Sunday, June 28, 2015

Funny Things Guests Say: Baby Orca Edition

Quick quiz: Which of the following animals is an orca?

Is it choice A? (Photo credit to the amazing Tasli Shaw)

Choice B?

How about choice C?

Don't forget about choice D!

If you answered "c", you're not only correct, you're apparently in a very small minority of human beings with the ability to correctly identify this animal.

There is something happening in the world I cannot explain.  Like, I'm legit terrified of what it means.  We in the Western world are so obsessed with apocalyptic storylines and zombie movies, we wonder all the time "could it ever..."?  We answer Facebook poles that predict (I'm sure very accurately) how long we will survive in a zombie scenario.  But guys, I think SOMETHING LIKE THAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

Braaiiinnnnzzzz (side note: If you don't play Plants Vs Zombies, you really haven't lived)

There must be a virus that infects people's brains and makes them think that everything they see is a killer whale.  I. Don't. Get. It.

First, let's give credit where credit is due.  One of the reasons why zoos and aquariums are awesome is because they expose people to animals they've never seen in their lives, or haven't seen up close.  They also inspire people to care about them, especially the people who are not inherent animal lovers like you and I.  Someone who has no problem running over a raccoon because "they vermin" can do a total 180 when they go to a zoo and see raccoons in action in their adorable, intelligent ways.  

I'm all ears.

So I get it, people know what killer whales are, and may have a vague understanding of what they look like (you know, black and white and shaped like a fish).  So when they go to a facility with Commerson's dolphins, it's understandable they'd think they're looking at baby killer whales.  That's kind of a twofer, too.  Commerson's dolphins are not a species that's recognizable by anyone other than the Cetacean Nerds* in the vast majority of cases.  Plus, they live in really cold water in remote regions of the world.**  

But like, WHY do people think Asian small-clawed otters are baby orcas?  I have wracked my brain to come up with a logical answer that will quell my fears that there is actually a brain virus infecting mankind that will eventually turn us all into the living dead or worse, politicians.

Otters DO share some things in common with orcas, such as: two eyes, a mouth with a tongue and some teeth, and bones.  Also, they swim.

However, if we did a Venn Diagram of orcas and ASCOs, I think we'd see something that looks like two circles that appear to share a small space, but you'd need a scanning electron microscope to be sure they overlap at all.

Is this a donut?  It has similar qualities such as: it is donut-shaped and also, it is an inanimate object.
Or is THIS a hemorrhoid pillow?  Same qualities shared as one as above.  And now I'm confused.

Black and white animals within 50 feet of a water source (including but not limited to: a water dish) are also eligible for misidentification by guests.  Our African penguins where I work are sometimes referred to as "baby killer whales", which really upsets them because you know, birds are very emotional animals with giant egos and they are very proud to be NON mammal warm-blooded creatures thank you very much.   

But like, what about sea lions?  Sea lions.  Orcas EAT those.  You've seen it on TV.  You've seen it on Facebook, or commercials or movies.  So why, after a sea lion show where we've used the phrase "sea lion" 67,395 times do guests ask me, "So is those baby orcas?"

Can we get this guy to work in guest services at every zoo everywhere?

My colleagues and I were puzzled by a recent onslaught of Trip Advisor reviews on our facility in which not one but TWO comments went on and on about how much they loved the orca/killer whale show.  

I mean, YES! We love good Trip Advisor reviews!

But wait where did they see the orcas?  This mystery poisons my mind; WHICH animals did they perceive as orcas?  One of the comments specifically said they enjoyed the "dolphin/killer whale show."  So they went to our dolphin show.  The one with the bottlenose dolphins.  The gray ones.  Did they see something else in there?  Should we be concerned?

I thought maybe they were reviewing the wrong park, but they went on to describe other facets of our facility that are unique to us.  And so the enigma endures.

Here's something I just thought about as I write this (this is very therapeutic for me to pen this blog, actually): most people seem to refer to them as BABY orcas.  This isn't just the case at my place, I've heard many of you out there at other facilities experience this same issue.  Perhaps it's wishful thinking, or maybe a slight misunderstanding of mammalian development that leads people to identify animals as "baby" orcas.  

"I'd LOVE to see an orca today.  Hey, what's that thing swimming in that habitat?  Um, um, um, probably not an adult orca SO IT MUST BE A BABY!"

We are all susceptible to such thinking.

Okay, let's go with this logic because I think I'm on to something.  Perhaps there are several stages of development of a baby killer whale that lead up to its final form and that's what we've been missing.  All this time we figured they follow the typical, boring pattern of placental mammals.  You know the drill, chick gets knocked up, blastulas and embryos and fetuses and some uncomfortable hours of muscle contractions and then out pops a smaller version of the adult.

But no.  Orcas may follow a pattern similar to a fish or an insect, with larval stages and everything.  Here's my hypothesis:

Step One: Mom orca gets pregnant

Step Two: Mom orca gives birth to an Asian small-clawed orca

Step Three: Asian small-clawed otter turns into an African penguin (where it is now black and white)

Step Four: African penguin turns into a sea lion (you know, for flipper development and to go back into a mammal)

Step Five: Sea lion turns into Commerson's dolphin

Step Six: Commerson's dolphin grows into a beautiful big killer whale

I'm feeling pretty good about my hypothesis, obviously.

Yeah, baby orcas probably have at least six developmental stages outside of the uterus.  Evolutionary biologists, I challenge you to find a flaw in THAT iron-clad scientific hypothesis!

The only other logical explanation is that the Matrix is real and the people who are identifying other animals as "orca" are expressing a glitch in the Matrix.  And we should be really aware of this because I mean, that's some heavy #*%@.

I...I.... don't know

I've heard of other serious misidentification problems with zoo animals:

* "Hey look at these wolverines!" (North American river otters)

* "Wow, that's a big manatee" (Loggerhead sea turtle)

* "Those baby seals are so cute!" (Asian small-clawed otters)

* "Awww those are such cute seahorses!" (Mysid shrimp)

* "Is that a baby lion fish?" (Sailfin tang)

* "Is that a baby flamingo?" (Ibis)

* "What happened to that walrus's tusks? Did you remove them?" (Manatee)

* "Those are baby tuna and baby mahi!" (Redfish and permit, respectively)

I'm sure many of you have oodles and oodles of hilarious examples (and please share them).  

But until we figure out why people are seeing baby orcas everywhere, I will not have a good night's sleep.  All we can do is band together and attempt to identify a pattern, because that pattern will lead to a CURE.  

A baby orca in the hand is worth two in real life.

* Of which I've been a card-carrying member since 1994

** In fact, of the 40+ species of dolphins on the planet, I'm willing to bet most people can identify about two 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day Is For Us Animal Lovers, Too!

Happy happy Father's Day!

Best dad ever!

For my loyal readers, the format for this blog is going to be pretty similar to that of my Mother's Day post.  And for those of you who are just joining us, WELCOME!

So my Mother's Day blog focused mostly on our zoologically-inclined maternal traits and nodded to the fact that most of us in this field are actually female.  Even if you're a dude, you probably share a lot of mommy qualities.  Unsurprisingly, because our field is chock full of amazing and loving people, not a single guy voiced a dissenting opinion on this concept.  To the contrary, some of the manliest men I know in the field embraced their inner Zoo Mom.  Woohoo!

Playing heavily into gender stereotypes, we have to admit that we are also Zoo Dads*, too.  Our job involves a lot of Daddly stuff.  And just as we all share qualities of moms, we share just as many as dads.

Without further ado, let's go through the list of how fatherly we all truly are!

1) We Can Make or Fix Anything Out of PVC, Zip Ties, and Duct Tape

MacGyver was not a "secret agent".  He was actually a zookeeper.

This is especially true for us smaller zoos and aquariums.  I mean, who reading this DOESN'T know how your basic PVC glue works?  And let's face it, zip ties are way better than drilling in most cases. In fact, I'm a little upset that we as a field haven't figured out a contest of Best Thing Built Out of PVC and Zip Ties.  Like, we could probably figure out how to make a beer tap.  Talk about being a Zoo Dad!  I know of at least three places around my place of employment where we could install such a thing.   But seriously, AZA and IMATA, don't you think a great team-builder would be a contest of best THING built out of these objects?? I bet we'd see some incredible things.

Anyways, our abilities to fix things are very real and are absolutely not limited to the male gender.  Us animal caregivers often work on limited budgets, both monetary and time.  That doesn't mean we don't know how to properly construct something, fix a leaking roof, or repair a door hinge.  But often times we simply don't have the money for the resources we need to build something that looks state of the art.  We've built squeeze cages, panels, temporary habitats for smaller animals, injection poles, and enrichment items out of just the above-listed materials.  We are innovative, us Zoo Dads!

2) We Get Really Frustrated Over Projects We Ruin

Don't be upset, Chris!! There, there, come to Cat.

Oh man, if zookeepers and trainers lose their temper, it's over one of three things:

1) Anyone posing danger to the animals in their care
2) Inflammatory statements by misled armchair activists

We never lose our temper at the animals (well, no real animal caretaker at least does), but holy crap just don't even talk to me if I've set PVC wrong and my connections break because I didn't use a LEVEL SURFACE.  Or if I break something, or envision a plan that just totally blows up in my face. The rage that surges out of every pore of my being is tangible and explosive and could probably divert the trajectory of small aircraft up to 15,000 feet.  Like a dad freaking out over a wasted Sunday afternoon building that Awesome Picnic Table He Saw The Template For At Home Depot, us Zoo Dads place a lot of our heart and hope into the projects we do.

The Old Man Parker knew how to swear at his failed home projects!

Let's not even mention how we react when our projects are ruined by things outside of our control, such as Murphy's Law Weather Events.  I think the reason animal caretakers are so chill in their personal lives is because they cathartically release gobs of tension and stress over broken or warped MDF boards.

3) We Can Use Power Tools...And We Drool Over Getting New Equipment

Oh. Ohhhhh.

Break out the tool belt! It looks GOOD on us Zoo Dads!  We know how to use a variety of power tools depending on what our job entails, and we always feel cool doing it.  The extent to which we use these tools depends on our jobs.  Marine mammal trainers don't typically need anything more than a PVC cutter (and usually that's not a power tool), a drill and a compressor (okay I know that's not really a power tool, but let's just count it).  But if you're lucky enough to build elements of your own habitats, you probably rock a jig saw and use Real Lumber.  I suppose Dads fall into these continuum too.  My dad was good with the basic tools, including the power drill and stud finder.  But he wasn't out building tree houses or the massive bird aviary I always wanted as a kid (gee, thanks DAD).  But my father-in-law can fix cars, airplanes, boats, build houses, and basically use every power tool available to mankind.

But one thing we Zoo Dads can ALL agree on is that we covet new equipment.  Our drill bits are old. Or stuck forever in one of our drills.  Our saws-all can cut a loaf of bread in ten minutes and that's if the bread is really old.  We marine mammal trainers dream of the day when we can get the latest and greatest model of underwater scrubber, you know, if we just happen upon $20,000.  Like a dad pouring over the shiny new toys at the local hardware store, we do the same thing.  Admit it.  The last time you went to Lowes you spent more time staring at wet saws because you have the Best Habitat Improvement Idea and it just involves a touch of stonework.

4) We Underestimate Time It Takes To Do Things 

Just need to buff this out.  It'll only take me like 20 minutes.

"I'll be there in five minutes!" you say as you finish cleaning a habitat, or zip tying a torn barrier net.  You think it'll take Just Five Minutes, but you've really got about 20 minutes of solid work ahead of you.  Still, just like any optimistic dad who wants to Help With Everything, you cheerfully lie to yourself and imagine you have some super human power to either pause time or move your limbs and digits in a way that is medically impossible.  

Like so many well-meaning dads I know, this also applies to an uncanny ability for us keepers, trainers, and vets to get side-tracked with projects that pop up last minute (this may or may not be related to what we experience in item #2 as listed above).  You may have only five minutes of work left until you suddenly realize that fence over there looks like it has a loose plank, which will only take you a few seconds to fix, except you can't find the right drill bit because for some reason, there are seven different types of screws holding the fence together and you can't figure out why you never remember to charge the drill battery.  It's a good thing we are all victims of this tendency, because when I hear someone say, "It'll just take me a second!" I know to give that person 10 to 50 times longer than they think it will take.  And my coworkers do the same for me!

5) We Make Our Kids' Toys (and Brag About It)

We're all Geppetto at heart.

This may be a tradition falling out of favor this day in age, but there was a time when dads made toys for their kids.  My husband's paternal grandpa used to make these baller wooden toys.  Not simple things either; this guy really knew how to woodwork.  With the advent of where you can basically find anything you want (and if not, just hop over to Etsy), I don't know how many dads make cool stuff for their kids.  

Wait, I take that back.  One of my coworker's husbands built a balance beam for his kid.  He wins!

Anyways, luckily us Zoo Dads keep the Toy Building Tradition alive by making many (or all) of our animal kids' toys.  Our drive to provide interesting enrichment goes far beyond just ordering boomer balls.  We've made EEDs for animals living in every different kind of habitat imaginable.  

We don't stop there, either.  Like any proud father, we brag incessantly about our projects to other people in the field. This does exactly the same thing it does when a bunch of dads get together to one-up each other on how great of a treehouse they built their kid.  It definitely can provoke a twinge of jealousy (like how I felt when this amazing facility in the Keys built this sort of board with buttons on it, each button when pushed by a dolphin got them a different enrichment so they could basically choose their own toys!!), but for the most part it just inspires you.  And luckily, Zoo Dads are more than willing to share their project outlines and tips.  

6) We Take A Lot of Naps.  Like, A LOT

If only we could have scheduled naps!

Not at work (although good lord, wouldn't that be awesome?  Siesta time?  How about when your animals sleep, you sleep? No wait, that's not very fair for us dolphin trainers....let me work out the kinks on this).  

But when we get home, we power DOWN.  We sprawl out on the couch or pass out on the floor and become dead to the world.  Our bodies and brains are exhausted and of any good Dad Nap Stereotype, I think we're happy to embrace this one.

7) We Love To Play With Our Animal Kids


D'uhhhhh.  When we're done with all the hard work, we are happy to play with the animals.  That obviously looks different depending on the species and type of work you're doing.  How I play with a dolphin is not necessarily the same way I play with an otter, or how someone who works protected contact plays around with a grizzly bear.  

There are some animals that maybe you don't really play with.  For example, anyone working exclusively with venomous snakes probably doesn't bounce anyone on their knee.  So we could just say, where and when appropriate, play is part of the day.  And if not, it's for a very, very good reason.  And chances are, you're doing some kind of enrichment for them, even if it's not you directly interacting with that animal. 

But any good dad knows how to the appropriate way and time to play with his kids (and what that entails).

8) We Stay Calm and Collected in Stressful Situations

Side note: This is the best show on the planet.

The Dad stereotype here involves a stoic, strong, and focused outlook no matter what's going on.  And while we all know that in reality, moms and dads do this regularly, this entire blog post sits cozily atop stereotypes so just roll with it!

There are massively stressful events in the animal caregiving world.  If you work with a lot of geriatric animals, are in rehab, or are in the vet profession, you probably experience these kinds of events more often.  I think the worst event is when an animal is ill, is dying or has died.  Ugh, it makes you feel rotten inside and indescribably sad.  Or when something totally crazy happens, like severe weather damage or if an animal gets out of their habitat. But when that kind of event occurs, you can't let the emotions swirling around you take over and render you useless.  You have to find a way to stay calm and focused so that you make sure everyone is safe, and that the other animals in your care continue to get the same love and attention.  

9) We Protect the Family


Traditionally, dads are the "head" of the family**, the "protector".  And dag nabbit, us Zoo Dads are very protective of our animal family.  How do we act when a guest "accidentally" finds themselves near or in a habitat?  Oh, our Dad Voices come out.  How about when someone throws something into a habitat?  We don't sugar-coat anything, we DadVoice them.  Dad Voice brings immediately and deserved shame and embarrassment, and maybe it'll even Build Character (the sole goal of any father, right?).   We may be the nicest people or have the biggest issue with confrontation with our coworkers or friends and family, but when someone messes around with the safety or happiness of our animals we are ready to go to battle!

Us animal caregivers wear many hats: Mom and Dad hats, to be exact.  We really do look at and treat the animals in our care like members of our family, even if it is only temporarily.  For example, people working in a rehabilitation facility see patients come and go.  While you may think they don't "let" themselves get attached to the animals in their care, they do.  They have great coping mechanisms (remember the Zoo Dad tendency to keep calm under stress?), but they love the animals they care for, no matter how hopeless the case or how quick of a turnaround that animal has back to a healthy life in the wild.  

Being parental figures to our animals is something we should be very proud of, because it makes our jobs a little bit more difficult.  How?  Well, it forces us to experience amazing gains and some really big losses.  Those of us in a training setting, or who are very by-the-book anti-anthropomorphism, you are still a Zoo Parent.  Parents look out for the best interest of their kids without letting their ego get in the way, and they do the best that they can every single day.  Zoo Parents do the same; what you feel is the best possible care for the animals you work with is what you give them without fail.  

Now go enjoy your Father's Day, all ye Zoo Dads!  And make sure you celebrate by taking a nice, long nap.
* You veterinarians, vet techs and assistants, rehabbers, and anyone who raises or cares for animals at home are of course included in this!

** But of course, we know that it's chicks that really rule the roost

Sunday, June 14, 2015

27 Zoo Secrets You Apparently Didn't Know About

Who out there has read the recent Ranker "article", 27 Secrets Zoos Don't Want You To Know?  I know, I totally just linked to it, and I totally think you should read it if you haven't because I mean, there are secrets contained in there.  Don't you want to know what they are?  Especially if you work at a zoo or aquarium, you should probably be up in arms about the fact that some well-meaning whistleblower has decided to EXPOSE OUR SECRETS.


Before I read the article, I was utterly shocked.  How could a LAYMEN discover these secrets?  Did they know someone On The Inside?  And now, all of us animal care professionals (the zookeepers, the animal trainers, veterinarians, educators) should shake in our boots.  Like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange*, the author of this Ranker post systematically rips the shroud of secrecy off of our field and into the bright, unblinking spotlight of the Court of Public Opinion.  

But, SPOILER ALERT!  All zookeepers can breathe a collective sigh of relief.  Because when I actually read the article, I found two things:

1) All of our secrets are safe.  

2) The so-called "secrets" the author discusses are just complete lies, or are exaggerated claims based off of one random event. 

My initial reaction was laughter.  But I felt a little badly for laughing at this person's efforts, since it employed serious Google searching and propaganda techniques that are reserved for the Experts, such as Kim Jong Un.**  Clearly, the author of said article spent tens of minutes vetting all of the evidence presented as Internet Fact.

Good question, Kim.

Because of my guilt for LOLing at the inaneness of this "author's" efforts, I've decided I'm going to expose actual secrets of zoos and aquariums.  These are the secrets that I expected (and dreaded) seeing.  So I'm sorry for any embarrassment or anger I incite in you, loyal readers. But it's better for us to be totally transparent.

Without further ado, here are 27 Actual, True, Very Real Zoo Secrets:

1. We Eat A Lot Of Junk Food
Serving Size: 1 (for a Zookeeper or Marine Mammal Trainer)
And we try to hide it.  Yes.  We pretend we only took one donut.  But we really took three.  And a half.  Well, technically four.  Because you know, there was that one glazed donut left in the box at the end of the day.

2. We Are Unsettlingly Obsessed With Nicely Coiled Hoses

This is almost as good as the donut photo above.
Whether you're dealing with a terrestrial or an aquatic animal caretaker, we spend a lot of time with our hoses and want them to feel loved and respected.

3. There Is No Such Thing As A Rich Zookeeper

After exploiting the animals, I like to take night cruises on my super yacht.
Seriously.  Like, where is all this money the zoo industry is allegedly making going?  Because it's sure not going to my bank account. #thankgodforBOGOpastasales

4. Sometimes We Get Free Food From Concessions

OMG Aren't these just the BEST?
Too many french fries made for the day?  Too many pretzels warmed up?  Ran out of room in the freezer for ice cream treats?  BOOM, zookeepers and marine mammal trainers win.  Concessions managers can really make us happy after a long day.  But shhh, don't tell anyone.

5. We Get As Excited About Animal Births As We Do Human Births

Don't judge
Yeah yeah yeah, the miracle of human life or whatever, but have you SEEN a dolphin be born?  Animal babies are awesome, and seeing them grow and develop is just as much fun as watching your own kid go through it.

6. We Like The Smell Of Some Poop

Yeah? So?
Not that we're going to smear it in our hair or anything, but most of the poop produced by the animals we know and love really doesn't gross us out.  In fact, some of it is like, okay.  I AM NOT ASHAMED.

7. We Cannot Hold A Conversation Outside of the Zoo Field That Does Not Involve Animals

Socially Awkward Penguin is cared for by Socially Awkward Zookeepers (which is every last one of us)
We may be fantastically eloquent public speakers, but we cannot hold a conversation with normal people without talking about work.  

8. Algae Is The Arch Nemesis Of All Zoos

Ender's Game doesn't have a thing on the type of battle we face with algae.  It grows everywhere.  It doesn't care.  It doesn't follow Biological Rules.  It just grows, and grows back, and gives the impression your habitats are "dirty" to guests who don't know any better because they don't realize algae is the "beautiful seaweed" they enjoy seeing in the ocean or a lake.  And yet, we scrub and scrub and scrub fence lines, habitats, sidewalks.  And our little protist friends laugh at us and make us feel completely insignificant.  But I'm not bitter or anything.

9. Zoos Purchase A Lot of Lubricant

Not pictured: 100 additional bottles
Ultrasounds.  Gastric tubes.  Thermometers.  There are a lot of pieces of vet equipment that require the use of lubricant.  Now don't get all skeeved out.  For example, the thermometer probe we use at my place of employment for the dolphins is about as thin as a piece of string.  But still, we lube it up because we want to be 100% sure it's not uncomfortable.  If you're going to be weirded out at anything, think about how it feels to walk into Walgreens and buy 15 bottles of KY jelly and then that pack of M&Ms that's on sale at the counter.

10. We Have A Lot of Nightmares About Locks

All animal care professionals worry that they didn't lock up the night house, or the back door to the employee parking lot.

11. We Will Trade Our First Born Child For A Pair of Good Work Shoes

Do they chafe? Do they smell after a few uses? Do they hurt my lower back? No?  Okay, deal.

12. Overall, The Animals In Our Care Live Longer Than Their Wild Counterparts

We wants to tell you a secret
I didn't think this was a secret, but apparently according to some naysayers they claim that many of the animals in our care don't live very long.  Um, well, okay, so that must be a secret to the general public?  So here's the truth: they live as long or longer than their wild counterparts for the most part.  Glad to have cleared that up.

13. We Know Guests Aren't "Really Leaving Town Tomorrow"

Oh for the love of Pete (yes please)
Okay, we know our guests lie to us sometimes.  When they are unhappy that we can't squeeze them into an encounter program because we don't want to overwork the animals, and they say, "BUT WE ARE LEAVING TOMORROW!!!!!".  Sorry, we have Liar Guest Radar.  And now you know our secret.

14. We Wash Our Hands Before Going To The Bathroom

It's just better to sandwich the hand washing in this scenario.  Wash your hands, evacuate, wash your hands again.

15. Zoos and Aquariums Have Really, Really High Overhead Costs

How we pay the electric bill
Here's a fun game: what do YOU think our electric bill is?  Our water bill? Gas?  How about cost of food?  Veterinary bills?  Zoos and aquariums don't just Pintrest their exhibit construction and fill it with some sticks, leaves, and tap water and plop animals in there.  Also, we don't have any secret renewable energy source to like, flush the toilets or keep the lights on.  The secret is, we owe a LOT of money to a LOT of businesses at the end of every month.

16. We All Have That One Job We Hate

The worst
Me? I'm not a huge fan of some of the clerical work I have to do as a supervisor.

17. We Get Really Sad When Guests Don't See How Awesome Our Animals Are

Which sucks if your're a saiga antelope, because they could use just half of the publicity that killer whales are getting right now.  
It's true.  There are the handful of recognizable animals at zoos and aquariums, but a lot of the other critters are not ones that guests tend to really care about....until we show them how amazing they are.  Still, we are still met with, "Well they are boring/gross" or "yeah but where are the orcas?"

18. We Have A Favorite Animal Or Two

What who said that?
We love all of the animals equally.  But there are always a few we just seem to groove better with.

19. We Have A Lot Of Embarrassing Photos On Our Phones

If only it was this cute IRL
Photos of poop.  Close up pictures of moles.  We've got a lot of weird photos on our phones of our animals' leavings and other fun things that we've sent to vets and curators.  But hey, it guarantees instant karmic punishment to anyone who happens to steal our phones and goes through our photos.  Beware.

20. We Rely Heavily On Revenue To Pay Our Bills

Please sir!
That high overhead?  Yeah, that's why we charge $12 for a 5x7 photo of your giraffe encounter.  Not because it goes to the Rolls Royce no zookeeper (or zoo CEO for that matter) will ever have, but because we need to pay those insanely high overhead costs.  Amazing how it works: make money to keep the animals cared for.

21. Most Zoo and Aquarium Guests Have Zero Experience With Any Of The Animals They're Seeing

Most people have not seen a wild California sea lion

Fact: the vast majority of zoo/aquarium patrons have never seen the vast majority of the animals at that facility in the wild.  

22. We Expect Long Lives From The Animals We Know and Love

My mom and I with Nellie and Lily.  Nellie was 61 when she passed away, and Lily was in her 50s.
We take great care of the animals we are honored to know and love.  Like you expect your dog or cat to live a long, healthy life, that's what we expect with the animals under our care, too.  Not to live to half their lifespan...but we strive for and expect it to reach it and beyond.

23. We Spend More Time At Work Than With Our Non-Work Families work in a zoo or aquarium.
'Nuff said

24. We Don't Even Try To Keep Our Cars Clean

Why bother?  We clean all day, we don't have the energy to clean off the clock.  Plus, ain't never going to get the sand out of the car.  Just embrace it and let it build up.

25. We Keep A Log Of Silly Things Guests Say

Not ashamed.

26. The Animals Eat Better Than We Do

This photo is straight from the Ranker blog
Fresh browse, produce, meat.  Restaurant-quality frozen meat and fish.  Our animals get top-notch food.  And we the animal caretakers eat surplus Super Pretzels that are 8 hours old from the snack bar.

27. We Lose Life-Threatening Amounts Of Blood To Flying Insects

Deer flies.  Mosquitoes.  Noseeums.  They feast upon our flesh and blood with wild abandon.  And we maintain our sanity and blood volume, somehow.

It's no secret that the animals we care for receive vitamins and supplements, and if necessary, medications***.  It's no secret that zoos reach millions of people each year, and inspire countless people to care about animals and the environments they live in.  Are there places that call themselves a "zoo" but are god-awful?  Yep.  Just like there are bad dentists, schools, and bakeries.  But those are the minority.  Our Industry Secrets are truly as benign as I've written here.  And there are more to be sure.  But the way we care for the animals, how many people we reach, and how the animals actually live in quality zoos and aquariums is never, nor will it ever be, a secret.
* If you don't know who these people are, shame shame.

** Whose father, by the way, invented the hamburger.  Also, North Korea is responsible for feeding all starving Americans.  

*** Like antibiotics or medications that support problems typically related with old age, or pain support (especially, again for our older animals with aging joints).  Not anti-"zoochosis" drugs (who makes this stuff up?)