Thursday, June 4, 2015

End of the Spring Intern session at IEAS

As the spring session here at IEAS comes to an end, we say goodbye to two interns, Amy and Kira. At the IEAS, interns have the option to stay for three or six months. Kira and Amy have finished their three months and are now headed back to school and back to Australia, respectively. The three remaining interns Michelle, Karli, and Elizabeth will be staying on to learn more responsibilities and to train the new interns that arrive next week.
The Spring Interns at IEAS
This week we wanted to share with you one of the highlights of our internship: the animals we have had the privilege to connect and bond with through the Emotional Enrichment Program. The Emotional Enrichment Program is unique to IEAS. During this enrichment keepers, interns, and adoptive parents sit outside the animal's habitat and provide positive reinforcement that builds a bond between human caregivers and the animals. Our goal is to give the animals security, comfort, and support.

Kira has worked closely with Big John, one of our Bengal tigers. Big John was confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Brownsville, TX because of violations of the Endangered Species Act, the Lacey Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. He was part of the Spanish Circus that was on its way back to Spain. Big John was cramped in a small trailer along with ponies and camels and kept in deplorable conditions. He was hot, underfed, thirsty and just about lost all will to live. He was transferred to a temporary home near Brownsville until IEAS stepped in to offer him a second chance at a better life. IEAS worked non-stop to get a habitat constructed in order to get Big John out of the conditions he was living in. Big John now lives in a 15,000 square foot habitat with perches and two large pools. 

Big John is one of many animals at IEAS that benefits from the Emotional Enrichment Program. Through Kira's three months here she has worked with Big John at least three times a week. For her first month Kira observed Big John's daily routine which usually includes lots of sleep. She soon realized this particular cat would take patience and commitment to build a bond with. After about a month and a half, Big John showed Kira affection for the first time. He woke up from his nap and came over to the fence where Kira was sitting and rubbed his head against the mesh and vocalized. Another month or so later, Kira made the biggest break though she had experienced with Big John. She approached Big John's habitat while he was waking from a nap under his perch. As Kira took her spot in the grass, Big John decided to come and lay next to the fence where she was sitting. She observed Big John eating grass and grooming. He eventually laid down and even took a short nap! The main goal of the Emotional Enrichment Program is to build a bond between caretakers and the residents at the Sanctuary. The ideal result of the Emotional Enrichment Program is for the animal to see you as a source of security and comfort. After three months, Kira finally got what she was working towards the most. Big John's actions displayed that he was trusting enough in his and Kira's relationship to sleep while she was sitting next to his habitat. 

Amy participated in emotional enrichment with Duke the cougar. Duke came to IEAS after being rescued by the Houston Zoo and SPCA from a property that was also breeding hundreds of puppies in very poor conditions. Dukes favorite spot to sit is up on his highest perch where he likes to keep on eye on everything going on below and sleep a lot! Duke is a very inquisitive cougar and a very interesting cougar to sit with- he was always curious about what his neighbors (including Makeen the tiger, Billy the caracal, and Barbara the serval) where up to. The highlight of Amy's Emotional Enrichment with Duke was when he came up to where she was sitting and sat down and began to groom him self! Grooming is positive sign that Duke was comfortable around Amy.
Duke grooming during Emotional Enrichment.

Amy and Kira would like to thank IEAS for giving them the opportunity to be interns here. It was tough work but very rewarding and educational. We recommend this program for anyone looking to gain exotic animal care experience, but they must be willing to work very hard! If you're interested in the intern program at IEAS read more about it here

No comments:

Post a Comment