Posts Tagged ‘observation’

Internship Weeks 8-10: Belly rubs for pigs

by | September 18th, 2012

Intern Stephanie Lo

I scratch the belly of a Guinea Hog lying down on his side while zookeeper Liz trains him to accept a blood draw. The Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Care Center wants a blood sample to determine if the animals’ new diet has the proper nutrients. To prepare the two Guinea Hogs for an actual blood draw, they first have to become tolerant about a person holding off their leg to find the vein. Due to their excellent sense of smell, Jason and Sara initially were nervous about the rubbing alcohol on their legs. Also, the zookeeper practiced touching their legs with a blunted needle to accustom them to the motions of a blood draw. Some of the zoo’s visitors who saw us practicing in the exhibit appeared surprised that the pigs were so tolerant and even asked if the Guinea Hogs were sedated. Nope, they weren’t. They simply enjoy their belly rubs and are willing to lie down on the grass.

Jason, one of the Guinea Hogs, laying down for belly rubs during a blood draw training session.

The less glamorous aspects of my internship are the routine cleaning and disinfecting of the animals’ exhibits and night houses. I completely gutted and disinfected the rabbits’ night house, and then I filled it would fresh shavings and grass hay. The other intern and I also scrubbed the pools in the pigs’ exhibit along with disinfecting their night house and service area.

Lemur popsicles consist of fruit frozen in cups of water. The popsicles are used as enrichment on warm days.

The past few days have been warm and sunny – the perfect opportunity for making popsicles for the lemurs! A lemur enrichment popsicle consists of fruit chucks (usually grapes, watermelon, strawberries and cantaloupe) frozen in ice.

Besides continuing to conduct lemur observations for an intern project, I attended an intern class about zoological population management. This class concludes the series of intern classes and explained how zoos determine which animals to breed and to whom to breed them. The class covered what is included in a stud book and general population management concepts, like avoidance of inbreeding. I learned the founding populations in a stud book are animals directly from the wild.

For lemur observations, we do a visual scan of the exhibit every two minutes and record the behavior of a certain lemur.

Another guideline was not to keep all animals of one species concentrated in one zoo. In case of an emergency, zoos would not want all the animals of a particular species to die.

Internship Weeks 6 & 7: Are the Lemurs Reading?

by | August 29th, 2012

Intern Stephanie Lo

Gripping a stopwatch, pen and clipboard in the palms of my hands, I walk up towards the Oakland Zoo‘s lemur deck to conduct observations. Typically directly after serving one of their meals, the other intern and I will pick two lemurs and record their behavior for up to an hour. The behavior categories include interacting with enrichment, which we vary throughout the week. By recording how much time a lemur spends on a particular activity, we can construct a graph of their “typical day.” When I first began interning on String 7, it was difficult to identify and tell apart any of the lemurs. Now, I am able to distinguish the animals apart by their physical characteristics and personality.

 

Ring tailed lemurs interacting with phone book enrichment item.

“Are the lemurs reading?” one visitor asked me after I served their lunch. No, the phone books were one of the manipulative enrichments used this week. Stuffing pieces of produce between the phone book’s pages encourages the lemurs to manipulate the item to reach the food. By conducting observations of the lemurs, I can later analyze the data and compare the effectiveness of each enrichment item. Even though PVC pipe connectors, cat litter containers, and cardboard boxes sound like an odd combination, they are other examples of manipulative lemur enrichment. Both the plastic cat litter containers and cardboard boxes contain holes into which the lemurs must reach, and we sometimes use clips to hang up two of the plastic containers.

 

Eugene and Anthony, the two blue-eyed black lemurs, slowly approached me while eyeing the dried cranberries in my hand. I felt the smoothness of Eugene’s palms as he reached out to grasp the cranberry. His aquamarine eyes darted around as he chewed the sliver of cranberry. On Wednesday morning, I got the chance to assist the zoo keeper with cooperative feeding out on exhibit. Cooperative feeding rewards the dominant individual for letting the subordinate individual to eat in its presence. The male ring tail lemur, Jeager, is subordinate to the three female ring tail lemurs; the two blue-eyed black lemurs are also subordinate to the females. Every time the dominant female saw me feed the blue-eyed black lemurs that were about 10 feet away, the zoo keeper would reward her for not chasing them away. Helping with cooperative feeding is an opportunity to work closely with the lemurs and observe how it shapes their behavior.

 

One of the Oakland Zoo’s vet technicians led this week’s behind-the-scenes tour  of the Veterinary Care Center (VCC). I got to see some of the portable equipment the VCC staff uses, such as the anesthesia and x-ray machines. The vet technician showed us the various sizes of tracheal tubes used for anesthetizing the zoo animals, which range in size from a small bird to an elephant. She said that the VCC sometimes will coordinate with other veterinarians for major procedures. For the larger animals, such as elephants and lions, the VCC staff can exam or treat them in their night house because they will not fit into the surgery room.

Wooden feeders are an example of manipulative enrichment.

Plastic cat litter containers have holes cut in the sides. They can be hung up in the exhibit so lemurs must balance and reach inside for food items.

Cardboard boxes can be filled with straw and the lemurs’ food.