« Last post by b00ms1ang on Yesterday at 02:14:36 pm »
My first job in college was working as the IT and Reptile House Manager for a local zoo. The reptile house had over 67 different species, including extremely large snakes and alligators. My tiny 5 foot girly self spent a lot of time training and working with these magnificent creatures.
After about a year, there was a major policy overhaul at the zoo. Someone had gotten attacked and viciously gored by a muntjak (a deer folks. Someone got attacked by a deer). The boss (who honestly, knew nothing about animals as a whole) made a list of every animal in the zoo and their varying "danger levels". Of course, 90% of the reptile house made the danger list. Now, every time someone wanted to handle something on the danger list, they also had to have pepperspray in case of an emergency.
Now, I'm all for safety. And I wasn't against this policy change at all. I knew that no matter what, I wasn't going to use pepperspray (the only animals I was worried about were the 10 foot alligator Gog, and the venomous timber rattlesnake, both to whom using pepperspray would actually make the situation more dangerous). Pepperspray can damage the film over snakes' eyes (it's like a membrane cover since they don't have eyelids) and I've been bit enough times in my life where I'd rather gently manage a distressed animal than try and cause it damage in return.
However, one of my nosy and annoying coworkers, took this policy like it was her dream come true. She was spiteful towards my reptiles, particularly the 15 foot anaconda (which had nearly killed her once because she was being stupid, as she was trying to handle the easily stressed and shy animal ALONE in front of a horde of 20 children, and it began to constrict her whole body). After the policy change, she didn't enter the reptile house without her pepperspray in-hand. I lived in constant fear for my snakes and their ability to see. She also held that power over my head, saying that it would be my fault if she had to use it since it was evidence that I wasn't doing my job properly if a reptile got frightened or aggressive. I tried talking to the boss and area managers, but they didn't see a problem with the whole situation.
So, I had to take matters into my own hands.
Oftentimes, our animals would go out for programs. They'd go to schools to educate children or attend birthday parties. That day, there was a birthday party for a kid that wanted ALL reptiles. And the real kicker? He wanted the biggest alligator to come as well. I was always in charge of packing, especially when it came to the alligators. The fun thing about alligators is that they can actually be really mellow animals if you tame them out right, and if they trust you. But they also put on a great act if they don't, or if you enter their territory too quickly. I'd gotten to know my alligators and all their personalities really well, so I knew what made them tick.
My gross coworker was watching me as I packed up. Finally, I entered the alligator pen to get Gog, the big boy. I had our large industrial snake hook that I use to keep them from biting me held far ahead, which is not normal practice. The alligator, just being an alligator, began snapping violently at the hook, and deathrolling it. I know that this is normal if the hook approaches too fast, it's just a territorial response. My coworker however, did not know that was normal. She watched as I "struggled" with the big reptile, and had to "battle" him into submission. Really, it wasn't any trouble at all, it was all an act. I'd pretend to "slip" off his back, or let him "almost take" my big hook. But really, it was the usual routine and he was no more a risk than usual. Finally, with exhausted breaths I got him into the transport bin. I told her
"Dang, he's really aggressive today. Like, really aggressive. Be extra careful. A single bad swing from a tail his size could break your spine" (which is true, but at the end of the day he was a babydoll and no one was going to get hurt)
She was mortified. Terrified. And that program she was going on that day? She was going with one of the managers. I did however, tell the manager in private that all was well, all the animals were safe to take, and that there were no issues.
One of my friends also attended to program. He reported that the entire time, my gross coworker was in a frenzied panic about the big alligator. She had her pepperspray in-hand the whole time, making the manager extremely nervous. And at the end of the program, the alligator turned his head and she screamed and ran backwards.
The manager reported it to the boss, and we ended up having a meeting with me, gross coworker, and the two managers. I play coy and said that I had had no trouble with the gator, and that my coworker must have been seeing things and just didn't have the reptile experience to handle a high pressure situation. I also brought up the anaconda incident, and several other "events" that may or may not have happened how I told them. That coworker completely lost her privileges to work with the reptiles, and my reptiles were safe. I also earned a lot of credit with the boss for it, as they "should have believed me all along". I was able to use that credit to coax the managers in ordering more feed for the reptiles and give us much needed technology for the reptile house (new heat lamps, new cages, etc). I spent the next year coaxing the boss and managers, and ended up in a highly diplomatic position at the zoo (getting my friend a manager position in the birds, and earning my own permission to work with dangerous primates) until my resignation at the end of my second year working there when funds were dropped and animal care standards dropped alongside it. I still have a really good name with the boss and managers, and if the zoo ends up failing I have dibs on a good number of the legal-to-keep animals in the reptile house for my own collection.