It is truly amazing how fast time goes by when you are doing something you love. It is sad to think that after this week, I will only have 6 more weeks down here in Texas. I just know that these are going to be some of the best and hottest weeks of my summer! It has already begun to hit three digit heat with humidity down here and the temperature is only supposed to go up! Definitely not like our mild Indiana summers where 90 is pushing record highs. Down here, 90 degrees is a blessing and a cooler day. We hit 110 degrees just last week! But don’t worry, the heat can’t stifle my love for Texas and my zoo friends!
I’m sure you’re wondering how my primate friends are. Last week was my second week in the area and they are still doing amazing! All of the animals are getting used to having me around and now realize that I usually have delicious treats for them when I am around!. My favorites are still the two Red Rough lemurs Esther and Weasley. They are so goofy and I learned last week that they absolutely love armpit scratches! They will hang from a rope or structure and extend their arms so that you have perfect access to their armpits to scratch them until they are satisfied. Trust me, sometimes they would let you scratch them for what feels like forever! Of course I oblige because it is impossible to say no to their cute squishy faces and fluffiness! To describe the feeling of petting them, I would say they feel like what a golden retriever puppy feels like, heaven. They love when I come and visit them with treats like grapes or cereal!
As always, my week consisted of making their diets (primates really like watermelon) and cleaning their exhibits and barns. However, since it was my second week, I got to watch and be involved in a lot more training sessions with the primates. Training is a very important process in the zoo keeping world. Even for a zoo vet. A lot of the behaviors the animals do may seem like really cool tricks, but they usually serve some type of medical purpose. The whole point of training is to get animals to learn behaviors that can help the keeper assess them and make sure they are well. The Gibbons are trained to let the keepers see their hands and arms. Lemurs are trained to let keepers view their arms, hands, feet, and bellies. They are also station trained which means they can go to a particular spot and stay there until the keeper releases them. The Orangutans are the most intelligent of the primates and know over 50 behaviors. They know every part of the body, can make spitting noises, and are station trained as well. This training is all dependent on the bond an animal has with its keeper. It was amazing to see those bonds in action and watch the animals work with the keepers. Every once in a while, I will be allowed to ask the animals for a simple behavior that they know really well. It is important that the techniques used are the same as the animal’s keeper, otherwise they could get really confused. That is why a keeper is always with us when we interact with the animals. It is amazing how intelligent the animals are.
Well, I am working on my last week in the primate area and it is bitter sweet. I am going to miss my fur babies, but I am excited to see what the other areas hold for me. I’ll be posting more later this week about my primates and how the last week went. Oh! That is Esther with me in the photo, isn’t she just adorable?