Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In-Sync Exotics Visits the Dallas Zoo!

In-Sync Exotics not only educates the public about exotic wild animals under our care, but we also take the initiative to learn different animal care techniques and how to improve upon our animal enrichment program from various animal organizations.  At the start of the new year we visited Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.  Now that we have new interns, it was time to go on another road trip! 

So, last week several In-Sync Exotic volunteers and interns visited the Dallas Zoo, where we learned about their veterinary care and their nutrition center.

First off, we’d like to thank Senior Veterinarian, Tim Storms, who took us on a behind the scenes tour of “The Wilds of Africa” and “Giants of the Savanna” habitats. We had a wonderful opportunity to see these ecosystems where a large number of exotic wild animals live together.  We are truly thankful for the time he took out of his busy schedule to spend time with us!  Thank you!!

Okay, sit back and enjoy the tour…

Normally, in order to see many of the animals living in these two exhibits, one would have to travel by monorail.  A specially designed Monorail Safari takes guests on a one-mile tour through six habitats — bush, desert, forest, woodland, river, and mountain environments.  But there was no monorail trip for us! We had the opportunity to see the animals up close and personal as we watched the zoo keepers care for the animals under their care, all by foot.

As we made our way towards the Giraffes’ Barns, Dr. Storms explained to us how the zoo keepers introduce the animals to the habitats each morning. During the conversation, we noticed several impalas jumping, kicking, and running right past us!  They were really cute to watch! 

When we arrived at the Giraffes’ Barns, the keeper-on-duty greeted us and took us on a tour of the barn where we learned how they house and care for these beautiful animals.  We were shown various forms of enrichment and the zoo keeper explained to us the special nutritional needs of the giraffes.

Dr. Storms explained, much like our exotic cats’ training, their giraffes learned how to walk through vet shoots in order to venture outside.  In the event a giraffe requires veterinary care, their animals normally feels comfortable enough to enter the vet shoot for medical treatment.

We also learned from Dr. Storms how to safely administer anesthesia to giraffes without harming the animals, as they are laid in their enclosure.  Everyone found this information very interesting!  To our amazement, while we were learning about the giraffes, some of these amazing animals came up to the fence to check us out!  Dr. Storm allowed us to feed some grain crackers to these curious creatures—the giraffes were truly awe inspiring close-up! 

Next we went into the Lion and Cheetah Barn where we had the honor of watching a lioness receive medical treatment for a minor injury.  We were able to watch as the vet and several vet technicians worked together as a team to monitor the lioness, clean her wound, and then preparethe wound for suture. Wow!  Talk about timing!   

After the minor surgery we discussed with Dr. Storms various forms of enrichment we use for our exotic big cats.  As it turns out, their various forms of enrichment are very much like our own.

We wanted to learn more about their cheetah enrichment because we were having some challenges getting our cheetahs, Sam and Kodi, to participate in our program.  Turns out our cheetahs are like most cheetahs—they just not into it!  So, Sam and Kodi’s lack of interest in our enrichment program is perfectly normal.   Whew!

Needless to say, this opened the door to many questions such as how the Zoo determines what types of enrichment programs are appropriate for their animals.  Turns out, all enrichment for the animals goes through a panel of decision makers which includes the zoo keepers specializing in a given species and their animals’ veterinarians.

Next we visited the elephant barn and where we witnessed an elephant in training. Training is very important because in the event an elephant become ill, the elephant would know what to expect and not be frightened by the human and medical equipment activity around him.

After our trip to the elephant barn, it was time to see the Zoo’s nutrition center.  To give you an idea of how big the center is, picture this:  just one of their three freezers is about the size of our commissary!  They’re huge! 

The freezers are set up side by side with adjoining doors from freezer to freezer to simplify the process of rotating meat from frozen to thawing to the last stage which is normal refrigeration.  The store room is spacious and the commissary preparation area is amazingly HUGE.  The primary zoo keeper in charge of the nutrition center explained how each animal's nutrition is discussed between the zoo keepers that feed (and learn what each animal likes or dislikes), the vet, and their nutritionist.

This panel of experts determines exactly what type of food and how much an animal receives at dinner time.  All of this information is kept in a huge binder and as you can imagine the contents of the binder changes daily.  With over 2,000 animals and hundreds of species, I would say this is a pretty big job for this zoo keeper!

Next we visited the inner offices of the veterinary clinic, which also houses a library and offices.  The interns agreed they could easily spend months in the library learning more about exotic wild cats!

 As we viewed the animal holding areas, Dr. Storms explained to us how an animal, depending on its species, is transported and received into the vet clinic.  The vet clinic can receive any type of animal, from a tiny bird to an adult gorilla!

The zoo has three primary veterinarians and a multitude of zoo keepers and veterinarian technicians.  We were shown how the zoo keeps its animals records when a sick or injured animal arrives at the clinic.  Records are posted outside the animals’ enclosure so that anyone on duty will know the their health status at any given moment.  We were shown into the surgery and imaging center, as well as the laboratories and pharmacy. Dr. Storms showed us how they maintain their pharmacy records and talked about the importance of tracking medical records to compare what works best for each animal.

At the end of our visit, our interns and volunteers were asked what their favorite part of the tour was—and it was unanimous—their favorite part of the tour was watching the minor surgery on the lioness!  Coming in a close second was learning about the types of enrichment given to the giraffes, elephants, and their exotic big cats. 

We learned a lot about (and were in awe of) the organization of the veterinary clinic and its pharmacy.  It was amazing to learn how the animals are transported, received, treated, and returned to their habitats.  

Needless to say, we were all just a little envious of the nutrition center (huge!) and amazed at what it takes to feed such a large variety of animals!  Our interns all agreed that it was a treat that Dr. Storms took so much time out of his schedule to spend with us.  It was an honor to say the least! 

Thank you, Dr. Storms!  To learn more about the Dallas Zoo, click HERE!

Blog posting submitted by Elizabeth Chambers, In-Sync Exotics' Intern Coordinator.

Please note!  We will be closed for the 4th of July holiday but will be open for tours on Thursday - Sunday!  Come out and visit our beautiful animals this weekend!  For tour information, click HERE!

Have a safe and wonderful 4th of July holiday everyone!


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an amazing field trip!