I'm on my 3rd day in Ohio. Today was my second day working at the Wilds. I left home at 4am Sunday so I could have plenty of time to stop at Columbus Zoo. With the time change, I arrived at the zoo about 11:30am. I had an appointment to tour the rhino/elephant barn at 1:15 so I wandered around and saw koalas, manatees, gorillas and many other animals before an awesome behind the scenes tour. I got to feed and pet their three black rhinos and get very close to their 9 month old elephant calf. I also got to check out the rest of their elephants and talk to the keeper about rhino enrichment. I finished checking out the rest of the zoo and drove another 90 minutes to Zanesville and easily found and checked into my hotel around 5pm. I was exhausted and was probably asleep by 7pm.
I left around 6:30am and made the unbelievably long trek to the Wilds. It was absolutely nothing like I expected! It's 10,000 acres in the middle of nowhere. The many cold tolerant species are out in huge pastures (with shelters) year-round. The rhinos, giraffes, carnivores and probably others I'm unaware of spend their winters in huge barns. The rhinos have two huge barns, each with large play yards they are given access to for at least a short time on all but the coldest days. One barn currently houses 8 white rhinos and the other barn houses 6 greater one horn (Indian) rhinos. The office area is in the building with the GOHs, so I started there. GOHs are somewhat smaller than whites and have a single, sort of stumpy horn. They also have a prehensile upper lip used to pull browse off of trees or bushes. This was my first time working with this species and I love them :)
We helped finish cleaning that barn and then went over to the white rhino barn. I looked around and was shocked to see a 3 1/2 month old baby! I fell hard in love and want to somehow smuggle it into the Park District minivan. She is probably the cutest thing I've ever seen. They also have two 18 month old boys that are about half the size of an adult and already have proportionate horns. I could stay here forever and live in this barn! The baby loves attention and comes to the bars and begs to be petted. Too adorable to describe.
In the late morning Dave the rhino guy took me on a tour around part of the park. We checked out the giraffe and mixed antelope barns. He showed me the vet clinic and stalls. He then took me on the ride of my life through a few of the pastures. They already had at least 15 inches of snow on the ground, with 6-10 more inches predicted for that day/night. It had just started snowing pretty heavily when we went on our pasture tour in a crappy old 4WD pickup truck. He tore all over the pastures, even though snow was horribly drifted and the roads/paths were mostly invisible. There were all kinds of ditches and hills and ravines. Oh, and animals. I'm glad I don't get motion sickness because I probably would have lost my breakfast. After lunch he showed me how he uses a paint roller to apply mineral oil to the rhinos to help with their dry skin. It was awesome!
By early afternoon it was snowing really hard and everyone was sent home early. I could barely see so followed a truck out of the park and realized too late it was going out a different way than I came in. I couldn't turn around so I hugged the park, hoping to find where I came in. I thought I found the road, but apparently I was wrong. I spent the next hour driving through the winding, hilly forest, not seeing ONE other car or even one house. I had to brake twice for deer that darted in front of my car. The road was pretty bad,but could have been worse. After driving 20 miles, I finally came to a small business that appeared to have humans inside, but didn't really appear to be a "public" business. I went inside and just started babbling incessantly to the poor receptionist who just stared at me with her mouth gaping open. She called a couple of the guys to come help "the lady from Ella-noise" find her way back. Fortunately, it was very easy to find my way back to Zanesville. Unfortunately, I was 45 miles from Zanesville and it took me an hour and a half to get back to the hotel. Yep, I left the Wilds at 2:30 and got back to my hotel at 5. Ugh.
This morning all the area schools were cancelled. I allowed myself 45 minutes to make the 20 mile drive, but it took me an hour and fifteen minutes. We cleaned the rhino barns and then I got to watch an intern do a training session with two of the GOH females. We ate lunch, got a load of hay and then were sent home early once again due to more snow. I had recorded every step of my morning journey so there was no way I was going to get lost again, but this time I encountered horrible drifting. One stretch was so bad snow was blowing up on my windshield, completely blinding me, but I couldn't stop or I would be stuck. Fortunately, that was a small stretch of otherwise deserted road. The main highway wasn't bad at all. School's cancelled again tomorrow. I hope it stops snowing and I'll get a full day in my last day. I'd really love to see their carnivore center! I definitely have to come back to this place in the summer when all the animals are outside. It is amazing!