Getting Better All the Time
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
Now More than Ever, We Are in This Together: Here's How We Will Get through This
By James F. Gesualdi
There is rain in your heart
and I have no umbrella
but I walk with you.
A note of gratitude: This marks the fifth anniversary and fiftieth installment of Getting Better All the Time. Thanks to Academy director Jon Prange for making this possible, and to everyone on the team who makes these words much better by the time you are kind enough to read them. Appreciation is also due to the animals inspiring these efforts, and those of you dedicating your lives to their interests, protection, and well-being.
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You are not alone. We are not alone. As always, we are in this together. These challenging times simply help to remind us of our interdependence and connection with each other and all life. My heart is with you and yours as we all seek to make our way in this changed world. While we know change is a constant in our lives, wholly unexpected and unprecedented dramatic change like what we are experiencing right now can be frightening and overwhelming. We are facing threats to health and life; economic and financial worries for individuals, organizations, businesses, and communities; separation from friends and loved ones; and all the accompanying uncertainties. That is a whole lot to handle. Yet, you are not alone. We are not alone. We are in this together.
Since we are in this together, we will make it through this together. Here is how we will get through this.
Our power to make things better.
We must remember that this precious moment is the only time we have, to think and to act. That's it—but that is enough, as long as we choose to use this very moment, this day that we have been given, to think and act constructively. However broken and dire things may seem, we cannot afford to bemoan what might have been yesterday, or to shrink in fear about the unknown that lies ahead. We can only address things now.
Be grateful for the good works of others and all that we still have.
Thank you to all of you bringing more light into this world—and there is much goodness bringing even greater light every day. We are most fortunate that the animals that inspire us daily and we have dedicated our lives to serving are helping to bring light, as are animal caregivers and rescuers.
In the words of a recently read prayer, we are being "schooled in good works" by the tremendous efforts of health care professionals; grocery store and food service workers; people who are building, fixing, making, and maintaining things; cleaning, sanitizing, and sanitation crews; delivery people; first responders; and each and every one of those endeavoring to lift our spirits personally or through remote programs and performances. Our newly discovered appreciation for many of these sisters and brothers who serve us so selflessly is a gift of awareness we should carry with us into the future.
We are in this together. We have each other and so much more. For all the challenges and uncertainty, we have this moment, and we can use it and what we have in our hearts and minds to make things better.
Focus on helping and comforting others, including animals.
Grounded in this present moment, cognizant of the upheaval and uncertainty all around, our focus should be on: (1) protecting others as ourselves and keeping others safe; (2) helping others as best we can, even if by simply raising their spirits; (3) caring for and helping animals; and (4) building ourselves and others up, so we are better able to keep moving forward today and each day, one moment at a time. Taking care of ourselves, others, animals, and this precious moment will help us take care of whatever comes before us, because our thoughts are where they must be to act, contribute, and serve.
Use whatever moments you can to get better at something.
You will be better, more resilient, and stronger by working through this constructively. Add to your unique ability to make a difference by consciously finding one little thing to improve upon until we return to a sense of normalcy.
Plan for recovery.
As best you can, individually, professionally, and organizationally, begin to plan for how you can bounce back—a recovery plan of sorts. It will require tweaking as things change and evolve, but having a road map to move forward is infinitely better than being adrift.
Love is the answer.
More than being the title of a 1979 hit song by England Dan and John Ford Coley, this is a powerful key to maintaining peace of mind. We never know what lies ahead, and a bad or worse turn of events may further isolate us from loved ones. So, take a few moments to gratefully acknowledge those who have helped you during your life, and let those you love know that you love them.
For those whose situations are more difficult, please, please, please ask for help from a family member, friend, trusted colleague, or other resource. You are worthy of getting help, so do not hesitate to seek it.
Animal Welfare Act Compliance and Inspections
On March 27, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Care unit issued some AWA guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency noted it was "appreciative of the efforts being made across the country to provide excellent animal care under increasingly difficult circumstances…[including] dealing with resource, personnel, transportation, and financial issues...." The agency noted it is continuing to inspect situations where serious animal welfare concerns have been reported. Routine inspections are being continued, but only to an extent that is safe and permissible under current state and local public health restrictions. In the case of such inspections, there will be considerable flexibility in terms of those inspections and their scope, considering the public health emergency. The agency also indicated a willingness to help facilities, working with local officials to establish the importance of essential animal care staff. The agency stressed that regulated animals "should continue to receive appropriate care to ensure their health and well-being."
The absolute best course of action, if you have any AWA or inspection questions, is to contact your inspector. You could also do that to share your current staff and animal protection measures, and seek their input on those or examples they have encountered at other facilities. The guidance also suggests you can contact the agency via email at email@example.com or call their offices at Fort Collins, Colorado at (970) 494-7478, or Riverdale, Maryland at (301) 851-3740.
The full agency stakeholder message is available here.
In terms of AWA compliance and animal welfare in general, protect yourself and your colleagues, and keep doing what you have dedicated your life to do: your very best for the animals, considering today's precautions and resources. Continue to identify, note, and plan to remedy anything in need of attention when the situation improves. Some may be wary, and all should seek counsel on such matters, but recordkeeping, documenting, awareness, and forthcoming improvements are much more convincing in demonstrating one is seeking to do the right thing rather than simply uttering words to that effect.
Other lessons to be taken from the current pandemic can help you, your organizations, and the animals come out in a much better place. Evaluate the effectiveness of your contingency plan, including staff performance, areas of strength, and potential improvement measures in terms of communications, staffing, management, training, equipment, and supplies. Refine your plan as needed. Seek counsel from your inspector or the Zoo and Aquarium All Hazards Preparedness, Response, and Recovery (ZAHP) Fusion Center.
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Individually and collectively, let us take command of that which is before us—this present moment. That is where our power to think constructively and to take positive action rests. With grateful hearts for the good works of others, we, too, should help others and animals while lifting ourselves up. We can use this time to come out better, stronger, and more prepared to create even more light in the days ahead. We are all in this together.
When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.
It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no [one] can sincerely try to help another without helping [themselves].
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
© 2020 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.
For more information on EXCELLENCE BEYOND COMPLIANCE®, visit excellencebeyondcompliance.com.
Something Fishy Is Going On
By Dr. Rob Jones, "The Aquarium Vet"
I want to begin with my best wishes to Gary Priest, who recently retired from San Diego Zoo Global Academy as curator of animal care training. I consider him a friend, as well as a colleague. I vividly remember the day when we first met in 2014, and spent the day together in San Diego—two kindred spirits from opposite sides of the globe, with a passion for the animals in their care that had developed over many decades. We immediately formed a close bond and have kept in regular communication since then. Our meetings each September at the AZA conference were one of the highlights of my year. His contribution to this industry is enormous, as many others have already stated. I wish Gary well, and will miss seeing him at AZA, but I have no doubt that our friendship and contact will continue into the future.
I regularly come across new research, and read much of it (after all, is that not why SDZGA and The Aquarium Vet E-quarist course exist, to spread knowledge?). This one caught my eye, and it really shows (as if we did not know already) the dangers of plastic in a marine environment. The scientific theory for many years has been that sea turtles eat plastic because it looks like jellyfish. This has been used to explain the frequent masses of plastic found inside deceased sea turtles that have either washed up on beaches or have died in rehabilitation facilities.
A recent study reported in the journal Current Biology has shown that turtles have been attracted by the smell of biofouled plastic (plastic that is covered in microbes, algae, plants, and small animals). The study examined 15 aquarium-bred loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta and found that the turtles had similar responses to the smell of biofouled plastic and the food that they were fed. The sad part of this research is that it now appears that sea turtles think plastic in the ocean smells like a tasty treat, and are not simply attracted because of its resemblance to jellyfish.
The reason for this finding was not ascertained by the study, but one theory was that the sea turtles were attracted to dimethyl sulfide. This substance has a peculiar odor and arises from the algae and microbes that accumulate on plastic in a marine environment.
More details can be found in the March 9, 2020 Current Biology article "Odors from Marine Plastic Debris Elicit Foraging Behavior in Sea Turtles," authored by Joseph B. Pfaller, Kayla M. Goforth, Michael A. Gil, Matthew S. Savoca, and Kenneth J. Lohmann.
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 The Aquarium Vet: as an Academy subscriber, you are now entitled to a discount on the e-quarist™ courses. We are also happy to offer one of our free monthly webinars.
For more information about the SDZGA discount, or anything about the e-quarist™ course, including next month's free webinar, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.