Trash anyone?

From left to right: wolf exhibit, bear exhibit, farmyard exhibits, lemur exhibit.

Anyone who has been in the animal keeping profession knows that part of the job includes the unfortunate task of pulling trash out of the animal exhibits. On some level it is expected that a random object will occasionally be found in an animal’s enclosure, due to a visitor accidentally dropping something and not being able to recover it (please don’t try to retrieve the item yourself!). However, we have noticed the amount of trash in the exhibits increase significantly over the last couple of years.

By far, we find the most trash in the farmyard exhibits.

Keeper Katy focuses in the vet area of the animal department, so she is notified whenever anything is found in an exhibit so that we can put a “watch” on the animal for behavioral changes in case it ingested part of the item/food/trash. Since the keepers started finding items more frequently, Katy decided to start saving all the trash to see just how much was collected over the course of 2011.

The amount of trash in these pictures might astonish you, but what’s even more astonishing is that Katy didn’t start saving the items until the Spring of 2011.  So there’s a good four months worth of trash not included in these pictures. On top of that, there were times that the keepers forgot to keep the items for Katy, so those weren’t added to the bags either. I know there were at least three occasions where I forgot to save the trash for Katy, and I threw it away after pulling it from the enclosure.

The contents in this picture are a prime example of why we don't allow balloons on grounds. The outcome could have been very bad if one of our bears had ingested the helium balloon you see in the bag on the right.

There are times when a visitor accidentally drops something in an exhibit and they find a museum staff member to let them know. This is the best thing to do because the staff member will radio the keepers, and it allows us to remove the article from the exhibit as soon as possible.

Above: Here’s a closer look at some of the items we found in the farmyard. The mangled Mountain Dew can you see to the right came from the donkey and goat yard, and clearly it had been chewed on and ripped up by one or all of them. Worrisome for the keepers!

Here’s my personal favorite, and it was found in Lightning the donkey’s stall one morning. Unfortunately it was mixed in with some of his hay and could have been ingested fairly easily. It’s a hair attachment with feathers, and Kent saved this one and has it hanging up above his desk.

It’s nice to see that when our visitors are eating chips and drinking soda, they are trying to be healthy about it. However, these items are not healthy for our animals, even if they are “baked” or “diet”!

Katy has already started collecting exhibit trash for 2012, so watch for the blog post in early 2013 to see what we collected over the course of this year.


1 response to Trash anyone?

  1. Sarah says:

    It’s not just things being dropped in that are worrisome. Some of our animals will steal things from guests right off the railings or even from their hands! I rescued many applesauce coated toddler spoons from the donkey and goats last summer and the pigs have stolen plastic snack baggies right through the fencing. I like to ask guests to stand an arms’ length away from the fences if they have food or drinks, just to be safe.

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