by: Sabrina Brando
Sometimes I speak with animal caregivers who do not really want to work with certain species or certain individual animals. I recognise this from my 15 years of working in departments where there were a mix of species and animals. At that time, I was spending undoubtedly more time in and with some animals more than others. Some I fed quicker, provided less enrichment, gave fewer to no training sessions, and even sometimes only saw them when I arrived in the morning and at lights out at the end of the day. Of course, we were often busy with too many things to do, but then I would catch myself taking those extra few minutes with animals I enjoyed being with, who enjoyed being with me and were easier to work with.
I have spent much time thinking about how I worked, and also about things I used to do that I would never do today–these are many–but that list is for another time. Things changed because I either now know better, or because I had to acknowledge that, more often than not, my thoughts and feelings regarding a particular species or animal came from not knowing or understanding them very well. Spending more time and energy on them brought me closer to them. I was often pleasantly surprised and learned that fondness can grow. I also learned to ask for help and support in areas I am not (yet) comfortable with, even at the risk of being made fun of.
On this journey, I have also had to make a special effort to remind myself that, while I like or am more comfortable with some species or animals more than others, the quality of care I provide should be the same for all of them. This applies not only to our direct work with the animals, but also to the need to listen and learn from others who work with different species, in different fields, across different disciplines. It also includes specific areas that might be more difficult to us, such as caring for very old animals, animals that have many, sometimes very taxing, needs, animals who do not like being around people, or who I find frightening, among other challenges.
Of course, we all have our favourites–and that is OK! Some animals we simply like more than others, but as professionals we have to stay alert and provide all animals under our care a similar quality and quantity of care. I know this, and you know this, but it is almost inevitable that we find ourselves spending more time or providing more activities (including training, enrichment, favourite foods, playing games, being together, etc.) with the animals we prefer to hang out with–hello animal friends!
“Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”
When I saw this quote, it reminded me of this–equal care and kindness to all. As animal care professionals we can and are doing this, but it never hurts to remind oneself now and again that, although there is a reason we call ourselves ‘creatures of habit’, as professionals, we need to do our best to provide all animals in our care with an engaging and optimal quality of life.
Giving & showing kindness is in all of us. Wishing you a compassionate, purposeful, joyful, and active 2021!
PS: Kindness and fondness are also very relevant when we think about and act towards people and organisations that think and act differently than us (for example, those who do not approve of our work with animals), but that too is a topic for another time.
Animal Keeper Education in Africa: PAAZA Tackles the Challenge
As an African association, PAAZA (Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria) had to overcome a few challenges not known to developed countries; one of them being the lack of basic education in the keeper workforce. This need for better education manifests in numerous ways, ranging from difficulties with reading, writing, and understanding the local language, to a total lack of knowledge regarding captive animals.
When faced with these issues, most institutions throughout Africa got creative and designed specific work tools to cater to these educational holes. Printing spreadsheets with symbols instead of words, and easy-to-fill-in keeper reports is not especially complicated, but can alleviate the difficulty of daily tasks for non-literate employees; however, such solutions are merely a patch to cover a much-needed change in keeper education.
As it is, the African situation is even more problematic. Keepers are not specialized staff members. Most of them do not know about animal welfare and other captive wildlife concepts. Caring for animals implies servicing the enclosure and offering food and water, and that is already a job well done. Forget the best practice or husbandry guidelines for each species; these items are not even on the table in Africa. In response to this observation, PAAZA decided to jump in and help keepers–and eventually animals–by implementing education and communication ideas.
First, a fully-fledged educational program was designed for keepers, starting from the very basis of what animal care should be, up to higher levels of animal welfare, such as enrichment programs. Even if the contents of this course could be deemed ‘ground level’ for most developed countries, it is what is required for Africa. Of course, being low-level staff members, keepers often do not have access to higher or continuing education, simply due to the cost. For this reason, PAAZA decided to provide these lessons free of charge to anyone wishing to learn. Thus, the full course is available for free on the PAAZA mobile app.
Considering the limited literacy skills of numerous staff members in African facilities, this program has also been translated into drawings and small cards for learners to carry around that easily fit into pockets when printed. The cards are also on the PAAZA mobile app.
However, the creation of education programs is only the first step in the betterment of animal welfare and keeper knowledge. The second step is communicating about this educational opportunity for all animal attendants and creating a keeper community to encourage knowledge exchange all over Africa. This step was implemented only very recently, with the creation of a special Facebook group, PAAZA Keeper Corner. It is only open to PAAZA members who are animal attendant level staff at the moment, although our joining options are still being considered. The aim of this group is to encourage knowledge sharing and networking between keepers. The African Keeper Association (AKAA) closed down a few years ago, which has led to a serious decline in communication between keepers at different facilities. The idea behind Keeper Corner is to try and revive this community spirit.
Why choose Facebook instead of another platform? Quite simply, because most young Africans are already using this form of social media. It is a part of their life and can be used on a tablet, phone or computer. Reaching out to where people are is the best way to encourage them to participate in a group. Previous attempts have been made with specialized websites, but none of them truly gathered a lively community. In addition, Facebook groups come with built-in safety measures, moderating options and a large array of tools to enhance discussions. One recently added feature is the lesson panel, where moderators can record their own courses. Group members can access them and even test their understanding via little quizzes. This could be a fantastic outreach tool for teaching keepers all over Africa.
The African continent is home to many wonderful species and people. It is our responsibility to make sure both are given proper welfare. By educating people today, we ensure a brighter future for Nature and its guardians. Remember: education is key.
The Endangered Primate Rescue Center
The Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC) was established in 1993 and is one of the largest rescue centers in Southeast Asia. EPRC is home to more than 180 endangered primates from three primate groups (langurs, gibbons, and lorises), all of which were either confiscated by law enforcement officials or were born at the center. EPRC tries to rehabilitate and breed confiscated primates and later release them back to the wild, if possible.
There is a large wildlife trade in Vietnam, despite all primates having legally protected status. Primates are primarily hunted for meat, traditional Chinese medicines, and the pet trade. Many Vietnamese primate species are on the brink of extinction; for example, there are only 65 Cat Ba langurs, 200 Delacours langurs, and 200 Tonking Snubnose Monkeys remaining.
Since 2015, EPRC is under the management of the Zoo Leipzig (Germany), who is also the primary sponsor. About 25 Vietnamese keepers and 2 Vietnamese veterinarians care for the wellbeing of our animals. Every day, our keepers have to cut 400 kg fresh leaves for our 130 langurs, which is quite a feat. Our animal keepers do all the work themselves, including cleaning, feeding, preparing diets, cutting leaves, creating enrichment, hand rearing infant primates, gardening, construction, maintenance, and so much more. The majority of our keepers belong to the Moon minority, a usually underprivileged group. Their work at EPRC provides them jobs and income, and raises community awareness of the plight of our primates, which helps to keep them from hunting or collecting primates inside the Cut Phuong National Park, where we are located.
For more information on EPRC, please visit their website.
ICZ Keeper Conservation Grant
The ICZ would like to welcome Deborah Nolan of DN Creative Marketing & Design to the team! Deborah is from Newcastle Upon Tyne in NE England & is a freelance designer & marketer for her own business. Deborah is also a marketing manager for the U.K. based conservation charity WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust). Deborah has a passion for animals is excited to be able to support the ICZ!
Deborah is debuting her designs for the ICZ with new 2020 International Zookeeper Day logos! Only 40 days left until IZD! Please enjoy & share the amazing IZD Designs!
FB – @dncreativemarketing
Twitter – @dncreatedesign
New ICZ Advisor: Sabrina Brando
The ICZ is pleased to announce that Sabrina Brando has agreed to take on the role of Advisor to the ICZ. Through her new role, Sabrina will be supporting the ICZ steering committee in a variety of ways. We look forward to working with her and are pleased to have her as a part of our team.
Sabrina Brando is the director of AnimalConcepts, including the Practical Animal Welfare Science platform, a PhD candidate at the University of Stirling in Scotland on the topic of human well-being and is the Primate Care Training Program Coordinator for the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance. She teaches at various universities and colleges, as well as working with many zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries worldwide, on animal welfare, behaviour, environmental enrichment, animal training, the human-animal relationship, and other topics. Sabrina is a Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional and feels compassion and awareness is key in the animal care profession in order for animal care professionals to serve animals and people with compassion and integrity.
AnimalConcepts is donating free webinars
In support of the animal community worldwide during COVID19 AnimalConcepts is donating 3 free one-on-one 1.5hr webinars this month on a topic of your choice.
The theme this month is: Animal Friendships 🦜🐘🦍 🐷🐵
What do you need to do? You can:
– Send a 1-2 minute video show telling their friendship story
– Send a written (max 500 words) friendship story with a photo of them
Send before 15 May 2020 to email@example.com 🐻🐧🐬
Winners will be notified on 17 May 2020.
7th International Congress on Zookeeping is postponed
In light of Covid-19, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the 7th International Congress on Zookeeping. We will give you further details once they come to hand. Please stay tuned.
We are looking for a volunteer graphic designer
In early 2015, our colleague Boris Planell passed away. He was a caregiver who worked at the Havana Zoo, a researcher at the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCEAC) and representative of AICAS in Cuba.
AICAS wanted to help the Boris’s family; his two studying daughters and their mother. A team formed by Raúl Cabrera and Mireia Rosillo compiled Boris’ immense collection of books, management guides, species guidelines, book bindings, scientific articles, children’s stories, dvd’s, and more.
Besides supporting Boris his family, some of the money raised also supported a Latin American keeper to join the ICZ congress in 2018. Undoubtedly, Boris would be very proud to know that, with his books, he has collaborated in the training of a colleague. We will keep supporting keepers to join conferences with some of the money raised.
We would like to encourage you to download the list of books and other products and take a look. If you would like to order something please get in touch via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Any support will be greatly appreciated!
The shipping costs are at the expense of the buyer (although we can try and use all our contacts to try to avoid those shipment expenses and deliver them by hand, whenever possible).
ICZ Keeper Conservation Grant 2020
The ICZ is pleased to announce the winner of the ICZ Keeper Conservation Grant 2020 is Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary (LWS) is the first and only wildlife rescue center for different species of wildlife in Liberia and officially opened on 2017.
It is a partnership between the Libassa Ecolodge, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL).
The goals of LWS are:
To provide care to confiscated wild animals kept as pets or destined to bush meat, release them whenever is possible or providing them with lifelong care for the ones that cannot be released.
Other important goals also include:
- The protection of sea turtles nesting grounds
- The training of students and communities on wildlife protection
- To raise awareness on illegal trafficking of wildlife in Liberia through education
- Supporting local communities.
So far, 350 animals have entered the sanctuary and more than 175 have been released back into the wild.
The ICZ grant of $1000 would allow us to improve the center’s old quarantine room, which is currently damaged and in need of repair. Improving this facility will make it available for antelopes/ larger animals that need quarantine, or any other animals that can not be housed in the current building. This will greatly improve the facility and care that can be provided at the Sanctuary.
For more information on the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary please visit their website.
We would like to thank everyone who submitted an application and ofcourse Fundació Lluís Coromina for sponsoring this ICZ grant.
International Zookeeper Day: October 4, 2019
The International Congress of Zookeepers asks you to join in the 4th Annual Celebration of International Zookeeper day this October 4th!
October 4th was proposed by Barcelona Zoo and AICAS (Iberian Association of Zookeepers) in honor of St. Francis of Assisi who advocated that it was the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature. The Barcelona Zoo has celebrated the Day of St. Francis since 1957.
This celebratory day includes all who make it their life’s work to care for animals, whether they are involved with zoos, sanctuaries, rescue centers, parks or reserves. All who work to improve and save the lives of animals shall be commemorated on this day.
This declaration comes at a time when many animal species are in great peril across the globe. Many species are facing extinction, and their ecosystems and habitats are under tremendous pressure from diverse forces, both natural and human-made. Stewardship is the last hope for many endangered species and the professionals who devote their lives to saving species by way of conservation and breeding programs, education outreach, and research work tirelessly to save these animals.
Each October 4th, the ICZ, via International Zookeeper Day, will engage in programs, activities, and ceremonies which encourage education and public awareness of the important role of keepers in wildlife conservation. Please take the opportunity on October 4th to stop and reflect on the huge contribution zookeepers make to the care and conservation of all species great and small.
Here are some ideas on how you can celebrate! Special Keeper Talks Special behind the scenes tours for guests (Show them what your day is like! Give a tour for a donation to raise funds for your favorite conservation organization). Hang out with colleagues (have lunch as a zoo department or outside of work). Hold Zookeeper Olympic Games Have a happy hour or social. Plant a tree on zoo grounds to commemorate the special day. Share, share, share on social media! #internationalzookeeperday How will you celebrate International Zookeeper Day?
Please check out the IZD 2019 Facebook page and share with us!
Association Collaborations: Harpij Enrichment Book
In 1998, Stichting de Harpij published the first edition of the ‘Harpij Verrijkingsboek’ (“Harpij Enrichment Book”); a reference book with ideas for the behavioral enrichment of animals in zoos. Since then, the book has been translated into five other languages: Russian, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Vietnamese.
This book is a great example of the benefits of zookeeping associations around the world working together as part of ICZ: ABWAK and ASZK sponsored the English translation and AICAS translated the book to both Spanish and Portuguese (and even shared it for free with the Spanish and Portuguese speaking delegates of the ICZ congress in 2018). Currently, AFSA is working on a French translation and BdZ on a German version of the book.