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Here you will find information, musings, and pictures about life, the natural world and writing.

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...


Anonymous 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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