Posters Abstracts

Poster Session Tuesday August 20th, 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Trees for You and Me: 10 Years of Keepers Making a Difference in the Fight on Climate Change

Meryt Schumacher, Denver Zoo

The Trees for You and Me (TFYM) program is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary. TFYM started as a keeper driven partnership between AAZK National and Polar Bears International in an effort to combat climate change. Through this partnership, chapters host a variety of fundraisers to raise money for the TFYM grant which provides funds for reforestation projects. Over the past ten years, chapters have raised over $130,000 which has resulted in over 125,000 trees planted.

While polar bears are the icon of climate change, other species and their habitats are also affected. Climate change is occurring due to increased amounts of carbon that is released into the environment from the burning of fossil fuels. Reducing our use of fossil fuels is one way to slow the effects of climate change, but another way is to plant trees and forests which help offset carbon emissions. By raising funds for the TFYM grant, local chapters are empowered to help conservation organizations mitigate the global effects of climate change while supporting habitat restoration for a wide variety of species.

The Influence of a Conservation Zoo Program on the Knowledge, Attitudes, and Perception of the Importance of Conservation by Teenagers for the Endangered Eastern Hellbender of Indiana

Jill Ohlsen, Castle High School/ Mesker Park Zoo

Present day zoos strive to not only entertain, but educate about critical conservation issues. Much of the research measuring the success of such conservation programming, as well as measuring attitudes and perceptions about endangered animals, especially uncharismatic ones, has exclusively used adult subjects. Through a test/survey, the knowledge, attitudes, and perceived importance of conservation for the endangered eastern hellbender of Southern Indiana were measured, in teenagers, before and after an educational program at Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden, by hellbender keeper Brian Plis. The data collected showed significant changes in knowledge, attitude and perception toward conservation of the hellbender. The findings from this study could be used to better promote conservation of hellbender salamanders both in the school and zoo environment.

Successful Fostering of Ring-tailed Lemur at Indianapolis Zoo

Heather Hammond-Wood, Indianapolis Zoo

Reproduction plays a big role in animal conservation, especially for species that are suffering from habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. Ring-tailed lemurs are among the affected species. Here at the Indianapolis Zoo, we have had many successful Ring-tailed Lemur births, however we were tasked with a difficult situation last year when a mother rejected her infant twins. After hand-rearing both twins, losing one of the twins, and doing countless introductions with no real progress, we felt like we hit a roadblock. How were we going to get this infant re-integrated with our troop? Fortunately, another female, Reilly, gave birth to a stillborn and started showing interest in the infant, Nora. During introductions, Reilly was very interactive with Nora, grooming her often and occasionally allowing Nora to ride on her back. Nora was eventually introduced to one other female, Sheridon, and together the three females formed a new troop. Reilly ultimately became Nora’s “surrogate” mom, allowing Nora to nurse from her and carrying her around until she could shift on her own. This is the first “surrogate” situation the SSP has encountered and we are very proud of Reilly for adopting Nora as her own.

Disc’n for Cheetahs: Driving Discs for Conservation

Matt Corrie, Dickerson Park Zoo

As a small chapter, making a difference in conservation fundraising is a difficult task. I wanted to support a charity in a way that was personal to me, by combining my love of disc golf with fundraising. They came together in an event called Disc’n for Cheetahs. The main concerns for this event were- Will it be able to make money for the charity and not cost the chapter more money than it would bring in? Also, how do we get people to show up? First, I needed to find someone with tournament experience. I found that in a local promoter named Russell Burns who owns his own disc golf store and runs his own tour series. Second, I needed to find a course to host the tournament. I talked to local players and found a course in a nearby town that would wave rental fees to reserve the course. Third, I needed to figure out how to make money for the charity at this tournament. We were able to get a small kick back from the player entry fees and hosted a raffle with a ride range of items and experiences. Lastly, I needed to find sponsors to help cover the associated tournament costs. This past year, we were able to acquire sponsors that covered almost all our costs entirely. This event has raised approximately $7,000 for Action for Cheetahs in Kenya. Details and figures about these challenges will be addressed throughout the presentation.

One-eyed Wonder: Training a Visually-impaired Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) on a Cognitive Task

Lauren Miller, Moody Gardens

Since 2001, Moody Gardens Aquarium has housed a one-eyed male harbor seal (now 19 years old) whose repertoire includes over 80 behaviors. This past year, a visual match-to-sample study was designed meant to explore a harbor seal’s visual discrimination and conceptual learning abilities. Additionally, participation in a study where an animal is learning to think and utilize cognitive processes provides mental stimulation and further enrichment for animals in human care. This presentation discusses the early stages and the challenges involved in training a visually-impaired animal for a match-to-sample study. The relational learning and discriminatory abilities revealed by this study will serve as the foundation for future cognitive studies with the pinnipeds housed at Moody Gardens.

Blakely’s Barnyard Bonanza: How to Build an Interactive Show from Scratch

Eunice Frahm, Cincinnati Zoo

In 2011, we were tasked with creating a show in our Children’s Zoo. We began by utilizing select goats and chickens that were under our care and aimed to create an interactive experience with the guests. We did all of our training in the pathway in the middle of the Children’s Zoo which did have its challenges but it did allow for real time feedback from guests. This efficient feedback loop helped drive training that would result in behaviors guest enjoyed. The first summer was an informal demo showing simple goat agility by asking them to climb up a ramp, jump on stumps, and weave around cones. Young guests also got involved by holding a hoop for the goat to jump through and guests got to “dance” with the goat. By the end of the second summer it was clear the show was gaining popularity and was in need of a new location. A section of the Children’s Zoo was then dedicated to the Barnyard show with seats, a permanent elevated stage and backdrop creating space to keep animals during the show. With this expansion also came the addition of more animals. Rabbits, pigs, runner ducks, pigeons, Blakely our dog, and even a moon walking skunk all became stars of the show. As time went on the goals of the show also changed. Our goal moving forward for our young guests is to not only care about animals, but to be inspired to take action now. This little show has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the middle of a pathway of the Children’s Zoo with some old goats and a chicken race to a show with its own little theater, small animal collection and listing on the zoo map. We hope to inspire young guests to do more for animals for many years to come.

Callitrichidae UV and Heat Sources for Indoor Exhibits

Chris Caldwell, Indianapolis Zoo

At the Denver Zoo, it is a priority to offer UV and heat sources for all Callitrichidae both on and off exhibit. These areas require different ways to house UV and heat sources. We have created multiple types of housing methods some of which are unable to be seen by guests. We have also developed protocols for frequency of offering UV and Heat. Throughout this process we have seen a color change in our Golden Lion Tamarins from the increased accessibility of the new UV protocols and housing methods. It is now possible to have open discussions with guests about how we are able to provide natural options for our animals that are exhibited indoors.

Station! Up! Good Stretch! The Keeper’s Role in Physical Rehabilitation Therapy Programs

Diane Abbey, Woodland Park Zoo

The Physical Rehabilitation Medicine program at Woodland Park Zoo has evolved from its humble beginnings as an add-on to primary component of a treatment plan. The Keeper plays a large role in the team implementation of the therapy program. From giving progress reports to the Veterinary and Animal Care teams, using behavioral husbandry training to ensure positive patient participation, and animal exercise sessions between therapy appointments, the patient-keeper relationship is a key element to a successful physical rehabilitation therapy program outcome.

Into the Darkness: How Light Impacts Nocturnal Animals

Lindsey Schick, Moody Gardens

For nocturnal animals living in zoos and aquarium, light and noise levels impact animal welfare and animal activity. At Moody gardens, two studies were done to determine just how light settings and noise levels in exhibits affect the activity levels of two species, Egyptian Fruit Bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) and Pygmy Slow Loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus).For the 13.0 Egyptian Fruit Bats, the lights in exhibit were the focus of the study. They are exhibited in a cave like exhibit with three areas, left, right, and back with reverse light cycle lighting in the left and right areas. Before the study, the bat’s spent most of their time in the back. The lighting arrangements were changed and ethograms were used to determined which arrangement encouraged the bats to be more active and spend less time in the back. Scan sampling ethograms were used during this study. The Pygmy Slow Loris were two groups, 1.1 group and 0.2 group, in two different exhibits. The lighting and noise levels were different in each. Through Continuous sampling over the course of two weeks, it was determined that the 0.2 group in the darker, quieter exhibit were more active than the 1.1 group. After those two weeks, the groups changed exhibits and the results were replicated. The purpose of these studies was to determine how to modify the exhibit through lighting and noise levels, to increase the welfare of the animals of the exhibit.

Zookeepers Benefiting the Community

Alyssa Deats, Moody Gardens

Zookeepers at the Rainforest at Moody Gardens, in Galveston, Texas, are impacting the community and expanding knowledge of husbandry, training and enrichment with the Galveston Island Humane Society (GIHS) and Seeding Galveston farm. There is also a growing partnership with several animal control divisions within Galveston county.

Since 2017 keepers visit GIHS twice a month to utilize positive reinforcement while socializing dogs and teaching them basic obedience behaviors for adoption. In doing so, these keepers are practicing their training skills and completing one of the program requirements they need to move up to the next trainer level in the rainforest.

Keepers also visit Seeding Galveston, a community garden with a CSA (community supported agricultural) component, to share their knowledge and practice their training skills. The owners have learned how to use positive reinforcement training to trim their goats’ hooves and milk them voluntarily. This has greatly reduced the stress on the goats and therefore resulted in a better-quality product to sell. Enrichment has also been introduced into their environment for better welfare.
Moody Gardens also helps local and state agencies in the case of confiscated or seized animals. Some animals need extra care, others just need temporary housing.

The support Moody Gardens offers benefits everyone- animals, keepers, and organizations. Each organization has a better resource to carry out their respective missions. Meanwhile, keepers get the chance to expand their knowledge while making a positive impact on the community and promoting the mission of Moody Gardens.

Living with Wolves: My first summer working for a sustainable facility in the mountains of Colorado

Hailey Adams, Chimp Haven

Nestled in the Wet Mountains of Southern Colorado, at 9500 feet, Lies Mission Wolf, a forty acres nonprofit refuge, dedicated to the rescue and lifelong care of unwanted captive bred wolves. Living in tents and tipis scattered throughout the multi acres wolf enclosures, the refuge’s staff find themselves constantly at the mercy of the elements, while at the same time gaining a vast and intimate knowledge of the wolves they care for. Mission Wolf is a facility dedicated to making sure no resource goes to waste. The few buildings are all made from scrap and recycled materials, and all electricity comes from a small number of solar panels.  Over the years Mission Wolf has touched the lives of thousands of people both local and internationally. The Refuge’s experiential education programs teach people about sustainable living, wolf conservation, and the many stories of the resident wolves. I found Mission Wolf the summer after my first semester of college.  Following the guidance of directions that said things like, turn left at the big stump, I was in for a harrowing journey down a twisting dirt road to reach the remote refuge. In the following months I was to spend at Mission Wolf, I was to have experiences such as, digging myself out of a collapsed tent, crawling twenty feet underground to save an injured puppy, and learning to use horse training techniques to leash train wolves.  Though I would spend many years at the refuge, nothing could compare to that first summer. 

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