Tuesday, May 14
The Bird Department is happy to welcome new white-crested laughing thrush chicks. They hatched on April 20. Zoo Atlanta has a history of breeding these birds, and we are very proud to add these new chicks to the collection.
White-crested laughing thrushes are the most sociable of the laughing thrush family. They are found in Southeast Asia, and they get their name from their calls. This is a very vocal species, and a group of white-crested laughing thrushes vocalizing simultaneously resembles laughing.
White-crested laughing thrushes are very active birds. They are non-migratory and spend a lot of time communicating with each other and foraging in the forest canopy as well as on the ground. The birds live in extended family groups and are very inquisitive and nosy. Males and females are strongly bonded and share incubation and rearing duties. White-crested laughing thrushes are very protective of their nest sites and territories. Their diet includes fruit, insects and some seeds.
Chicks fledge from the nest at 2 weeks of age but are looked after for several more weeks. Any older siblings will assist the breeding pair with rearing chicks. Young laughing thrushes become sexually mature within the year. White-crested laughing thrushes may have multiple clutches within a breeding season and can live to be 12 to 15 years old in the wild (longer in zoological settings).
White-crested laughing thrushes are common in the wild. The primary threat to their populations is habitat loss.
Keeper III, Birds and Program Animals
Thursday, May 9
Back in late March and early April, a couple of us who write these updates seemed to think that spring had sprung. I think we might have been a little wrong on that one (well, I’ll admit that I was). Who would’ve predicted that we would have so many cool, rainy days since then? I’m feeling more confident now that we really are moving into warmer weather, which means some big changes for the animals and the keepers.
For example, we often use strips of freezer flaps over many of the doorways that lead from the animals’ exhibits to their holding areas. This helps retain the heat in the buildings while still allowing the animals to have access to their outdoor areas. We use these flaps in several stalls in the Hoofstock Barn, but we’re done with them for the year. The keepers have removed them, and they’re cleaned and stored for next year. The keepers are also starting to take down the heat lamps in the exhibits as well since the overnight temperatures are also starting to rise.
Although it sounds like all of these things mean more work for the keepers, this transition eventually ends up being a little less. One thing that’s easier as the weather warms up is cleaning. Warmer temperatures mean less bedding for the animals. We still provide them with bedding in the warmer months, but obviously the less we put in, the less we have to take out. Many times if the animals have access to outdoor areas, they don’t spend much time inside, which means the keepers can get their cleaning done more quickly and work on the fun stuff, like training, enrichment and simply spending time with the animals.
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals
Tuesday, May 7
Our biggest news as of late is that two more Guatemalan beaded lizards hatched out last week, giving us a grand total of five hatchlings for the year. This is a remarkable success for the Herpetology Department here at the Zoo. We also hatched out an Arakan forest turtle this week! Zoo Atlanta is one of a small handful of zoos that breed this critically endangered species and we are happy to report our fourth year in a row of success.
Last week Robert Hill and Joe Mendelson returned from a week-long Amphibian Ark Academy at the Toledo Zoo. There they represented the Zoo as teachers, teaching numerous classes on amphibian husbandry and learning a couple extra tips from his colleagues. This was Amphibian Ark’s first time of many hosting this event.
Everything else is business as usual for the Herpetology Department. The weather this early spring has been less than ideal, as we are bringing out the last of our turtle species this week. The reptilian summer season should be in full swing very soon, and everybody will be soaking up the rays including our favorite Komodo dragon, Slasher. Also, don’t forget about our wonderful Snakes Alive! snake show. The show runs on Thursdays at 2 p.m., and we inform our guests about the incredible native species of Georgia.
Keeper III, Herpetology
Tuesday, April 30
We have new animals in the Wieland Wildlife Home! Recently, we have had the pleasure of receiving two baby American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). Chomper and Oke are their names. Chomper is named after the T-rex baby on “The Land Before Time” cartoon movie. American alligators are known for surviving the extinction of the dinosaurs over 150 million years ago, so the name fits. Oke is short for the Okefenokee, naturally because these guys are found in and around freshwater swamps and waterways like the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeastern U.S.
As I am sure many Gator fans are aware, this is the Florida state reptile; the longest alligator ever found was 19 feet, 2 inches in Louisiana. Yikes! Chomper and Oke are only about 8 inches long thus far. Our seasoned gator, Grits, will be 3 years old in September and is about 1.5 feet. Alligators grow about a foot a year for their first four years then grow larger according to food availability in their natural environment. That 19-foot gator clearly had a buffet available to him, but don’t worry. The average gator is only about 11-15 feet.
Like many animals, American alligators only bite for two reasons: if they have find something yummy to eat or if they feel threatened. They are opportunistic carnivores, meaning they eat all types of things, including carrion (dead things), and they need lots of teeth to tear through their food. Because of this they have around 80 teeth at a time, and 2,000-3,000 teeth during their lifetime, and they can eat all kinds of things.
American alligators defend themselves in many different ways. For one, they are great camouflagers. Fortunately, they live in the swamp and can hide within the murky waters. Their eyes and noses are on tops of their heads to keep an eye out for predators and to sneak up on their prey. Sneaky boogers! The best defense a gator has as a youngster it its mama. Not too many reptiles stick with their parents for too long, but gators are lucky. All a cute, innocent baby gator has to do is call for Mama gator and she’ll come a-runnin'.
We can't wait to get Chomper and Oke going out on programs and into shows to meet the public. Hopefully soon, but until then we will see you out in the Zoo!
Keeper I, Primates
Thursday, April 25
Recently we’ve made some exciting changes in our gorilla habitats. You may have noticed some increased activity in Habitats #2 and #4. Habitat #2 was empty for a while after the passing of Ivan, while Ozzie, Choomba and Shamba were going out in Habitat #4. This left our group of young bachelors out of sight in Habitat #5. Now that the weather has improved we’ve moved Ozzie, Choomba and Shamba to Habitat #2 and our young bachelors, Mbeli, Kali and Gunther are in Habitat #4. What a difference in their group dynamics! The three boys are often seen playing chase and wrestling. Even when they’re relaxing, Gunther can often be observed doing something silly! He enjoys rolling somersaults down the big hill, beating his chest and enticing the other 2 boys to come play with him! Both Kali and Gunther enjoy being able to see all of their family members in Taz’s group from a closer vantage point as well. Please remember to stop by their habitat and see what our young bachelors are up to! Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates
photo: Primate Intern Lori Kirkland
Tuesday, April 23
Once upon a time, there was a pair of Victoria crowned pigeons who lived at Zoo Atlanta. Their names were Pins and Lady Pins, and they were a challenge to everyone who worked with them. This is not surprising, because crowned pigeons are generally a challenge to work with. Their favorite hobby is beating keepers’ shins black and blue. Just to make the situation worse, Lady Pins has a deep-rooted dislike of each egg that she lays in the nest. She lays the egg, stares at it, decides it can’t possibly belong to her, and so abandons the nest. Sadly, her husband Pins has far better potential parenting skills and willingly takes over incubation of the egg. A few hours later, when it is time for Lady Pins to have her turn at incubating the egg, she is conspicuous by her absence. In frustration and hunger, Pins abandons the egg, realizing his wife is just not designed for parenthood.
So what happens to the egg? Keeper April leaps to the rescue! She sweeps the egg off to the incubator until, 28 days later, hatching day arrives! Suddenly, keeper staff understands why Lady Pins doesn’t want to be a parent. Raising baby pigeons is hard! A newly-hatched crowned pigeon chick is naked, blind, dark blue in color, and really, really tedious to feed. Most baby birds can be fed on a schedule. This baby crowned pigeon likes to decide when he wants to eat. He won’t eat until he’s nearly empty, and tonight it looks like that will be around 2 a.m., which is about four hours after the curator’s bedtime, and he is the victim taking care of the chick tonight. Tomorrow morning, we’ll have a nice fat chick and a grumpy, sleep-deprived curator. You’ve gotta love hand-raising!
Keeper I, Birds
Thursday, April 18
Spring Break has come to an end, and it’s been a busy time for all of us, as well as the animals. But now as the crowds wind down just a little (and the weather is being wonderful!), it’s a great time for you to come back and spend more time in front of the exhibits trying to catch some fun natural behaviors.
For instance Watson, one of our lesser kudus with the larger horns, may be trying to spar with the hay feeder bag on exhibit. This is part of his growing process and would greatly impress a female if there was one nearby. Or you might see our giraffes show some “springtime activity” by watching Abu closely following Glenda around on exhibit – they are “in love” after all. Or you might observe our bongo girls, Betty (youngster) and Matilda (mom), as Betty grows a little more independent each day and bounces around the yard excitedly.
We look forward to seeing what behaviors YOU might capture as you watch the animals frolic in this beautiful weather we’ve been having. Can’t wait to see you at the Zoo!
Keeper II, Mammals
Tuesday, April 16
The Herpetology Department has been busy for the past week getting tortoises and lizards outside for the spring weather – we hope they’ll soon all be out for the rest of the season.
I was in Guatemala last week looking in on Project Abronia, our project with the arboreal alligator lizards. We caught three individuals and extended the known range of one species, the Campbell’s alligator lizard. The animals we captured had radio-transmitters glued attached to them, and in their positions in the trees were recorded for two weeks. This will help us develop a conservation plan for this species. We also designed and began construction on the new Abronia breeding and research center in Guatemala!
Keeper David Brothers has been busy starting up the Snakes Alive! show which is scheduled run in the ARC on Thursdays at 2 p.m., and Monday was the start of the Aldabra tortoise Wild Encounter experience! David also has a green tree python that is gravid (going to lay eggs) starting to go into her egg-laying box, which you can see at the World of Reptiles.
And some bad news for us but hopefully good for him: Luke Wyrwich is leaving us to start another chapter in his Herpetology career with the Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina. This center is focused on turtle and tortoise conservation. Good luck, Luke – we’ll miss you!
Finally, Lead Keeper Robert Hill has begun the FrogWatch program here at the Zoo. He goes out with various members of the Zoo and other volunteers and counts the number of frog species they hear by the calls – it’s a really nice program.
Have a great spring, everyone!
Brad Lock, DVM
Curator of Herpetology
Tuesday, April 9
Zoo Atlanta started off the month of April with a bang. Guests from far and wide have traveled to Atlanta and visited the Zoo during Spring Break. The Final Four festivities only added to the excitement. The Wonders of Wildlife and Fantastic Flights shows have been very exciting and eventful. After April 14, we will resume weekday shows following Memorial Day (summer season). The animals have been enriched by the number of NightCrawler, field trip, and Safari Day Camp programs they have visited.
In addition to shows, we have opened a new exhibit between Wieland Wildlife Home and the Aldabra tortoise exhibit. This new exhibit will allow us to give some of our program animals some outdoor playtime, and we’ll have the ability to switch out the animals visitors see on a daily basis. Today Pumpernickel, the rabbit and Oscar, the red-footed tortoise are enjoying the 83-degree sunny weather after all the cold we have been experiencing! Thanks to the maintenance crew for building this lovely new exhibit!
Keeper I, Program Animals
Thursday, April 4
One of the most energetic and exciting exhibits at Zoo Atlanta has new additions! A happy, healthy set of twin golden lion tamarins (GLTs) were born on March 12. The keepers were expecting Robin to give birth for several weeks before she actually did. We all picked which day we were expecting the babies to arrive and they came on the very last day that someone picked! We thought surely they would arrive in February, or early March at the latest …not almost halfway through March!
Robin has had 10 babies before these twins, so we’ve all became very familiar with what a pregnant GLT looks and acts like. The beginning signs of Robin being pregnant usually include her lying down on the branches and eating more than her share of the group’s fruit and bugs. Then the obvious signs begin to set in … a big round belly! When you only weigh about 1 pound, baby weight is difficult to hide, especially when there are typically two babies in there! GLTs usually have twins, but can occasionally have one or three babies. Each baby usually weighs around 65 grams (just above 2 ounces), so this means that each baby is about 10% of the mom’s body weight. That would be the equivalent of a 150-pound woman having a 15-pound baby! Now imagine having two or even three!
Robin and Theo have had 12 babies on their own, and it’s safe to say that GLTs are great at reproducing when they have the right resources. This is one of the main reasons that wild GLTs were downgraded from “critically endangered” to “endangered.” GLTs were critically endangered for several reasons, including habitat loss and collection for the pet trade. GLTs are native to the Atlantic Coastal forest, of which less than 7 percent of forest remains! With the help of some dedicated scientists, the Brazilian government, and the cooperation of zoos, the GLTs are making a comeback. GLTs now have two protected reserves in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and it is now illegal to collect or own GLTs as pets. These conservation efforts, along with the reintroduction of captive born GLTs to Brazil, have increased the population of GLTs from 200 to 1,600 individuals! The status of GLTs has improved, but they still need more land and more habitat to continue to thrive and grow and to hopefully ditch the “endangered” status sometime in the future.
Needless to say, GLTs are amazing animals, and Robin is no exception. She is an experienced, caring, nurturing mother with a great family as a support system. The babies’ father (Theo) and all of the older siblings help Robin out with baby care, often carrying the infants around for the majority of the day. It’ll still be a while before the babies start climbing around on their own, but they do grow really fast, so be sure to come check out the little guys (or gals- we aren’t sure yet) before you blink and they’re all grown up. The family can be seen in their indoor exhibit every day. When the babies are just a little bit bigger and the weather is nice, they’ll also have access to their outdoor porch on the side of the building.
Keeper I, Primates
Tuesday, April 2
Spring has sprung! As we welcome Spring Breakers and warmer weather, we are also welcoming out birds that have been wintering indoors. You will start to see some new and familiar bird faces filling up exhibits in the days and weeks to come.
One of the birds that you might notice out on exhibit is Jasper. He is a black vulture, Coragyps atratus. Black vultures are native to Georgia, and their range extends from the southeastern U.S. to central Chile and Uruguay. With a wing span of about 5 feet, black vultures are large birds, but they’re small for vultures. They are known to be a very social species of bird and can been seen soaring on warm currents of air or roosting in the trees in large groups.
Jasper has a special story since he was once a part of our Wildlife Theater show. Jasper was partially hand-reared, which means that after being with his parents for a time, he was raised by people. He was a wonderful addition to the Wildlife Theater show, where he was able to educate the public about the important role that vultures play in our environment. Vultures are the clean-up crew of the natural world. They eat carrion which would otherwise create a breeding ground for disease.
At the ripe old age of 17, Jasper has now retired from his job as an animal ambassador in the Wildlife Theater and is happily spending time sunning in the front of the exhibit across from Nathan’s Famous and next to the milky eagle owls. Stop by and say hi to Jasper on your next visit to Zoo Atlanta. While you’re here, check out the all-new Wildlife Theater show and watch animal ambassadors bring the high-flying, action-packed world of birds soaring all around you!
Keeper III, Birds and Program Animals
Thursday, March 28
Has Spring finally sprung in Atlanta? I sure hope so. The drastic changes in the weather have been confusing, and I think many of the animals are ready for milder temperatures. This is one of the best times to visit the Zoo to see the animals, since we’re not yet in the midst of the summer heat. The animals tend to be a bit more active at these moderate temperatures and because it’s still not very hot in the afternoons, they remain more active throughout the day. The warthogs will soon be enjoying their mud wallow, and the tigers will certainly make use of their pool. And the savanna exhibit will be full with giraffes, ostriches, zebras and our newest additions, lesser kudus Sherlock and Watson. If you haven’t seen Sherlock and Watson in a while, you’ll be surprised by how much they’ve grown and you’ll be impressed with the progress they’re making on their horns.
This weekend will be an especially fun time to visit the Zoo, because many of the animals will be receiving special enrichment for the Easter holiday. And don’t let the forecast for a little rain deter you from coming to see us. You know how quickly the weather can change in Atlanta!
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals
Tuesday, March 26
The Herpetology Department is starting to prepare for our spring exhibits and programs. Our tortoises that have been off exhibit for the winter will be moving back out soon, so we have been clearing old vegetation in preparation. We have a new amphibian on exhibit now in the World of Reptiles: the Lake Zacapu salamander. This is a really neat, fully aquatic salamander that regularly swims around the habitat.
Our reptile breeding activities still continue, although no new eggs have been laid recently. We do have several species of turtles and tortoises still incubating as well as our Guatemalan beaded lizard eggs, three of which are due to hatch any day now. Keep watching our website for updates on these rare, venomous lizards being bred here at Zoo Atlanta. We have also recently added some new exhibit furnishings to our green tree python exhibit. Guests will notice a small box in the lower front corner of the exhibit. This is a lay box for our female python to lay her eggs. Ultrasounds show the eggs are nearly ready for deposition, and we are waiting patiently. This lay box will be left in the exhibit for guests to view the eggs developing and hatching on exhibit.
Our Curator of Herpetology, Dr. Brad Lock, is down in Guatemala this week working with our partners in Project Heloderma. This is a project designed by Zoo Atlanta and Zootropic to purchase and protect lizard habitat, combat illegal trade, and educate local people on the value of one of their national treasures.
Two of our keeper staff went last week for work with thegopher frog projectthat Zoo Atlanta participates in with the University of Georgia and Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The frog counts were not as high as our last trip in the field, but numbers still show promise and the project is progressing as hoped.
I attended the Claxton Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival in Claxton, Ga., on March 9 and 10 to represent Zoo Atlanta’s commitment and support of this updated format to their long-standing event. For over 40 years, Claxton celebrated with a Rattlesnake Roundup. This changed in 2012 when they decided to update from a roundup to a festival that celebrated the life of the rattlesnakes and other wildlife here in Georgia. This is the second year of this updated event that is no longer removing these amazing animals from nature. All of the animals are housed all year at several facilities around Georgia for live snake demonstrations during the festival. These facilities do a wonderful job of raising healthy animals for the festival year after year, which will eliminate the need to remove animals from the wild.
Keeper II, Herpetology
Tuesday, March 19
St. Patrick’s Day weekend weather was beautiful, and it definitely sparked some lovely crowds. It was the sort of the pre-kick off to our Spring Break season. During our Spring Break show season (March 30 through April 14) we will feature shows seven days a week, weather permitting. We will also be kicking off the new Fantastic Flights free-flighted bird show at the Wildlife Theater (11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and a revamped Wonders of Wildlife Show at Amy's Tree Theater (2 p.m.).
We are very excited for the new show season and welcome you to check out all the hard work that has gone into learning a new show, as well as training new animal behaviors. Who wouldn't want to see that? Our rehearsals have been quite entertaining, so we are excited for the debut. Who knows? You might even see the lovely Caroline, Keeper III (Homo sapiens) and Max, the prehensile tail-porcupine (Coendou prehensilis), pictured right.
Keeper I, Program Animals
Thursday, March 14 The Primate Department recently bid a bittersweet Bon Voyage to one of our favorite Bornean orangutans, Sulango. Sulango has been recommended by the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) to be transferred to a new home at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on a breeding recommendation. Although we never like to see any of the animals we work with leave us, cooperating with SSP programs is one of the important ways we have of looking out for the long-term success of the population of orangutans living in AZA-accredited zoos in North America.
To get ready for his trip, we had used positive reinforcement training to train Sulango to voluntarily accept a hand injection so that he could be comfortably sedated and moved to an orangutan-proof traveling crate. Once he was in his crate and awake, his journey to Ohio began. Anytime there is an animal transport, keepers always stop periodically to feed and check on the passenger. Sulango remained very calm throughout the trip. I was able to make the trip with him, and this seemed to help with his transition to his new zoo. I spent an entire day with his new keepers, talking to them about Sulango’s individual behavior and the training behaviors he has learned. The transition went very smoothly, and we hope Sulango’s new adventure will be a success! Patti Frazier
Keeper II, Primates
Tuesday, March 12 With the spring season right around the corner, the Bird Department has already been, and will be, going through some exciting changes around the Zoo. As of this past Saturday, March 9, our parakeet aviary reopened for guests to come through and potentially feed one of our colorful little birds with the purchase of a seed stick. Over the past weekend, all of the little budgies showed strong interest in eating off the seed sticks, which made it a huge comeback hit.
In other areas around the Zoo, you might start to see some of our aviaries looking a little different as we get ready for the warmer temperatures headed our way. Heat lamps, window covers, and various other pieces of wintertime exhibit equipment will be taken down and stored away for next winter. During this transition, we will have a lot more of our tropical and warm-climate birds start making an appearance back in our larger enclosures like The Living Treehouse.
This is also the season for most of our bird species to breed, and we are already busy with a few exciting eggs and birds staying busy with their nests. A great example would have to be our wreathed hornbill pair, Betel and Zelda. Zelda has just started going to work in her nest box which she was given access to a few days ago for the first time since last year.
In addition to all of this, we are trying out some cross-fostering between species by taking a "dummy" egg and placing it under our broody birds. This will hopefully help us out with the incubation periods of these eggs, which are usually about month-long on average for most of our collection. Currently, we are trying out a Victorian crowned pigeon dummy egg underneath one of our speckled pigeons, and so far it has been successful at incubating! Andy Clement Keeper I, Birds
Thursday, March 7
For the past few weeks we’ve been preparing to send Alice the warthog on to her new life at the Oakland Zoo. You may remember that our last litter of warthog piglets consisted of Dennis, Martha and Alice. Quite some time ago, Dennis and Martha made their way to Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, based on a recommendation from the Species Survival Plan (SSP). At that time, there wasn’t a spot for Alice, so she has remained with her parents. This changed a few weeks ago, though, and at that point the planning began.
Because we’ve had so many warthog piglets, the process has been incredibly smooth. We already have everything we need on hand, and given that we’ve done this so many times, we’ve already got a plan in place, too. Alice will be traveling in style, in a large trailer with her own stall that will give her room to stretch her legs throughout the trip. We’ll certainly miss her, but we’re excited for Alice to begin her adventure into adulthood and meet some new warthogs. We’re also excited for the possibility of more piglets in the future, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for that!
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals
Tuesday, March 5
Well, things continue to be super busy in the Herpetology Department. A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks, so buckle your seatbelts!
I recently joined Herpetology Lead Keeper Robert Hill and Director of Herpetological Research Dr. Joe Mendelson at the annual meeting of the Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (SEPARC) at the Hickory Knob State Park in South Carolina, where we heard presentations from, and networked with, various herpetologists, biologists, and state officials who are involved with numerous conservation projects for imperiled reptiles and amphibians throughout the Southeast. Robert presented an update on the gopher frog head-start project that Zoo Atlanta is currently involved with, and Joe gave a presentation on disease risk mitigation for amphibian reintroductions.
Keeper Luke Wyrwich made his second trip this past weekend to Cross, S.C., to assist with the construction efforts at the Turtle Survival Alliance’s (TSA) Turtle Survival Center (TSC). The work that is being done by Luke and the other dedicated individuals at the TSC will result in new enclosures and housing for many of the TSA’s rare and endangered species.
Curator of Herpetology Dr. Brad Lock recently traveled to Orlando, Fla., where he attended Disney’s workshop on ex situ amphibian medicine and nutrition. The information that he gathers at meetings such as this one allows us to provide the best possible care for the animals here at the Zoo.
All of this time on the road hasn’t slowed us down here at home. A number of new poison dart frogs have recently been added to the collection, including the bumblebee poison dart frog (now on exhibit), the dyeing poison dart frog, the red-headed poison dart frog, and the three-striped poison dart frog. In addition to that, we now also have Lake Zakapu salamanders on exhibit. These critically endangered salamanders are only found in this one lake in Mexico.
We have some very important updates on our conservation efforts here at Zoo Atlanta. We recently received a new collection of gopher frog eggs for our head-start project. This is a project that Robert Hill is actively involved with and is an effort to reintroduce these animals into parts of their historic range. Currently undergoing our quarantine process are two pairs of Louisiana pine snakes. These endangered animals are part of a developing project wherein captive-produced offspring will be released back into the wild. Also, we recently received an egg from our female Mexican box turtle. This is the first egg that she has laid in three years and, if hatched, will be an important addition to the Mexican Box Turtle Studbook.
Lastly, please join us in congratulating Robert Hill in his recent promotion to Lead Keeper. This promotion is well deserved and we know that he will serve the position well.
David Brothers Keeper II, Herpetology
Thursday, February 28
Half way through Trader’s Alley you look down into an exhibit and wonder what sort of critter that is staring back at you. While it’s definitely cute and fluffy, it is hard to discern whether it is a fox, a raccoon, a furry Pokemon wind-up toy, or some odd musky combination of all of those. Close on all accounts, but what you see is a tanuki (tah-noo-key), and two tanuki at that. We have brothers, Loki and Thor, who arrived last year from a zoo in Italy and will turn 3 this coming May.
Also known as raccoon dogs, tanuki are ancestral members of the canid (dog) family and are native to east Asia. They can also be found in Russia and Scandinavia, where they were introduced in the early 1900’s to bolster the fur trade, but where they are now treated as potentially hazardous non-native species. They are the only member of the dog family that regularly climbs trees to forage for food and the only member to hibernate.
Tanuki are a hardy species and well adapted to ever changing habitats due to their flexible and omnivorous diet and relatively few natural predators. Large carnivores like wolves and large eagles are capable of preying on adult tanuki, but generally favor younger animals.
Tanuki are a common theme in Japanese art and remain significant in Japanese folklore, as they have since ancient times. The legendary tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shape-shifting, but somewhat gullible and absentminded. I think if you spend some time watching our boys, especially after they’ve finished a meal, you’ll agree that they are all that and more. I think they’re the perfect ambassadors representing the mission and spirit of our Trader’s Alley.
Tuesday, February 26
Ever wondered if a parrot's nails are sharp and hurt keepers when we are handling them? Occasionally, yes. Well, what do we do about it? One thing you’ll repeatedly hear about animal care at Zoo Atlanta is that we cannot "make" our animals do anything. Using positive reinforcement, we ask an animal for a behavior. When they produce that behavior they get reinforced for it. If they give us the incorrect behavior, we just ignore it (otherwise we would be rewarding the wrong behavior) and wait for the correct behavior, asking for it again if needed. In the case of our Wildlife Theater parrots, those reinforcers are seeds and a special parrot chow that they think is mmm-mmm-good!
So, back to the manicure. In order for us to be comfortable with a parrot during an encounter or during the Fantastic Flights show, we have trained them using positive reinforcement to present their feet and allow to file their nails. How do we do that? Well, step one is to ask them to “target” on a perch attached to a climbing surface. When we ask them to target to the left of the perch, they reach for the target, putting the left foot up against the mesh for stability. The same goes for the right foot, when presenting the target to the right of the perch. We then use “Good” as the bridge that signals they’ve done the behavior we desire, and a reward is on its way. Next, we present the dremmel, which in layman’s terms is a nail file. We ask the parrot to target. When they present the correct foot and allow the foot to be touched by the dremmel, they are given the reward. Finally, we introduce the movement of the dremmel. After a few sessions and lots of seeds and chow, our parrots present the foot we ask for and allow their nails to be trimmed.
This training is very important not only for parrot nail trims, but for other animals’ training, such as asking the gorillas to present an arm for their annual flu shots, asking the pandas to open their mouths for a health check, or asking the free-flighted birds to fly to the correct perch and remain in the theater. Positive reinforcement can even be useful for training children to eat their vegetables! Ask them to eat their vegetables. If they refuse, they just won’t have access to any potential rewards, whether it’s post-dinner ice cream, T.V. before bed, etc. If they do eat their veggies, let them know you’re proud of them, and give them said reward. Remember: The cue should be followed by the desired behavior, which should then be followed by a reward desired by the “trainee.”
Good luck, fellow trainers. Perhaps you can even train your husband, son or daughter to give you a manicure!
Keeper I, Program Animals
Thursday, February 21
We are preparing to bid farewell to one of Zoo Atlanta’s longtime gorilla residents, Machi. She has received a breeding recommendation from the Gorilla SSP and her future match is at the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee. So, how do you send a gorilla to his or her new home? In a special crate. We began crate training with Machi in January.
There is more to crate training a gorilla than meets the eye. First we attached the crate to the side of her existing holding area in the building. We gave her a few days to get used to seeing it there. Then we opened the crate door and gave her a couple of days to come and go as she felt comfortable. The next step was getting her to enter the crate when asked. To make this process easier, we offered her daily fruit at the rear of the crate and even did short training sessions. We have also added a second keeper to stand beside the crate as if they might lower the door. Each week we lower the crate door a little more so that when we do close the door, it won’t be as surprising. So far Machi has been doing very well with the whole training process. Keep your fingers crossed that Machi has her bags packed and is ready to go!
Keeper II, Primates
Tuesday, February 19
Chilean flamingos—aren’t they chilly? One of the first sights to see at Zoo Atlanta comes immediately upon entering the front gates—the bright and beautiful Chilean flamingos! Even better news: these birds are in their pool to greet guests year round, almost regardless of outdoor temperatures. It might seem like these South American birds would have trouble withstanding Atlanta’s fluctuating winter weather, but these birds range throughout Peru, Chile, and Argentina, including the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains. Climates throughout these countries vary greatly based on season as well as altitude. Chilean flamingos, therefore, are well adapted to cold air and water temperatures. The only time Atlanta gets a little too cold for these birds is when their pool starts to freeze over!
You might notice our flamingos behaving in a unique way. When a few birds are displaying a specific behavior, most of the flock will follow suit. This flocking behavior is a natural adaptation for many birds. Some of the advantages to living in a flock include protection from predators, better foraging opportunities, greater mating success, aerodynamics in flight, and warmth. In the wild, Chilean flamingos can be found in flocks of a few dozen birds up to tens of thousands!
Have you ever tried to count the birds in our flock? You might first assume there are only 20-30 birds. Upon counting them, however, you might be shocked to realize there are really 54! The birds prefer to stand in a close-knit group, preventing any big gaps between birds and thus giving the entire flock better protection from predators. This behavior also provides warmth for each bird. Flamingos are naturally social and gregarious birds and they like interacting with their flock mates all around them. Flocking behavior is a very useful adaptation, especially in the wild!
Keeper I, Birds
Thursday, February 14 Happy Valentine’s Day! Although things have cooled down between black rhinos Utenzi and Andazi, love was certainly in the air during their last breeding introduction. Hormonal assays have confirmed that Andazi is pregnant, so we’ve begun preparations for the birth of the calf. Because we haven’t experienced a rhino birth here at Zoo Atlanta, we’ve been contacting other institutions for information. It’s great to have a network of colleagues that is willing to share what they’ve learned throughout their years of working with rhinos. We’re also taking a close look at our facilities to assess what baby-proofing needs to be done. Rhino calves are quite large at birth (on average, about 80 pounds), but are certainly small enough to squeeze into areas that the adults can’t. We need to think like a curious little rhino calf as we look at our rhino barn and exhibit. We’re very excited about the prospect of a baby rhino and although the calf isn’t due for many months, we want to do all that we can to ensure he or she has a safe place to grow up. Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals
Tuesday, February 12
The Herpetology Department has been busy as ever in the past few weeks. We have had some warmer days, but we are still having enough cold weather to keep the department in “winter-mode.” This hasn’t slowed any of our outdoor projects, though.
Keepers Robert Hill and Luke Wyrwich traveled to southwest Georgia for field work with the gopher frog project we share with the University of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Scoping tortoise burrows produced an average of four to five gopher frogs observed each day. This is quite promising and the entire group is excited with these early results.
This past weekend, Luke Wyrwich also traveled this past weekend with Deputy Director Dwight Lawson, PhD, to Cross, S.C., to work with members of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) at the Turtle Survival Center. This is a 50-acre property and breeding facility that is dedicated to the TSA’s goal of zero turtle extinctions. The dedicated members that attended this past weekend worked extremely hard clearing land and initially designing ponds in preparation for new outdoor habitats for many of the rare species kept and bred at the facility.
None of this off-grounds work has slowed anything for the World of Reptiles. Many of the snakes in the collection have been breeding. Our Amazon tree boas, bushmasters, and green tree pythons have all been observed breeding over the past few weeks. The department also recently seeded the Herpetology Browse Garden with several greens to start the growing season. This year we are expanding the browse garden to include more fruits and vegetables for feeding our extensive turtle and tortoise collection.
Some of our biggest news relates to changes in staff roles in the Herpetology Department. Joe Mendelson, PhD, has transitioned into a new role as the Zoo’s Director of Herpetological Research, and Brad Lock, DVM, has moved into the role of Curator of Herpetology. Congratulations to both Brad and Joe on their new positions!
Keeper II, Herpetology
Tuesday, February 5
Recently, the Program Animals Department has made a few staff changes. Christina Lavallee was brought aboard as a Keeper III and primary keeper at the Wildlife Theater in the fall. Most recently, she has been promoted and is now the Lead Keeper of Program Animals. Caroline Ledbetter, formerly Keeper II, has been promoted to Keeper III and will continue as a primary keeper at Wieland Wildlife Home. She just can't get enough of the amazing animals that live there! Last, but certainly not least, Briel Ritter was a seasonal Keeper I since early fall 2012 and is now a full-time Keeper I and a primary keeper at the Wildlife Theater. Please join me in congratulating these wonderfully talented ladies.
With Spring Break and summer break show seasons quickly approaching, we are all preparing for new show material, training new animal behaviors, and working to maintain the "oldies but goodies" behaviors.
Come check out the Program Animals cast and crew, which also includes myself, Georgette Richards, Wildlife Theater Keeper II, and Rebecca Bearman, Assistant Curator of Birds and Program Animals. Currently, the Wonders of Wildlife Show at Amy's Tree Theater and the Fantastic Flights Show at the Wildlife Theater are happening on weekends (weather permitting) when you can meet our wonderful animal ambassadors. Check your Zoo maps for show times, in addition to Wild Encounters, keeper talks, and feedings when you arrive at Zoo Atlanta.
Keeper I, Program Animals
Thursday, January 31
What exactly is a drill? Besides a power tool of course, a drill is a small primate from central Africa! “Small” is a relative term, however, as drills are on the larger end of the small primates. Male drills usually weigh between 40 and 50 pounds, and females are between 20 and 30 pounds. Drills are one of the rarest primates in the world and unfortunately, due primarily to habitat loss and hunting, they are classified as endangered. Zoo Atlanta is actively involved in drill conservation through monetary donations and hosting visiting zookeepers from sanctuaries in Africa.
At Zoo Atlanta, we house seven drills separated into two groups. These unique primates can be seen in the Monkeys of Makokou exhibits in The Ford African Rain Forest anytime temperatures are between 40 and 100 degrees (they have access to the indoors if it’s too cold or too hot).
One of our exhibits has a group consisting of one male and two female drills named Bobby, Inge, and Bioko. As with all animals, these three drills have quite the personalities! Bobby is often described by the keepers as “regal” and “serious,” but he can be playful as well. Bobby will usually smile at keepers in the mornings and come up to greet us. Bobby likes to spend the majority of his time up on the rocks on the right side of his exhibit. Sometimes he takes naps, enjoys grooming sessions with the females, or simply looks over his kingdom. He has ladders, ropes, and branches to use to climb on and off of the rocks, but he usually forages for food in the morning and then spends the rest of his day happily perched on the rocks. Drills are mostly terrestrial monkeys, spending the majority of their time on the ground, but they are also quite good at climbing; they are monkeys, after all.
Inge is the oldest female drill at Zoo Atlanta. She’s 26 years old and has had nine babies in her life (three of her daughters live in the exhibit next door)! She’s one amazing animal and is quite clever. She’s pretty stubborn, but still enjoys playing with enrichment and interacting with keepers. Nearly all of the drills in North American zoos are related to Inge in some way.
Bioko is one of Inge’s daughters as well, and she’s our most vocal monkey. Bioko can be heard all around the primate areas, especially late in the afternoon. Drill females make loud “crow” noises to stay in contact, but also when they’re excited for dinner! Next time you’re at the Zoo, swing by the monkey exhibits late in the day and you’ll surely hear the females expressing their excitement for their upcoming meal. Also, be sure to say hi to Bobby up on the rocks, and visit the group of drills in the exhibit next door: Lyle, Drew, Lucy and Achi. They’ll all be happy to have visitors!
Keeper I, Primates
Tuesday, January 29
It’s been cold lately, and weather changes bring the usual challenges for various Zoo departments. The Bird Department’s latest challenge winged in with one of the last cold fronts as he was migrating south: a wild juvenile red-tailed hawk.
Red-tailed hawks, particularly the ones up north, do migrate south as the weather turns cold. This one made a stop at the Zoo and made a very pleasant discovery – free food courtesy of rodents intended for some of our Zoo birds. Not willing to miss out, our new friend very quickly learned to steal food from the ground hornbill and lappet-faced vulture yards. This is a very good deal for a young red-tailed hawk; it’s harder to hunt in a new territory, and the journey itself makes a bird hungry. A juvenile bird is still learning the ropes, and free food is free food.
As keepers, we have to figure out how to keep wild birds from taking food meant for our collection. Zazu and Gumby might spend much of their day showing off their breakfasts to visitors, but they do eventually eat it – hard to do if a hawk has already eaten it for them.
Why don’t we just shoo our new friend away? Not only do we not want to scare him off (he’s a wild bird with every right to be there), but we’re also following the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The MBTA protects red-tailed hawks as well as almost all native, migratory birds in the U.S. This includes almost all of the birds that regularly visit your backyard bird feeders, with few exceptions.
To quote the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the MBTA “makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests or eggs of such a bird” without a very specific permit. This also means that any feathers, nests or eggs should be left where you found them, and it’s illegal to hunt or harass protected birds. What does it mean for our guest hawk? He has laws that say he can stay as long as he wishes.
What does this mean for us? We have to get creative. We give Zazu and Gumby most of their food in areas the hawk can’t reach (such as inside their shed), and we make sure the vultures eat their food when they get it. And don’t worry too much about our wild raptor friend; he’s proven that he has no problem hunting wild squirrels and chipmunks when he’s hungry. When the weather warms up, he’ll likely go back to where he came from (if he doesn’t, our local pair of red-tailed hawks may have a few things to discuss with him). If you see him on your next visit to the Zoo, feel free to stop and watch for a bit – just don’t be surprised if he doesn’t offer to share!
Keeper I, Birds
Thursday, January 24
Two weeks ago two of our male otters, Brownie and Lil’ T, moved on to new lives at new zoos. Brownie traveled to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Ohio, and Lil’ T made a trip to Woodland Park Zoo in Washington.
The boys are brothers, and had spent their lives here with us at Zoo Atlanta. A couple of years ago, however, the two began exhibiting aggressive behavior towards their father, which necessitated that they be separated from the group. The two did very well together as two little bachelors, and we made sure they maintained visual access with the rest of the group. It turns out that the boys are quite the catch, and each of them received breeding recommendations at their new zoos. After typical quarantine periods, they’ll be introduced to their new female partners with the hopes that baby otters will soon be on the way!
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals
Tuesday, January 22
With the winter weather the last few days, not much has been happening outdoors for the Herpetology Department, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been hiding underground!
For the first time, we now have a Mexican lance-headed rattlesnake (Crotalus polystictus) on exhibit in the World of Reptiles. These rare Mexican rattlesnakes are fairly small, and the female sub-adult we are exhibiting is part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) run by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Herpetology Keeper David Brothers set up a great exhibit mimicking the grassy and rocky habitats used by wild lance-headed rattlesnakes.
On the breeding side of things, we’ve seen breeding behavior from our pair of green tree pythons (Morelia viridis). Females of these bright green serpents actually wrap around their eggs and incubate them using muscle twitching. We hope to allow her to lay her eggs and display this amazing behavior on exhibit for all to see.
Also, Keeper David Brothers and I will be travelling to southwest Georgia again to continue monitoring for re-introduced gopher frogs (Lithobates capito) with project partners from the University of Georgia. This is very rewarding as last month, we were able to see seven released gopher frogs in tortoise burrows with the use of a special “burrow camera.”
We also welcome back our Curator of Herpetology, Dr. Joe Mendelson, who has been out following knee surgery. We’re glad to have you back!
Keeper II, Herpetology
Thursday, January 17
It’s with immense sadness that we in the Bird Department recently said goodbye to one of our favorite Zoo Members. Stephanie Joy Wayman and her mother Margo had been Zoo Atlanta Members for many years and were regular features in the Zoo scenery. They were here as usual on January 7, and I had a chance to catch up with them for a few minutes before they left the Zoo at the end of their visit. Just a few hours later, Stephanie was rushed to the hospital, where she passed away on January 10.
Stephanie had far more health challenges than most of us, but she was not a complainer and never unloaded her woes on us. Instead, she set an example by always staying focused on the positive. She didn’t mind a damp grey day at the Zoo; she found real enjoyment in the little things. She took immense pleasure in watching the lions on top of their rock looking lazily upwards to watch a plane go by. She treasured the memory of feeding a frog in the World of Reptiles. And the tiger cubs? They brought her true joy.
We got to know Stephanie and Margo because they were usually around at the quietest times of the week, when it’s easier for staff to get to know individual guests. They were always loaded down with cameras and smiles and good humor as they worked their way around the Zoo. They spent a great deal of time around Outback Station, where Stephanie especially loved Cecil the cassowary and the Kunekune pigs. Elephants and giraffes were Stephanie’s adored mammals of choice, and she felt the loss of Mona very keenly. Her favorite birds were the ground hornbills Gumby and Zazu and the wreathed hornbills Zelda and Betelgeuse. Her all-time favorite Zoo moment was a behind-the-scenes trip to feed worms to the ground hornbills!
While those of us in the Bird Department look forward to Margo’s continued visits to the Zoo, we’re saddened by the loss of one of our best and most enthusiastic Zoo lovers. We have so many wonderfully dedicated Zoo Atlanta Members, and Stephanie was a shining example of one who truly took joy in the Zoo and the animals and radiated that joy each time she visited.
Curator of Birds and Program Animals
Tuesday, January 15
In a previous update from August 21, you met our new program animal, Reko the yellow-naped Amazon. At the time she was settling in. She has met her roommates, the other program animal parrots and her trainers. Reko has made a lot of progress and is still showing improvement daily. She is continually building better relationships with her trainers. She has learned her keepers’ routines and will come to trainers and step onto their hands when asked. She is also helping with her own care as she will step onto a scale so we can monitor her weight. This way we can monitor her health as birds will try to hide if they aren't feeling well.
Weight change is an immediate way of determining health with birds. Reko has also learned to eat different food. During her pre- Zoo Atlanta life, she was offered different types of food from what we offer her at the Zoo. She is fed a nutritionally balanced diet with a mix of fruit and veggies, plus a supplemental feed of dry parrot kibble called Harrison's, and sunflower seed treats. In fact, the kibble has become her favorite treat, and Reko enjoys practicing her vocabulary hoping for that treat. She really loves to eat corn and will make a royal mess. She also likes long walks on the beach. Just kidding! I was seeing if you are still paying attention.
As Reko continues to learn, her trainers and behaviors get better and better. Come peek in the window at Wieland Wildlife Home and wave hi. She just may wave back.
Keeper III, Program Animals
Thursday, January 10
As any new parent knows, there is a lot of preparation that goes into having a baby. But what most people may not realize is that there is also a lot of preparation for babies at Zoo Atlanta. Blaze, one of our female Sumatran orangutans, is pregnant and the birth is due soon. As soon as we realized she was pregnant, I started training her to prepare her for any scenario that may occur. We hope that she will be a great mom, but since this is her first baby we are teaching her some maternal skills so she is better equipped to care for her baby.
For example, I have painted a small block of wood to resemble an infant orangutan in order to teach Blaze how to properly carry an infant. Blaze is trained to pick up and carry this block of wood to various locations, carry it properly and hold it to her nipple, as well as hold it to the mesh for inspection. In the event that Blaze has problems lactating, she is also trained to hold the "baby" up to a bottle so we can supplementally feed the infant through the cage mesh.
I have also taught Blaze that her infant will be clinging to her, and it may be uncomfortable at times. I have done this by gently tugging on her hair and getting her used to something holding onto her. I have been training Blaze to be ready for any variable that she may come across as a first time mom. Hopefully, she will naturally be a great mom and care for the infant correctly, but in case she doesn’t, she is trained and familiar with many behaviors that will help her take care of the infant properly.
Keeper III, Primates
Tuesday, January 8
It’s that time of year again. Of course, it’s kori bustard breeding season! Here at Zoo Atlanta, we house two kori bustards, our male Snake and our female Tuza. Kori bustards are one of the largest flying birds, with males weighing anywhere from 15 to 31 pounds. (Females can weigh anywhere from 6.5 to 15 pounds.) They are omnivorous (eating both animal and vegetable substances), with insects making up the majority of their diet. They will also consume small vertebrates such as mammals, lizards, snakes and birds. Seeds and berries are also eaten as well as the gum from Acacia trees, earning them the name Gompou, which is Afrikaans for “gum-eating bird.” Kori bustards feed mostly in the early morning and late afternoon and rest during the heat of the day.
Right now you may go up to the exhibit and find Snake standing right up against the mesh in any of the viewing areas where people are. He also may be performing a “balloon” display. During breeding season, males perform these "balloon" displays to attract females. Displays can occur throughout the day, but are usually most intense in the early morning and late afternoon/evening. During the height of the display, a male will inflate his esophagus to as much as four times its normal size (resembling a balloon). With the neck expanded, the tail and wing feathers pointed downward, and the crest erected, the male gives a low-pitched booming noise as he snaps his bill open and shut. Females are presumably attracted to the male with the most superior display.
Make sure that you stop by the African Plains to see the kori bustards on your next trip to the Zoo. You may get the chance to witness a “balloon” display for yourself. Shelley Raynor
Keeper III, Birds and Program Animals
Thursday, January 3
Welcome to the New Year! The Herpetology Department has been fairly quiet over the past few weeks; however, with the colder weather, we have not been completely hibernating. Our last gravid Guatemalan beaded lizard has laid four of five eggs, but unfortunately they’re not viable. She is a very young female, and so this egg production is encouraging going forward. Our turtle species are going strong, however, and we have pancake tortoise, radiated tortoise and Arakan forest turtle eggs in the incubator for the New Year.
In the field, Robert Hill and Luke Wyrwich participated in a survey of gopher tortoise burrows to look for re-introduced gopher frogs. These frogs are brought into captivity as egg masses and then hatched out and head-started until large enough to release. The project partners that participated in the survey included Zoo Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the University of Georgia, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the Nature Conservancy. The survey was conducted in southwest Georgia at Williams Bluff Preserve, where 46 burrows were examined. Seven frogs were found and based on the location, these were likely individuals from Zoo Atlanta!
Brad Lock, DVM
Assistant Curator of Herpetology
Tuesday, January 1
If you’ve visited the Zoo lately, you may not have seen all three of our Sumatran tigers. Chelsea, our adult female, has recently shown us that she’d like to spend some time away from her cubs. This is completely normal and nothing to be worried about. We experienced a similar situation when our female lion, Kiki, had her three male cubs and eventually decided that they were big enough to spend some time on their own.
It was obvious that Chelsea was ready for a break, because she started to aggressively vocalize at the cubs at times, particularly when they wanted to interact with her. Initially the cubs were a little confused, but quickly figured out that it was best to play with each other, instead of with mom. Sanjiv and Sohni are now 18 months old and have been eating solid food for quite some time, so they don’t need their mom for nourishment. But still, it’s sometimes difficult for young animals to adjust to their independence. This is why we still allow Chelsea and her cubs to have visual access to each other and also to rotate through each other’s indoor dens. The cubs know that their mom is still there, but just not in the same way as before, and Chelsea can choose how much she wants to interact with them. And, of course, Sanjiv and Sohni still have each other for company. It’s all just a part of growing up tiger.
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals
Tuesday, December 25
Twas the Night Before Christmas - Program Animals Remix
Twas the night before Christmas when all through the Zoo
Not a creature was stirring, not even a kinkajou
Enrichment was laid in their homes with care
In hopes their favorite treats would be there
As nocturnal animals were refusing to rest
Diurnal animals sleep all snug in their nests
Opus and Voodoo, the Virginia opossums
Hunkered down for a nap that was awesome
Now Dean, now Blue, now Frank and Humphrey
On Eeny, on Meeny, on Moe and Miney
Under the porches and holes in the wall
Run away Rats, run away all
As small mammals and birds before the sleigh scurry,
Birds of prey like hawks, owls, and falcons hurry
Down to their precious meals they flew
While parrots indulged in a berry or two
The keepers dressed in uniforms and work shoes
Soon will be covered in fur, dirt, and poo
A bundle of novel toys and treats
Were being prepared for the animals to eat
Positive reinforcement training involves rewards
When they offer behaviors like mimicking or just moving forward
As the animals unwrap their gifts with care (yea right!)
They look forward to what Santa and his reindeer have in store for next year.
Kaya Forstall and Briel Ritter
Program Animals Keepers