Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Zookeeper in the Making

Sophia was captured encountering the male lion at the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand. Check it out.

My first reaction is Sophia will make an excellent zookeeper. We were always taught to have no reaction to these kinds of displays of dominance that the big cats, in particular, are famous for. Mostly, this was because if the animals get the expected reaction, they are encouraged to repeat the behavior. In captivity, this presents a huge risk of injury - to the animal. If this male lion, for example, learns to jump at the cage glass, or even worse, the metal cage bars of his off exhibit holding area on a regular basis, he might end up with injured paws, or the worst of the worst, broken teeth. Broken teeth can be deadly to a lion, presenting risk of all kinds of infection and the need for surgeries that are always risky business, even to an otherwise healthy lion.

So, when the animals attack the cage bars, keepers need the guts Sophia seems born with, so they don't give the reaction the animals are aiming for. Then, perhaps the animal won't be as likely to do it again. I'd wager a guess that the only reason this particular male jumped at Sophia the second time is because he got reactions from the parents and other people off camera behind her. He appears to be assessing them just before his second attack, and as he probably hoped, Mom led Sophia away. Mission accomplished with the added bonus of making the humans scream. Woot!

Anyway, if Sophia decides she wants to become a zookeeper, she will learn that, regardless of all the people who think it's possible, there is no real taming of a lion - ever. She will want to keep him from harm's way in his captive environment by any means possible, because if he breaks a claw or a tooth on those cage bars because she encouraged his bad behavior, she will be the one who has to stand beside the vet and tick her lion off royally with that dart. She will have to hope that the lion really is anesthetized by said dart and is not faking, and she will most likely be the first person to bravely walk into the lion's cage and put her hands near his mouth to secure a gas mask over his face. And she will stand beside him while he sleeps, and assist the vets and vet techs with whatever surgical procedures he needs. And the whole time, if she is anything like me, she will be silently praying to anyone who might listen that he doesn't wake up until he's supposed to. She will pray for this almost as hard as she will pray that he recovers and returns to his surly ways.


Andi said...

How many times can I say I love your insight into zookeeper life? Apparently, not enough!

zoowomanrvtrn said...

Amanda, as a former zoo vet tech(with you at Dallas!), I can assure you, the vet staff are all praying the exact same prayer - be at a surgical plane of anesthesia before we enter your enclosure, don't die during the proceedure, don't wake up before we want you to and let the proceedure be a sucessful one!

Zooleft said...

Hey mysterious zoo woman! Good to see you here. :D Thanks for stopping by.