About this blog...

Here you will find information, musings, and pictures about zoos, the natural world, and writing. Welcome to the erratic thoughts of a zoo mystery author! See ZooMysteries.com for more photos and information about my books. Click here for cool sites about elephants and conservation organizations.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zookeeper Lingo

I'm back from the AAZK/ICZ conference in Seattle. That would be American Association of Zoo Keepers and International Congress on Zookeeping, 400 attendees in all. I met people from England (breakfast with the director of Chester Zoo!), The Philippines, India, New Zealand, Australia, and several other countries as well. We heard a boatload of presentations on animal husbandry, as you might expect, but also many on conservation. The International Rhino Foundation and Lewa Rhino Sanctuary were especially impressive. Take a look and send them money. They will use it to keep rhinos alive, not an easy task with poaching at a 15 year high.

Writers love language and I love professional jargon. Here's a few terms used in this profession.

Enrichment (noun): Has nothing to do with money. It refers to enhancing an animal's environment through various kinds of stimuli--entertainment, if you will. This can include training, toys, food treats, smells, social opportunities, and so on. Avoids boredom, encourages natural behavior, stimulates exercise.

Jackpotting (verb): A training technique. When the animal does something brilliant (that the trainer approves of!), the trainer jackpots the animal--a big ol' reward, more than the usual treat.

Howdy (verb or adjective): The process of introducing animals through mesh, for example, putting a new monkey into a "howdy cage" inside the exhibit. Everybody gets to sniff and see each other, nobody gets hurt. Once everyone calms down about the whole idea of a newbie, the new animal is released into the enclosure, with less chance of aggression from the residents. Other usage: "We howdied her for two weeks and then the introduction went fine."

Camera trap: A motion-sensitive camera used to find out what's out there in the wild. We saw the classic video: a rhino in a swamp with her half-grown kid. Mom hears the camera. Sniffs, listens, sniffs, thinks very hard, and then does what rhinos do. Blam! Cut to gray.

Last tidbit for this post--a couple of guys with AAZK tee shirts. On the back, the slogan "If I die before I wake, feed me out." You can interpret that on your own...


goldfinch said...

Oh those zookeepers and their black humor. I miss it. Other people look at you really strangely when you make a slip into zookeeper humor!


Ann Littlewood said...

Yeah, I had to skip some of the, uh, stronger terms. So many people are so very sensitive to biological realities! The zoo world is un-sanitize-able, to mis-coin a phrase.

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