting equipment. What a pain in the back! Rhinos may be able to fit through the hospital doors, but for animals such as elephants, treatment is given in the field. The medical staff drive their truck, which is equipped with special medical supplies, out to the elephant to fix whatever is wrong.

How in the world did Ms. McCaffree get such an amazing job? A lot of hard work and dedication! In order to perform her daily tasks, she says, her strong background in math and chemistry have been very important. When preparing medications, it is crucial to have precise measurements. Coincidentally, her favorite subjects in high school were math and chemistry. Ms. McCaffree also took classes on animal anatomy and physiology. Her first job was being a kennel attendant. She cleaned the animal’s enclosures, bathed them, and assisted with dental work, but knew that she wanted something more. She attended Mesa College in San Diego and earned an Associates of Arts degree in Animal Health Technology. While in school, she also a volunteered at the Safari Park working with the California condors. After getting her certification as a registered veterinary technician, Ms. McCaffree became more involved in medical care and scientific research of small animals. After a lot of hard work and perseverance, Ms. McCaffree was hired on at part of the animal hospital staff. Since then, she has participated in elephant studies, worked on the Hawaiian Bird Project, and contributed to many other conservation efforts.

When I asked Ms. McCaffree the one thing she loved most about her job, she didn’t have one answer, she had many. She enjoys research and interacting with people inside and outside of San Diego Zoo Global. “Nothing is routine. Every day is different,” she said, which is also one of the reasons she enjoys her job so much. She told me that it’s great to work with a team of professionals who share the same goals. However, like any job, it does have its challenges. This job requires you to be flexible and think on your feet. “We get to do really cool stuff,” said Ms. McCaffree. The thing that keeps Ms. McCaffree coming back every morning, the reason why she enjoys her job so much, is because she loves working with animals and making a significant difference in global conservation efforts.

Kalee, Careers Team
Week Two, Winter Session 2014

0

Conservation Education… Pass It On

Zoo Intern Quest 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!

kalee_w1_picWe entered a spacious room full of microscopes and scientific equipment. It was there that we met the wizard, Maggie Reinbold, the Associate Director of the San Diego Zoo Institute of Conservation Research Education Division who led us through a California condor DNA analysis activity. Why? Well, California Condors are sexually monomorphic, which means there is no distinct way to tell the males and females apart. Using DNA analysis, scientists can determine which condors are male, and which are female in order to create effective breeding pairs. In other bird species, such as the peacock, the males have elaborate plumage or bright colors, but not the Condors. I mean, who needs to dress fancy when you’re eating leftovers?

California condors eat dead and decaying carcasses left over from the meals of other animals and human hunters, which makes them scavengers. Unfortunately, being scavengers is one of the many reasons they are endangered. In California and up until 2007, lead ammunition was widely used by hunters. Many times it was left behind in an animal carcass and not properly removed by hunters when cleaning their kill in the field. After the hunters left, the condors would swoop down and act as the clean-up crew. Unfortunately, in consuming the carcass left-overs, the condors were also consuming the lead bullets. This can result in sickness and even fatality.

Another reason for the demise of the condor is habitat loss. California condors live in the dry areas of Southern California and Mexico. This habitat is rapidly shrinking because of urbanization. Urbanization is the process of expanding human cities and neighborhoods, which unfortunately leaves no room for nature. In 1982 habitat loss and lead poisoning left the number of condors at an all time low. Twenty-two California condors were left in the entire world. That is when San Diego Zoo Global came into the picture.

San Diego Zoo Global, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, the National Audubon Society, and the Los Angeles Zoo, gathered the remaining condors and started a breeding program, a program that is still in operation today. Since California condors are monomorphic, it makes it rather difficult to identify breeding pairs. In order to solve this issue, the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research used DNA analysis and chromosome identification to determine each bird’s gender.

The story of the California condor has a happy ending because of Conservation Education. What is Conservation Education, you might ask? I had the same exact question to which Ms. Reinbold responded, “Education forms the cornerstone of any conservation project. What you have discovered doesn’t matter unless you can share it with others.” I believe this to be true. Education doesn’t only take place in a classroom; it is a crucial part of every profession and comes in many different forms. Above all else, education is the sharing of ideas, the enlightening of others. Ms. Reinbold works with teachers and students to spread the importance of conservation and the actions that average people can take to help endangered species such as the California condor. By educating the next generation, Ms. Reinbold has the ability to help create a society that is environmentally conscious and understands the importance of conserving natural habitat and the animals that live in it.

Habitats are made up of a series of ecosystems. An ecosystem is a network of living organisms and non-living factors that interact in order to sustain each other. Humans need ecosystems to survive. As Ms. Reinbold stated, “Humans don’t only benefit from ecosystems, they are absolutely essential to life on this planet.” In other words, without ecosystems, there can be no humans. Some animals might not be as cute as the Giant Panda, or as beautiful as a tiger, but these animals are needed all the same. Put aside your squeamishness for bugs and rodents for a second and consider this: without pollinators such as honeybees, mice, and certain types of flies, two out of every three bites of food you consume would not be possible. Without decomposers such as cockroaches, fungi, and certain kinds of bacteria, biological waste would pile up until the earth became uninhabitable. We need ecosystems to remain intact if we are to remain on the earth. We get a lot of things for free from nature and it is high time that we start giving back.

Ms. Reinbold stressed that it is important to pick a topic or animal that you are very passionate about, and start there. Awareness is perhaps one of the most important components of furthering the efforts of conservation. Similar to a domino effect, where each small effort following the initial deed contributes to a large change, spreading awareness of the need for conservation through small actions creates a large amount of caring. Unless people care about a subject, unless they are emotionally attached, it is very unlikely that they will take action to aid in efforts to support this subject. By spreading awareness, you also spread a driving need for positive change. Even though you may choose only one animal to help, or one issue to rally for, you are still contributing to the cause of conservation. Who knows? Maybe your friends, their friends, their family, and their co-workers might get involved as well. A thousand small changes can lead a mass movement to help endangered species and their ecosystems, and, consequently, help ourselves.

Kalee, Conservation Team
Week One, Winter Session 2014

0

The Enthusiastic Explorer

Zoo Intern Quest 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!

kaleeAre you ready for an adventure?

Hello, my name is Kalee and I can’t wait to share my awesome adventures with you as I embark on the journey that is Zoo InternQuest!

I think it is very important to mention that Steve Irwin and my mother sparked my interest in nature and wildlife. When Steve passed away, I realized that I wanted to have just as much of an impact on the world as he did, if not more. I want to help preserve our Earth and its wildlife for future generations to enjoy.

I am very passionate about conservation and I try to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. I have tried to encourage others to do the same through Zoo Corps, a teen volunteer program at the San Diego Zoo. In Zoo Corps, I talked to Zoo guests about wildlife conservation in an effort to help protect endangered species and the environment.

However, as all good things do, Zoo Corps came to an end once I passed the age limit. I was very sad to say goodbye to everyone and leave the Zoo… but I soon discovered I didn’t have to! That is where Zoo InternQuest comes into play. Having just finished my college applications (phew!), I found myself reflecting on my goals in life, mostly because that is what every writing prompt asks about. One of my goals is to promote a sustainable world and find a career that I truly love. What better way to follow my passions and interests than to join Zoo InternQuest, where I can study the many careers available at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research?

Other than pursuing my passion for wildlife conservation, I enjoy playing tennis, reading a good book, swimming, boogie boarding, drawing, painting, and writing stories. I also enjoy playing the piano and singing. I love the ocean, the salty sea breeze, and the sand between my toes. As any typical teenager, I like to relax with my friends and watch movies. Did I mention food? I love good food. Doesn’t everyone?

I am extremely excited to participate in Zoo InternQuest and cannot wait to share my experiences with you! Make sure to follow the adventure on my blog. Stay tuned for some engaging stories and fantastic pictures!

Kalee
Winter Session 2014