Continuing education at the Felid TAG Conference
Last month, the Zoo’s Lead Keeper of Carnivores and I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Felid Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Conference hosted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The Felid TAG Conference is an annual conference for those working with wild cat species worldwide. There are two components of the conference – the continuing education courses and the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and TAG meetings. Two courses were held this year, the Husbandry Course and an Advanced Safety Course. Because the Lead Keeper and I have both attended the Husbandry Course in previous years, we both attended the Safety Course this year.
You may be wondering why a safety course was offered at a cat conference. Safety is one of the most important aspects of working in a zoo setting. Although we work closely with our cats (and all of our animals) here at Zoo Atlanta, at the end of the day, they are still and will always be wild. We need to ensure that we are safe, our animals are safe, and our visitors are safe. This includes discussing best practices in day-to-day safety, training sessions, veterinary procedures, and even during emergencies. There are representatives from big zoos, small zoos, public zoos, private zoos, and everything in between, so part of the conversation is discussing how to adapt best practices to the different types of facilities that we all work in.
Attending conferences and continuing education courses is extremely valuable from a knowledge perspective, but it is also really rewarding from a social and professional perspective. It’s an opportunity to connect with old friends, make new friends within the field, and even get updates about animals who have moved away from Zoo Atlanta. For example, longtime followers of the Zoo may remember when Chelsea, the Zoo’s Sumatran tiger, had cubs way back in 2011. I’m happy to report that Sohni and Sanjiv have both grown up into big adult tigers, have had their own litters of tiger cubs, and their babies are now old enough to find mates and have babies of their own. This is very exciting news for Sumatran tigers, which are a critically endangered species.
My absolute favorite part of attending Felid TAG is coming home. I learned so much in a short amount of time, and because our field is constantly evolving, there is always new information to bring home. I’m definitely already looking forward to the next opportunity to learn more about the awesome animals I help care for every day!