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Zoo Education - 8 Boars Later


Cavy Slave
May 8, 2012
I have been lurking around on the forum and finally decided to sign up and introduce myself. I am the Education Curator at a mid-sized zoo and we recently dramatically changed one of our programs which directly relates to why I am here. Luckily I found the forum and Cavy Spirit early in my guinea pig research and avoided some rather ugly mistakes. Contacted the nice folks at C & C Cages and was put in touch with Teresa. We had a very nice, long and interesting talk and as a result I think our program is going to be much better.

We will be using the boys for a variety of formal outreach programs in the community (schools, etc), but the primary reason for 8 boars was for a particular week of summer camp. Children have the opportunity to learn how to train or care for a particular animal for the week. For many kids this is their first - or only - opportunity to have a pet. The youngest kids work with keepers to care for our rabbits and pigeons and then learn how to behave around larger animals by working with our miniature horses and donkeys. The oldest groups train our Nigerian dwarf goats and the middle kids will be working with the guinea pigs. (We used to work with rats, but they just weren't staying healthy long enough.)

We have four sets of boars all of which currently get along nicely with their cage mates, some of which are definitely pair-bonded, for some of which it may be too soon to tell for sure (but doing fine right now).

Why boars? We have no intention of breeding, wanted no accidental breeding, did not want to risk any rescues coming in to the zoo pregnant, and there always seemed to be more boars looking for love than not. Since we have the space to keep four pairs (or in a pinch 8 singles), it just seemed the thing to do. So, we have a pair-bonded set of short-hairs, a pair of texels, and two mix-matched sets: Peruvian & Silkie and Coronet & Silkie. They are of varying ages and from both rescue organizations and show breeders. None from pet stores, Craig's List, lab sources, etc. I know some folks will be concerned that we worked with breeders at all, but the zoo is not a normal pet home and not all rescues will work with us. In the end, I think the most important message is not to go to a pet store, shop online, or impulse buy any animal. Certainly, we will direct potential future pig owners to rescues first and foremost.

The boys will live in XL C & C cages with 2x2 lofts and have a Jumbo for an extra play pen (one pair at a time). We also have covered outdoor day pens, portable exercise pens, and a formal enrichment program for our education animals. Augmenting and fine-tuning that program is one of the reasons I decided to dive in and register for the forum. The boys have been out of quarantine for less than a week and they have already won over the entire department. Some of the guys are more reserved, and in particular our youngest boys seem the most nervous. It is also pretty clear that none of them have ever been in a big cage before.

I have already learned a lot from the posts here (like no harnesses or roller balls & the joy of fleece) and look forward to learning more.

Ps. The guinea pig in my avatar is our coronet baby Sucré.
I think what you are doing is great. Education is always the way to go to help people animals and how to treat them properly. I'm hoping one day to be able to do the same :)
Good luck with this project and keep up posted. I'd love to hear how it's going and to see pictures of the whole gang.
Will do! We'll also take lots of pictures of the kids, etc. Right now I am working on getting a decent list of reasonable drive rescues, helpful links, etc and developing the kid's protocols. Cavy Spirit has some wonderful reference material that we plan to send home with all the campers - even the ones not working with the guinea pigs that week. They will all see the boys and we don't want to boost the local pet stores sales by providing cuteness without information.

Sadly, we have almost a half dozen stores where you can impulse buy a guinea pig in my city. One is even in between our zoo and a major thoroughfare. :sad: So they definitely need the info before they leave our gates!
Welcome! I'd love to see photos of your guinea pig room. Sounds like a great program.
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