Zookeepers are Special People

By Tina Michelle Cameron

If you follow my blogs, then you know that I am a huge animal lover and you know that I have been a volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo since July 2017. I volunteer in The Farm and Zebra/Ostrich areas. I have the pleasure of working with several amazing people who are full-time zookeepers. I decided to write about them and let everyone know a little bit about these special people who I have the privilege of working with.

The person that interviewed me when I applied to become a volunteer and that I have

Jessica with horse

Jessica

worked the longest with is Jessica. She is 27 years old, married and a mommy to a beautiful 5-month-old little boy. She also has several fur-babies at home. She has always had a love for animals and has always wanted to work with animals since she was little. When she was in high school she volunteered at the zoo and realized that was where she wanted to be. She has been a keeper for 8 years. She went to Purdue University in Indiana and has a BS degree in Animal Science.

Jessica with OpossumHer favorite animal is a jaguar, but her favorite animal at Riverbanks Zoo are Plum and Basel—who are two of our new baby goats. She loves knowing that she is a part of enhancing the lives in the care she gives the animals and with teaching the public new facts about the animals. Her hobbies include hiking, kayaking, and going to the beach to fish.

Mallory is 32 and from North Carolina and is also a mommy to fur-babies that include a dog and 2 chinchillas. She also served 6 years in the Air Force. Mallory also knew growing up that she wanted to do something with animals. At first, she wanted to be a marine biologist or a vet tech, but then discovered a

Mallory with Giraffe

Mallory

zoo-keeping program and became a zookeeper. She has a degree in Zoological Science Technology. She has been at Riverbanks Zoo since 2017 and was recently promoted to a swing keeper and is working in the cat/bear area. How cool is that to work with lions and grizzly bears.

In addition to all that she has accomplished, she also has an Elementary Education degree. We have become good friends, and this was a new fact I learned about her this week. Her favorite hobbies are gardening and photography, and Mallory with sealher favorite animal is the platypus because it is an egg-laying mammal! Her favorite experience she has had was going to Kenya for 20 days last year to see how conservation efforts work and how they protect the animals there.

Last, and certainly not least, is Laborde- “the only male in the Farm area” as we know and love him. Laborde is 30 years old and has been in the zoo “industry” as he says for 6 years and a zookeeper for 18 months. He has an

guy with horse

Laborde

Associates Degree in Zoo Animal Technology from Santa Fe College. He will be leaving the Farm area as he recently was promoted to work with the gorillas/monkeys.

He knew he wanted to work with exotic animals without having to travel. His favorite animal are alligators. He enjoys going to swamps and finding them. He also likes working with the Capuchin Monkeys- he says, “they have so much personality and intensity; and, it is like watching reality TV every time he works with them”. His favorite guy with snakeexperience as a zookeeper was taking the ponies into the river at the zoo. He also enjoys watching You-tube.

I hope you enjoy reading about some of these wonderful zookeepers that I get to work with. I have learned so much in my time there about animals and conservation. Zookeepers get to know these animals, their behaviors, mannerisms and will notice if something is wrong with them. They work in the hot, cold, and rainy weather. They must also watch the weather in order to keep the animals safe. They are caregivers and educators; so next time you visit the zoo and see a zookeeper, thank them for what they do—because they deserve it.

Enjoy the photos.

Riverbanks Petting Zoo

By Tina Michelle Cameron

As many of you know if you read my posts or are friends with me on Facebook, I am a weekly volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo in the Farm area, Zebra/Ostrich and the Education Center. I have been there almost two years and it is the highlight of my week on Tuesday mornings. It is physically demanding, especially in this heat, but I absolutely love it. I am tired, sore and smelly when I come home, but it is a good kind of tired, soreness and well, not so good smell.

IMG_1550  If any of you have been to the zoo since January, you may have noticed that the ponies are gone. They are now living on farms and having a great retirement. I have a great friend, Darlene, whose daughters’ horse is at the same stable and so I get regular pictures and updates on them. What is now in the place of the pony rides is a brand-new petting zoo that just recently opened about two weeks ago. We have several chickens in a coop, three baby piggies and as of right now, 19 baby goats that are absolutely precious and growing like weeds. There will be 11 more baby goats coming soon.

 

We have a few different types of goats; They are a Nigerian Dwarf, American Lamancha, Saanen and then one Nubian, whose name is Mike. He is my favorite new baby.  He absolutely loves people, being petted and getting attention. He is the only one that is going to be big like the other 3 goats at the Farm. 

If you are a zoo member, you get admission to it, but you can buy treats to give the goats, brush and pet them and watch them be fed by our wonderful zookeepers. The entire petting zoo is ADA compliant and I got to meet a wonderful little boy and his mom yesterday who was not able to run around like the other children, so I picked up Mike, so this sweet child could pet him. It was his first experience in petting a baby goat and it made my day.

Please come out and check out our new petting zoo. The kids are sure to love it and the parents as well. Enjoy the pictures. Mike is the one with the long floppy ears.

 

Volunteering Does a Heart Good

By Tina Michelle Cameron

Ever since I was young, I have always had the desire to help others. I became a nurse in my early twenties and have been an oncology nurse since 1994. Helping others either professionally as a nurse or by doing volunteer work makes my heart smile. Volunteering can and will change your life as well as those you are helping.

Throughout the years I have volunteered with different cancer walks as well as being a yearly volunteer for the past 10 years with Fight Like a Girl here in Columbia. It was started by 5 amazing twenty-something’s who were diagnosed with breast cancer. They help raise money for unfunded, under insured patients at a large oncology center that I use to work at here in Columbia. I have also been a mentor to at risk youth at Dutch Fork Elementary School.

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Feta, my favorite goat at the zoo

I now volunteer four hours once a week at Riverbanks Zoo. I work in the Farm, zebra/ostrich area as well as the Education Center with snakes, rabbits, opossums, turtles, frogs and Madagascar hissing cock-roaches! It is the highlight of my week to be a “pooper scooper”, to feed and water them, to clean out their homes and to give these sweet babies hugs. I have been a volunteer for 13 months. It is hard manual labor and my doggy can’t quite figure out the different smells on my clothes and shoes when I get home, but, I absolutely love doing it.  I also enjoy helping the wonderful zookeepers at Riverbanks. I have a great love for all animals and it makes me smile to know I am helping them.

Despite my hectic schedule between two jobs, being in school full-time and volunteering, I wouldn’t have it any other way. After I finish my degree next May, I want to become a volunteer at Palmetto Health Richland Children’s Hospital.

There are numerous places to volunteer a few hours a week at. It will change your life and you can impact someone else’s life. Please consider volunteering either at a women’s shelter, the zoo, cancer walks or at a shelter handing out food. It will make your heart smile knowing you have given back to your community and to those who need help. I have listed a few links below for volunteer opportunities.

To become a zoo volunteer, go to https://riverbankszoo.org and complete an application. To help at the yearly breast cancer fundraiser hosted by Fight Like a Girl follow them on Facebook (The Ta-Tini’s)-the event is held every year in April or May.

 

 

 

 

 

Grizzly Bears and River Otters

By: Leah Prescott

If you have visited Riverbanks Zoo recently, you have noticed lots of changes. Always a destination for locals and visitors alike, the zoo is currently in the midst of 36 million dollars of improvements and additions. Construction is underway for a spectacular new entrance, a vast children’s garden, and, eventually, an interactive sea lion habitat that my family is already anticipating.

Riverbanks Zoo

The kids and I were recently excited to visit Riverbanks Zoo to experience the opening of the Grizzly Ridge and Otter Runs. During the construction, Riverbanks grizzly bears Butch and Sundance were relocated to the Tulsa Zoo while their new bigger and better habitat was created. North American River Otters Divya, Savannah, and Sophia Grace joined them from their home at Miller Park Zoo and are now happily exploring Riverbanks Zoo.

Riverbanks Zoo Grizzly Bears

The new exhibits are amazing. The grizzly bears have always appealed to my children, but we have never seen them in such close proximity. The bears are very close to the glass and the height is perfect for kids and adults alike. The bears were clearly enjoying their new habitat and were both lounging in the sunshine when we visited.

Riverbanks Zoo Otters

We fell in love with the sea otters at the Georgia Aquarium last year, so we couldn’t wait to see the three river otter sisters at Riverbanks Zoo. Otters are just such cute little entertainers and really interact with the crowd. My three little ones loved the “rocks” you can stand on for the perfect view into the otter run. I finally had to drag our family away from the glass to visit the rest of the zoo. We will definitely be visiting the river otters again soon.

To read more about Riverbanks Zoo’s latest news, click here.