Feb 092012

One of the comments that keepers hear the most, and probably the one that becomes the most irritating, is the ubiquitous “What kind of animal are you?” Some keepers complain of hearing it several times a day, and they usually think “Don’t they realize that we’ve heard it a million times?” Sometimes, however, the shoe is on the other foot.

One day at the end of the day a group of keepers were standing around in the Administration building waiting to punch out and go home. The crowd parted to allow an armored car guard to pass through with a cart loaded with bags of money. One of the keepers told the guard that if he had any extra bags he would be glad to take them off his hands.

The guard came back with a polite answer, but from the expression on his face it was clear that he too had “heard it a million times before.”

Feb 122012

While their regular off-exhibit holding areas were being renovated, a pair of echidnas and several bettongs were given access to a service room overnight. Keepers first removed any items that the animals could damage or get hurt on. Bags of grain were raised out of their reach, but several heavy bags of bark chips were left in one corner since no one thought that they would bother them.

The following morning the keepers found that a small hole had been scratched into the corner of one of the bags and some bark chips had been spilled on the floor, but other than that the temporary housing had worked out just fine.

Soon, however, one of the echidnas was found to be missing.

Keepers moved the bags of bark chips, thinking that the animal might have crawled underneath, or wedged himself between the bags and the wall. When he wasn’t found there the search moved out into the exhibit on the chance that he may have been able to squeeze past the door.

Twenty minutes later the exhibit had been scoured several times and there was still no sign of the echidna. The keepers decided to check the storeroom again and someone remembered the hole in the bag. The bag was dumped out and there, sleeping peacefully in a little nest hollowed out of the chips, was the missing echidna.

Feb 122012

Visitors watching the chimpanzees frolicking in their outdoor enclosure were dismayed to see one of the chimps grab a bird that had gotten a little too close. The chimp seemed more curious than anything else, and although he was holding it tightly, the bird appeared to be unharmed.

A keeper, seeing what had happened, went in to try to rescue the bird. Knowing that it is impossible to simply take something away from a chimp if it doesn’t want to give it up, the keeper grabbed a banana to offer as a trade.

The chimp was tempted by the banana, but apparently wasn’t convinced. He looked longingly at the banana and then back at the bird. He wanted the banana, but wasn’t ready to give up his prize. He looked back and forth from the bird to the banana several more times. Each time he reached for the banana the keeper made it clear that he could only have it if he handed over the bird.

Eventually the banana won out. The chimp lifted up the hand with the bird in it and took one last longing look at the struggling bird. Then he calmly bit the bird’s head off and nonchalantly handed the body to the keeper in exchange for the banana.

Feb 122012

After reading a sign in front of the white rhino exhibit titled “Urine and Dung” that explains how the rhinos mark their territories, a young boy turned to his mother and said, “Look, mom — it’s Ernie and Doug!”

Feb 122012

Veterinarians and keepers were working on a sedated female ibex who was having problems with giving birth. The female had been in labor for hours and was exhausted from trying to pass the baby, which was twisted around so as to prevent it from fitting into the birth canal. To complicate matters the female was a small individual and the baby was large. Also, although they didn’t know it until later, the baby had been dead for several days and was starting to decompose.

One of the vets had managed to reach up the birth canal and get the baby untangled. The head and front legs were in the canal but the shoulders were stuck and the vet couldn’t pull hard enough. She asked one of the keepers to grab hold of the legs and help her pull.

After a few minutes of futile tugging, they decided that they needed more muscle. One of the other keepers present was a big, burly fellow so he was the obvious choice. He was more than happy to help. He was fairly new at the zoo and this was the first time he had ever participated in this sort of procedure.

He knelt down next to the others and got a good grip on one of the legs. Tugging firmly yet gently so as not to cause any damage, they began to pull. Soon someone commented that they could feel it start to move. Suddenly, the baby’s shoulder gave way and the new keeper found himself holding the unattached leg in his hands. His face expressed quite plainly that this possibility had never crossed his mind; in fact, for a few seconds he looked as if he might lose his lunch.

The vet, however, was thrilled. It was the shoulders that were stuck; if they could get the other one off too the baby would practically slide out. So, having fought once to keep his lunch down, that keeper gamely did the same for the other leg. Only this one was worse because he knew what to expect.

In the end, though, as the veterinarian had predicted, with both shoulders gone, the baby was pulled out easily. And, although she was no doubt sore for a while, the female ibex came through fine.

Feb 122012

A keeper hosing in the indoor flight cage couldn’t figure out why one particular hummingbird was being such a pest. The bird was hovering just inches in front of her face and would not go away. She knew that hummingbirds will often respond that way to red lipstick or earrings, but she wasn’t wearing anything red.

Later, when she happened to look in a mirror, she discovered the reason for the bird’s attention: an angry, bright red pimple right in the middle of her forehead.

Feb 122012

Keepers were working with the veterinarian on a hot, sunny, summer day to catch several small ibex kids for their shots. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before everyone was bathed in sweat.

One of the keepers, on releasing a young ibex, looked down and saw that his palms were coated with shed ibex hair. Loudly enough for everyone to hear he exclaimed, “Oh, no! My mother always warned me that this would happen if I didn’t stop.”

Feb 122012

To prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce aggression among the goats in the walk-in contact area the young males were routinely castrated. One year a new method was used: elastic bands placed on the base of the scrotum. The bands cut off circulation and the entire scrotum simply atrophied and fell off. Although this sounds horrible, it was supposedly a fairly painless method.

None of the keepers, however, could recall ever finding one of the scrotums. It’s possible that they were swept up unnoticed during the regular cleaning, but keepers always wondered if it wasn’t possible that some lucky children took home special souvenirs of their trip to the zoo.

Feb 122012

Editor’s Note:
This story was told as part of a presentation at an AAZK conference. It is no doubt apocryphal but it’s fitting nonetheless.

Two raptor rehabilitation workers met for lunch at a local cafeteria. When they reached the cashier, the first man reached into his pocket and pulled out $1.50 and two dead mice. He asked his partner if he had any change and the other man reached into his pocket and pulled out 80 cents and a dead quail chick.

The cashier looked up at them in disgust and said emphatically, “There ain’t no way I’m taking that money!”

“Well, what are we supposed to do with it?” asked one of the men.

“You know what you can do with it!” replied the cashier. “You guys are crazy!”

Feb 122012

In spite of numerous signs prohibiting it, many people insist on feeding the animals. One man, his pockets filled with shelled peanuts, was trying to get the attention of a large male ibex. The goat was standing on a ridge of gunite where he could command a dominant view of the exhibit while remaining in the shade of the overhanging trees.

His perch was a good twenty feet from the public area, but just below the ridge was a prominent ledge onto which the man was lobbing peanuts. The goat, however, was completely ignoring the man and his offerings. Peanut after peanut landed on the ledge, only a few feet directly below the goat, but he never moved a muscle. The man was becoming more and more frustrated with each toss.

At this point a keeper happened to walk by and saw what was going on. Although he normally would have told the man to stop, in this case he simply laughed to himself and continued on, for he knew one thing that the visitor obviously didn’t: due to an injury a few years earlier, that ibex was totally blind in the eye that was facing out of the exhibit.

Feb 122012

The sun conures were in the midst of a breeding frenzy. They had been copulating repeatedly all day, to the extent that the male had plucked most of the feathers off of the top of the female’s head, which was raw and bleeding.

One keeper mentioned in passing to another: “I see the conures are screwing their brains out today.”

The other keeper replied, “Oh, is that what happened to her head?”