We have been getting many comments and questions about all of the snow we have been having here in New England. Yes, it is a LOT of snow! As Zookeepers, we work in all weather conditions to care for the animals. We think it is harder for us humans than the animals! The cats love playing in the snow and the Yak are in their element! The cheetahs experienced snow for the first time this year and watching them run and play in the snow is incredible. All of our animals can go inside and warm up if they choose, but many times we will find them outside in the craziest weather! There has been a lot of snow removal and shoveling on our end so they have easy access to the outside, but it is all part of the job. Our luckiest zookeepers this time of year work in the primate winter quarters where it is toasty warm! We have had a few babies born like a mandrill and african crested porcupines. We are always looking for enrichment ideas and donations for enrichment. Primates & Birds love “safe” children’s toys with mirrors, balls, noisy toys, blankets, towels, etc. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the zoo at 800-258-9182 x 200. Thank You and let’s hope the snow will be gone for Spring opening!
Enrichment is an important aspect of caring for animals in captivity. This keeps animals happy and healthy by encouraging natural behaviors and providing mental and physical stimulation. Enrichment can be provided in a variety of ways including: the design of the habitat, novel smells (this past year we discovered that our rhinos are very into cologne), food and foraging activities, and objects for the animal to interact with. Our zookeepers provide an array of enrichment year round. Around the holidays we like to get creative, so below are a few examples of how our animals enjoyed their own holiday festivities this year!
Pickles is an African crested porcupines who is often used for EARTH‘s education programs. Our staff made him a Christmas tree with some very tasty ornaments. His tree was adorned with fruits and veggies as well as popcorn, cranberry, and bamboo garland.
Our avian team made sure the birds didn’t miss out on the holiday festivities!
Our primate keepers gave the chimpanzees Santa hats to play with. Hilarity ensured naturally. Check out the short video of Tanzie with her Santa hat…she mostly figured it out.
Wow, we can’t believe it is already after Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for! We have been working hard bringing the tropical animals into their winter quarters here on property at Southwick’s Zoo from their outdoor habitats. Luckily, we accomplished everything right before the snow fell! Many of our animals love the snow and during those long winter months for those who do venture out into the snow, we make snow figures and ice boxes and bury enrichment and goodies for them to forage and find among many other enrichment activities. The animals that we move to the winter quarters, we provide lots of enrichment since it is too cold to go outside in the forms of surprise boxes, fresh herbs and veggies to forage under hay and in tubes, toys, blankets, etc. We are always looking for towels, blankets, baby toys, boomer balls, kong balls, etc. If you are interested in donating to the animals for the winter, please don’t hesitate to call 800-258-9182!
The temperature is getting cooler and we’re approaching the close of the zoo season. The questions we get most frequently this time of year is “Where do your animals go in the winter?”
All of our animals stay on the zoo grounds through the winter. We have a number of heated buildings so they stay warm and comfortable. Our birds and much of our primates were moved to a large heated building, while some of our animals, such as the lions and tigers, have heated enclosures as part of their normal habitats. Some of our animals even have the option of going outside during the winter.
We frequently see the camels, yaks, and even the big cats outside during the winter. It isn’t uncommon to see the tigers playing out in the snow.
On October 17 our lions, Leroy Jr (L.J. for short) and Levanna turned 2 years old! We celebrated their birthday on Saturday October 18 by giving them carved pumpkins filled with meat. Check out the photos below to see them play with their birthday treats! If you couldn’t make it to the zoo on Saturday to see them get their pumpkins, they will be getting pumpkins, as well as the tigers, for Zoo Boo Days on Sunday October 26 at 1-2pm.
We can’t believe October is just around the corner. There are a lot of goings on here at the zoo and when the season changes, care for the animals change as well. Some of the animals like the tortoises and birds will be moved to their winter quarters area. We have welcomed a family of cotton top tamarins and we welcome a education ambassador “Coco” the Coati. Coatis are native to South America and are a part of the raccoon family. She mostly stays at the Earth Discovery Center but until she is a little bigger she does need round the clock feeding. She is a little handful and this is one of the areas of our jobs that we love! The leaves are starting to turn so the giraffe’s will start “sticking out their tongue” at the colored leaves (they only like bright and healthy green leaves!). We are also accepting donations of towels and blankets for the animals.
On behalf of the zookeeping staff at Southwick’s Zoo, we’d like to thank everyone for a great summer. The weather was very good and we have been very busy. Thank you to the folks who have donated items for the animals, we truly appreciate it as you can see from some of the pictures of the chimpanzees, all the spare towels, bedding and t-shirts go to good use! We have completed the cotton top tamarin exhibit and are working on a new wolf’s guenon exhibit (they are in a temporary exhibit at this time) and we can’t wait until completion so these amazing primates will have lots of space to live and play! We also wanted to remind everyone that it is rut season for the deer and elk. This means that we are separating out the big, dominant males from the population so it will seem that there are less deer in the deer forest. Also at this time of year, the deer generally slow down or stop feeding in the afternoon so we suggest to visit the deer forest earlier in the day!
Intern Diary #3
When people think of internships at Southwick’s Zoo, their minds may automatically go to animal care positions. However, there is a lot more to running a zoo than just the animals. I am fortunate enough to have a marketing internship here at Southwick’s Zoo and I can say that it is a truly unique experience. My job changes from day to day depending on what events are coming up and what is new to the zoo. Although I primarily work in the office, I get the chance to take breaks during the day to walk around the zoo to take some photos to share with our fans on social media.
I also get the chance to help out with the planning of the larger events here at the zoo. I am able to talk to employees and owners of the zoo and help out with brainstorming how to best promote the event. For example, I was able to help out with Lions, Tigers, and Beers which turned out to be a huge success and it was something that I learned a good amount from. I also worked on Earth Awareness Day and advertised for the Earth Bash booth to encourage visitors to purchase discounted tickets to the event that day. Unfortunately, the weather did not work out like we had hoped, but it is something that everyone who deals with an outdoor venue must cope with. We still made the rainy day work and we hope that our visitors still enjoyed their visit!
Finally, although I’m more on the business side of the zoo, I do get to interact with the animals on a more personal basis. Sometimes, the zookeepers allow us to hold the animals, or go “behind the scenes” to take some pictures that no one else is able to get. For example, I was able to take a picture of Cricket, the baby tapir, before he was even let out into the exhibit. It’s amazing to be able to be so close to these beautiful creatures and it’s something that I wouldn’t be able to do at any other internship.
Being a marketing intern here at the zoo is a rewarding job. Each day, I think about what I can do to keep visitors interested in the zoo and how to ensure that they visit us again. I get to spend time taking beautiful, and sometimes humorous, photos of our animals and share them with our fans. Sometimes, our visitors get the best photos though. We get to share photos that professional photographers take, or the average visitor takes on a day with perfect lighting at just the right moment. It is so rewarding when visitors send us photos of their favorite moments of their visit and express how much they loved their experience, and it’s even better when we get to share those positive messages with the rest of our fans.
I have learned so much from this internship and it has been a great summer here at Southwick’s Zoo. I encourage anyone interested in getting an internship to apply, because working at this zoo is an experience like no other.
Intern Diary #2
As an intern at Southwick’s zoo, I have spent plenty of time being completely amazed by many of the magnificent creatures that inhabit our zoo. One animal that I have spent a lot of time around is a nine month old Red Kangaroo called Rufus. Rufus was hand raised by zookeepers after being found out of his mother’s pouch in the kangaroo habitat over the winter. He was completely hairless and weighed less than a pound!
Since that day the zookeepers have acted as Rufus’s mom feeding him a bottle and making sure he was well taken care of. Today, eight months later Rufus is a strong, healthy, and handsome kangaroo who seems to be growing bigger every day! Over the past week, Rufus has been slowly introduced to the kangaroo habitat and the all the other kangaroos that live here; so far Rufus has done excellent with meeting and greeting the kangaroo mob. It has been a fantastic experience for myself, and many others at the zoo, watching him grow and begin to integrate into the mob. Next time you come and visit, be sure to take a close look at our kangaroo exhibit, you may see Rufus out and about socializing with his kangaroo family.
We’re doing something a little different. The next few entries are going to be written by our interns.
Intern Diary #1
Being an intern at Southwick’s Zoo is definitely a dirty job at times, but more often than not, it is very rewarding. Over the past couple months I have learned quite a bit about the animals around the zoo, and I’ve learned even more about the animals in the EARTH building where I spend a majority of my time. We are responsible for roughly 60 animals at the Earth Discovery Center. This includes feeding them, cleaning their enclosures, training them, and creating enrichment for them.
One animal that I have been working closely with over the last few weeks is a blue and gold macaw named Spaz. Spaz is 22 years old and was hatched here at the zoo! He and his half-brother Merlin have lived with us ever since. Spaz has fascinated me since I started my internship back in May. He is extremely intelligent (as most birds are) and knows many different words and phrases such as “cracker”, “hello”, and “goodbye”. He can even laugh and roar! I watched one of my supervisors bond with one of our other birds in the building by spending time with him and sharing her lunch with him on occasion. I learned that the act of sharing food with the bird resembles what some birds do for each other, which is regurgitating food for one another in order to bond.
To build a relationship with Spaz I began spending more time with him doing different things such as sharing snacks, talking to him, and asking him to roar or say things like “cracker” for small treats. This went on for about a week until one of my supervisors decided it was time to test the bond. He was going to see if Spaz would step up onto my arm. This definitely requires trust on both sides. Blue and gold macaws are large birds that have a bite strength of 500-700lbs of force! Needless to say, this was a little intimidating at first. After learning exactly what I had to do in order to make sure I giving all the right signals and commands to Spaz, in a way that he and I would both be comfortable, he stepped up onto my arm. It doesn’t sound like much, but knowing the power that these birds have in their beak, it was pretty exciting. The fact that he did step up meant that he remembered who I was out of all the interns and, according to my supervisor, actually likes me! I have never known much about birds and what they are capable of, nor had much experience handling them. I cannot wait to continue to work with Spaz and build our trust bond even more.