Gearing up for spring with ambassador animals
Hello folks! It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to blog here! I’m so excited to update you on what I’ve been up to. As you’ve heard from the Ambassador Animals (former: Program Animals) care team, we have merged the department and changed the name. I now oversee the animal care and staffing for Wieland Wildlife Home (our tractable education animals including small mammals, reptiles and amphibians), World of Wild Theater (our free-flying birds, retirees, Maya the kinkajou and our beloved rat families), and the Orkin Children’s Zoo (our petting zoo with the goats and sheep, as well as the Kunekune pigs, kangaroos and bush dog). With this merge I have taken on about 23 new animals and five new care staff! To top it off, I am the Chair of the Rodent, Lagomorph, and Insectivore Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)!
While January left me recovering from a wedding and honeymoon, February had me scrambling to set up training priorities for the summer theater presentations in our two venues and for the animals in the Children’s Zoo; March had me focused on my work as the TAG chair; and April so far has been amazing with huge crowds over Spring Break. In March I had the opportunity to co-host a meeting with representatives from 14 AZA-accredited zoos and the chairs of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Small Mammal Specialist Group. This group of scientists are the folks on the ground, taking conservation action to save small mammal species. This was the very first time that the AZA group dedicated to these animals in zoos and the IUCN group dedicated to these animals in the field came together to talk about how we can help each other move forward and make progress on our efforts!
We met for 12 hours to tease out where conservation priorities overlapped with these two groups and what information we needed from one and other to work together. We came away with a much better understanding of how folks in ex-situ (in zoos) conservation can help folks in in-situ (in the field) conservation and vice versa. I am looking forward to another meeting to hammer out some details of the road ahead, but this was a huge first step toward collaboration!
Here at Zoo Atlanta, we have been hard at work training Maple the opossum, and the Star Wars rats, Leia, Rey, Padme, and Obiwan. All these animals will be part of our upcoming “America’s Next Top Zookeepers” presentation that will run from Memorial Day to Labor Day. You might remember this show from a few years ago, but we’re bringing it back bigger and better, featuring animal care staff going head-to-head to vie for the top spot! At the World of Wild Theater, we are working on the second year of #BirdBookLive! Come out and see both presentations this summer! Until then, you can catch us most Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. showing off the skills of our free-flight birds, and at 2 p.m. giving an up-close look at our small mammals and reptiles at Amy’s Tree Theater.
Glad I finally got a chance to check-in with you all. Stop by and say hi sometime!
Rebecca Young (formerly Bearman)
Assistant Curator, Ambassador Animals