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

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fame and Glory: Ancient Science Rediscovered

Well how about that. My old International Zoo Yearbook articles from my zoo keeping days are still available! Here's one on handraising a mandrill.

I'm pleased to say another article is cited in the IUCN Hippo Bibliography: Wilson, J. & Littlewood, A. (1978). First year of a hand-reared hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius at Portland Zoo. International Zoo Yearbook, Zoological Society of London 18: 211-213.

And part of Mellen JD, Littlewood AP, Barrow BC, Stevens VJ. 1981. Individual and social behavior in a captive troop of mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). Primates 22(2):206-20 is online.

The Internet may be as close to immortality as I ever come. It was fun to write up the handrearing studies and make use of the tedious amount of daily records we kept on Kubwa Sana (the baby hippo) and Roger, the mandrill.

The behavioral study on mandrills was also very cool. It's rare to have the opportunity to simply hold still and watch animals. It's amazing what you can learn if you try to take yourself out of the equation, just hold still and watch. We did it with checklists and timers, but next time you are at the zoo, find some animal that is awake (a peacock will do) and watch quietly for ten or fifteen minutes. That's a long time for us busy primates, but you will see things that surprise you. Zoo visitors work so hard to interact with the animals, but many times you really can get more out of observation. Try to see with an open mind. Let go of Asesop's fables and kid's books and dramatic nature shows and all that baggage we bring to animals. Just watch.

Here's a couple of pictures from my hand-rearing days.

Roger meets his mother, Lulu.

Yes, you can cuddle with a hippo.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How busy our primate minds are, indeed. As a zookeeper, I used to be able (when time permitted) to lean on the rail for 20 minutes watching whatever, a mass of mallards feeding or crowned cranes stepping about, but now I find myself in situations where I want a certain outcome to happen and happen soon--as in dog training, waiting for the behavior I want to reward. I tell myself to wait but even 60 seconds seems like forever!

Here's something apropos, from a book on mountain goats:
"I still go on the principle that if you are watching the higher animals, watch them as if they were human beings of a different civilization or culture, and if you are watching human beings observe them as if they were animals. Your anticipation of the next move will not be far wrong.‎ "
from A Beast the Color of Winter By Douglas H. Chadwick

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