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Gardeners use rakes and shovels, firefighters use hoses and construction workers use wheelbarrows. Every occupation or hobby has its own set of tools. Zoo keepers have their own tools, too, although several of them are the very same ones that gardeners, firefighters, and construction workers use.
Zoo keeper's do much more than just feed animals and explain their behavior to visitors. A zoo is a large community that requires daily maintenance. Jenny Mehlow, of the Public Relations Department for the famous San Diego Zoo, says that many keepers at her zoo find a pocket-sized combination of several tools, including knife, screwdriver, and pliers, especially handy for tackling jobs of routine maintenance. And every new zoo keeper assigned to cleaning up after animals is familiar with the shovel, rake, hose, and wheelbarrow.
Tools for Training
It's in the best interest of the zoo staff and, most importantly, the animals themselves, if the animals are trained to respond to a variety of cues. Zoo keepers often use whistles as sound cues, and what are called "targets" as visual cues. Steve Feldman, spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in Silver Spring, Maryland, says that a target may be as simple as a rubber ball dangling from the end of a stick that an animal will pursue. For example, zoo keepers may train animals with targets to get them to move from outdoors into their enclosures. They may use sound cues to prompt an animal to open its mouth so that a veterinarian can examine it.
Zoo keeping has evolved into a rigorously scientific undertaking. Modern zoos commonly use computers for learning about animal genetics and for keeping precise records of diet, behavior, and medical history.
But manufactured tools notwithstanding--from the uncomplicated shovel to the most complex computer--there is yet another indispensable tool available to zoo keepers. Steve Feldman believes that the human hand is one of the most effective tools of all for the care and training of zoo animals. "The hand is an amazing tool," he says. "Animals see and respond to the movement of our hands."
Jan Stowell began his writing career after retiring from the Syracuse Fire Department in 1995. He has written on varied subjects, including college basketball, hiking the Appalachian Trail and bungee-jumping in South Africa. Stowell's work has appeared in national and international newspapers, including his hometown "Syracuse Post-Standard," "The Washington Post," and Cape Town's leading newspaper, the "Cape Times."