Hey all! Happy New Year!!! So it’s been busy here and I’m already about halfway through the program which is wild to imagine. I’ve been really loving it. So I’m going to pick up right where I left off in my last post.
The day after our big zoo day we had some important lectures on conservation and research. Which addressed our purpose in studying conservation and wildlife research. Some of the things I feel are important to mention is why we research is done because many people don’t understand why it’s done or give it the credit it deserves. Obviously animal research is done to learn more about the animal but what some don’t realize is that it’s also done to bring attention to specific animals as well as help in creating legislature to protect and manage wildlife. Research done at the right time and in the right place can be integral to getting attention to start movements and actions to save a species or portion of land that is threatened. So wildlife research can have large effects if used in the right way. Another thing talked about during this time was methods of getting information which we’ve been getting to put in to practice which I’ll be talking about later.
We also had a really informative lecture on crocodiles that day. They’re animal that has been hunted almost to the brink of extinction and been brought back from that in certain areas of the world due to the right research and planning. It takes a determined group of researchers to get a movement like that going because crocodiles are an animal that people often ignore because they aren’t cute and cuddly but they’re just as integral to an ecosystem as any other animal. So it takes extra effort to get people on the wildlife researchers side of things. The lecture showed how this has been done as well as giving us some cool information about crocodiles and they’re actually really amazing animals. We also got to take this time to do a necropsy on a young alligator that had passed away soon after being rescued by abusive owners. It was unfortunate to see this and can be a harsh truth when working with animals but it was a very great experience in being able to learn the crocodile anatomy and learn how an autopsy is done first hand in hopes of finding out cause of death. Activities like these are really important for linking our knowledge from the classroom to a hands on experience.
Later on that day we had another exciting time at the zoo for our night tour. Since the zoo is only open in day light hours mostly we didn’t really get to see the nocturnal animals be out and about. So coming to the zoo at night was like it becoming a whole new place filled with different animals. It’s important to see this side of the zoo because it’s really easy to overlook animals that are sleeping all day when you’re awake but there is a whole other side you’re missing when you’re asleep. And as a animal care professional you have to assess the needs of all of the animals that you’re taking care of. It was exciting to see this part of the zoo and we got some cool feeding and hands on experiences with the animals that night too. I even got to hold a boa constrictor, her name was Queen Green!
The next day was another big day because we were going out to a local reserve called Runaway Creek Nature Reserve. It was a long day because we were hiking the area and it’s a huge area with vast savannas, dense forests, mountains and caves! Our purpose there was to plant some mist netting to catch birds so we can do some banding to keep track of the bird populations in the area. And we also placed some camera traps in high traffic areas that take pictures of things that move in front of it. These are very important in keeping track of more elusive animals in the area like jaguars, pumas, margays and tapirs. These things sound simple but to get to these areas it took a lot of hiking and it was very exhausting to get out there. Doing it yourself gives you a whole new bit of respect for the researchers who do this all of the time.
On New Years Eve we had a pretty fun day planned. We started off the morning early with birding so we just watched some birds in the area and learned about the local species. Later we took a trip to the zoo and chose an animal and observed it for two hours straight. Doing observations like these and taking notes is important to assessing an animal’s needs. I observed the jaguarundis which are medium sized wild cats a bit bigger than your house cat. They are very cute weasel like cats and through my observations I found that they are actually similar to house cats and play, run around, hunt and groom like house cats do. Some had some pacing behaviors possibly from captivity and they could use a change of pace to help that. Observing them can get you information so you can help enrich their lives and make them more natural. Later that day we practiced blow darting which is sometimes used to sedate an animal so it can be worked on. We had a blast with that getting to practice our aim on watermelons.
Since it was New Years Eve of course we had to celebrate so as a group we went to a local bar for the night. It was a really great time we rode a mechanical bull and sang a ton of karaoke. I’m lucky to be in a group of a lot of fun people and it was really nice getting to spend the new year with them. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to be studying abroad with.
Since it’s new years day we got the day off so we got to sleep in and then later we planned a trip to go zip-lining and tubing down a river. Later we hung out and watched some movies. It was a fun day get to relax and have fun with everyone. And even though this is a study abroad I’m not sure a day off was necessary because all of our work and learning has been really exciting and fun.