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Conservation through Education

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

Interns had the amazing opportunity to meet with David O’Connor, a wildlife biologist and research coordinator at the Institute of Conservation Research. Mr. O’Connor focuses on community-based ecology and conservation. This means that he helps establish wildlife refuges and projects with local communities. By educating those who share a region with endangered species, Mr. O’Connor hopes that it will inspire them to help in conservation efforts. This contributes to the fight against extinction because the people who have the most interactions with a species often are the biggest asset in saving the species.

One of the main issues associated with endangered species conservation is the lack of information on the behaviors or attitudes of locals who share the same habitat as the animals. By surveying the indigenous people who directly affect the organisms being studied, Mr. O’Connor can get a better understanding of the public’s perception of the animal and the environmental conflicts afflicting the area. Populations in Laos and Kenya have been surveyed through randomized response technique and the results have been used as part of conservation efforts. Conservation ecologists can gage how important an animal is to a community, and gain insight on the best ways to not only save a struggling species, but to help create jobs or infrastructure for locals by asking for their aid in projects.

The common theme throughout Mr. O’Connor’s projects has been studying the human dimension of conservation. This means that he and others in his field focus on the relationship between an endangered species and the humans in their habitat. If local communities are left in the dark about efforts to preserve endangered species, they may see it as a threat to their lifestyle unless they are properly educated. For instance, if researchers were to come into an area that has stayed relatively the same for generations and proposed a huge change, the results could be disastrous. Through community driven ecology and education, locals are directly involved in the project in hopes that it will be self-sufficient, without the assistance of a parent organization staying on-site to oversee it.

Mr. O’Connor has specifically worked in the preservation of the sun bear, Asiatic black bear and the giraffe. Bear oil is a substance found in the bile ducts of bears found particularly in Southeast Asia. Poachers will kill bears in forests and take their gallbladder specifically extracting the bile, leaving their corpse to decay in the forest. Cubs will be taken and often sold in the pet trade, or to bear bile farms, where they are locked in cages and have their liver exposed so that their bile can harvested. This barbaric practice dates back centuries— to East Asian countries whose traditional doctors hail bear oil as a magical cure— all used to treat indigestion, or to reduce inflammation. Although there are many herbal and synthetic alternatives to using bear bile, traditional doctors insist on using the real thing. Mr. O’Connor recently travelled to Laos where he surveyed locals about their involvement in the bear oil trade. He and his team found that 10-20% of Laotians use bear oil, and 20% believe that is it effective. They also found that 75% knew that the bear bile trade is harmful for bears. With these numbers in mind, Mr. O’Connor and his team can set up projects to help the local community help the sun bears.

Recently, conservation has shifted from top-down westernization efforts to community-based projects. Although this may take longer, establishing trust and support from a local community may make all the difference in gauging a project’s success. Furthermore, San Diego Zoo Global believes education is a crucial part of conservation, and through the exchange of knowledge between locals and animal experts, we can make enormous strides in preserving the natural world for generations to come.

Emily, Real World
Week Three, Winter 2015

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It Takes a Village to Save a Species

Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration for San Diego County high school for juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, or Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here!

Although San Diego Zoo Global contributes to conservation through all of the research and care done at the Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research many of their efforts are aimed outside in the form of field research. As people, we play a vital role in maintaining the balance of the environment, which is why so much conservation efforts are focused on the humans that share their ecosystem with endangered species. Community conservation ecology is the study of how local communities effect the environment, and how they can change their lifestyles in order to save threatened species. David O’Connor, a Conservation Educator and Research Coordinator for the Institute of Conservation Research, explained his work in community-based conservation to the interns this week. Mr. O’Connor provided an interesting perspective that it is equally important to work with people as well as the animals in an area to most successfully ensure their conservation.

The biggest threats to animals are the wildlife trade, habitat loss, litter and pollution, and climate change. Mr. O’Connor’s goal in conservation is to combat these threats with socio-ecological methods. The first step is to figure out what people know, believe, and how they behave regarding the wildlife in their area. By understanding these cultural beliefs and behaviors of local communities and the demographics within them researchers, like Mr. O’Connor, can better ascertain the motivation of people buying animal products such as ivory or bear bile. The next step is to provide more conservation friendly alternatives and educate the communities to make them value animals more than the need to use their parts.

Work that Mr. O’Connor recently took part in was conservation work for the sun bear and Asiatic black bear that are threatened by the bear bile industry. These bears are killed or raised in terrible conditions in order for humans to attain the bile from their gallbladder because of its traditional Chinese medicinal properties. The bears are also killed for their paws which can be used in bear paw soup and making a certain type of rice wine. The cubs of captured mother bears are usually sold into the illegal pet trade or are enslaved in a bear bile farm. Mr. O’Connor’s initial mission in the conservation of these bears was to know why people supported this cruel industry. He traveled to Laos and Cambodia to try and get answers from the communities there. In both countries, Mr. O’Connor conducted citizen science to get a read on the general views about bear bile. Mr. O’Connor enlisted the help of the Laos Women’s Union and Tourist Office in conducting surveys to overcome the language barrier between the public and the researchers. Through these surveys, Mr. O’Connor was able to uncover that around 20% of the local population uses bear bile, and of that percentage, 75% know the trade is illegal.

A method of determining the margin for error when surveying about illegal activities that may not be answered honestly is by utilizing the randomized response technique. Mr. O’Connor’s team used this strategy in Cambodia through a native dice game in which some answers generated by the locals were random and some were truthful. The game enticed locals to participate and allotted for probability of a dishonest response. These initial survey results are crucial to community conservation ecology as they inform conservationists on the best way to work with the indigenous people in saving their cohabitating wildlife.

Another animal that Mr. O’Connor has worked with conservation efforts is the “forgotten mega fauna”; the giraffe. Despite the popularity of these animals, there is still a lot to be learned about them. Scientists don’t even know how the animals group together or their herding preferences. Part of this lack of information could be due to the fact that giraffes are extremely hard to anesthetize and adorn with GPS collars because of their long necks and powerful heart. When sedated for the collar to be put on, the giraffe’s head must be kept elevated because if left down, all the blood will be pushed to the head abnormally fast and may cause an aneurism. One thing scientists have been able to determine is how important giraffes are to their ecosystem. They serve as major seed dispersers and even pollinators. They feed mainly on the acacia which if left uncontrolled would inhibit other plants’ ability to grow on the grazing level for other animals. Mr. O’Connor has worked specifically with giraffes because people seem to be unaware how critically endangered some sub-species of this animal have become, having dropped 40% in population size over the last fifteen years. The reticulated giraffe is more endangered than the black rhino and the Rothschild giraffe is more threatened than the mountain gorilla. Mr. O’Connor has worked in Kenya with nomadic herders called pastoralists to see if the newly introduced domesticated dromedary camel is competing for food with the giraffe. Although more data is required to make a conclusive claim, Mr. O’Connor hopes to work again in Africa at the Westgate Conservancy. Efforts need participation of the locals to conduct surveys and attempt putting tracking collars on the dwindling giraffes.

When not in the field, Mr. O’Connor spends his time analyzing and reporting data as well as continually fundraising and applying for grants for future conservation projects. Researchers like Mr. O’Connor are so crucial to the conservation of wildlife because they understand how important it is to not only focus on the animals but also on the people that are affecting them. People are often the main environmental threat to wildlife, but they are also the solution. Through the work of community-based conservation, the coexistence of people and animals becomes more achievable and brightens the future for our planet’s wildlife.

Lucas, Conservation Team
Week Five, Winter 2015

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Rumble in the Jungle

Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique ability 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!

Over the past 50 years, the way animal behaviorists conduct research and gain new information has unlocked the door to translating the secret languages of the animal kingdom. Matt Anderson, Director of Behavior Ecology, and Jennifer Tobey, Researcher, are part of the San Diego Zoo Global’s Institute for Conservation Research’s team of translators. Just like humans cry when they’re sad or yell when they’re angry, animals convey their feelings too. Behavior biologists analyze every aspect they observe in an animal, noting what they hear, see, and smell, because every detail is a puzzle piece in identifying the overall message being communicated.

Mr. Anderson applied the idea of behavior biology with a presentation on elephants. He highlighted that most of the research conducted in this field has focused simply on watching an animal and noting its behavior. Using the newer concept of sensory ecology, which is the study of all an animal’s senses, will help to understand how all the different means of communication are affected by or affect the surrounding environment. Part of Mr. Anderson’s job is to understand what the roles of vocalization are in a behavioral context, so he played us a few vocalizations from elephants and identified their meanings. The first was a trumpet call, the typical sound people associate with elephants, which acts like an alarm amongst the herd. The second audio clip of the elephant seemed almost cat-like because it was a low-pitched growl noise called a rumble. Much like a piano has different keys that emit higher and lower sounding notes, animals have a repertoire of diverse frequencies they can use when communicating. The low frequency allows the sound to travel far distances, at notes people can’t even hear. Researchers discovered that by tripling the speed of the rumble, those frequencies they couldn’t hear were now clearly audible. Researchers found that the rumble not only announces when the female elephant is ready to mate, but a slightly different pitch is used later when she is ready to give birth.

Mrs. Tobey is a researcher in an ongoing study to find out how koalas interact with each other during breeding season because they don’t come into close contact with one another in the wild. Only the males have a scent gland on their chest, so researchers have hypothesized that smell could be a major factor in attracting a mate. The male koalas at the Zoo were swabbed with Q-tips periodically so that the scent could be analyzed in a lab. When the samples were sent to organic chemists, 37 known chemicals were identified, and researchers took the seven most prominent to create an artificial scent to test with the females. The combination of scents is like koala cologne, and produces a positive reaction when attracting females. When Mrs. Tobey passed around the vile for the interns to smell I almost gagged because it’s really pungent and foul. In the koala world the females just love it, but as far as humans go it’s a little tough on the nose.

Another way koalas communicate during mating season is the males let out loud bellows. In order to find out more about the bellows, researchers set up recording boxes at the Zoo and in the wild to look at the intervals at which they occur. The koalas in the Zoo are much easier to track because researchers know of their location and their sounds aren’t covered by an entire ecosystem of noises. Imagine how hard it would be if you were trying to listen to one person’s conversation in a crowded room. The chatter of everything else around makes it harder to pin point the specific sound you are looking for. This is how field researchers feel when they try to monitor the presence of koala bellows in the wild. The interns got to test out a recording device that Mrs. Tobey brought to her presentation and see if we could hear one person while the rest of the interns were making animal noises at the same time. It was really fun to wear the equipment and hold the microphone, but very frustrating because it seemed nearly impossible to hear the person I actually wanted to. I definitely appreciate the patience field researchers have to sit out all day and listen for bellows while birds are chirping and insects are crawling all over them.

While there’s still so much to decipher, a lot of progress is being made towards understanding the behavior of animals. All of the actions and vocalizations can indicate a number of things, such as ecology, physiology, social dynamics, or reproduction. At to the root of the behavior the motivation and meaning can be found, but not before everything is analyzed by asking who did what, why did they do it, and what does it mean? People and animals don’t speak the same language, but as researchers continue to uncover the meanings behind behaviors, we get one step closer.

Claudia, Real World Team
Week Five, Winter 2015

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Power to the People

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

How does a conservation effort become a movement? David O’Connor, Conservation Education Research Coordinator, is part of San Diego Zoo Global’s mission to find out how to give every endangered species help in their habitat. Mr. O’Connor helps the Zoo implement community-based conservation projects, working with citizens from around the world to help the animals living nearest to them. In his time with the Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, Mr. O’Connor has taken his work as far as Asia and Africa—and it’s still only his first year with the organization!

Mr. O’Connor grew up in the Irish countryside, dreaming of one day hosting nature documentaries like the ones enjoyed in his childhood. He studied zoology and business in Europe before hopping across the pond in hopes of a scientific job in Washington, D.C. While there, he enjoyed his work for National Geographic, though Mr. O’Connor longed to return to field research and subsequently pursued a master’s degree in conservation biology. Graduate school, Mr. O’Connor emphasized, has become fairly standard in the realm of research. Future scientists, take note: there are still quite a few years of school ahead!

All those years of studying have their rewards, as Mr. O’Connor’s story proves. With a stack of diplomas under his arm, he started with the Institute on a short-term contract, having no idea if he’d be offered a full-time position. Luckily, a steady job is just what he got. Since joining the team in 2014, Mr. O’Connor has been helping the San Diego Zoo to find how to best spread their message into far-reaching regions across the globe.

Right now, the projects Mr. O’Connor is working on are in their budding stages. The Zoo is aware of human interactions in Southeast Asia which threaten native populations of Asiatic black bears and sun bears, but wants to bring the most effective solution possible to the region. The bears not only struggle with habitat loss and their illegal sale as caged pets, but they are frequently poached for their paws, used in soup, and their gall bladders, from which their bile is harvested to make traditional medicines. To find out how to best save the bears, Mr. O’Connor has surveyed citizens of Laos and Cambodia. He is assisted by 30 citizen scientists, Laotian and Cambodian college students who administer the surveys in their native language and become local ambassadors for bear protection. The data Mr. O’Connor collects now shows how the people living closest to the bears feel about helping them, and how much they know about the impact of their actions. Sadly, it’s been found that many users of bear products are already aware of the fact that they are harming an endangered species. Information like this is the reason why community-based conservation is so important. If Mr. O’Connor went all the way out to Southeast Asia just to tell its citizens that bear-based products aren’t good for the species, he wouldn’t accomplish much. His job is to set aside his own personal paradigm and translate the survey’s findings into an understanding of attitudes and traditions which may differ from his own.

A respectful, tradition-conscious approach will be key in creating long-lasting community support on any conservation project. Pastoral communities Mr. O’Connor has worked with in Kenya have been very receptive to the collaborative efforts they can make to preserve their local giraffe populations—so much so, in fact, that he’s returning to the northern part of the country this month to expand their work. The pastoral lifestyle involves semi-nomadically raising livestock amongst the wild fauna, making their livelihoods irreversibly intertwined with the wellbeing of the wild. By pairing Mr. O’Connor’s research on the giraffe population’s sudden decline with the local zeal for the species’ survival, the San Diego Zoo hopes to reverse the trends which put everyone’s favorite long-necked folivore in danger of extinction by 2019.

The entire field of community-based conservation is relatively new, a product of the twenty-first century. However, Mr. O’Connor is optimistic that his work can bring regions together in support of a species. He notes that his team waits for community request before providing their services. The old method of crowning a few locals with the task of protecting a whole preserve for the species isn’t all too effective if they don’t have the support of their friends, family, and fellow citizens. And while most of his year is spent coordinating the funding necessary to implement conservation projects, the hope is that, in a few years, the communities won’t need any help in sustaining their efforts. Mr. O’Connor may not be making the documentaries he dreamed of producing as a child, but he is teaching people in San Diego and miles from it things they had never known before.

Brianna, Careers Team
Week 5, Winter 2015

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Sound and Scent: Useful Tools 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 on the Zoo’s Website!

This week, interns met with Matt Anderson and Jennifer Tobey, behavioral ecologists working at the Institute for Conservation Research, next to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. These ecologists use sound and scent to research how animals communicate in order to benefit conservation efforts around the world. Mr. Anderson, Director of Behavior Ecology, has been studying how elephants communicate with each other, and Ms. Tobey, a Researcher in Behavior Ecology, has been researching how to use scent to protect koalas in the wild.

Mr. Anderson is studying how hormones affect behavior in animals; specifically elephants. Mr. Anderson studies the elephants at the Safari Park to determine how their behavior changes throughout the day. He does this by listening to and recording different sounds the elephants make; the two main sounds he is studying are the trumpet and the rumble call. The trumpet call is the one we most commonly associate with an elephant, but trumpet calls are only used as an alarm to other elephants in the area. The rumble call is what elephants use to communicate with each other on a daily basis. Mr. Anderson has been doing research with the elephants at the Safari Park that will help aid elephant conservation in the wild. By studying the herding and communication patterns of the elephants at the park, he can clue into how to keep elephants away from dangers in the wild.

Our next presenter, Ms. Tobey, is a researcher specializing in koala behavior. Ms. Tobey has worked for the San Diego Zoo for 17 years, and has been a research scientist for the past 12 years. She started her work with Jeffrey’s marmosets, and studied the physiology of small primates. She later started working with koalas at the Zoo, which has the largest colony of breeding koalas outside of Australia. Currently, Ms. Tobey is a behavioral ecologist researcher studying why female koalas are attracted to the scent produced by a male koala’s sternal scent gland and how to use koala scent in conservation efforts. There are 37 known chemicals in the scent produced by a male koala’s sternal scent gland; one of the common chemicals found in the scent is acetic acid. Researchers took seven chemicals to make an artificial koala scent to use for education and research purposes. They use the artificial koala scent in conservation projects to protect koalas in the wild. Some of the biggest problems facing koalas today are habitat fragmentation, human interaction and urbanization. Koalas are attracted to living within the eucalyptus farms in Australia. Every year or so, the trees are cut down for commercial use, which leaves the koalas homeless. Researchers are in the process of developing plans to have plantations spray the artificial scent on the trees, making koalas think it is another koala’s territory and keeping the koalas safe from harm. Ms. Tobey is first going to try this out with the koalas at the Zoo and see how they react to the scent before it is put into use on the eucalyptus plantations.

Ms. Tobey reminded us that we all can play a part in conservation. She explained that if we are conscientious about what we buy in stores and if we recycle our trash, we can help save animals in their natural environment across the globe. By keeping recyclables out of landfills, we keep the environment clean and conserve limited resources. Additionally, she said that these things can feel like mundane tasks, but as we continue to incorporate them into our lives it will become second nature. If we do these small tasks regularly, we’ll be one step closer to healing our environment.

Celine, Conservation Team
Week Five, Winter 2015

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Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap

Saturday, March 14 marked the start of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s annual Butterfly Jungle event. Before it opened to the public, a handful of lucky photophiles got to preview the Hidden Jungle during our Instameet Photo-Walk & Challenge. Guests of the event had one hour to creatively capture as many photos and videos as possible, then upload their experience to Instagram. Three winners were selected by Safari Park staff based on the following categories.

Best overall photo by @duhrock

Best overall photo | Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap

Best overall video by @petercsanadi


Best photo/caption combo by @mckenzie_bell. “Why couldn’t the butterfly go to the dance? Because it was a mothBALL #SorryCinderButterfly”

Best photo/caption combo | Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap

Shout-out to everyone who flexed their creative muscles and participated in the Instameet! We had a blast. Keep scrolling for a few event highlights and notable submissions.

Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap

(by @osidenative)

Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap

(by @lisadiazphotos)

Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap

Hangin’ around. (by @lesleyloowho)

Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap

You’ll never have the blues at the Safari Park’s Butterfly Jungle. (by @peggy.hughes)

Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap

(by @lidadrum)

(by @gbobina)

(by @gbobina)

 Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap
Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap
 Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap
Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap
Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap
Butterfly Jungle Instameet Recap

Don’t forget to upload your Butterfly Jungle memories on Instagram for a chance to win a Cheetah Safari for two. Simply tag your photos with #ButterflyJungle to enter. Submissions close Sunday, April 12. VIEW THE GALLERY

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 19 Fascinating Butterfly Facts.

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Saving a Species One Patient at a Time

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

When people think of species conservation, they often imagine field biologists who are working in remote countries, often recording animal populations. However, this is only half the battle to combat extinction for many endangered species around the globe. Experts in our own San Diego Zoo have a huge impact on conservation projects; one of these passionate individuals is Yvette Kemp, a senior hospital keeper here at the Zoo. Ms. Kemp, along with seven veterinarians, six registered veterinary technicians, five other hospital keepers and three nutritionists, all work at the hospital and around the Zoo ensuring that each animal is healthy.

The staff onboard at the hospital has specific protocol for every animal that comes through their doors. Animals that are new to the Zoo have to stay in quarantine for at least 30, sometimes even 60 days. This is done so that the keepers can monitor the animal, making sure that it is completely healthy and well adjusted before it is put in its own enclosure on Zoo grounds. If an animal has a specific problem, hospital staff may bring in an expert in that field, such as a cardiologist for a gorilla having heart problems or an endocrinologist for a rhino who is having fertility problems. These small steps comprised of treating one animal in a zoo can lead to huge breakthroughs in saving an entire species.

Ms. Kemp has been involved in countless conservation and education projects affiliated with the Zoo. Previously, she was the Bornean bearded pig studbook keeper, where her job included tracking breeding programs, monitoring family trees, and acting as the liaison between zoo programs who are looking to breed one of their pigs with one from another zoo. By establishing breeding programs, zoos can increase a species’ population and gain insight on how these animals would breed in the wild. If biologists can pinpoint which factors lead to higher birthrates, they can encourage animals to mate in their native environments, thus leading to a higher population numbers.

Hospital keepers here at the San Diego Zoo work relentlessly to make an animal’s stay in the hospital as comfortable and stress-free as possible. The staff studies the natural history of an animal’s environment in order to better meet his or her needs during their stay. Currently, the hospital is hosting Sitka, an Arctic fox who was admitted due to lack of appetite and possible eye problems. The keepers let her stay in a wide-open area where she won’t knock into anything because of her possible impaired vision. Sitka also has access to a warm den area where she can sleep at night and feel safe. By diagnosing animals like Sitka, hospital employees can better understand wild Artic foxes and their health problems, which could help lengthen lifespans and eventually build up the population, greatly contributing to species conservation.

Recently, Ms. Kemp played a role in the rehabilitation of a Western pond turtle. A Southern California native, this species has become endangered due to habitat loss and competition from the invasive red-eared slider turtle. Ms. Kemp worked with researchers to assist an injured turtle and get him on his way to a full recovery. After his stay in the Zoo hospital, the turtle was released into the wild, where biologists are working to rebuild Western pond turtle populations.

Ms. Kemp has been a keeper at the San Diego Zoo for over nineteen years, and has committed her career here to stopping species extinction one patient at a time. Studying animals individually has been an amazing asset to conservation efforts, and care at the San Diego Zoo’s hospital has been instrumental in providing opportunities to do this.

Emily, Conservation Team
Week Four, Winter 2015

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Feeling Under the Weather?

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!

This week interns got the opportunity to meet Yvette Kemp, a senior hospital keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Ms. Kemp gave us a tour of the hospital that is located by the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park. There are six vets, seven registered veterinarian technicians, five hospital keepers, and three nutritionists working at the hospital. Ms. Kemp has been working at the Zoo for twenty-one years, and for ten of those years she has played a vital role nursing Zoo patients back to good health. At the hospital they care for injured or sick animals and quarantine new animals that come to the Zoo from around the world.

Ms. Kemp’s dream has always been to work at the San Diego Zoo. At Humboldt State University, she studied animal behavior and biology by taking wildlife management, zoology and psychology classes to further her knowledge of animals. Additionally, she later got her Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) license at Mesa College. She has always been an animal lover and sent in many applications to get the chance to work her dream job. While searching for a job at the Zoo, Ms. Kemp did many odd jobs as she could working as a nanny, a Spanish tutor, and even did temp work on the side. Finally she got a job in the education department as an educator. Later she was hired as a keeper, working with the hoof-stock at the Children’s Zoo before she applied for an open position at the hospital.

Every day is different when Ms. Kemp comes to work as many animals come through the hospital every week. Besides feeding and cleaning, Ms. Kemp’s is also responsible with helping to provide enrichment for the animals and making their stay as comfortable as possible. The hospital keepers never know what animal is coming in, which is why they have different types of enclosures, suitable for any type of animal. For example, there are “warm rooms” that have heated flooring for animals like bears, which are most comfortable in warmer climates. Ms. Kemp helps create rooms that are comfortable for the patients by adapting it to the patient’s normal environment. For example, on our tour of the hospital we met a bush hyrax that had a leg injury and needed to recover by wearing a boot. This animal likes to climb trees and be up high, so Ms. Kemp and other hospital keepers adapted the room to the bush hyrax’s needs by putting in long branches for her to climb. Additionally, being that this animal is from Africa and is suited for a warmer climate, they placed a heater above her bed. While touring the hospital we also saw Sitka, a four-year-old arctic fox that was observed not eating and having issues with her legs and is believed to have some sort of vision impairment. They adapted her room to be sparse with enrichment to prevent her from running into anything. When Ms. Kemp and other keepers noticed that she was able to see big dark objects they were able to place a big tub filled with dirt for her to play in.

On the medical side, Ms. Kemp helps hold the animals during check-ups and helps with various animal procedures. The day interns met with her, she had restrained a fox and a sheep while researchers collected blood samples and checked heartbeats. With surgeries, Ms. Kemp helps prepare the animal by helping it onto the medical table and then later helps with the transport out of the surgery or radiology rooms. During one x-ray they found coins in a king eider duck’s stomach. This was due to people throwing their coins into ponds at the Zoo. Often times, ducks and other species of waterfowl mistake coins as fish and ingest them. Luckily, the veterinarians at the hospital were able to perform surgery and extract the coin from the duck’s body using an endoscope.

Not only does the hospital take care of patients, they also play a big role in quarantining an animal before it is allowed to enter the Zoo. When a new animal is brought to the Zoo, it must first go to the hospital to be quarantined for at least thirty days. By monitoring an animal in quarantine, they are able to make sure that the animal is healthy and safe to introduce to other animals in the Zoo’s collection.

When asked what advice Ms. Kemp would give to people interested in pursuing her job, she said that you need to stand out. Not only do you need necessary schooling, but having hands on experience with animals by doing internships or even volunteering at a local animal shelter will provide necessary preparation for the job. She explained to us that some people don’t realize how much work is put into caring for an animal and by volunteering at local shelters they are able to get the experience firsthand. Additionally, Ms. Kemp told us that one of the most valuable experiences in preparation for her job was P.R. and public speaking classes. When working with animals you often speak to people as you try to get the message of conservation across to the public to rally behind an important cause. After hard work and patience, Ms. Kemp is able to come to work with a smile on her face as she has found her dream job.

Julianna, Careers Team
Week Four, Winter Session 2015

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Do You Have the Necessary Koalafications?

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, then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here!

With degrees in animal behavior and psychology from Humboldt University, senior hospital keeper Yvette Kemp, certainly has the necessary qualifications when it comes to working at the San Diego Zoo’s animal hospital! Ms. Kemp has worked at the San Diego Zoo for over 21 years, getting her start in the education department. Ms. Kemp’s first job in the Zoo was driving guided bus tours that take guest throughout the Zoo as well as working as a keeper before acquiring her job at the hospital. From the education department, Ms. Kemp transferred to the animal hospital to be a keeper. Ms. Kemp has now worked as a Zoo hospital as a keeper for over eleven years! Alongside veterinarians, veterinarian techs, other hospital keepers, and nutritionists, Ms. Kemp plays an important role in the San Diego Zoo.

Ms. Kemp’s current role as a hospital keeper is to take care of animal patients who may be sick or injured, and the animals who are housed for their quarantine period before entering the Zoo. An animal is quarantined for 30 days, or sometimes more, when they are given to the Zoo to be used in breeding programs or they will be joining the Zoo’s exhibits. Part of Ms. Kemp’s job as a hospital keeper involves lots of enrichment for the animals that are being housed. Enrichment involves improving the environment of the exhibits by catering to the animal’s nature to keep them happy as well as healthy. Ms Kemp also helps with the medical care and treatment by helping find the most comfortable way for the animal to be treated without adding unnecessary stress to their environment. As well as quarantine enclosures and enclosures for injured animals, the hospital is also equipped with an Intensive Care Unit, treatment center, radiology, surgery prep room, and surgery room.

One of the most important roles the hospital plays is treating the walk in animal patients that come in every day. Many of these patients that are brought into the ICU are often birds, purely because of how many birds are housed at the Zoo and how sensitive of an animal they are. Every animal that is brought into the hospital for care is weighed to ensure they are healthy. Weighing animals is important for the hospital when a vet can’t physically see any problems. They are able to take their own data and compare it to other animals in an online shared data base that has been collected from other zoos. Veterinary techs are in charge of treatment for all the animals housed at the hospital. The Techs follow specific schedules every day that is very flexible to allow for any changes that might come up. Their days are charted out and followed to ensure every animal is cared for the hospital in the appropriate manner.

At the Zoo hospital, interns were given a unique insight to the operations happening behind the scenes and main Zoo exhibits. While at the hospital interns got to explore the clinical pathology lab while one of the vet techs was working. The clinical pathology lab is where any kind of blood or fecal sample that has been taken by keepers can be sent to have examined to determine the health of an animal. The vet techs on staff are given the task of taking the samples sent to the lab, looking at it though a microscope, and looking for any abnormalities in the sample animal’s health. The interns also got to see the radiology room, where x-rays of animals that are brought into the hospital are taken. Ms. Kemp showed photos of various animals that were brought to the hospital that had to be x-rayed to see what was causing problems in their behavior. Many problems in the animals brought to the hospital to be x-rayed were caused by human intervention. Some of the problems were from animals, such as the Eider ducks, were eating coins thrown into the pond by a guest. Other problems were often animals swallowing debris, trash, and food thrown into enclosures by guest. It’s important for guest to realize that while fun to feed animals and throw coins into the enclosures, it is harmful to their very specific diets and can have the possibility of seriously effecting the animal’s health.

The San Diego Zoo animal hospital plays a vital role in the maintenance and stability of the Zoo. It is the center of animal well being and treatment for the Zoo and without it, treatment of many animals in the care of the Zoo would be nearly impossible. The San Diego Zoo hospital not only helps animals by servicing the animals in the San Diego Zoo, but also services zoos around the world by making their research globally accessible through online data bases. With well trained and experienced team members, the San Diego Zoo hospital continues to not only be the center of care and well being for the San Diego Zoo, but is also an important part of the global conservation effort with their shared research.

Devin, Real World Team
Week Four, Winter Session

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Planet of the (Great) Apes

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, then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here!

Interns had the amazing opportunity to meet with Kim Livingstone, Lead Primate Keeper here at the San Diego Zoo. Ms. Livingstone spoke with us about her job supervising Gorilla Tropic and how we can help in primate conservation. She also gave us the inside scoop on the troop’s newest member, Jessica’s new baby boy, who was born on December 26th, 2014.

 

Throughout the San Diego Zoo, exhibits are grouped by bioclimatic zones. This means that animals that live in similar regions in the world, such as the African rainforest, live close to each other at the Zoo. The exhibits come alive with plants native to the region of the world that the animal lives in. For example, Gorilla Tropic has dense jungle tree canopies, which mimics the gorilla’s natural habitat.

Throughout the San Diego Zoo, exhibits are grouped by bioclimatic zones. This means that animals that live in similar regions in the world, such as the African rainforest, live close to each other at the Zoo. The exhibits come alive with plants native to the region of the world that the animal lives in. For example, Gorilla Tropic has dense jungle tree canopies, which mimics the gorilla’s natural habitat.

Five-time mom Jessica enjoys a quick snack while playing with her new two-month-old baby boy. Jessica is an exceptional mother, with this December baby having been her fifth one born at the San Diego Zoo. Like most other gorillas in North American zoos, Jessica is a Western Lowland gorilla, a species that is endangered in the wild. Habitat destruction, illegal poaching, and human interaction have all contributed to most subspecies of gorilla being listed as “critically endangered”. We can all help to turn this around by being mindful of what we buy and how we impact the environment.

Five-time mom Jessica enjoys a quick snack while playing with her new two-month-old baby boy. Jessica is an exceptional mother, with this December baby having been her fifth one born at the San Diego Zoo. Like most other gorillas in North American zoos, Jessica is a Western Lowland gorilla, a species that is endangered in the wild. Habitat destruction, illegal poaching, and human interaction have all contributed to most subspecies of gorilla being listed as “critically endangered”. We can all help to turn this around by being mindful of what we buy and how we impact the environment.

Ndija perches on a tree limb as she watches her troop mates play.  Gorilla families are patriarchal, meaning that an adult male silverback leads the group. Ndija’s brother, Paul Donn is the patriarch of this family. In order to prevent unhealthy breeding between siblings, the keepers at Gorilla Tropic give Ndija birth control. Gorillas breed out of necessity, which means that they will only mate when a female is ovulating and has a higher chance of getting pregnant. By tracking their reproductive cycles, keepers can better keep an eye on hormone levels and see when each female is in estrus, or preparing to mate.

Ndija perches on a tree limb as she watches her troop mates play. Gorilla families are patriarchal, meaning that an adult male silverback leads the group. Ndija’s brother, Paul Donn is the patriarch of this family. In order to prevent unhealthy breeding between siblings, the keepers at Gorilla Tropic give Ndija birth control. Gorillas breed out of necessity, which means that they will only mate when a female is ovulating and has a higher chance of getting pregnant. By tracking their reproductive cycles, keepers can better keep an eye on hormone levels and see when each female is in estrus, or preparing to mate.

Ndijia scrunches up her face while she watches Zoo guests through the glass windows into her enclosure. Gorillas are closely related to humans and show similar behaviors, such as grieving, bartering, and playing games together. Adult male silverbacks can weigh up to 300 pounds and stand at nearly 5 feet, 5 inches. Females are smaller with shorter arm spans. The bigger size of the male helps him assert dominance or dispute territory when a threatening new male comes to the clan.

Ndijia scrunches up her face while she watches Zoo guests through the glass windows into her enclosure. Gorillas are closely related to humans and show similar behaviors, such as grieving, bartering, and playing games together. Adult male silverbacks can weigh up to 300 pounds and stand at nearly 5 feet, 5 inches. Females are smaller with shorter arm spans. The bigger size of the male helps him assert dominance or dispute territory when a threatening new male comes to the clan.

The San Diego Zoo strives to make each enclosure as comfortable and natural as possible for the animals. Gorilla Tropic even includes a waterfall and pool to cool off! Ms. Livingstone helps develop enrichment programs for the Zoo’s gorillas, such as rope swings, food puzzles, and hiding treats around the enclosure in order to encourage foraging.  It is sometimes difficult to design enrichment programs that are exciting for gorillas because of their intelligence and how quickly they learn, but Ms. Livingstone rises to the challenge and designs special programs that target specific traits in gorillas, such as foraging or playing with family members.

The San Diego Zoo strives to make each enclosure as comfortable and natural as possible for the animals. Gorilla Tropic even includes a waterfall and pool to cool off! Ms. Livingstone helps develop enrichment programs for the Zoo’s gorillas, such as rope swings, food puzzles, and hiding treats around the enclosure in order to encourage foraging. It is sometimes difficult to design enrichment programs that are exciting for gorillas because of their intelligence and how quickly they learn, but Ms. Livingstone rises to the challenge and designs special programs that target specific traits in gorillas, such as foraging or playing with family members.

Interns also got a special look at the Bonobo exhibit, where the Zoo's residents run, jump, and play in their beautiful enclosure. Guests often hear the bonobos before they can see them, as their vocalizations can be heard nearly across the Zoo. Interns discussed similarities between gorillas and their close relatives, bonobos. Unlike their close relatives the chimpanzees, bonobos eat a vegetarian diet and are found to be more loving and family-orientated when compared to chimps.

Interns also got a special look at the Bonobo exhibit, where the Zoo’s residents run, jump, and play in their beautiful enclosure. Guests often hear the bonobos before they can see them, as their vocalizations can be heard nearly across the Zoo. Interns discussed similarities between gorillas and their close relatives, bonobos. Unlike their close relatives the chimpanzees, bonobos eat a vegetarian diet and are found to be more loving and family-orientated when compared to chimps.

Emily, Photo Team
Week Three, Winter 2015