If there is one star at my job, it is Mikey. Mikey is a dromedary camel. Dromedary camels, also known as Arabian camels, have one hump while bactrian camels have two humps. Dromedary camels originated in Arabia but today can be found all throughout Asia and Africa. Camels can survive on almost any type of vegetation because they draw on the fat stored in their humps during food shortages. Camels can go without water for many months as long as their food is moist. I find it interesting that after being deprived of water though that dromedary camels can consume up to thirty-five gallons of water in a ten minute period. Camels can be ill-tempered at times, especially during the mating season, but Mikey is pretty docile. You can’t ride him or anything, but he loves to be petted. Mikey also loves food to the point you have to push him off sometimes. People love to visit Mikey because he is so greedy and helps himself to their feed. Mikey is 10 years but dromedary camels can live up to fifty years in captivity.

I would like to say thank you for everyone for reading my blog this semester, I hope it has taught you a lot of new information about zoo animals and what goes into caring for them. If you want to learn more about some of the animals I wrote about and more I would highly suggest buying the Exotic Animal Field Guide, it’s what I got started with and is a great source of information.mikey


So far this week….


If there is one thing I hate it is cold weather. For me it is not just a time to get out my warm jacket, colder weather is also when I have to step it up. Winter brings with it sickness and death and it is an extreme effort to try and ward it off. When the cold front blew in this past Monday I knew it was going to be a tough week. All of the primates  we have come from warmer climates so they can’t handle temperatures below sixty at all. The squirrel monkeys, lemurs, and one pair of capuchins didn’t give me any trouble at all. After they saw me coming with a crate and a net they immediately got in the crate so I could move them to their heated monkey barn. Unfortunately this is not how it went down with the other set of capuchins. The male in this breeding group can be quite aggressive, like bite your face off aggressive, so I don’t like to deal with them unless I absolutely have to. This monkey is not afraid of a net and instead of going into the crate he grabbed the net and started biting it. How I managed to get him on the ground and run him into the crate without injury I will probably never know. Capuchins are often seen in films because they are supposed to be super smart and easily trainable. I just don’t see it.  There are many different types of capuchins, ours are tufted. if you would like to know visit this page

Momma Nilgai

momma nilgai

If there was ever an animal our guests are confused about it’s Momma. No she is not a cow nor a horse. Momma is a nilgai, the largest antelope native to Asia. Momma is one of the friendliest animals that we have as well as one of the gentlest. The name nilgai means blue cow in Hindi, it makes sense because the males are a blue/gray color. Momma currently is without a mate though because the temperament of male nilgai can be quite difficult to manage as they tend to be aggressive. Being without a mate is okay for Momma though because typically male and females only get together during the mating season, which is in November and December. I have learned that Momma is pretty smart. When you enter the zoo we have a cattle guard that prevents the animals from getting out of the park. A few weeks ago Momma figured out how to jump it. Thankfully she is very gentle and more like a pet than a wild animal because there she was wandering in the petting zoo area. This incident was one of those times I am very grateful with the relationships that I make sure that I build with my animals because things otherwise could have gone very differently. Instead of having to tranquilize Momma and move her back into the park, something I’m sure would have been pretty traumatic for guests to see, it was as simple as getting a bucket of feed. Momma, like all our animals, as learned that I am not a threat. All I had to do was lead her much like a horse back into the zoo. Thankfully we have a back gate for the staff that doesn’t have a cattle guard. I’m sure it was a pretty strange sight for our guests to see me petting and talking to this weird looking animal but it worked out pretty well in the end I think. I think Momma also learned a lesson that day as well because that was the first and last time she jumped the cattle guard. If you want to know more about nilgai Wikipedia is a great place to start and generally pretty accurate on animal information.

Snapper Update: Although we are still continuing his medication, Snapper is doing much better. He has put on some weight and has very good activity levels. We are still working on him eating on his own but he has a very good appetite.



This is one of our Gemsbok. Gemsbok come from Africa and are the largest antelope in the Oryx family. They are also the only oryx that has rounded ears. Because they are from an arid area they do really well in the summer here in Texas. Drought years are no problem for gemsbok because they can go extended periods of time without drinking water, instead they get the water they need from their food. Although ours are generally well mannered I still don’t like to get up close and personal with them. Not only are their horns razor sharp but they are also pretty dirty. Gemsbock rub their horns on trees and anything else they can find in order to keep their horns sharp which means if you happen to get stabbed the wound is probably going to get infected. Unfortunately Gemsbock are worth a lot of money (about $5000 each) and do not fair well in the winter at all. This of course makes me concerned because it is supposed to be a bad winter this year. Gemsbok can weigh up to 450 pounds so when we moved our pair a few weeks ago so we could keep a closer eye on them I was definitely afraid of getting run over or impaled. Thankfully everything went ok and nothing bad happened but these kinds of potential for disaster make me really nervous sometimes. Gemsbok can live up to 18 years in the wild and longer in captivity. Gemsbok become sexually mature around the age of two, which is how old ours are but they have yet to have babies. An interesting thing about Gemsbok is that when they do have babies the mother hides her young. The mother does not remain in hiding with the baby but instead will return to it three or four times a day.  If you want to know more about Gemsbok wikipedia is a great place to start.

P.S. Update on Snapper:

Although he still isn’t eating on his own, Snapper has put on weight and is moving around a lot more. We are on his last week of medicine and I’m confident we is going to be ok! 🙂


Although I get to work with a lot of cool animals, there are a few occasions when I actually have to do some work. Last week my boss brought me a bearded dragon. The previous owners gave him away because he appeared sickly and the other beardy he was housed with had died. I agreed to take care of this sickly lizard basically because I’m a sucker for animals. Although I already have a terrarium set up at my house because I have a pet bearded dragon, Spike, I had to set up another one for the sick lizard. Did I mention it was about 10 PM when he brought the beardy over? Setting up a terrarium is not all that difficult. All you basically need inside of it is a few logs, water and food dish, a heat light,  a spot where the beardy can bask, and some repto-grass. I am not going to lie, the little guy was in rough shape. Snapper, as I now call him since he bit me, was very thin and his coloring was not looking good all. Upon examining him I noticed that he had some scabbing near his mouth and some crust on his eyes. I am quite lucky that our veterinarian is a good friend of mine because I am pretty sure if he wasn’t he would not have answered the phone that late at night.  I described the symptoms Snapper was experiencing to him and he concluded that he Snapper had salmonella. He told me to stop by the clinic the next day to get some medicine but that once symptoms of salmonella present strongly in reptiles their chances of survival are slim to none. Being the person that I am, I simply refused to accept that answer and give up. For the past week, donned in protective gear, I have been dosing Snapper with antibiotics. If you have never had to give a bearded dragon oral medication I’ll let you in on a little secret, they do not like it one bit. In addition to providing  medication I have also had to force hydrate and feed Snapper to make sure that he gets the nutrients he needs. This process is very frustrating. It is not the easiest thing in the world to get a bearded dragon, who has all but given up on life, to open his mouth so you can pop a cricket in so he can chew it. By the way he gets fed at least 15 crickets, more than a healthy dragon would need but I am trying to give him the best chance possible. In general, he would also be getting greens and some fruits in addition to crickets and meal worms. Fruits and vegetables are impossible to feed him manually but I have left some in his food bowl, he seems to be eating some of it so that is a positive sign. The vet estimates that if Snapper makes it I will have to follow this set routine for about 5 weeks. Although reptiles are carriers of salmonella it usually is not a condition which affects their health. Snapper  fell ill because he was not being properly cared for, either because he was lacking enough heat, which is vital for everything from movement to digestion, or his nutrition needs were not being met. I am working very hard to try and save Snappers life which was put in jeopardy because of poor care. If you have any type of exotic animal or are thinking about getting one , I urge you to look into the specific needs of that animal. Snapper would probably be fine if his previous owners had taken the time to learn how to adequately care for him. We have a long road ahead of us but I am hopeful that he will make a full recovery.

Lane and Lana

This past year we made the decision to get a pair of ring tailed lemurs, which we named Lane and Lana after our veterinarians two kids. Ring tailed lemurs come from Madagascar. Lane and Lana are very active and move so fast throughout their enclosure that it is enough to make your head spin if you watch them long enough. I have never physically measured Lane and Lana put I would put their approximate weight at around eight or nine pounds. Like all the other primates, lemurs are into grooming one another which serves as a method for not only helping out in the hygiene department but as a comfort and bonding mechanism as well. Lana is pretty reserved about letting me groom her, but Lane is all about it. It is hard to describe exactly what a lemur feels like beyond the description of being a big, soft fur ball. The only problem with Lane letting me groom him is that he tries to groom me back, something that is necessary to let him do but not at all pleasant. The muscles of primates are six times denser than those of people which makes them incredibly strong, even when their only eight pounds. Denser muscles is why being groomed by a lemur is unpleasant, Lane grabbing my hair to groom pretty much feels like hes trying to rip it out by the root. Lemurs reach sexual maturity generally about the age of three but can breed as early as eighteen months in captivity. Lana was under 2 when we got her and were certainly not expecting her to reproduce for at least another year. Lana turned out to be one of those lemurs that developed early and this past April gave birth to her first baby, a little boy that we call Little Ledger.

lana lane


Seeing a tiger up close is nothing like when you see them on National Geographic. Maybe the inability for the cameraman to get within a short distance is cause of it but definitely some of the astonishment is lost. We have one tiger at my job, his name is Tigger. Tigger is a bangle tiger, he weighs about five hundred pounds, and is eighteen years old. Tigers usually live about twelve years in the wild and fifteen in captivity, so by all measures Tigger is old. However, despite his age, he is still quite active. Tigers are the only big cats which enjoy swimming and Tigger is not exception. One question I get asked a lot is if Tig gets lonely because he is by himself. What the general population fails to realize is that tigers are solitary animals and that it is unnatural to be with other members of their species apart from the occasions where breeding occurs. Another question often asked is what do you feed a tiger. Tigers in captivity are generally fed chicken, about 10 pounds at every feeding. Tigger came to the zoo when he was just a cub. He was raised on the bottle until he was able to eat solid foods. When he was six months old he was moved into his enclosure, as that is the age where tigers can become potentially dangerous as their bodies develop. Generally animals that are bottle raised are pretty  gentle towards humans and the same applies for Tigger. We have enough respect for the damage he can do not to go in the enclosure with him, but that does not stop Tig from rubbing up against his cage and trying to get petted. Tigger enjoys human contact and I enjoy being able to interact with him. Tigers are truly beautiful creatures and I feel very privileged to be able to be in his company consistently.