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

One keeper claimed that one of her favorite tricks when the tour bus passed near the camel yard was to reach down to the ground with a couple of Milk Duds hidden in her hand, pretend to pick up some camel pellets, and then pop the brown candy into her mouth in front of the astonished visitors.

Feb 122012

When the zoo tour bus drove past the Pere David’s deer yard, one keeper used to pause from his raking, lean congenially on his shovel, wave and smile broadly at the people on the train, and call out, “Hi there! I’m Father David. And these are my deer.”

Feb 112012

Keepers were working in a large stall with two newly-arrived, energetic, young Bactrian camels. The camels were frisking around the stall, bouncing around in that characteristic rolling camel gait. One of the keepers, whose foot was extremely sore from a recent injury, didn’t notice that one of the youngsters was frolicking in his direction until it tromped soundly on his sore foot. He let out a loud yell and, reacting instinctively, lashed out and punched the animal on the side of the head. The camel dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes and lay still.

The keepers first thought, quite naturally, was that the animal was dead, and after a moment of shock, they rushed to its side. Its breathing, however, was normal, and in a minute or two it recovered enough to lift its head and look around. Not long after that, to the keepers’ relief, the camel got to its feet — a little groggy but otherwise apparently none the worse for the wear.

Feb 112012

Giraffes aren’t known for their jumping ability, but one frisky young male, just a few months old, escaped over a four-and-a-half-foot high moat wall.

This particular young giraffe was quite active and spent a lot of time frolicking around the yard. One of his favorite games was to rear up against the moat wall and slam his chest into it. He did this many times without problems because the moat wall is five- to six-feet high for most of its length. One day, however, he hit the wall at one end where the ground is a little higher, lowering the effective barrier to about four and a half feet. When he hit the wall his momentum carried him over the top and he landed, unhurt, on the cement apron separating the giraffe yard from the public.

He apparently was uncomfortable in his new-found freedom for he only spent a few minutes exploring the apron before he turned and jumped back down into the yard. He landed on his feet, again uninjured, as if jumping down four an a half feet was something he did every day.

There are two footnotes to this story. The first is that none of the keepers saw it happen. It occurred around noon; some of the keepers were at lunch and the rest were busy inside. Several visitors did witness it, however, and one of them stopped to report it. The keepers, of course, found it difficult to believe. When he explained that he was an experienced keeper from another zoo, and showed them the muddy footprints on the cement apron, they were convinced. Additional proof came a few weeks later when he sent them a photograph he had snapped showing the giraffe in the process of jumping back into the yard.

The other thing that made this singular event even more incredible is that it occurred, not only during the week the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) national convention was in town, but on the very day that all of the visiting zoo directors and managers were touring the zoo. But for the fact that it occurred during the catered lunch, this might have been the most famous giraffe escape in zoo history.

Feb 092012

At feeding time the kudu herd was brought inside the barn for their grain. It became fairly crowded inside and, as might be expected, there was often quite a bit of aggression as the animals jostled for a space at the feeding trough.

One older female, at the bottom of the pecking order, found a better way. She would wait outside the door until the rest of the herd was inside and then bark loudly—the kudu alarm signal. When the others charged out of the stall in a panic she would calmly step inside. By the time the herd calmed down enough to come back in, she had eaten her fill.

She didn’t do this every day, or it no doubt would have stopped working, but she was seen to do this on more than one occasion and it seemed to the keeper to be intentional.

Dec 222011

A keeper looking out into the addax yard through an open stall door noticed a Canada goose grazing near the herd. A curious yearling addax nervously approached the strange creature, tensed to flee at a moment’s notice. The goose kept moving away but each time it did the young addax became a little bolder and approached a little closer.

Before long they moved out of the keeper’s field of view, but apparently the addax persisted, for a few moments later the keeper heard a loud honk and looked up just in time to see the addax, with its tail literally tucked between its legs, gallop past the doorway with an angry, hissing goose flying just inches behind.