new to the zoo

Starfish,_MauritiusI always feel like starting my posts with an absurdly enthusiastic, all-caps greeting, like, “WHAT UP, BLOG-READING WORLD! IT’S TUESDAY!” So, you know what:

WHAT UP, BLOG-READING WORLD! IT’S TUESDAY!

Tuesday, and also my SEVENTH day of work at the Zoo. Now, before I say any more, I have to put this in:

Everything I say in this blog about the Zoo is solely reflective of my own mind and does not necessarily reflect the opinions, policies, or philosophy of the Zoo.

I am legally required to do that. It said so in my papers from HR. Also there are some things that I think I’m not supposed to talk about so that everyone doesn’t get toooo jealous of my job (really, it’s not like, “The tigers are sad,” it’s like, “We get to pet the tigers!” although actually neither of those things are true.) But, I don’t think my readership is so high that I need to actually worry about that stuff too much…Just in case, I am going to work at an anonymous “the Zoo” as far as this post is concerned.

Long story short, my job is pretty rad so far. I still feel sort of dazed that I even have a job right now. A real job, with a nameplate and my own title and everything. I am a very lucky duck.

Some of the great things:

1. I don’t have to wear an NPS uniform. (I miss a lot of things [and people, and places] from the Park Service, but those effing uniforms are not one of them.)

2. So far in those seven days, I have fed sea otters, stingrays, and tarpons (observing some of the ‘animal encounter’ programs I’ll be coordinating); been licked by a baby tamandua; stroked a tegu; plucked a very large sea star from the side of a tank; and gotten up close with slow lorises, a fennec fox, a porcupine, and a billion other adorable things. THESE ARE JUST THINGS THAT HAPPEN AT MY JOB. (I also learned what tarpons, tamanduas, and tegus are. Apparently I am lacking in knowledge of animals beginning with the letter ‘t’.)

Tegu
Tegu
Tamandua
Tamandua
Tarpon
Tarpon

3. When I have great ideas, I also have the power to make it happen. (‘Cause you know I’m just full of great ideas.)

4. THERE ARE JUST ANIMALS EVERYWHERE.

5. Also, it is extremely interesting getting to learn more about how zoos work. I am relieved by how impressed I am. I’ve seen the kitchens where all of their food is prepared, the holding areas off exhibit, the freezers full of frozen veggies (and bags of frozen rats and baby mice; weird), and talked to lots of the zookeepers, and I am very happy about how well taken care of these critters are. They’re still in captivity, and it will never be the same as living wild, but the Zoo has super large, natural exhibits, the food is the same quality that we’d get at a nice restaurant, and they get ‘enrichments’ all the time, like new toys, or delicious treats such as popsicles with shrimp frozen inside or ‘bloodsicles.’

Bluebird

6. This Zoo is very focused on conservation. All of that work could be a post unto itself, and hopefully I’ll get to it, but they’re one of the zoos leading the nation in conservation programs, both nationally and internationally. They have their own conservation grant program, participate in over 60 SSPs (Species Survival Plans) and lead the world in Amur Tiger conservation, have successfully reintroduced multiple species from their breeding programs back into their native habitats, participate in local MN efforts (as with the Eastern bluebirds and trumpeter swans), and of course have a rocking education program. (Me! That’s me! That’s what I do!)

So far it’s been lots of trainings and tours and reading and meeting people. Everybody is just about the friendliest, chillest person in the world (ALL OF THEM) which I don’t know if that’s a Zoo thing or a Minnesota thing. I got to do a four-hour media training on how to be awesome on a live TV or radio interview (which I think I pretty much kicked ass at, by the way), and today I spent all day at a university job and internship fair talking to local college kids about summer internships at the zoo (which is sort of funny as I have been there like…no time at all.) Eventually, I’ll be coordinating and organizing the community programs (behind-the-scenes tours, animal encounters, overnights, family zoo adventures, travel programs), helping to run the summer Zoo Camps, working with those summer interns, and teaching Zoo Classes.

All of the elderly volunteers keep asking if I’m a new intern, but I’m trying to pretend like I really am a grown-up at work. (A grown-up who has a job where she gets licked by baby tamanduas, anyway.) Then I get home and take my pants off and drink beers and dance around in my room and try to find people to go on adventures with so I don’t get TOO grown-up. So far, success.

Photo Feb 13, 9 13 34 PM
Zoo Liz
Agouti
The zoo has some baby agoutis right now.
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