How long have you worked at the Memphis Zoo?
What is your educational background?
Bachelor of Science
at Oklahoma Christian University
What interested you to pursue your current career path?
As a child, I used to watch Joan Embery bring baby animals on The Tonight Show.
I just assumed she lived with all of those animals and wanted to be her.
Briefly describe what your typical day looks like.
The mornings we are usually very busy checking on all of
the animals to be sure nothing has gone wrong overnight, then medicating
several of the primates including insulin injections for 2 diabetic monkeys. We
spend the next couple of hours setting up the yards with breakfast and
enrichment, then putting animals out on exhibit. The bulk of the rest of the
day is spent cleaning the night houses. At 1:00 it's feeding time for the
gorillas and keeper chat for the visitors.The afternoons are spent finishing up
the cleaning, getting the night rooms ready for the animals to come back in,
then adding in some training sessions. The training sessions are either keeping
up the behaviors the apes already know (fingers, head, toes......) or training
for immediate veterinary needs.
What is your favorite Zoo memory?
I absolutely loved spending quiet time with "Elok," the baby
orangutan. His mom didn't raise him, so
we took care of him for a year until he was old enough to go to a surrogate
orang mom at the Houston Zoo. In the evenings when everyone had gone home, Elok
and I would spend some time in the orang yard. He would play in the grass and
climb on the low ropes, then fall asleep in my lap. I was also very privileged
to see the baby bonobo 30 seconds after he was born. I watched the group taking
care of him and "Mpingo" take his first breaths. Its an honor that the group
trusted me enough to be near.
What is your favorite animal (and why)?
That's a tough
one. The bonobos have huge highs and lows. They make me laugh out loud, but
they also sometimes make me want to pull my hair out in frustration. I do love
the gorillas. They look so serious, but have this hidden sense of humor that
just pops out sometimes. Some days its hard to get any work done, because "Mwelu" is shaking his head and patting his head with both hands trying to get me to
play chase with him (Mwelu on his side of the mesh, me on my side, of course).
Or "Penny" drumming on the floor then jumping up on the mesh showing me how happy
she is at the moment. I love "Kebara's" diva attitude like she's a little
silverback, and "Kwizera's" spunky "I'm a gorilla don't mess with me"