Here this ends my first full week of my summer internship at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Already I feel like I’ve learned so much, but I guess I should start from the beginning.
My first day was orientation, last Friday. I had shown up freakishly early by mistake, so I had the privilege to see the whole zoo wake up. There were quite a few other interns like me, so we were all brought into this room to discuss paperwork and to go over the description of what these next couple months—or in my case, six weeks—would entail. We were all given name tags and shirts, and they have a picture of a tiger on the front. Each of us went off to our separate department, and I was introduced to the three keepers that I’d be working with. Luckily, they all seem very patient with me so far, which I am extremely thankful for. The first day was mostly a great big tour of the zoo but we did a more in-depth walk-through of the department I am assigned to, which is called Outback Yard. It consists of Big Backyard, Budgie Buddies, and Wallaby Walkout. Big Backyard includes mostly farm animals, and it has a little barn with sister Nigerian dwarf goats that are in an unlocked gate so people can interact with them. Also in this area are chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, assorted invertebrates, and on the other side of the barn is a Vietnamese potbelly pig named Aloucius, and his turkey friend named Laredo.
Budgie Buddies is a big building that is called a “free-flying aviary.” Small birds such as finches and parakeets (referred to as “budgies” in Australia) fly around the space and are allowed to eat seeds off of sticks that the public can purchase.
Wallaby Walkabout is a big pathway where the docile marsupials can wander around where they want to. Some are especially friendly and walk up to the guests to say hi! There are six wallabies—four Bennett’s wallabies (Bentley, Wendel, Yapa, and Alif) and two Parma wallabies. The Bennett’s are larger and more approachable, while the two sibling Parmas, named Monti and Sidney, are a tad more reserved.
And now that they have made their public debut, I am finally allowed to talk about the new female wallaby joeys named Kiah and Bindi. They were released from quarantine a few days ago because any new animal that is added into the collection is quarantined for 30 days to make sure they are cleared by the vet staff before they are around the rest of the animals. They are now spending time outside in their own section of the wallaby yard. I was lucky enough to help bottle-feed them twice a day for most of the week, which is always a highlight and brings a smile to my face.
I mostly would just talk to my mom about the joeys (or sometimes I call them walla-babies), but I have been doing so much. I’m working at cleaning the budgie floor, snake tanks, and the wallaby enclosure when they are in the yard. I’ve learned to prepare diets for the budgies, which consists of a lot of vegetables and some fruit. At times I get to assist with alligator diets; they get to eat mice, rats, cut-up chicken meat, and specially made “gator chow.” One of the more nerve-racking things was feeding the lizards. Some get crickets and some of the larger ones get live roaches. I did not want to bring to the surface to the keepers that I am scared of creepy-crawlies of any kind, so when one of them asked me if I wanted to feed an enormous live roach to one of the bearded dragons, the fear side of my brain screamed, “Bloody god no,” but somehow the words got lost on the way and twisted into what I think came out as, “Of course!” I am unsure if that was intentional, but already I am glad that this internship is helping somewhat with a lifelong fear. It’s just procedure, right? I should not let this keep me from doing the things I need to do, especially now when other lives depend on it. Or rather, the absence of fear.
Anyways, it’s been a great first week, and I am excited to see what I will be getting to do next.