Have you ever purchased a toy for a child or pet, just to have them play with the box the gift came in, while the toy is cast off to the side? We find that the animals under our care at the zoo do the same thing. Sometimes they prefer to sit on a box rather than play with it. Or, rather than enjoying the nice new hammock that zookeepers lovingly crafted together, the animal prefers to sit under the hammock. While zookeepers would love to be able to sit at one exhibit all day to see how the animals interact with enrichment, what their preferred sleeping spots are, and how they use the space in their exhibit, the zookeepers have a busy schedule. This is where Bamboo comes in.
Bamboo is a post-doctoral researcher at UC Davis with an interest in neuroscience. She ended up as a Keeper Aide volunteer at the Sacramento Zoo because she loves animals and was looking for ways to expand her horizons. After completing the initial required volunteer hours, she applied to become an intern specifically in the carnivore section. But staff at the zoo, after seeing where Bamboo’s strengths and the zoo’s need intersected, had other things in mind for her. The idea of an Animal Behavior Internship program, built by Bamboo under the guidance of zoo staff, was born.
The Behavior Internship allows interns (who have already completed many hours as Keeper Aides learning about the individual animals at the zoo and how to read some of their behaviors), to spend time observing and documenting what the animals at the zoo are doing during the day and how they are using their toys, exhibit space, and interacting with their roommates. Bamboo and her current crew of behavior volunteers can be found around the zoo with the clipboard spending hours quietly observing. Some of the projects they have already been working on are watching the flamingos pairing during nesting season, thick-billed parrot pairing during nesting season, wallaby exhibit usage, and white-faced saki monkey exhibit usage.
The Behavior Internship Program may still be in its infancy, but the knowledge we will gain will push us leaps and bounds into the future and enable zoo staff to reimagine how we care for the zoo’s residents. Bamboo is an example of how volunteers can and do make a difference at the Sacramento Zoo, leaving the world a better place!
Thank you Bamboo!