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. 

This set of photos is of a school group that came to see our critters. As I showed them the animals, I taught them all sorts of interesting things.  The top left picture is me showing them a little Frizzle rooster. This is an ornamental chicken. It was developed by an accidental mutation, which causes the feathers to curl.  They are bred for their funny appearance. 

On the top right, the students are petting several of our ferrets.  As they watched the ferrets play, I explained that these domesticated weasels are used for hunting. They kill rats and mice around the farm and in some places are even used for hunting rabbits.

In the bottom left picture I am showing them some pigeon eggs.  They learned that no matter what size, eggs are all the same.  Of course, I explained that not only do birds lay eggs, but so do reptiles and amphibians.  They were fascinated with the different sized eggs found in our zoo.

Although you can’t see it very well, the students are petting a Rex rabbit in the bottom right picture.  Rex rabbit fur is short and as soft as velvet. This rabbit was so tame and friendly, she especially enjoyed being petted.  I always taught the students that it is cruel and painful to pick up a rabbit by its ears.  You should carefully hold them by the scruff of the neck and support their bottom with your other hand.  We had many different varieties of rabbits in our zoo. Besides the New Zealand Whites, which are usually raised for meat, we also had Dutch, Angora and Rex rabbits raised for their fur, and dwarf (miniature rabbits) raised just for fun.

I loved to take a group of people through the compound and introduce them to our critters. Every animal and every species had a story.  I told about where this particular animal came from and it’s circumstances before we got it. I explained about the environment and the impact of both domestic and wild animals had on it. I talked about selective genetics and the niche every animal, both wild and domestic has on the world in which we live.  I taught kindness and gentleness and love.  I taught respect for all of God’s creatures, regardless of species.  I especially loved it when people who were afraid of snakes would actually pet one.

I think the most satisfying aspect of my zookeeping days happened when I was able to bridge that gap between people and animals.

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!

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