May 19, 2008 - Alan Volunteering at Knoxville Zoo

I started volunteering at the KZG in January 2002 and soon began working as an EKA. I worked with Tonka, Mamie, Jana and Ellie. Due to a move to Wisconsin, I sadly left in October 2002. I rejoined the KZG volunteer program in September 2007. I immediately began assisting with elephants � Jana, Ellie and Tonka. While I was gone there were big changes in the routines with the elephants. There is now a more hands on approach by the keepers which has resulted in the elephants being easier to manage and the elephants now have a more relaxed attitude. I became a Volunteer Support Team member in 2008 and I have had to stop working with the elephants due to medical problems, but they still hold a deep place in my heart.

Here are some of the volunteer projects I have performed at the Knoxville Zoo -

Knoxville Zoo Volunteer Animal Book -In January 2008, I started helping Norm Naylor with the Animal Book. I took information and created several web pages on the Volunteer Website. In January 2010, I started working on creating a program that would allow me to automatically update the website based on data from the KZG ARCS database and updates by curators. There is now a separate web page for each animal with as much information as is provided by the zoo staff. The plan is to get monthly updates from the ARCS database, then update only those changes that have taken place. Also, there is a plan to create a pocket-sized Animal Book for Volunteers to carry around while at the zoo.

Knoxville Zoo Digital Drawing Database -In June 2009 I started working on creating an AutoCAD digital database of the Knoxville Zoo. I purchased a computer and obtained AutoCAD software for this project. This is a huge project that will take 5-10 years to create a drawing database. There are hundreds of drawings and thousands of photos that need to be input into the database to build a digital map of the Knoxville Zoo. This will be an ongoing project that will last into the foreseeable future. Note - anyone with AutoCAD experience (or wanting to learn) is welcome to help build this database.

The Herpitology Building -
In March 2010 I started helping the Herpetology Department (Phil Colclough) and Jim Vlna with a preliminary design of the new Herp Building. The preliminary design was finished April 2011 and estimates determined for the building. The donation phase is starting and hopefully the plans will go to architects for design.

Voice Mail Computer - When the voice mail computer started becoming more problematic in December 2009, I spent many hours learning about programming/setup of the voice mail computer to try to find out what was going on. After many hours, we determined that the voice mail computer needed to be replaced. I coordinated the research and purchase of a replacement unit, then helped install and program the new unit.

Elephant Keeper Assistant -
As a volunteer Elephant Keeper Assistant I did not get to work directly with the elephants, but I was around them all day long. My main job was cleaning up the Elephant Barn and Yard. This is not a bad job as it may seem. Even though the average Tonka pile is 45 pounds, I didn�t have to pick up the whole pile all at once. As a volunteer I was able to participate in the Artificial Insemination of Edie. There were several attempts at artificial insemination, but sadly no baby elephants yet.
Here is a list of some of the work I would performed in one day at the Elephant Barn -
Loading wheel barrels with lots of soiled hay and poo
Dumping wheel barrels in back of truck
Cleaning outside yards in warm weather
Washing down the stalls (with a big hose)
Cleaning the stall floors with soap and brushes
Cleaning walkways and drainage grates
Fetching hay and putting out for elephants
Sorting vegetables and fruit donated by Kroger�s
Hiding food for the elephant at feeding time (for enrichment)
Helping to create enrichment items and placing in yard
Handing items to keepers during Elephant procedures
Talking about elephants with Keepers
Watching elephants throughout the day (best part of the job)

Photos -