Currents Can Change Your Course
By Gary Priest, Curator of Animal Care Training, San Diego Zoo Global Academy
In January, I shared with you that it takes courage to launch into the unknown. That first column focused on encouraging you to prepare your staff for a new adventure with online training. Last month, in preparation for the voyage, I reviewed the importance of having both a compass and a chart during the voyage. This month, we consider the effects that "currents" can have on your progress.
I'm sure that you are aware there are many currents in every institution. Some currents will speed you on toward your destination, while other currents can create drag. On the voyage to launch your own institution's Academy training program, you will soon discover that there are some very strong currents. Sailors who fight the currents are often battered and lost at sea. Sailors who learn to use the current will arrive at their destination more quickly and comfortably.
Permit me to speak plainly. For well over two decades, I consulted at dozens of zoos in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Far East. In all those different places, with all those different languages and cultures, I never met an animal keeper who felt that they had enough time in the day to get everything done that they wanted to complete. Taking time out for an online course can be met with resistance, because of this underlying current. Make no mistake—this is a strong current. Recognize it, because currents like this can propel you forward to your destination, or slow your progress to a crawl.
Keepers are committed to the care and welfare of their animals. My advice? Go with the current. Look for shared best practices in the Academy's online training courses. Look, too, for any differences in institutional approaches to animal care. Either way, healthy discussions with staff about why something is best done one way versus another will always produce interesting perspectives and deeper thinking. By using the current, your passage is smoother, your progress is steady, and your team is engaged.
Sailing south from Santa Barbara down the California coast is wonderful. Sailors refer to it as "sailing downhill," because both the wind and currents are coming from the stern and pushing the vessel forward at the fastest speeds. To help you "sail downhill" and avoid pushing against the current of "not enough time," the Academy is reintroducing some prerecorded webinars on a wide variety of topics like: Fish Welfare: Pain and Stress in Fish, How to Find an Extra 30 Minutes Every Day for Training and Enrichment, and Studbooks 101. Webinars are only one hour in length, there is no associated test, and the subjects are fascinating and presented by experts. If your staff is struggling to find the two hours needed to complete a course from the professional certificate series, perhaps a new course is to challenge them to take a couple of webinars. The webinars are enriching and thought provoking, and they might give your employees just the spark they need to engage in their own professional development by taking the more challenging courses in the professional series.
Would you like to learn more about the webinars? The webinars page on our website is here.
For any questions, contact Gary Priest, curator of animal care training, San Diego Zoo Global Academy, at email@example.com.
Getting Better All the Time:
Keeping People Safe to Protect Animals
By James F. Gesualdi
To keep ahead, each one of us, no matter what our task, must search for new and better methods, for even that which we now do well must be done better tomorrow.
—James F. Bell
One is not exposed to danger who, even when in safety, is always on their guard.
Zoological parks are gathering places for tens of millions of people annually. People are drawn to zoological settings to experience the wonder of some of the world's most beautiful, cherished, and endangered animals. In some settings, there are even opportunities for contact or interaction with animals, when those animals are suitable for, comfortable with, and enriched by such situations. Whatever the setting, there is always the possibility of an animal escape or an unauthorized human breach of an enclosure or public safety protocols. The consequences for the animals and people in such circumstances underscore that human safety is an important contributor to animal welfare—keeping people safe protects them, but it also protects animals.
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations specifically require barriers and containment. For example: 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(c)(3) (general handling regulations); 9 C.F.R. § 3.125(a) (facilities, general, for catch all of other warm-blooded animals); 9 C.F.R. § 3.127(d) (outdoor facilities, perimeter fence, for catch all of other warm-blooded animals); and similar provisions for other covered groups of species. Most of the safety-related AWA regulations involve generalized, performance-based regulations. Some zoos, recognizing the solid principles of the AWA, have voluntarily expanded AWA principles and guidelines to encompass all taxa of animals, not just those specifically regulated by the AWA. As such, when animals or people are not securely contained and are injured, there may be a presumption that the zoological organization did not comply with the regulations. Chief Judge Posner's (U.S. Court of Appeals) decision in a big cat containment case under the AWA (Hoctor v. USDA) made clear that, although the AWA is meant to protect animals, people must be protected, otherwise animals could wind up getting hurt—and protecting the animals is at the heart of the AWA.
"Safety interests" under the AWA include animal, public, employee, and inspector safety. Considerations for any review of safety efforts include: regulations and agency guidance; zoological organization policies and procedures; accrediting and professional association policies, practices, and plans; staffing (number, experience, and expertise); handling; training (animals, staff, and others); recordkeeping; containment; social grouping; emergency preparedness/response; and incident reporting and corrective measures. The presence or absence of posted, clear directions for the zoo visitor should also be included in any safety review.
Here are some ideas and resources from Excellence Beyond Compliance® and elsewhere to transform tragedies into constructive action to keep people safe in order to protect animals.
- Safety and security staff should actively participate in the Animal Welfare Leadership Group (see Building Blocks: Key Leaders, Self-Examination, Entrance Briefings, and Inspection Checklists, September 2015, available at http://bit.ly/2oaarSp, various rounds, AWA inspections, follow up, and, of course, emergency preparedness training.
- Enlist non-animal staff and volunteers (in addition to safety and security staff), especially the very creative ones and those with children, to immediately and regularly conduct "opportunity rounds," to brainstorm what potential opportunities animals have to get out or people to get in. The fresh eyes and imagination of non-animal staff could prompt ideas to alleviate or eliminate potential hazards. As Einstein once noted, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
- Get involved with the great work Dr. Yvonne Nadler is doing with the Zoo and Aquarium All Hazards Preparedness, Response, and Recovery (ZAHP) Fusion Center on emergency preparedness and response http://zahp.aza.org/.
- Although the AWA's general contingency planning regulation currently remains suspended, prepare a contingency plan (or update yours), and work with your USDA APHIS Animal Care inspector to review it. Lack of a regulatory requirement does not preclude an organization from doing more to do right. Practice different contingency plan response scenarios, and include outside first responders. (See agency Tech Note, "Considerations When Making a Contingency Plan" at: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/content/printable_version/contingency_rule_tech.pdf.
- Regularly review initial, ongoing, and periodic training, as well as any safety-related policies and protocols. Adjust these as necessary, to better integrate new approaches and additional best practices, especially based on high-profile incidents.
- Train animals for emergency recall and retrieval, even within their enclosures. The Marine Mammal Negotiated Rulemaking Consensus language required this for marine mammals that were released as part of an emergency contingency plan. Such training could be done with most animals, to increase the likelihood of safer return to their enclosure or night quarters.
- Even when the public itself (other than an individual) may not be at risk, be sure to provide clear instructions and designated staff to keep them away from an active situation. This is not meant to prevent photographs, videos, and eyewitnesses, since such accounts are actually enormously helpful in examining incidents, but to prevent the public's actions from exacerbating a given situation, perhaps by antagonizing an animal or distracting zoological or emergency staff.
Think about other ideas and improvements, and we can use our heads to keep people safe, in order to better protect animals and save both animal and human lives.
Safety never takes a holiday.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share the good you are doing (as only you can), or with any comments or questions on this column or suggestions for future ones. For upcoming workshops and sessions, contact: email@example.com.
© 2017 James F. Gesualdi, P.C. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. This is not, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.
Something Fishy Is Going On
By Dr. Rob Jones, "The Aquarium Vet"
In the past two newsletters, we have discussed the reproductive story of the grey nurse (or sand tiger) shark Carcharias taurus, an iconic aquarium shark species. These sharks have traditionally bred poorly in aquariums for a variety of reasons, and this was the impetus for Dr. Jon Daly and me to commence research in assisted elasmobranch reproduction in 2004. We chose the broadnose sevengill shark Notorynchus cepedianus as our surrogate species, and last month we covered how we catch and handle these sharks for the female reproductive studies.
Working with the male sharks, we again used tonic immobility to assist with handling. Any time we were working with stingrays, however, we would always use an anesthetic or heavy sedation, due to the occupational health and safety issues associated with their barbs. I will discuss safe stingray handling in next month's newsletter.
Male elasmobranchs have two claspers (see picture below), which are a cartilaginous modification of their pelvic fins, and are used during the copulation process for placing semen directly into the female's reproductive tract. Depending on the species, we would either use massage or catheterization to collect semen. With massage, it was either internal (for larger sharks and rays) or external (smaller species). As each species' "plumbing" is different, we had to develop different techniques, and in some species, passing a catheter worked very nicely.
I remember the day we collected our first sevengill shark semen sample, and rushed to the lab to place it under the microscope. We turned on the light, and there were lots of sperm, but no activity at all. We talked for a few minutes and then one of us (and to this day we cannot recall who it was) remembered that male sharks have siphon sacs under their belly. The male shark fills these with seawater, which is then used to flush the semen in after the ejaculation occurs. We added a few drops of water, and "bingo," it all started swimming. The picture below shows an elasmobranch sperm—the head is shaped like a corkscrew.
We have now collected from many species, and we have also undertaken some cryopreservation trials as well. Long-term, having stored frozen samples will be ideal. We have successfully produced brown-banded bamboo sharks (Chiloscyllium punctatum) with semen transferred from one aquarium to another (a two-hour flight) with success.
It has been a very interesting journey. After 12 years, we have answered many questions. However, as happens with any research, there are still many more to be answered. Probably one of the more difficult areas to explore will be the elasmobranch ability to store semen for variable periods of time. What triggers this and how is it stored? Ask me in another 5 to 10 years, and I may be able to tell you.
E-quarist™ Courses—Academy Subscriber Special!
The San Diego Zoo Global Academy is excited to share an additional Academy subscriber benefit regarding our collaboration with Dr. Jones: as an Academy subscriber, you are now entitled to a discount on the e-quarist™ courses.
For more information about the SDZGA discount, or to view our Trial Version, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the Aquarium Vet website at theaquariumvet.com.au.