Westward Ho

Well once again I have abandoned you for well over a year. I am truly sorry, but I won’t promise regular updates this time – see then you won’t feel letdown when I forget to post again.

So here’s my past year in a nutshell.
In March I started interning on my days off from Nemacolin at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquraium with Mark and Kathy in the cats and rhinos section of the mammal department. Since my goal has been to become a zookeeper at a “real” zoo and one day get into conservation from the zoo aspect and the only way into AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquairums) is to have AZA experience, I figured interning might be a good way to get my foot in the door. And well…. it paid off! After three months of working every single day between the two zoos, Pittsburgh offered me a temporary keeper position in cats and rhinos! Since Shirley, the primary tiger keeper was out on medical leave I assumed the role as primary keeper for three Amur tigers, a snow leopard, ten Caribbean flamingos, and on  very grouchy old sacred white ibis named Donnie Ibis (it’s a Pittsburgh joke). Oh and I absolutely fell in love with this guy here

His name is Pavel and he’s a two year old male Amur tiger. He’s the biggest goofball I have ever met. Well being temporary and having no idea how long “temporary” is (literally they can come up to me tomorrow and say thank you for your work, you’re done now) I am kinda always in a guessing game situation as to how long I will be employed. Shirley came back and I was no longer needed at cats, but ended up getting super lucky because the elephant department needed someone in ungulates. So for the past two months I have been the primary keeper for two Massai giraffes, two Grant’s zebra, three dama gazelle, six springbok, and three ostriches. This has brought up a whole new aspect of zookeeping for me since I have not worked with most of these species before. Our male giraffe (who is an intact bottle raised male I might add) is extremely loveable and people oriented until you try to get him to do something he doesn’t feel like doing such as walking up and down the “runway” (fenced in isle way from the giraffe barn to their exhibit) past all of the yummy browse to either his barn or his exhibit. Let me just say I have experienced a whole new level of frustration with this gent on some days, but that has lead me to learn a lot about myself as a keeper and I have come up with some interesting tricks to try and keep his attention on me. But the best and fastest method is to call on of my elephant department coworkers to come give me a hand because Lewis loves men and while he flat out ignores me he will very willingly follow one of them down the runway no problem. Maybe I just need to grow a beard and talk in a deep voice…

Okay so it’s getting late and I have become quite accustomed to going to bed around 9:30 in my old age so I’m gonna skip some of the fun details and get right down to my big news – I finally got a full time permanent keeper position at an AZA accredited zoo!!!!!!! It only took about 4 years, but I did it! After the upcoming holidays I will be joining the team at Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana and am super excited for it. Although I will definitely miss my Pittsburgh animals and friends, this is my next step in achieving my dreams and helping to make an impact on this world by being the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. So (mid) westward ho I go!

Until next time, toodles!

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