Feb 122012

Editors note:
The following isn’t really a zoo story, as it takes place in a private veterinary clinic, but it seems to fit anyway. It was related to me by a veterinarian (no, not the one in the story) with whom I worked when she was a keeper.

An elderly woman had brought her old, ailing parakeet to the veterinarian to be put to sleep. The bird had been with her for a long time and she was very attached to it. Because of this, she told the vet that she wanted to stay with the bird until the end.

Although he couldn’t very well refuse, this didn’t make the vet very happy. He knew how difficult euthanasia can be with a small bird. The tiny, rapidly-beating heart is very difficult to hit with a needle, and unless the lethal fluid is injected directly into the heart the bird sometimes thrashes around for a while before expiring.

To spare the woman the anguish of watching her bird struggle in this way, the vet came up with an alternative plan. A method of euthanasia that is commonly used for small birds and mammals is to give their neck a quick snap, severing the spinal column and killing them instantly. Although it sounds horrible, this method of euthanasia, if done properly, is quick and painless. However, the vet didn’t think that he would be able explain that to the woman.

Instead, once he had the bird in his hand, he would step into the next room on pretense of needing something or other. Out of the woman’s sight, it would be a simple matter to give the bird’s neck a quick twist. He would then return to the woman and explain that the bird had expired peacefully in his hand.

The vet, however, neglected to consider one gruesome possibility.

As planned, he stepped into the next room and gave the bird’s neck a quick snap. To his horror the entire head came off in his hand. How to explain that to a grieving old lady?

Thinking frantically, the vet searched for an answer to his dilemma. He grabbed a Q-tip, shoved it down into the bird’s chest cavity, and forced the head onto the protruding cotton tuft. Then, with the bird cradled in his hand and its head supported between his thumb and forefinger he returned to the woman and nervously carried out the rest of his plan.

Fortunately for the vet, there was no blood on the body, and the woman didn’t ask to hold her dear, departed pet one last time. She took one last misty-eyed look and departed, no doubt a little saddened but knowing that she had done the best thing. Much to the vet’s relief, she left the body with him for disposal

Feb 122012

A keeper in the Australian section was in the kitchen preparing diets when a visitor poked her head in. The woman had observed one of the brush-tailed possums leaping out of one of the exhibits and into another, something that they did regularly. “Did you know that one of your animals is loose?” she asked.

Without missing a beat, and with a perfectly straight face, the keeper replied, “Of course. Why do you think I’m hiding in here?”

After a moment the keeper told the woman that she was kidding and went out to check on the situation.

Feb 122012

A keeper in the bird house took a call one day from a woman who insisted that there was a penguin sitting in a tree in her back yard. The keeper patiently explained that penguins are not found in the Midwest, and since they can’t fly, there is no way that one could have gotten to her back yard. And even if a penguin did somehow happen to end up there, it would not be able to sit up in a tree.

The woman, however, was having none of it — she knows what a penguin looks like, and this was definitely one!

The keeper never did convince the woman that the bird wasn’t a penguin, but she did ask the woman to describe the bird. From the description, it seemed most likely that the “penguin” was a black-crowned night heron.

Feb 122012

Young gorillas seem to attract more than their share of off-the-wall comments.

A visitor looking at a gorilla family asked a keeper what kind of animal they were. The keeper, slightly taken aback, replied that they were gorillas. The visitor, pointing at the infant gorillas clinging to their mothers, responded, “Oh, then what are those? Chipmunks?”

Another visitor, asked of the same young gorillas: “Are those little ones still in the chimpanzee stage?”

Feb 122012

A female red-crested poachard, had been missing from the waterfowl pond for several days. The bird was pinioned so there was no way it could fly even a short distance. Keepers surmised that the bird had fallen victim to a raccoon or coyote.

Several days later, however, the bird was seen at a small pond about a half mile from the zoo. To reach this pond, the pinioned bird had climbed a snow fence and short chain-link fence surrounding the waterfowl pond, surmounted the zoo’s perimeter fence, crossed a busy four-lane highway, and navigated half a mile of woods and suburbs.

She stayed on that pond for several days but disappeared before she could be recaptured. Three weeks later she was spotted, and miraculously recaptured, on a large reservoir behind the zoo grounds. To reach the reservoir she would have had to retrace her steps through the woods, cross the highway again, and scale the fence a second time.

Apparently this adventure was enough for the little duck, for after her return she settled in on the pond and laid several clutches of eggs.

Feb 122012

One young elephant in the children’s zoo was infamous for one very nasty habit. Whenever a new handler was working in the stall she would slowly maneuver around until she managed to pin the person into a corner with her back end. She never pushed hard enough to hurt anyone, just hard enough to keep them trapped.

Then, once she had her victim pinned helplessly, she would raise her tail and let loose with a barrage of elephant farts.

Quite understandably, no one ever fell for this trick more than once. And, of course, human nature being what it is, no one ever warned new keepers beforehand.

Feb 122012

A keeper hand-raising an infant gibbon was in the habit of transporting it inside her shirt to keep it warm and contented.

One day while driving home the keeper was stopped at a stoplight and became aware that someone in another car was looking at her. (Apparently she was used to people noticing the zoo patch on the shoulder of her uniform.) Just as she turned to look, she felt a small, furry arm reach out of her shirt and touch her gently on the chin. The man’s expression, as she pulled away, was priceless.

Feb 112012

Keepers cleaning a remote paddock area took advantage of the fact that the area was closed to the public and got away with some things they couldn’t do with the public around. When nature called, rather than driving back to a building, they often simply relieved themselves on the spot. The animals certainly didn’t care and it saved on travel time.

One day, however, one poor keeper forgot that the paddock was surrounded by an electric fence. When the stream of urine hit the live circuit, he got the surprise of his life.

Although apparently quite painful, the jolt caused no lasting injury and soon the keeper was able to laugh about it and share the tale with his colleagues.

Each year, the staff at this zoo put together a “bloopers” video to be shown at an annual gathering. Naturally they wanted to include this incident but it hadn’t been recorded. They asked the keeper in question if he would mind re-enacting it for posterity. As you might imagine, he was a bit reluctant but finally agreed when he was assured that the fence would be turned off.

The group grabbed a video camera, piled into a truck, and headed back out to the scene of the crime. When everything was set, the keeper double-checked the fence to make sure it was turned off and then walked over to get in position for the camera.

Of course, as soon as his back was turned, someone quickly turned the fence back on!

So the poor guy got zapped a second time. Only this time it was in front of an audience, and it was caught on tape!

Feb 112012

Some of these may require some thought or saying them out loud.

   Aarnie, Bernaard


   Dadaniel baboon

   Julius Squeezer, Bal, Grip


   Carrie, Eddy

   See-more, Shorty, Bean-pole



   Fernando, Dolly, Mama, Llarry, Llinda

   Cuff, Chain, Smoky, Missing
(Keepers received a memo from the curator informing them that he did not like the name “Missing Lynx.” He requested that they change the name to avoid confusion. From that day on that lynx was known as “Avoid Confusion” or “AC” for short.)


   Barbara, Howie

   Dean, Doc

   Olivia de Javelina, Gregory Peccary, Cary Grunt


   Rhatt Butler, Rat Masterson, Don Rattingly

   Cluck Kent, Cluck Gable

   Milton Squirrel

Tasmanian Devil (commonly shortened to just “devil”)
   Lil’, Sly, Red

   My, Your, Right, Left, U, Cis, In, Pat, Re, Wes
   (When U tern died she became known as No U tern.)

   Shellby, Shelly

   Marcus (MD)

• • • • •

It’s interesting to see that keepers the world over like to pick out unusual and exotic names for their animals. Three male Grevy’s zebras at the Dvur Kralove zoo in Czechoslovakia are named Bob, Sam, and Tony.

Feb 112012

A keeper was hosing in the indoor flight cage next to one of the life-size, wooden, flamingo cut-out graphics. A visitor asked why the bird allowed her to get so close. The keeper reached out and smacked the sign with her hand, producing a wooden thunk, and said, “I don’t know. It just never gets out of my way.”