Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review Joe Redick

Hello Readers,
I just received this review from Joe Redick.

"Gentle people;

Please be advised that it was an honor to work with Linda Anderson. She is an inspiring new author who has the talent and ability to weave magic into a story. Ms. Anderson has created a masterpiece on a child's level. It is wonderful to think of parents reading this children's book, filled with universal truth, to shiny-eyed children. As a theatrical lighting designer, I must say that it would be wonderful to see it staged some day, as a play.

Many kind regards,
J.M. Redick, MFA, Design and Technical Theatre"

Monday, July 16, 2012

FAQ – Do Wild Animals Make Good Pets?

Absolutely not!

To start with, you need to understand that I did not deliberately take wild animals for pets. When they came my way, it was because for various reasons, they could not survive on their own.  Either they were orphaned babies, they had some sort of injury that would make living in the wild impossible, or they had been confiscated by the Game Warden and brought to me for care.  I had the authority to take such animals because of my U.S.D.A. License to do so.  Most states require a permit of some sort to keep wild animals in captivity.  I also worked in direct cooperation with the Auburn University Veterinary Clinic and spent some time in training at their Raptor Barn.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

FAQ - What’s the saddest thing about being a zookeeper?

Linda and a Yearling Doe

Without a doubt, it was always the death of an animal.  I was always upset when something died.  Sometimes death just happens. An animal is old or has developed an incurable condition. Some species, like hamsters and mice, have very short life spans. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

FAQ - What’s your favorite thing about being a zookeeper?

Gosh, that’s hard to say.  There are many different aspects that I found satisfying and rewarding. Of course, having animals happy and content enough to breed and produce babies was thrilling. I just loved baby anythings.  When the critters in your care are producing lots of babies, that usually means contented critters.

As a teacher, I couldn’t help but teach.  The zoo gave me a forum for telling people about the amazing and wonderful world of animals. No matter who came, regardless of their age or background, I always had something to teach them. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

FAQ - What is body space?

Every living creature, including man, has a body space.  This is rather like an invisible line that separates you from danger.  If you step across that animal’s line, it will step back. Some animals will flee from you if you cross that line. If they can’t flee, may will panic and attack to defend themselves.

Some animals have a narrow body space, some animals have a wide body space. It’s kind of like a safety zone.  In other words, if an animal is a prey animal (food for other animals) it has a very wide body space. Predators often have a narrow body space.  But it really depends on the situation.  The bigger the threat you are to the animal, the bigger its body space.

 As a zookeeper, you need to understand the body space and the nature of every species in your care.  You must also build up a trust relationship with every animal. You must never threaten them or make them fearful, but respect their space.  This takes a bit of talent and a lot of understanding.

Along with body space, eye contact is crucial. To most animals, a direct stare is extremely threatening.  If you are a prey animal, just having someone stare at you can make you nervous.  In other words, if you are being stared at, you are being stalked. If you are being stalked, someone is considering killing and eating you.  For most animals, that’s what life is all about, eating or being eaten.

I’ll give you an example. We purchased a small flock of pygmy goats.  Unlike my first two who were very tame pets, these goats had been used merely as bush goats, to keep a field mowed.  They had not been handled, petted or tamed.  Then suddenly, they had been brought to our farm and thrust into a strange pen. it was nothing at all like their home. 

For days they fled when I approached and would bawl and trample each other to get away from me as I raked their pen. They spent their time huddled in a corner.  I knew this had to change, and quickly before they injured themselves.  I used food as an incentive.  They got a small ration of hay, not enough to starve them, but I wanted them hungry. 

Now, I happen to know that a goat’s most favorite food in the world is sweet feed.  It is an assortment of grains soaked in molasses. Several times a day I would enter their pen with a small bucket of sweet feed. As usual, they would bawl and flee.  At first I would squat down, making myself smaller and talking in a quiet voice. I would rattle the can. They would stop bawling and stare at me, ready to bolt at the slightest wrong move.

Carefully, I would lay belly down, reducing the threat even more. Throughout this process, I would not look at them (staring is a threat). I would peek from the corner of my eye. Before long they would relax a bit.  At that time their body space was a good thirty feet wide.  Slowly, I would take a handful of sweet feed and open it in my flattened palm.  I would reach out as far as my arm would go.  Before long, the enticement of sweet feed, coupled with my very non-threatening body language would allow them to relax a bit more.  A few of the goats would begin to approach. Some would dart past me to another part of the pen. I did not flinch or move, just hold still and keep up a soft monotone of speech.   

After several days of this procedure, one little goat, more bold than the rest, couldn’t resist the temptation.  She crept closer and closer. It took her several minutes to summon the courage, but finally she snatched a mouthful of sweet feed and bolted away.  That was all it took. She immediately came back and snatched another mouthful and quickly finished every bit in my hand.  I knew I had won her over when she licked my fingers for every little crumb! When the others saw that she had not been eaten by the big stranger, their own desire for sweet feed overcame their fear. 

Within the week every goat in the pen crowded around for their daily treat. I had established a ground rule for them. You don’t get sweet feed unless you take it from my hand.  One goat who was extremely shy, took several weeks before she would finally eat from my hand. 

To some, this might seem like a lot of trouble. But as a zookeeper I had to consider the needs of my critters. Through no choice of their own, they were thrust into an alien environment, full of unknown threats and dangers. They needed to become tame and trust me, not only for the sake of the zoo patrons, but for their own safety and protection.  In the event of a serious injury or medical emergency, they needed to trust me enough to take care of them and heal their hurts. If they had continued to stay wild, then in their panic to escape, they could have faced more harm and injury.

If you have any questions about being a zookeeper, about my zoo Storybook Farm Petting Zoo, about animals, or about The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple, please ask!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

FAQ - What is Body Language?

To me, body language is fascinating. It’s a wonderful device God has given creatures to help them understand each other.  Every animal on the planet understands the danger signal when a rattlesnake rattles its tail.
Savannah Monitor Photo
Courtesy of Brockett's Film Fauna, Inc.
As a zookeeper, you really need to understand the animals you are dealing with.  You must understand the warning signs when an animal is frightened as opposed to when it is angry. That will affect how you approach it and how you deal with its issues. This is important because you must consider not only your safety, but the safety of every creature in your care.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

FAQ - What’s it like to be a zookeeper?

Being a zookeeper is like taking care of several hundred children who never grow up. It’s a twenty-four/seven job. In other words, you do not get weekends off, your job is not finished at five o’clock in the afternoon, and don’t even think in terms of a vacation! 

Animals are living feeling beings. Besides food, water, a clean compound, and shelter from the weather; they have all sorts of emotional needs that must be met.  Regardless of species, they have fears, hurts, and angers just like people do. If you accept the responsibility of being a zookeeper, that means you take on the responsibility of understanding their needs and meeting them.

If you don’t like getting dirty, you should never become a zookeeper.  There are times when you feel the only thing in your life is animal poop. Every single day you must rake and shovel wheelbarrows full of it and haul it away. We had a compost bed in the back where we dumped ours.  As it decomposed, we used it in our garden. 

You must be strong enough to lug fifty-pound bags of feed around and heft eighty-pound bales of hay. You must be fit enough to wrestle a one hundred and twenty pound sheep who escaped his pen (yet again) away from the chicken feed trough so he won’t literally eat himself to death.  You must be agile enough to out-maneuver a grown white-tailed deer so you can restrain her long enough to at least partially rub her down with diatomaceous earth to kill the deer lice before she beats you to death with her spindly, but incredibly strong forelegs.

If you have any questions about being a zookeeper, about zoos, about my zoo Storybook Farm Petting Zoo, or about The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple,  please ask.