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.