Hey all, I thought I should bring everyone up to date on what I have been doing this past year. I have been very busy, which I hope you could tell from my lack of posts, and I think a lot of it is important to one of my main subjects: MY FUTURE.
So for anyone who doesn’t know I am attending Duquesne University for Biology/Environmental science. I want to work as a conservation biologist someday which means I want to be the guy zoos send to study endangered animals in the wild so the can protect them and improve their care of them in captivity. since I plan to work in this field I must have as many internships as I can and as much experience in this field as possible. Well, great news this past year i had to apprenticeships through my school. One was Avian Care and Training at the National Aviary, and the Second was Zoo Animal Care and Training at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Avian Care and Training.
My time at the aviary was fun and exciting. I did so many things while I was there but I’ll try to recount as much as I can remember.
Everyday at the aviary I was in a different section of work. One day I would be in the wetland exhibit and the ext they would have me in commissary. Everyday was great. My first day I started in the wetlands room with the main keeper/trainer Dave. We did simple little tasks like flushing the filter for the rooms huge marsh and change food pans for the birds, but he also allowed us do many hands on jobs too. He let each of my group members train a different bird. I got to train Boris the hammerkop. Now Boris is solitary in the wetlands room because he didn’t get along with the other the other hammerkop in the tropical forest room Now im not saying he was mean but he was indeed moody, and as I found out later extremely hard to train. Dave taught me that proper body language and positioning as well as technique is needed to train birds. He showed me to let them see the food and don’t be afraid to take the chance away to make them see it’s not an indefinite offer. After a few frustrating attempts I was able to point train him to fly around the room. Then I finally finished training him Dave told I did a great job, and let me know he never trained Boris before. When my group mates finished training their birds Dave took us for a real treat, he allowed us to interact with flamingoes, The program that he took us to do is a 25 dollar charge for a normal guest and last half as long as what we got to do. He took us down on to the “shore” and told us to squat down and lower our eyes, which I knew (but he explained anyway) made us seem like we weren’t predators because they couldn’t see our forward facing eyes. Then, they slowly and warily came over and started bumping us. They seemed to be ignoring me, but Dave explained that my glasses were setting them off-balance because they didn’t know what they were and had me take them off. After I took them off the flamingos came over and cuddle all of us. It was great! Another day I was in the tropical rainforest exhibit. We did lots of hard work including moving large cages, and even cleaning a pond. Even doing maintenance work at the aviary was fun after we finished all of the physical labor we were directed to go around with a check list of all the birds in the exhibit and find them and my instructor was surprised and impressed at how good I am at spotting animals. Another great day was in commissary where I got to learn about nutrition and diet of each bird. It was fun and I got a very unique view on feeding and the dietary needs of birds now. My favorite day by far was the finally day when the head educator had us present on one bird in the aviary. After everyone was through presenting she allowed us to do to things like pet one of the penguins, Simon. I also flew a black vulture! It was an amazing feeling to have a vulture flying on and of your arm and it was my first time holding a raptor. I was so excited. Everyday I would come home from the aviary with a happy heart and itching to get into my future. It made me want to work with animals and most of all birds for the rest of my life.
Zoo Animal Care and Training.
Ahh, the zoo. I enjoyed my time at the zoo almost as much as I did my time at the aviary. It was much less hands-on and more educational which was great because I got to learn more random facts that I can spew at people. Did you the three banded armadillo is the only armadillo that can completely roll into a ball? Every day we spent an hour in the class room learning about how a zoo operates and then we would go for a tour of the various facilities. I learned about conservation and how zoos trade animals and many other things. In the tours I got to see the reptile winter house where I got to pet and play with No Name the Komodo Dragon ( he’s like a big dog not a fearsome predator), The large cat facilities, the water edge facilities, and many more places. In the last two weeks everyone made a project. we all had to design an exhibit for an animal. I did mine on the ring tailed lemur and won the best enrichment award which got me two free passes to the zoo, some posters, and a nice hat and drawstring bag. The judges really enjoyed my knowledge of primate enrichment like swing poles and complex puzzle feeders as well as my concern for natural enrichment like a place of rocks where they could sun themselves.
Overall, my time at my apprenticeships where great and I wouldn’t trade for anything. If I could go back to work at either facility I would in an instant. I would come home everyday just like I did from my apprenticeships and think My Future looks bright.