Did you know that as Zookeepers we get a lot of questions like “How do I become a zookeeper?” There are a lot of questions about what a zookeeper does or what kind of qualifications are needed. We’ve heard from many people that all we do is shovel waste, feed animals, and “play” with babies…this is a BIG misconception. First and foremost, a zookeeper has to respect the animals in their care. This is their home and we must understand and respect that. Wild animals can be very dangerous and will naturally protect their territory. As zookeepers, we must always be on guard and in tune with the animals, for their protection and ours. We are their “voice” and we have a responsibility to them; to keep them properly fed, maintain their habitat, and ensure they receive the quality of care they deserve. Their diets are carefully prepared and chosen based on research and veterinary guides. Their behavior and health are monitored very closely and recorded. Husbandry practices and species survival plans are extremely important especially with the rate of habitat destruction and deforestation in the wild today. Not only is zookeeping physically demanding, it is emotionally and mentally challenging as well. Education is vital in making sure these animals live a healthy and peaceful existence. Educating the public and ourselves on the ever changing world of animal ecology is essential for the survival of many animals in the wild today. To become a zookeeper in today’s world, a bachelor or master’s degree in zoology or a related field (such as animal behavior, biology, enviornmental sciences, etc.) is key to be able to begin the journey in animal care. Education along with experience, instinct, common sense, and compassion make a well rounded zookeeper. Do you have any questions? Just ask, we love to talk about the animals in our care and share our experiences.
This past summer we welcomed a baby Watusi to our family. Watusi, also called Ankole Cattle, are native to Africa. Their horns can reach up to 8 feet and some males can weigh up to 1600 lbs! This means that we have to be very careful when feeding and cleaning with these beautiful creatures. We especially have to be careful when momma Watusi has a new calf. Watusi cattle are very protective of their young and in the wild you will find most calves in the middle of the herd. Adults defend the herd by using their impressive horns and “stare” down tactics against intruders…and it can be very intimidating! Momma Watusi right now is especially protective of her baby and will show signs of agitation if people get too close to her calf. The calf is a little adventurous and momma is always right there for protection. We ask that you please stand back when the calf is close to the front of the exhibit, this is for your protection and momma’s peace of mind!
Ruth Schey writes : “I took this picture last week. This precious young Zebra came down the hill to see us. Her daddy wasn’t too pleased, he came running down and pushed her away from the wall. What a good daddy.”
Kelleyanne Bujold from Bellingham, MA took a great photo of Thelma & Louise enjoying a mud bath!
Along with many of our other animals, our American Alligator has thoroughly been enjoying the summer heat. Alligators are cold-blooded animals and do not require frequent feedings. In fact, alligators can survive for over a year without eating! Excess calories then get stored in fat deposits at the base of the alligator’s tail which help the alligator sustain for extended periods of time. During the hot summer months our alligator generally eats once a week and will access those stored calories in cold weather to get through the winter.
Many of our animals have enjoyed this hot stretch of weather and haven’t let the heat get them down. Animals including the Elk, Tigers, Flamingos, Brazilian Tapirs and Rhinos can all be found soaking up the sun and staying cool by the pool. Some of the animals spend these lazy summer days lounging in the sun whereas other animals, such as the alligator, become much more active in the warm weather! Just like humans, our animals have found ways to enjoy all the fun summertime can bring!
Flamingos in their pool!
We are proud to announce the arrival of eight baby pot-bellied pigs! They are now 10 days old and adjusting very well to their home here at Southwick’s Zoo! The litter has seven males and only only one female, who can be identified by the spots on her back. The mother is very protective of her babies as she is always close by making sure they are not getting into too much trouble!
The Hyenas are settling in nicely. They were a little skittish with all the people at first, but now they have been more active and comfortable with the public. Some have asked if the deer were a tease since they can see the deer in the deer forest. The hyenas are scavengers by nature and have not reacted to the deer at all! The females are larger and more aggressive than the males. They are the “brains” when it comes to security and scavenging. Also, the Reptiles are loving this hot weather!
Had a blast at the zoo today! The new mining exhibit is great and your prospector was amazing. What a friendly man; my 2 year old twins loved his singing and dancing June 2012
Quite the stand-off between this capybara and peacock this morning! They stood there just staring at each other non-stop for a good 5 minutes.
We are very excited as Spring wraps up and Summer is just around the corner. The capybara, the largest rodent in the world, are fan favorites here at the zoo! They are supposed to be moving in with the the Brazilian Tapirs this summer….however, we are still not sure if we will be moving them. This is the first time other than the African Plains that we will be attempting to put two different species together in a habitat. We are a little hesitant as we don’t know how the Tapirs will react to the Capys! We’ll keep you updated! Thanks to everyone for their donations. We are still looking for towels and blankets (used is fine)!