Interning at the Beardsley Zoo offered me a new insight towards the lives of animals in captivity. You really get to know each individual, you learn their personality and grasp the history of the individual itself. More importantly, you immerse yourself in the natural history of the animals you work with. You become aware of the problems and injustices these species face and you believe, more than ever, in the conservation work that happens behind the scenes at accredited zoological facilities.

Jaba, the #twotoedsloth, was a funny girl. She barely left her favorite spot in her tree but was always on the move when she saw her dinner! I’ve been drooled on multiple times, but she’s never lost her charm. Sloths like Jaba are slow-moving, nocturnal creatures. The claws of this beautiful creature reach almost 4 inches long. And let me tell you, Jaba wasn’t afraid to show them, even if she was too slow to use them. The population of this species is on the decline, with deforestation and other forms of habitat destruction being mostly to blame. The best way to help save this species is to educate the public of Jaba’s home country and about the animals importance to the ecosystem. Zoos do this best, and the best way for you to contribute is to #justzooit and visit your local zoo and donate to their conservation efforts.

Matilda, the#redfootedtortoise, has the best personality at the zoo. She loved sunbathing and lounging around but even more, she loved sprinting across the field in search of the best place to graze. She didn’t care what obstacle was in her way whether it was outside in the sun or indoors in the exhibit, Matilda was making a break for it. She’s escaped the exhibit during cleaning and broke through a screen door while feeding. There really was no other animal like her. Tortoises like Matilda are not currently endangered, but they are protected. The biggest threat to this species is over-hunting by man for the pet trade and for food. Many of these captured animals are stressed, injured, and ill by the time they get to their destinations. Zoos educate the public on the importance of this species survival in the wild and the benefits they offer us. When you#justzooit you get the opportunity to help maintain stable populations.

Skippy is a#redrumpedagouti. He was the most active animal in the Rainforest Department. Hand-feeding this guy was a chore at times, taking one piece of vegetable at a time and chewing ever so slowly. Then taking each individual piece of rodent block and burying it somewhere around the exhibit for later. Skippy, like every agouti, has incredible jaw and teeth strength. He is one of the only mammals in the Rainforest that is strong enough to crack the Brazil nut, which is imperative to the trees survival. Though not of any concern in population size, it is still important to note that they are susceptible to habitat modification and destruction. Zoos are working towards creating conservation zones in order to help maintain a stable population size. Its time to #justzooit.

Kuma is such a cutie. This#ocelot loved taking cat naps in her tree nest and on the rock ledges. Seeing as how they can sleep 17+ hours a day, its no surprise that not many visitors saw this elusive cat. Kuma was injured as a cub and came to the facility with only 3 legs. However, she was just as agile as any other ocelot. Kuma is a grandmother to multiple cubs, and we couldn’t be more proud of how incredible of a mother she is. It is so important that this species is receptive to methods such as artificial insemination. There are only 30 ocelots in North America but with the help of cats like Kuma, the future is looking bright. #justzooit and learn more about how you can help save this species from the brink!

This is one of 4 #guineahog piglets that was born at the Beardsley Zoo this summer. Let me tell you, they were a boisterous bunch. The piglets loved to be petted but would shriek any time you would try to pick them up and momma always came running in! The Guinea Hog is a domestic hog, and a heritage breed. This breed was once abundant in the U.S. after being brought here from West Africa. Now, it is critically endangered throughout the U.S. and Europe. The main reason is the desire for a larger hog. Most pork consumed in the U.S. comes from factory farmed pigs, which will opt for a pig that grows larger in a shorter period of time. A few small farms raise Guinea Hogs, but many are unaware of the breed. A couple of Zoo facilities are raising this species in an effort to keep a high genetic diversity in the current population and many are involved in active breeding programs. If you want to see these little cuties up close and learn more about them and other heritage breeds then #justzooit!