Zoo keeper: What it's like to ship an animal

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What does it take to ship out an animal? A lot of work! I recently helped ship out a male waterbuck, Bartleby, to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. The zoo decided this because our very old female had passed away and we didn't want Bart to be by himself.

The zoo had acquired Gerenuk and to make sure they had space we felt it was best to find Bart another home instead of trying to bring in more waterbuck.

When you find out an animal is going to another zoo you figure out when they are going, where they are going, how they will be traveling and what as a keeper you need to do to make the entire process as stress free as possible.

We knew waterbuck travel by trailer (usually a modified horse trailer). To get him onto the trailer we would need to build a transfer chute that goes from a barn stall to the trailer. We build them tall, with wood sides so if the animal panics they can't run into anything or injure themselves.

Our shipping chute is divided into 3 sections so after Bartleby walks past one door we can shut the door so he can't go away from the trailer he has to go toward it. The plan is for the animal to walk calmly and we'll patiently wait for them to go into the trailer.

Along with all the planning, I was asked to fill out the animal data transfer form. This form will tell Bart's new keepers all about his likes and dislikes and favorite enrichment items. It is like an animals biography; the nutritionist filled out his diet information and the veterinarian provided us with Bartleby's medical history.

We started conditioning "Bart" (as we keepers called him) to eat his food inside a giraffe crate in October. We wanted him used to walking into a box and eating and food is a great motivator and reward. This helped him get used to walking into a smaller area that way when he had to walk through the long chute to get on the trailer in would not be a stressful experience for him.

Bart also needed a medical exam for the health certificate so he can travel across state lines.

The veterinarians work with us keepers to schedule a time to anesthetize him so they can get blood and give him a full physical exam. We decided when the vets anesthetized Bart it would be a good time to move him the the barns at the bottom of the hill.

The savanna barns are on top of the hill and large trailers have hard time backing up the steep hill. Bart was moved and had his check up two weeks before his departure date. Two days before his exam was his last day on the savanna, which was sad for us keepers but good because he was getting close to going to Asheboro and being with other waterbuck again.

In the past, we have built a chute every time we ship an animal out. This year we were able to have a permanent shipping chute constructed.

This was very exciting. Keepers still had to construct part of it, we got to put up the wood for the sides and doors. Once the chute was constructed Bart was given sometime to explore the chute, to make the chute a good place keepers fed Bart his diet at different places in the chute. We slowly moved his food to the end of the chute.

The day we shipped him out, the trailer came and we let Bart into the chute, Bart very calmly walked out and into the trailer. It took about twenty minutes. Five days later, Bartleby arrived in his new home safe and sound.

After he goes through a thirty-day quarantine he will be introduced to his new herd.

The Phoenix Zoo is located at 455 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix. Rain or shine, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Day (Dec. 25). Regular-season hours (Sept. 1-May 31) are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Summer hours (June 1-Aug. 31) are 7 a.m.-1 p.m. during the week and 7 a.m.-4 p.m. on the weekends Admission is $14 for adults, $6 for children and $9 for seniors. For more information, call 602-273-1341 or visit .