I'm now entering my second week of my internship here at Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, and it is still going pretty well. I have worked the barnyard run (goats, pigs, cow, sheep, chickens, barn owl, and donkeys), giraffe house run (okapi and giraffes), and warthog and antelope run (kudo, gazelles, warthogs, dik dik, guineas, and storks) often enough to know the routine fairly well, and I've closed the cat run (lions and cheetahs) with the keepers. The warthog and antelope run is, by far, the most complicated and difficult run of the four due to the sheer number of non domestic animals needing to be shifted in, out, and around the run. Barnyard comes in a close second of course, also 'cause of the sheer number of animals in the area.
Even though the antelope and warthog run is complicated and a whole ton of work, it's still been my favorite run so far, and I'm sorta hoping that my supervisor decides to keep me in this run for the majority of my stay. The warthogs are wonderful, they shift well (as long as you don't startle the piglets!) and they are very food motivated which is always a good thing. The storks are very smart and, though messy, are fairly easy to care for as long as you don't mind cleaning (if you mind cleaning, zookeeping is not for you!). All the gazelles are pretty easy to shift and not to bad to clean up after, and of course they are entertaining to watch, especially the calf. Then the lesser kudu... what can I say about him except that he is possibly the coolest hoofstock animal in the world? Or at the very least, the prettiest. And he is a very well mannered and easy going young man as well, making him nice and fun to care for.
Now, when doing the antelope/warthog run the first thing that I do is I clean out the warthog and dik dik exhibits. Did dik are real easy, since all that really needs to be done is water changing/cleaning and a fence walk to make sure no visitors dropped anything into the exhibit. The warthog exhibit is a bit more intensive, since I need to walk the fence and check for anything dropped in and for any breaks in the fence, clean the water, check the electric fence, rake up yesterday's hay, place today's hay, place today's produce (veggies and fruit all cut up for warthog momma and babies), shovel up poo, and last but not least turn the wallow and add water to it so it is nice and muddy for the warthogs.
Next are the holding yards. The holding yards are easy, poo is raked up and hay is placed if the yard is going to have anyone in it. Then the warthogs and dik dik are shifted into their respective exhibits. Next is cleaning the antelope yard and the holding pens that are going to have occupants for the day. Then Ritter, the kudu, is let into the yard, followed by the four female gazelles, the storks, and the guineas.
The two male gazelles are not on exhibit, as Ray Ray was bottle raised and is now too 'keeper friendly' and is dangerous to shift back in, and his dad doesn't like him to be near the herd and bullys him when they are out together. His dad, Makuro, is simply not allowed in with the females because of the calf, and because they don't want to breed Pearl, the calf's mom, again so soon (calf is only one month old now). This means that they are always in the biggest holding pens and they get the most enrichment of the gazelles. Soon Makuro will be allowed back in the yard, but Ray Ray is on the lookout for a new home, where he will able to be the dominant male.
Now that all the animals are out the holding pens and the stalls are all cleaned up, water is changed/cleaned, hay and grain (and fish and mice for the storks) are place, dishes are washed, tomorrow's hay, grain, produce, and fish and mice are prepared, the days extras are done (clean fridge, clean work area, clean shed, organize shed, organize work area, give out extra enrichment, do training, clean something you never thought would ever need cleaning, clean more stuff, clean stuff that's already been cleaned, organized something... the list goes on forever), and finally it is time to bring everyone straight back in!
So, as you can see, being a zookeeper is a lot of shoveling poo, changing water, and more cleaning than you can imagine! But the training sessions definitely make it worthwhile!