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Pat Witman

In her 32 years working for San Diego Zoo Global, Pat has worked as a birdAn animal that has wings and is covered with feathers. Birds have a backbone, are warm-blooded, produce young from eggs, and walk on their two legs. Most can fly. keeperAn employee in a zoo who takes care of the animals. for 17 years and has performed her duties at both the Zoo and the Safari Park. She has been the manager at the APC for 15 years. In all those years, she has certainly experienced a lot!
"My favorite park of the job is working with this phenomenal collection of birdAn animal that has wings and is covered with feathers. Birds have a backbone, are warm-blooded, produce young from eggs, and walk on their two legs. Most can fly. speciesA group of individuals that have many of the same characteristics, and are different from all other animals in some important way. Hamsters and mice are two different species of rodent.," Pat says. "The diversity of birds in the world is fascinating to me and being able to actually hold some of these in my own hands is amazing. We've artificially hatched and hand raised chicks from about 300 speciesA group of individuals that have many of the same characteristics, and are different from all other animals in some important way. Hamsters and mice are two different species of rodent. of birds during the last 30 years. I feel so proud of our accomplishments whenever I look at that list."
 
And because she has worked with so many animals, it's really hard for her to pick favorites because she "loves them all." "There was once a charming young emu chick that would sit down every time you approached him instead of running away with his buddies," Pat recalls. And a yellow-fronted Amazon, a tropical parrot without a mate who was rather partial to my company, flying over to see me when I was feeding out in his area. He liked to ride on the feed cart visiting all the different feed stations.
 
"And I'll never forget the very large and sometimes cantankerous shoebill stork, who was afraid of his mate and would court me instead," Pat remembers. "Other keepers were afraid of him as he would chase them, but he was very quiet and gentle around me."
Pat explains that her overall favorite birds are "the ones with secrets."
"They (the ones with secrets) are the ones that are so challenging and difficult to raise, such as the Great Blue Turaco from Africa," Pat says. "They never seemed to eat enough of the foods that were good for them to raise babies; things with protein, like bugs, so we had to learn how to trick them into eating those things. We knew from reading articles about them, what they ate in the wild; lots of figs. And we knew that sometimes wasps lay their eggs in figs and that the figs would then have wasp larvae in them. So our keeperAn employee in a zoo who takes care of the animals. decided to take their favorite foods, like papaya, blueberries or wild figs and poke holes in them. Then she stuck mealworms and waxworm larvae into the holes. When the birds ate the sweet fruit, they also got a few bugs in every bite. Pretty soon all their babies were growing up big and strong."
 
If there's one thing most, if not all of our keepers can agree on, it's that working with animals can have some very funny results. Pat remembers her introduction to working at the Safari Park many years ago.
"I was invited to join the birdAn animal that has wings and is covered with feathers. Birds have a backbone, are warm-blooded, produce young from eggs, and walk on their two legs. Most can fly. crew out in the very large south paddock to catch a couple of cranes that had jumped over the wall into the wrong pen," Pat says. "I asked my coworker about the dangers of going out in the field with all those huge rhinos and other large hoofstock. He assured me it was perfectly safe and that you could scratch the head of some of those critters. So we all drove out in several trucks with lots of nets and we got out and fanned out towards these birds in this mixed speciesA group of individuals that have many of the same characteristics, and are different from all other animals in some important way. Hamsters and mice are two different species of rodent. enclosureA space in a zoo where animals live and are cared for.. When the birds got startled and ran farther away across a small ravine, everyone started to go back to their trucks to drive closer. I said I would just walk over to where they were. My coworker, who had initially told me how safe it was, now changed his tune and pointed to the waterbuck and the gaur and told me how dangerous and unpredictable they could be and that we would stay close to our vehicles. Over time, I learned how to negotiate my way around the big mammals when we were out in the field managing our birds, but that first time was quite a thrill!"
 
The real scoop about being an animalAny living thing that is not a plant. Most animals can move about freely. All use plants or other animals as food. All have sensory organs. keeperAn employee in a zoo who takes care of the animals. is that there is always going to be poop. "As a keeperAn employee in a zoo who takes care of the animals. one of your main responsibilities is to clean up birdAn animal that has wings and is covered with feathers. Birds have a backbone, are warm-blooded, produce young from eggs, and walk on their two legs. Most can fly. poop, so it doesn't build up in an enclosureA space in a zoo where animals live and are cared for.," Pat explains. "Because of this, I've always been glad I wasn't an elephant keeperAn employee in a zoo who takes care of the animals.!"
 
Given all her experiences and the number of animals that have been in her care, you have to wonder if there is an animalAny living thing that is not a plant. Most animals can move about freely. All use plants or other animals as food. All have sensory organs. that Pat has yet to work with--or would want to work with more.
"Hummingbirds," Pat answers. "It's hard not to admire a birdAn animal that has wings and is covered with feathers. Birds have a backbone, are warm-blooded, produce young from eggs, and walk on their two legs. Most can fly. that can move so fast and fly circles around any other birdAn animal that has wings and is covered with feathers. Birds have a backbone, are warm-blooded, produce young from eggs, and walk on their two legs. Most can fly. on the planet."