I LIVE AT A ZOO – Series 1

Posted on: May 14, 2015 5:40 pm

Red Kangaroo Joey getting Loving at Dade City's Wild Things

Mary - Black faced spider monkey at Dade City's Wild Things

Peacock with pea-chicks at Dade City's Wild Things

Column 3

I, like many others are blessed to work in this industry and with such awesome animals.   The best part is the love and cuddles but it also involves allot of work and heartache.  I have created this series because of the encouragement of others who said I should write a book. . but who has the time. . so the next best thing is entries into our blog.  I hope you like it. . .

My morning involves waking up and getting dressed.  .what to wear?  The question is not asked for modesty but functional.  What am I doing working with animals, public appearance, office work or grunt work. . No matter what I think I am doing it most always turns into another job. . and another change of cloths.  Bet you Zookeepers out there understand.

Sun dress it is today, sure way to make sure I get dirty.  As I head down stairs I look over and am greeted by Wiley our Red Kangaroo Joey who is in his pouch.  Head pops out and his expression of patience but what took you so long look.  I scoop him and his pouch up and proceed into the kitchen.

Of course the next greeting is Freedom our house kitty.  He is very determined that he will be the first fed his treat.  Since he is an older cat at 14 years I make him work for it. . and give him fresh water or he will be complaining.

Then unload the bins of fresh fruit and veggies onto the counter to start Pre-Nursery food prep.  What this means is that these are still under the care of me because they are new members of the ZOO and/or need constant care.  Next step is to the Nursery which other caregivers help with there care.

I look over and Kletus a young snow monkey is jumping up and down and runs and hides under his blanket as I Peek over.  He is a little shy but very demanding too.  I greet him “Hi Kletus, how is my big boy today”.  He watches patiently . . sort of.

Jeremiah also gets a quick greeting my little Gibbon baby.  He looks over at me without even lifting his head off his stuffed animal and quickly sucks his thumb.

I cut up food to include, mangos, apples, bananas, asparagus, romaine, zucchini, yellow squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, monkey biscuits, etc.  Kletus gets his bowl of goodies and off he eats.  Jeremiah will have to wait as I also have to feed our little teacup potbellied piggy:  Hamlet.  He gets a special formula I make up just for him and his potbellied pig pellets and a fruit treat. . today a small piece of apple and banana.  And of course I prep our African porcupine:  Pokeyman.  He gets a little fruit and veggies, monkey biscuit pieces and lots of sweet potatoes.  Then a special formula in a bottle.  Off to feed these two.  They are in the Sun Room as they have moved out of the kitchen to a warmer environment getting them ready for there move to the ZOO Nursery.  Hamlet greets me the loudest with lots of chirps and grunts.  He is very demanding for his loving and feeding.  The second I open the door. . he pops out and jumps into my lap.  I scratch him all over and start to clean his cage which becomes such a challenge after I shake out his blanket he hops back into the cage and chirps, your not done yet?  Patience my little man. . Pick him up and sit him out again and reaching with half my body into the cage to clean and sanitize his cage. . I barely fit. . what a sight, I am sure.  Once this is done I give him fresh water and clean bedding and of course a clean stuffed animal and ball.  A few more scratches under the chin and into the cage. . yum yum he is pigging out.  Now to Pokeyman my little porcupine who is scratching and barking don’t forget me.  So I open his cage and out pops the porcupine.  He moves to the left and I jump right in shaking out his blanket and cleaning his cage. . I too have to reach way back to the back and as I do this. . oops . . Pokeyman walks between my lets up to my face to see what I am doing. . Now, this is touchy.  I keep cleaning carefully and keep an eye on him, if he turns it could be a little prickly.  As I am finished I maneuver my self back and up at the same time . . which I can not believe I could do so not to get poked.  He backs up and looks at me like now what.  So I place new bedding toys and his stuffed animal to (Yes he loves to play with his stuffed animal).  I have learned not to put his food down yet. .but bottle first.  So I give him his bottle, he barks at me, fluffs his quills up half way and rattles his little tail.  Then a quick foot stomping and he sucks away on the bottle. about 3/4 of the way thru he stops stomps and rattles some more and then finishes his bottle.  Once done, I place the food in and he runs over to the goodies.  Now that these two are done off to finish the others.

As I enter the kitchen I am met with that stare again. . when are you going to get around to me Wiley ask.  So I make the special Roo formula to feed my little Roo-boy.  I prep and gather paper towels and a towel for me.  I then place his pouch on my lap and fold it back so half his body sticks out.  He barks and then starts rubbing his head on my chest.  I wrap the towel on my chest in hopes of not having to change clothes yet as the aprons are not enough sometimes.  So far so good.  I place paper towels under his chin and then he is being quite pushy looking for the bottle.  I quickly get it situated and he starts gobbling it up.  He slowly drinks the entire bottle.  Quick chin drying and an all over petting, and a quick check to make sure his pouch is clean and fold up the pouch as he settles back into it.  I text Randy The Tiger Man that the Kangaroo is ready to go outside to the ZOO for his outdoor time and Kangaroo pellets.

Now Jeremiah has done a little winning every time I look over at him to remind me he has not been fed yet.  I take him out and do a quick diaper change.  Now primate diapers are put on backwards so as not to make it easy for them to peel the tapes off and remove the diapers.  He reaches those long arms up for me to pick him up and he quickly grabs for my hair. . great rope for monkeys.  I do not even have to hold him as his arms are so strong and his grip so good but who does not want to get all those hugs.  I give him his bottle and after a few quick sips he is more interested in watching Kletus then drinking.  So a few paces away we go and a quick talk that he needs to drink.  Finally he drinks a few ounces.  So now to give him his 1/2 banana.  We Are slowly introducing food. . bananas are easy.  I started with mushed small pieces and have taught him to now eat very small whole pieces.  Next is teaching him to take small bites from a bigger piece and to chew it before the next bite and of course on the last piece to remind him to be easy and note bite my finger to learn the difference from the banana and my fingers.  He is doing great.  So today I introduce him to orange pieces.  I have very thin pieces cut and give him a very small piece.  He quickly places into his mouth and spits it back out with a look.  .what is that.  I encourage him to continue to try and he holds it in a little longer.  You can see that moment when he taste the juices and he make a very funny face.  But then he bites it again and slowly again.  Humm you can see his minding thinking this is not all bad.  But he is not comfortable with swallowing it and eventually spits it out.  A third attempt moves quicker and this time he chews more and swallows more of it. He learns that this orange is not so bad.  But he reaches for the banana as he wants more of this.  We finish off the rest of his 1/2 banana and he drinks more bottle.  I then put him into his day cage which is bigger and he can swing and play.

Now I hear whining from Kletus and I quickly make a very warm bottle for him.  He is extremely picky and it has to be the right temperature.  I take over to him and hold it out.  He comes over and grabs my hand and jumps up on them and play bites. . easy I call and he stops.  He jumps down and picks up a stuffed animal and throws it up and catches it.  I ask him does he want his bottle (you have to understand its allot of patience and a routine we have to go thru for him to drink it or he will yell at you). He slowly moves over to the bottle and starts to put his mouth on his and then jumps back (just kidding) and back to throwing the toys up and catching them.  I ask again he starts to come over but then goes over and covers himself up.  I have to be patient and stand there and ask him are you sure  you do not want your bottle.  He peeks out at me and I ask again.  He jumps back over to the bottle and slowly starts to put his mouth on the bottle and slowly.  . . very slowly sips it and then backs up.  He looks at it and up at me again.  I ask him this is your last change come get it.  He slowly moves over and slowly puts his mouth on the bottle again and slowly sips it and then starts to drink it. . .til hes done.  Wee-eh we got thru this again.  Believe me you can try all you want to change this routine but he will not drink his bottle any other way.  If you do not give it to him he will cry continuously til you do.   But I love this little boy and I give him his hugs and cuddles.

Dishes and clean up and yeah. . .no outfit change yet.  As I head out to the ZOO to feed Mary our Spider Monkey who has been very sick that we moved her into the house for criti-care and constant watching.  She has recovered and gained weight that we just recently moved her back into her outdoor exhibit with her mate Chico.  I still hand feed her twice a day to make sure she is still progressing.  I make her special foods for these visits.  Due to her condition she needs extra sugars and care.  I make special sandwiches with wheat bread and different toppings.  Today I add grape jelly and monkey biscuit crumbs.  I quarter the sandwiches as she likes it best this way.  I throw in a few blueberry mini muffins, bananas, romaine and of course cheese sticks.  Its allot more challenging to feed her these treats as Chico is the dominant monkey and so I have to bring enough for him too.  And since they share an area with our newest member:  Georgie a young vervet monkey, I also bring him a few treats too.  I stop at Georgie for his few pieces he grabs and jumps around.  Vervets are very quick and agile.  I move next to the Spider Monkeys.  Of course Chico is first and he wants the jelly sandwiches – he gets two, one for each hand all the while I am met with singing from Mary who is glad to see me.  After Chico moves back with his hands and mouth full, Mary approaches.  I allow her to choose her favorite and she grabs 2 mini muffins.  She quickly consumes and grabs a banana.  Chico comes back and he gets a cheese stick.  Mary gets her jelly sandwiches and sings between bites.  They slowly take turns getting all there treats.  They still will be fed by the keepers there regular diets.  And then I will give them there PM treats and check up.  So far so good.  Mary is singing and happy and they both seem to be sharing perches.  Very happy.

As I head back up to the front of the ZOO to wash up I am met by a peacock with little pea-chicks.  Awe new babies. . love it.  So excited and I notice one is a white peacock.  Yea. . this is so cool but a little sad as this is possibly the one which might not make it due to the hawk predators in the area.  Hopefully she will be wise and listen to mom and she will stay protected.

Wow this feels like half a day but only a few hours. . more to go.  The phone rings . . .