Internship Week 1: My first week at Oakland Zoo
by | July 12th, 2012

Intern Stephanie Lo

Throughout the next few months, I am an Oakland Zoo intern who is working on String 7. This particular string consists of a variety of domestic and exotic animals, all located in the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo section. I chose to participate in the Oakland Zoo’s intern program to explore my interest in veterinary medicine and to learn about animal care techniques of zoo animals. As an intern, I work three full days per week at the zoo for a total of 288 hours of service.

Cali, one of the domestic cats.

On my first day, I met the String 7 Zookeeper named Liz along with another intern who works on the same string as I do. We began the morning by striding up the stairs towards the cat room, where the three cats reside at night. Located adjacent to the goat and sheep barn, the cat room contains the litter boxes, cat furniture, and food and water bowls. During the day, the three cats named Billy, Cali and Scarlet are free to roam around the contact yard. The other intern and I swept out the cat room, scooped the litter boxes and replenished the food and water dishes before heading towards the pig barn.

Jason and Sara eating lunch. The Arrowhead containers are filled with produce for enrichment.

The pig barn houses three domestic pigs and two domestic rabbits. In the mornings, I typically feed the pigs their breakfast, which consists of a measured amount of pellets. One of the pigs also receives a specific quantity of medicine mixed into her morning meal. While the pigs consume their breakfast, the other intern and I scoop up the manure around the exhibit and rinse out and refill their water bowls. To extend the animals’ feeding time, we may fill enrichment toys with produce so the pigs have to roll around the toy to make the food come out of the holes. The particular enrichment toys we used on Thursday were plastic Arrowhead water containers with circular holes cut in the sides, allowing the chopped produce to fall out in intervals. Liz showed us other forms of enrichment, which included scattering produce around the exhibit and brushing the pigs.

A hotspot of the Children’s Zoo is the Contact Yard of the goat and sheep barn.  As an intern, I may supervise the Contact Yard to ensure that all the visitors follow the rules posted. There are eleven goats and four sheep housed in the barn, and visitors oftentimes enjoy brushing them. The sheep can be a bit skittish, but the Pygmy goats are quite tolerant of brushing and petting. Although visitors may assume the Pygmy goats are overweight or pregnant, the goats are actually bred to be shorter but they still have the same sized digestive system, making their bellies appear proportionally wider.

One of the Ring Tailed Lemurs waiting for breakfast.

 

Some of my favorite animals on String 7 are the five ring tailed lemurs and two blue-eyed lemurs. During my first day, the other intern and I got the opportunity to accompany Liz into the lemur exhibit and help her with the morning feeding. The male lemurs are subordinate to the females, so we scattered food throughout the exhibit to ensure they all had access to it. To improve the lemurs’ mental health, the zoo keepers provide specific types of enrichment every day and mark them on the calendar.

In addition to the hands-on experience under the string’s zoo keeper, interns also attend weekly classes and behind the scenes tours. This week’s class titled “Emergency Response in a Zoo Setting” focused on how the Oakland Zoo responds in emergency situations. The various situations included both natural disasters and animal escapes, which could result in calling a Code Yellow, Code Red or Code Pink. The other intern class highlighted public interaction strategies with the zoo guests.

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