Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Day in the Life of Lori..

Happy Tuesday! Today we have Lori, a zookeeper, here to tell us about her day!

Everyone who hears my job title gets immediately excited, and I do have some great stories. There's a lot of romance that people associate with the profession of zookeeping, and some of it is well founded. But, here in the chronicle of my day is the absolute truth of what we do, and most of it isn't romantic at all.

6:15am - I wake up grudgingly, throw on my clothes and get through my morning routine. The dogs have to be let out, i pack my lunch, make some coffee, and stuff something that vaguely resembles breakfast down my throat.

7:10am - I hurry out the door, drive to pick up the girl I carpool with and head to work. The commute is only 25 miles.

8:20ish am- I arrive at work, clock in and head to my locker where I change my shoes grab my coat and gloves and check in for a morning meeting which may or may not happen. Today, the morning meeting goes well, no one called out so I grab my radio and..

8:30am - My day officially begins. The first thing I do is grab a giant stack of diets for the animals under my care today. Today, I am working in the small mammals section, although sometimes I work in the "birds" section, or even "education". The pile of diets gets tossed onto the back of my cart and I begin my morning rounds.

8:40-9:00 - Morning rounds. I check to make sure all of my animals are accounted for, and seem to be well. I also check fences, and look for any other obvious external problems.

9:00 - I'm done with rounds and headed to the otters. I clean their exhibit, feed them, let them out, and then clean their off-exhibit holding areas. Lots of scraping, sweeping, raking, and hosing. They're pretty messy, but even so they are my favorites to take care of in the small mammal section. (Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor hail shall keep me from picking up poo!)

9:45 - Rinse and repeat -- Just throw in a couple of gibbons! The gibbons are a bit of a special case because of the complicated nature of training and shifting them. And they produce a LOT more poop. They also need lots of enrichment, we usually give them enrichment twice a day. This morning it's baby rattles, balls, a big bucket of hay with food hidden inside. They get a short training session before they get to go outside, they have to cooperate with a variety of simulated medical procedures (like getting an ultrasound or a shot).

10:30 -12 -- A LOT more cleaning, feeding, raking, washing -- Toucans, sloth, prairie dogs, geese, ibis, Tortoise, muntjac, crane.. Everyone gets enrichment! Paper chains for toucans, sloth, and tortoise, Bamboo for the prairie dogs and muntjac, a paper mache ball for the cranes, and new nesting material for the geese and ibis.

12:30 -- Time for a garbage run!! Gotta do something with all that poop after all! This is usually followed by emptying trashcans that are full of dirty shavings, and washing lots of dirty dishes. Being fast and thorough is a must have zookeeper trait.

1:00 - Finally! I rush back to our keeper building, drop off my clean dishes, wash my face and hands and head to lunch!

1:15- 2:00pm - Lunch time! Usually lunch time is the only time of day where I really spend any time with my fellow keepers. We have truly entertaining, often horrifyingly disgusting, and occasionally morbid discussions that would spoil the appetite of most of the human population, but after spending the last 4 and a half hours surrounded by poop, it doesn't seem so bad.

2:00pm - Time to make the diets! Small mammal diets are very precise, and consist of a great many fresh ingredients. Everything from fish and meat to fresh fruits and veggies have to be brought up to the kitchen to be chopped measured and prepared. This process takes between 1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on the day. Today, I had to squeeze it into an hour because...

3:00pm - Staff meeting - We discussed a lot of things today from maintenance issues to future plans for exhibits and even the record breaking ZooLights attendance, at least we got to sit down! And it was indoors!

3:30pm - Let the rushing begin! We all break for a run to grab our pm diets and get back out to our animals.

3:40-4:00 - I had time for a short project today and spent 20 minutes collecting pine cones and pine branches to be used as Enrichment for the otters. The extras get put in a storage bucket for later.

4:00-4:30 - Even more cleaning, feeding, and raking -- This time for the Bobcat and Skunk. I also give both of them enrichment today. The bobcat loves scents so I rubbed perfume samples all over her exhibit, and i stuffed the skunk's diet into puzzle balls for him to figure out! Fun :)

4:30- Time to bring in the otters! But first, I have to set up their indoor exhibit with a cozy sleeping area (today was pine branches, pine cones, and pine shavings in a big tub). Provide them with lots of toys (Shells, logs, and some boomer balls), and hide their food (in pieces of PVC corners). Then I bring them inside. Luckily for me they cooperate!

4:45- Time to bring in the gibbons! I set up their indoor exhibit too! I hide their diet items in lots of buckets stuffed with newspaper, a giant candy cane with holes cut into it, and set up a couple of fun things -- a slide, a giant ring to swing on, and a sheet hammock. I also hid a couple of peanuts in the brick walls for them to find. Then, they come inside very willingly making lots of excited noises!

4:55- I quickly fill out all of my paperwork in the hopes that I'll be done by 5.

5:10 - I drive back to the keeper building, change back into my regular shoes, put my paperwork in my supervisors box and hurry out the door

6:30 - arrive home, shower, prepare dinner

7:30-10:30 - eat dinner, watch some TV and do some chores, also I'm doing all my Internet things. Hooray.

10:30 - bedtime. Ah... ZZZZzzzzz

It's a busy, crazy life, but someone has to do it. The biggest change to my day is my afternoon project/ staff meeting time. It can be filled with anything from planting grass seed in an exhibit, to taking an animal for his yearly exam. Sometimes I do fun stuff like make new enrichment or extra animal training sessions, but usually its a big cleaning project like washing all the prairie dog windows or raking all the leaves out of my exhibits. 365 days a year someone has to be here to do this job, weekends and holidays and hurricane days included!

Thanks for sharing Lori! It's interesting to learn about what happens behind the scenes at the zoo!

Do you like visiting zoos? What is your favorite?

I am currently looking for more people to share a day in their life.. even if you have already participated, I'd love to hear from you again! Send me an email at pinkflipfops44 @ gmail dot com !

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