These last two weeks conclude my summer internship at the Oakland Zoo. During my past three months as an intern, I’ve made popsicles for lemurs, I’ve given belly rubs to pigs, and I’ve befriended a goat. By the end of my summer, I have become familiar with zoo animal husbandry through my daily routine and through the intern classes. The Oakland Zoo’s intern program is an excellent opportunity to gain experience working with zoo animals.
Oftentimes, I work in the Children’s Zoo contact yard, where visitors brush and pet the plethora of sheep and goats. The yard houses five sheep, six Pygmy goats, four Nubian goats and one Boer goat. The Pygmy goats are particularly popular among the zoo’s children visitors because of the goats’ short stature and tolerant attitude. Working in the contact yard involves keeping the area clean while ensuring the safety of the visitors and animals. There is a retreat pen in the barn where goats and sheep can retreat, if they want some personal space from visitors.
Three long-haired cats named Billy, Cali and Scarlet live in the “cat cottage” adjacent to the Contact Yard. After feeding the goats and sheep in the morning, I usually let the cats outside into the Contact Yard and made sure they didn’t wander off. Whenever the cats roam outside, they wear “cat bibs” that are designed to prevent them from successfully catching birds. The bibs are supposed to inhibit their normal pouncing motion, and I think they’re quite the fashion statement.
Part of my routine is brushing Ginny, one of the rabbits before letting her out of the night house. She was slightly skittish the first time I brushed her, but soon after she relaxed and began munching on her hay. Rabbits shed quite a bit of hair, but the FURminator helped me loosen and remove the undercoat.
On Tuesday, I got the chance to spend a few hours working up at the giraffe barn. I helped fill containers with pellets and produce, while the giraffe intern hung up branches of browse. My absolute favorite moment was hand feeding carrots to Tiki, one of the zoo’s giraffes.
Summer is quickly coming to a close. Shortly, I’ll be back in college fighting sleep deprivation and jumping headfirst into fall quarter classes. In some ways, it seems like I’ve been interning for far more than three months; I can’t imagine not feeding breakfast to the lemurs or hearing the familiar bleating of the goats in the morning.