CCPA Summer Series 2017: Claire Burdick ‘19 at Conservators Center in Burlington, NC

CCPA Summer Series 2017: Claire Burdick ‘19 at Conservators Center in Burlington, NC

This summer, I was an animal husbandry intern at the Conservators Center in Burlington, NC. The
Conservators’ Center is a nonprofit that houses over 80 animals of 21 different species. A few of my
favorite species were tigers, lions, New Guinea singing dogs, dingoes, and leopards. I applied for this
internship because I have a passion for working with animals and I am very interested in animal
behavior and cognition. Through my experience working with lemurs, bears, and other smaller species,
I have found that working closely with animals and getting to know them as individuals is a great way
to learn about behavior and cognition, and I am very happy that I got to work with big cats this
summer!

 

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At the Center, each day started out with diet preparation, and each animal has different requirements
about what types of meat, whole prey, fruit, and/or animal biscuits they can eat and what types of
medications they need in their food. During diet prep, I learned a lot about what goes into caring for big
cats throughout the different stages of their lives. After we finished, we headed into the park to feed all
of the animals, clean their enclosures, and place enrichment for each animal. Enrichment is my favorite
part of working with animals, as its purpose is to improve the lives of captive animals by stimulating
them mentally and/or physically or encouraging them to engage in natural behaviors. For example, I
gave the leopards, lynxes, wolves, and coyote cardboard boxes with shredded newspaper inside with a
scent on it to give them something interesting to play with.

In the afternoons, the other interns and I were given tasks to do in order to help around the Center. A
lot of our projects involved moving into the Center’s new nutrition center. We worked with the keepers
to deep clean and organize everything from the old tiny kitchen and move it into the new nutrition
center. The keepers and interns were all very excited to move from the hot and cramped old kitchen to
the huge and air-conditioned nutrition center, and I was happy to be a part of that! Some afternoons, we
had classes about different aspects of animal care and the zoological industry. My favorite class was
about training, and after learning about different types of training, we got to practice target training
with Arthur and Freya, two of the tigers. I learned a lot about animal care and the zoological industry at
my internship, and I will never forget my experiences and relationships with these amazing animals!

 

(Please note again: “Disclaimer: in these photos I am being assisted by a trained staff member on how to properly train with Arthur the tiger and Freya the tiger.”)