Notes From the Zookeeper: Change Is Hard

I know. Saying that change is hard is about as cliché as it gets. Oh, hello. You’ve read the blog, right? I’m nothing if not a giant cliché. It’s worth repeating. Change is hard. Painful. Awful. Some people thrive on trying shaking up the routine, whether it’s adding a new spice to a favorite comfort food, or visiting new churches for fun. I am not one of those people. I don’t even like to take a new route home. I want the same, and I want it now. And tomorrow, and the day after that… But nothing stays the same forever, and my job is no exception.

Some things never change. Big Al is one of those things. He can always be counted on.

Let me add a little context before I jump right in. Successful zoos (and successful people), are always working toward a master plan – 5 years, 10 years, etc. They spend a lot of time thinking about where they want to be, what projects they want to undertake, what animals they want to exhibit. These plans are what takes a zoo to the next level, and my zoo is no different. We are preparing for a major construction project (more on that in another post), and before site work can begin, our Central American Aviary will have to away. For months (years?) Boss Man Michael, who is curator of both Ornithology and Herpetology, has been been preparing for this project by sending the birds that we won’t be exhibiting anymore to other facilities.

So there won’t be an aviary. That shouldn’t affect me too much, right? You would think. But because our bird collection is being downsized for the next  of 5-10 years, and because of staffing changes,  the entire Ornithology department is being disbanded, and the Bird keepers are being absorbed into other departments. And so are the birds themselves. Instead of a department dedicated to them, the birds will be cared for by the department they are closest to geographically. And that, gentle reader, is the crux of my problem. Herpetology is getting birds.

Now, we’re not getting ALL of them. And one of their dedicated keepers is coming over to our department and will be the primary caregiver for our feathered friends. But as the boss pointed out, she won’t be working seven days a week. And that means we all have to learn to take care of them.

I don’t *hate* birds, yo, so go easy on the hate mail. But I wouldn’t say I *like* them, either, exactly. Birds are messy, and they are often loud, and those stupid things bite. A lot of them are sharp on every end, too. I would rather be bitten snake than by a bird. And birds are so needy. Did you know they expect to be fed more than once a day? What is up with that? I like my creatures slimy, scaly, and mostly quiet, with a slow metabolism. But I must learn.

Fridays are now my days to shadow Bird keepers to learn how to take care of our feathered friends. I don’t want to resent it because I like to think I am up to learning something new, but, man they’re birds! Last week was my first time on the routine. I learned that our department will be getting a Eurasian Eagle Owl, the only one that reads Winnie the Pooh, I am sure, because he actually says “Hoo!” We will also be getting Western Burrowing Owls, Edward’s Pheasants, nearly extinct in its native Vietnam, Blue-Crowned Laughing Thrush, and White Crested Laughing Thrush. We are not yet sure if we will be getting White-Naped Crane exhibit, so we’re learning their care just in case.

I survived my first day on the job. It was even kind of interesting. The White Crested Laughing Thrush have a chick, and it was fascinating to watch a species with parental care. I stood for a long time watching the three adults in the exhibit picking up meal worms and stuffing them into the fledgling’s cake hole. And the Burrowing Owls were cute. The Edward’s Pheasants were all up in our business, which kind of reminded me of Big Al, and I get to keep all the owl pellets for dissecting. That’ll be cool.

I’ll survive, I know. I may even succumb to the charms of these new, feathery dinosaurs. I hope. In the meantime, I will just have to take comfort in the fact that none of them poops as much as Big Al.

7 thoughts on “Notes From the Zookeeper: Change Is Hard

  1. It’s great the birds are being integrated into other departments. Barcelona Zoo which I’m a member of, the town hall recently voted to basically make it an animalist zoo. Stop all breeding programmes of animals that can’t be released into the wild. If passed the residents will be transferred to nature reserves or cared for until they pass basically stopping the zoo. For an urban zoo it’s a good one. Some enclosures I’d love to be bigger like the bison, big cats, cows and bears however the animals are cared for. The keeps have started an IG account explaining that some like the elephants are rescued or other’s custom seizures (I know one of the Amazonian parrots was. I used to chat with him and contacted the zoo as he wasn’t there for a few weeks. His keeper replied he came to the zoo in about 1982 as a customs seizure. He used to say Hola! He died last year. The Hill Myan there, we chat every time I visit which is about x2 a week. He’s learnt hello from me! If you looked after one of them I’m sure you’d go crazy!). Here’s the link if you’re interested! https://elpais.com/elpais/2019/05/07/inenglish/1557243876_053971.html

  2. wow. that’s … a lot. it =may= help to think of them as feathered dinos, after all, that’s vaguely reptilian, right?

    I’m going to be interested in this. my big dream is to have a bird sanctuary. but I don’t know that much about it. so I’m here for anything you share. yay!

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