In January, a team composed of zookeepers, a nutritionist and a retired registrar spent a week at the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center. The group was there as part of the Pat Gives Back conservation initiative developed by zookeepers at the Milwaukee County Zoo.
Here, Linda Rohr Bachers, sharing her time as part of the Pat Gives Back program and as a Species360 adjunct trainer, provides a look at the days on site – and the results.
In October 2019, the Zoological Society of Milwaukee generously supported Belize Zoo in becoming a member of global non-profit Species360. The zoo’s participation means that they will gain access to the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) husbandry, animal welfare, medical, and studbooks resources used by Species360 members worldwide – including records management support and training. It also means that the larger Species360 community, including 1,200 members in 99 countries, will benefit from insights curated and shared by Belize Zoo staff as they care for over 50 different species.
In January 2020, Linda Rohr Bachers, retired Milwaukee County Zoo registrar, went to Belize Zoo to provide training in using ZIMS. She worked with lead keeper Roxy Lemus, general curator Humberto Wohlers, and several zookeepers, to introduce staff to animal records keeping and ZIMS.
Pat Gives Back: A special Belize-to-Milwaukee connection.” The Pat Gives Back” program is named for a wild jaguar, fondly known as Pat The Great Cat, who was a repeat cattle killer in Belize. He was brought to the Belize Zoo as part of their Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Program. Once he was healthy, Pat was sent to the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2008. He was paired with female Stella and they produced three cubs. Pat passed away in 2017.
Pat had made quite an impression while he was in human care. Involved individuals wanted to find a way to extend Pat’s legacy beyond simply being a wild born jaguar seen by zoogoers in a Wisconsin zoo. The first year a workshop was held at the Belize Zoo was in 2017. To date, four workshops have been held at the Belize Zoo, each focusing on assisting the keepers with topics such as husbandry, enrichment, nutrition, first aid, veterinary medicine and this year, records keeping.
The larger goal of Pat Gives Back is assisting conservation projects in Belize such as, Ya’axche Conservation Trust (the only known jaguar conflict mitigation program in Belize), the Foundation for Wildlife Conservation/Runaway Creek Reserve and others. In January 2020, the program helped to support staff training in using ZIMS for Husbandry to establish digital records for individual animals and groups of species residing at Bronx Zoo. The data, both historical and current, will be used to manage the welfare of animals here and to help inform the global wildlife care and conservation community.
Read more about the Pat Gives Back program, from the Zoological Society of Milwaukee.
Creating Individual Animal Records. With just a few days to work together, the group made great progress — addressing best practices in records keeping and becoming familiar ZIMS. The first day, Linda discussed with the zookeeper staff why it’s important to keep good records and the most important best practices in data entry. The zoo didn’t have a records system, though they had written observations and events in a daily diary from the beginning of the zoo and had given animals house names.
A tapir named April becomes #1 for Belize Zoo: Roxy, Humberto and Linda agreed that the “original” animals should be recorded as the basis of the ZIMS database, and we chose a beloved tapir named “April” and assigned her number 1. By the end of the week, nearly 30 individual animals were entered into the database. The diaries provided a historic treasure trove, enabling us to piece together enough information for an accurate record of several individual animals.
Enclosure Identification Scheme: An enclosure identification scheme was created so all the animals can be found within an enclosure. Identifiers, weights and notes have been entered.
Transponder Log and Medical Support. Eventually a transponder log will be created and used by veterinarians from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine who visit the zoo every year to provide medical support.
Primary Records Keeper: Belize Zoo lead keeper Roxy is the zoo’s primary records keeper. Roxy will continue to enter historic and current specimens into ZIMS, and will explore enrichment and training log features to support the zookeepers’ work.
Supporting Belize Zoo: In addition to help from Species360 Member Support team, Linda has committed to serving as an ongoing resource for Belize Zoo staff — providing suggestions and advice as they continue to grow.
Roxy is awarded Naples Zoo Caribbean Conservation Scholarship! Following the intense week learning ZIMS with Linda, Roxy was awarded the Naples Zoo Caribbean Conservation Scholarship to attend the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) International Records Keeping (IRK) course in Wheeling, West Virginia in February. While there, she saw snow for the first time! That said, experiencing true cold weather was less exciting for her!!
We congratulate Belize Zoo, and thank them for contributing its animal data to the global community. The conservation efforts of all our members help to support species around the world.