4 am is too early for any human being to be getting out of bed. Alas, Donna is up, showered, and out the door with coffee and a Pop-Tart by 4:35. She is off to her second home.
Donna Doolittle, no relation to the doctor, is single, but her day always starts with husbandry. She was recently promoted to Primates, so now she is in charge of all the monkeys, chimps, and gorillas at Kennedy Park Zoo. Every morning she scrubs and cleans cages and habitats for her mammalian cousins. She scoops poop and looks over the facilities to make sure nothing is broken. Sometimes the Chimpanzees have nightmares and break stuff. Other times the Bolivian gray titi monkeys have family arguments that lead to ruined landscaping. Donna gets everything back in order. Then it’s time for breakfast.
Donna weighs out the meals for all the primates. Each one is a little picky. She knows who won’t eat mangoes and who loves cooked fish. She keeps everything in easy-to-read charts and makes sure that her animals get a nice rotation of grub…so they don’t get bored. Donna learned that variety is key to the primate diet when Patches the Tamarin stopped eating for a week in April. Turns out he couldn’t handle cauliflower and pine nuts everyday.
Donna fortifies all the meals with extra vitamins to keep everyone healthy and strong. The vet, Charlie, checks in occasionally to make sure everyone is healthy, but Donna is good at keeping her crew in tip top shape. After the first feeding, Donna makes the rounds to get the gang up and moving. She plays pattern games with Floyd the Chimp, and runs with Gauthier the Gorilla. This is Donna’s favorite part of the day because she gets to literally “monkey around” and gets paid for it. Not many people have that opportunity. Her latest project is getting Floyd to learn a secret handshake, complete with a choreographed high-five sequence that would make a professional athlete jealous.
The next couple hours are paperwork heavy. Donna fills out health charts for her animals and notifies the vet of any issues that might be happening. Most days are fine, although it’s important to keep good notes during baby-making season! That’s what the zookeepers call it when they have pregnant animals… which is most of the time.
Donna snags a quick lunch: an Odwalla Bar and a handful of almonds, and then makes a call to San Diego to check on the grant she is co-writing with the primate director there. They are looking to get money to fund an outreach program for kids to learn about the more exotic primates. Donna loves Chimps and Gorillas, but she also wants kids to learn about Marmosets, the Colobus, and Francois’ langurs. All the writing is on schedule and they hope to submit their proposal by next Tuesday.
In the afternoon, Donna leads a group of students through her exhibits and answers all of their questions. This is the second favorite part of her job: teaching the public about the animals. After the tour, Donna provides the second feeding, practices her handshake with Floyd, and gets ready to head home. Thankfully, all her mates are healthy, so she should be able to get a full night’s sleep. Even so, she doesn’t really mind if she has to come back at night. She loves this place.