Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fiji Time All The Time!

Well, folks....I am back from two weeks of bliss in Fiji. If you haven't been I highly recommend it. I basically went from pool to bar to ocean to hammock. Ahhhhh, all it was missing was a few good carnivores. I totally would have stayed and married a BEAUTIFUL Fijian man but they have no land mammals let alone any carnivores... I need predators to survive. The only native mammal is a fruit bat...... a frugivore...not even a vegetarian for pete's sake! Helen (a co-worker fro mthe Safari) and I mapped out a plan....all we need is a financial backer to buy us our own island then we can hire native Fijians for labour to build and operate our own zoo... brilliant! Sooo, any takers? HaHa!

I went scuba diving for the first time ever..... pretty adventurous of me since I don't really like the ocean. Don't get me wrong...I love the ocean, it's beautiful, the sounds are sooo soothing, I love boating, and I LOVE marine mammals..... but I don't want to be IN it. A couple of feet in is usually ok ...... until a barracuda came sneaking up on us while in only like 2 feet of water..... barracudas are nasty not-so-little buggars. But the good thing about Fiji ocean waters...they are crystal clear so you can see what's coming after you. *shudder* I know exactly what lies beneath thank you very much and I prefer not to interact with most of it. Anyways.... the dive was great actually (even though we did almost get attacked by a big trigger fish at one point...thankfully I was pretty oblivious until later). I had some trouble adjusting to the whole mouth only breathing thing in the practice session in the pool. I am a nose breather so when we practiced our masks filling up and learned how to empty them while still under water..... you lean back with your finger pressed to the top of your mask and blow out through your nose while still breathing in through your mouth..... I kept inhaling water through my nose after I blew out. argh! I was harder than I thought. I had to sit down there at the bottom of the pool for like 10 min and re-train myself to breath only through my mouth. I got it down, of course, and did excellent on my open water dive. Not looking forward to certification in oregon's very cold very murky water but i need it for work. It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it ;-)
We did the zipline through the rain forest...wananavu!! (awesome) I usually don't like to take too many risks outside of work....I figure I'm already taking so many chances on a daily basis why increase my odds of serious harm by doing wild things like bungee jumping and skydiving outside of work? Especially since those are things I don't have much control over. The zipline I was able to keep in control since you are responsible for your own speed and direction. I prefer things where I have driving and I want to learn to fly helicopters too! ;-)

There was an ecopark near our resort (Kula EcoPark)..... Fiji's version of a zoo I guess. It was all of their native species so lots of iguanas, parrots, sea turtles, fish, and bats. It was a beautiful park and I would highly suggest a visit when in Fiji. We got to feed the baby sea turtles in their breeding/reintroduction program and walked through dozens of aviaries full of the most beautiful, colorful birds. There were some bats to see up close as well which was nice since the bats out and about didn't come out until dusk and were really hard to photograph. The only wild bat shot I got was by accident while trying to get the sunset, lol.

All in all it was an amazing, breathtaking, unforgettable trip and I am already planning my return next year...wish I could go back sooner. I have tons of photos and video on my facebook page but here's a treat for those of you that aren't facebook friendlies......

"I'm covered in iguanas!!" (think Eddie Izzard's "I'm covered in bees!!")

Thursday, January 14, 2010

30 is flirty!

Well, it has been quite some time since i've had the inclination to blog...... ALOT has happened.I am back in Portland as of October '09 and am working at the Oregon Zoo!!!!!! eeeeeeeeeee! (squeal of happiness) One step closer to my life's goal. I am not a full time permanent keeper however. I am a temp keeper which means that i only get a certain number of hours per year and no benefits buuuuuut it's well over double what i was making down south and i tell them my availability. What that means is on a week by week basis i tell them what days i'm available to work... doesn't mean i'll get scheduled but it gives me flexibility to have a part time job on the side until a permanent position becomes available. So i have to be available atleast three days a week for the zoo and one of those has to be a sat or a sun. I also get trained in atleast three areas at the zoo so i can essentially be "on call".

First I worked marine life again, which felt like being home since that is where i started there what.... over 5 years ago? wow! As a temp i do what regular keepers do on a daily basis except for training behaviors (depends on the dept and how established the behavior is) so in Marine life i work the cat/fish routine (tigers, leopards, fish, and invertebrates) or the bear routine (polar bears/sun bears). I love it... all the keepers have such great attitudes and make it so fun to work with them. We just mesh well.... you don't know how important that is.. Well maybe you do. It makes work SOOOO much nicer when you all get along and have fun together!

I heart those guys!

I also got trained in the Africa Predators of the Serengeti dept. Which is the newest exhibit at the zoo... it has lions, cheetah (two of my boys from the Safari...well, only one now but that's another story), wild dogs, caracal, as well as various other "lesser" predators like reptiles and ugh...spiders (shudder). I had hoped desperately to get to work in the Africa section but had NO idea i'd get trained in the Predator area only because they had seemed like it was kind of off limits... not even all of the Africa keepers had been trained to do it yet. But i got lucky..... three of the four keepers trained to do the predator routine were going to be off for a couple weeks and since i had predator experience i got trained in two days and then took over the whole area for like two and a half weeks!!!! It was SO awesome! ! Seriously... I would so loooove to have that area as my own, I would have os much fun with those animals. Predators are my thing, what can I say?
I've always loved lions ever since i read the Narnia books as a little and wanted to meet Aslan. ;-) They have three at the zoo, a male and two females. Zawadi, the male, is my special. He is sooo sensitive and really does not seem to like men. Someone said they thought his previous keepers were all female so it may take him some time. He seemed to get used to me pretty quickly, I'm used to special males... between Ariyeh, Keeno, and Oso at Safari I've had lots of practice soothing sensitive male egos ;-) The girls Neka and Kya are rambunctious saucy little wenches who would be SO great to work with and get them calmed down... oh man I would love the opportunity to build relationships with those cats.... I fell in love with them so fast and so hard. (I miss them SO much!)
Cheetahs...well, I've had a thing for cheetahs forever... I wish i had made a copy of the letter i wrote to Bush Sr. when he was the Pres asking him to help Africa save the cheetahs...I would so love to read what I wrote in it, how freaking cute would that be?! And now I've grown up and worked with one of the top 5 cheetah breeding programs in the US.... how great is that?! The cheetahs at the zoo came from the Safari... Scooter and Suseli (brothers from the May '07 litter) were shipped up to Portland when I was still working with them at the Safari. We have since lost Scooter to what appears to be a very aggressive pancreatic cancer but we are still waiting for the pathology reports to come back (can take atleast a month). It was VERY sad and it happened after I was done working that area (i had been done in that dept for about a week/week and a half). So sudden and so tragic since they were only two years old. And now my other sensitive, delicate boy Susel is all alone. I did go check up on Sus last week and he seems pretty chill but his keepers are keeping a close eye on him.
The Wild Dogs are such amazing animals..... I learn more cool things about them everyday..the fact that wild dogs are one of the top predators alongside lions and yet are complete opposites of them and their social structure in so many ways. I love the animal kingdom in all its horrific glory. It seems so random at times but everything fits together perfectly and one without the other and it all starts to unravel, everyone and everything has it's place in the web and it all works (without human interference anyways).
The caracal (Peggy) is out of control... I fell in love with her in an instant. I call her Pegsy or Peggy-Sue or The Pegster and she grumbles ALL the time, she makes little snarfy noises while she pees and she snorts when she eats... oh man, her superbness is more than I can handle. I miss her little guts! She was a sensitive thing too. All these animals were new to their exhibits and still adjusting to new people which can be hard. Animals are very sensitive to changes in their environment and a move is a pretty drastic change. The little Pegster adjusted to me pretty quickly though and it was really great to see her enjoying her new home. After my stint in the Predator section they started training me to do the hippo/rhino routine which was very cool (Pete the rhino is soooo freaking sweet, we clicked right away, he loves back rubs and butt massages but then who doesn't). However... I would gladly take a simple carnivore poo to the walls/floors/every conceivable surface covered in hippo splatter. They eat ALOT and poo ALOT and it all smells very different. I am still very allergic to hay dust as well, lol. It was a great learning experience though and i'd work it any day they scheduled me there no problemo but i def missed my carnivores. ;-)
I have since begun training up at the hospital since they have a full time keeper that works up there to take care of any animals that have to stay at the hospital for an extended amount of time like an injury that needs to be monitored or quarantine of new arrivals. It is constantly changing and I have learned a lot of new things.
Basically I love LOVE my job and wish I could be there full time... someday... les sigh!

Let's see..... what else.... I am living with my brother and his family (wife and three boys ages 1, 9, and 12) until i can afford a place of my own. I entered the new year as a fabulous 30 year old woman but won't feel like it until i get out on my own again. I need my own space VERY much. Haven't been able to really start looking for an apt or a part time job to supplement my income because of a big vacation i have coming up next week. I am going to FIJI!!!! For two weeks!!! I am so excited i could tinkle!! It has been planned for some time and everything is paid for and i wouldn't miss this opportunity for the world. I never thought I'd get to go on a trip like this, are you kidding me?! I still can't believe it's actually happening..... it feels very unreal. I cannot wait! i leave the 23rd of Jan and spend the first week on the coral coast of Viti Levu at a fab resort where we will be exploring caves, taking a zipline tour of the rainforest, checking out some local archeological sites, and just chilling on the beach then we go north to catch a 70 person yacht to island hop the Yasawas (where they filmed the movies Blue Lagoon and Castaway) for a week. Man, I am not gonna want to come home. But they have no land mammals so will def be coming home ;-)
So when I return the job hunt begins and once i have enough saved for a deposit I will be out on my own again.... i cannot wait to have a permanent residence to call HOME! I won't be moving again unless it floods/falls into the earth/asteroid lands on it/ or i get married.... nothing less drastic will be cause for me to move again for a VERY long time.

Friday, June 5, 2009

R.I.P. Michael

6.01.09 Michael Bear...... How can we go on without you big guy? We love you and will miss you!

Michael hibernating...
Michael chillin like a villain...
Michael with his ladies...

Friday, May 22, 2009

New chick in town

Our 3 y.o. female white tiger arrived today!
Meet Cloe:

She arrived this morning and is VERY stressed out, poor little! 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Christmas in tiger-land!

We've gotten a lot of new toys for the tigers lately:

Phil made a fire hose ball on a spring (which Saigon snapped...twice... and now hangs on a log over his pond until he finally unravels it)...
We got some new spools which we painted...
I don't know what this toy is called but Saigon obviously likes the taste...
He got a new shiny red ball...
and a weeble that didn't wobble right...
We have since gotten a new weeble and it wobbles's one of his favorite water toys.

And through all the new toys and enrichment this is pretty much always Leah's level of interest:
She's pretty!

Celess' eye view

As promised, some pics of my critters in the cheetah dept:

and Scooter
I adore the candid shots I get with my great lol!

Rooowr baby, rowr!

This is our new lioness, Sarabi. She's a California girl through and through:

She is an approved breeding cat so we are just waiting for our new male to arrive from Virginia and then once they are both "of age" we will be able to breed lions again, yay!