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Our last winter season Zookeeper movie night was a very special occasion, because we watched Zoombies (2016), a zombie movie set in a zoo, made by the studio culpable for Sharknado. Because this movie was set within a zoo, we the assembled animal care professionals devoted our exacting scrutiny to it.

First, Eden Wildlife Zoo—built as a "rehabilitation retreat for endangered animals”—appears to cover several square miles of gorgeously landscaped grounds. Pretty impressive for a place that hasn’t yet opened to the public, and with a keeper staff of four full timers and seven interns. No expense is spared, from incorporating GPS enabled microchips into all the mammals, to giving the security team a full complement of firearms, to putting the Eden logo on every piece of property in the zoo. To be fair, the realism of Zoombies easily beats out Kevin James’ Zookeeper.

The unfortunate event of a disease outbreak in the palatial zoo hospital (which in size and technology looks like a for-profit research lab) sets the movie in motion. The unknown pathogen can infect all mammals and birds except for two species that will be left unnamed in this review. Since animal care professionals are known to rush blindly into danger, it isn’t much of a spoiler to say that the full time keeper staff is doomed. That leaves our more naive and idealistic interns to cope with zombie lions and such.

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I just know the hospital keeper is going to have to clean up this mess

It would be unfair deprive you of the joy of watching the staff dwindle one by one, so let’s concentrate on the zookeepers, since we know they are all toast. Each one provides a very bad example on welcoming interns to the job. Primate keeper Daxton barks at AJ " I’m guessing you’re the kid they stuck me with?” before thrusting a poop shovel into the student’s hands. Aviary keeper Chelsea begs the zoo director, “Are you firing me and replacing me with this kid?” And after relieving himself behind a tree, zookeeper Gus is skeptical of his eager intern: "You don’t look like the kind of girl who that wants to get dirty.” Not cool, Gus, I’m setting up a meeting with HR.

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Oh yeah, then there's keeper Monte--he doesn't last long either

We can learn from Eden’s staff in other ways. Daxton ignores the flimsy wire fence protecting him from the cross river gorilla (the last in the world we are told—I guess things have gone poorly for the 300 that were still living in Africa), and instead hops right in with the great ape. Chelsea is so at home in her aviary, that she wears open-toed shoes while she works. You may get the feeling something bad might happen to her, but the chances are you won’t guess exactly what it is.

The gore effects in Zoombies are pretty fun, if you are into that sort of thing. The CGI animals on the other hand—well, there’s a reason that this movie studio brags that it’s never lost money on a release, they keep their computer animation budget pretty close to the bone. See the weightless elephants! Marvel at the police teams taken from clips from other movies and stock footage! Enjoy the hurried script, and yeoman’s work by unknown actors! Sure it’s all on the cheap, but once you see what the giraffes do to one intern, you’ll be glad you watched it.

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Birkenstocks, Chelsea? Really?
urbpan: (dandelion)
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One of the most exciting things that happened when we zookeepers visited the St Louis Zoo (as part of our conference activities) was celebrity baby orangutan Ginger came close to the window!

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She really hammed it up.

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It's amusing to see people who work with animals for a living get all squealy and excited to see yet another animal. (I was squealing right along with everyone)
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My friend Siobhan is a zookeeper at the Capron Park Zoo, and offered to give Fiona and I a behind-the-scenes tour. Here's the beautiful eye of one of the Visayan warty hogs.

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This is just a couple pictures from our zookeeper meetup last week.

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We've had these "star and moom" floating candles since before we moved in. This was a perfect place for them.

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This is a candle that's supposed to keep mosquitoes away. It seems to have attracted and entombed at least one crane fly.

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Flames at the end of the night, casting a soft glow on the last few guests.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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In Southeastern New England, there are at least six zoos: Frankin Park, Stone, Roger Williams Park, Capron Park, Buttonwood, and the New England Aquarium. There are also small zoos within the Boston Science Museum, and at Drumlin Farm and Trailside Museum. The Zookeeper association at my work has been trying to get keepers from all these zoos to meet with one another and have social events where we can exchange ideas and enjoy the company of people who have similar experiences. Last weekend we managed to get people from 4 of these institutions together for a cookout.

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Two of the keepers pictured work for a seasonal camel ride concession that works out of both Franklin Park and Roger Williams Park Zoos.

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With so many keepers in one place we couldn't resist doing our version of the Chris Pratt Jurassic World raptor keeper scene.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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This summer, Franklin Park Zoo has a camel ride. This is the camel handler, and his male dromedary Nero.
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Sloth exhibit, sloth keeper.
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Zookeeper Rachel (we have 3 zookeeper Rachels) displays the painting she got the male ocelot to produce.
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Zookeeper Sarah at her post in the Aussie Aviary.


May. 15th, 2015 09:23 pm
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So the whole point of me going through everything I went through to get a suit was to wear it to Zootopia. This is the zoo's biggest fundraiser of the year, with big money auctions and awards and local politicians and so on. I found myself gravitating toward other zoo people and their animals for comfort.

Cow bath

May. 10th, 2015 11:46 am
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Here's zookeeper Joe, keeping Rumba the Randall steer steady for his bath.

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Creeper snapshot of the zookeeper that did her one day rotation with me at the zoo hospital on Thursday.
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Children's Zoo staff cleaning the duck pond, some of the hardest, dirtiest, SMELLIEST work you could imagine.
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Bird's World zookeepers stand next to a Children's Zoo exhibit, the prairie dogs, which temporarily also contains their peacocks.
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Melissa gazes adoringly at Ussuri, an Amur leopard that she gets to help train.
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Lead Keeper Nikki at her boss' desk. Nikki is running in the Boston Marathon this year to help raise money for the zoo.


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