Monday, July 20, 2015

Celebrating National Zookeeper Week: Do You Flamingo? We Do!

It's no secret that we love animals: big and small, cute and cuddly, creepy and crawly - we love them all. But it is all the work that goes on behind the scenes - the efforts to maintain the Accreditations and Recognitions and the Zookeepers who help care for our residents that help to provide positive experiences that last a life time. It is why we look forward to celebrating National Zookeeper Week. 

What is National Zookeeper Week?

The third week in July has been set aside as a time to highlight the role animal care professionals play as educators and conservation ambassadors. This is an essential role and responsibility of the Zookeeper as the need to protect and preserve wildlife and their habitats increase. 

Zoo and Aquarium professionals care for hundreds of species three hundred and sixty five days a year, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week - from hurricanes to blizzards and heat waves, Zookeepers must be ready for everything. A keeper's day can include many tasks including cleaning, food prep, medical treatment, training, enrichment, landscaping, exhibit design, public outreach and education and much more. For these animal care professionals it is much more then a job, it's a passion and a calling. 

This week we will be featuring our zookeepers and their favorite animals in a daily posting here on our blog. We are going to kick off the celebration highlighting one of our newest exhibits: the flamingos, we hope you will come back every day this week to see a new picture of the zookeepers imitating their animals! 

The flamingos pink or reddish color comes from the rich sources of carotenoid pigments in the algae and small crustaceans the birds eat. The long legs of flamingos let them wade in to deeper water then most other birds to look for food. Flamingos are unique that their bill is held upside down in the water. They eat by sucking water and mud in the front of the bill and then pumping it out again at the sides. Here, briny plates called lamellae act like little filters, trapping shrimp and other good food the flamingos like to eat.

Flamingos lay one large white egg in a mud nest built by both parents. After a chick is hatched, the chick will stay on the nest for 5-12 days. During this time, the chick is fed a type of “milk” called crop milk that comes from the parents upper digestive tract. Both males and females can feed the chick this way, Even flamingos that are not the parents can act as foster-feeders. 

It is believed that the begging calls the hungry chick makes stimulate the secretion of the milk. While feeding a chick, the parents lose their bright pink colors turning themselves to pale pink or white. The parents will gain their color back once the chicks begin eating on their own.

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