Q: Does your herd participate in any studies or research projects?
Ted Fox: Yes. We are in our 20th year of collaborating with Cornell University, which sends its exotic animal veterinary staff and students here three days a week to administer care to our elephants and other animals, help train their students, and participate in research by their staff and students. Many studies in exotic animal medicine have come through Cornell’s veterinary program. Their residents are required to publish two or three research papers, and they usually conduct their research here. A current one is Sara Child-Sanford’s study on how elephants absorb Vitamin D and calcium. (See Childs-Sanford, June2017 article here). We also take blood samples from our elephants and send them to the Smithsonian Institution as part of its study of EEHV, the elephant herpes virus. (See National Zoo Elephant Herpes Virus Lab.)
Elephant research projects conducted here include:
- Exploring Early Social Affiliations and Behavior of a Captive Asian Elephant Calf (The birth of our 2-year-old calf, Batu, gave us a 3-generation family group that allows observation of the calf interacting with his mother, father, and grandmother on a daily basis.)
- Evaluation of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in Asian Elephants using Dried Blood Spots Analyzed by Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry
- Lineage-specific Expansion of the TP53 Gene Repertoire in the Elephant Lineage
- Cholecalciferol Supplementation in Asian Elephants
- Evaluation of the i-STATE Portable Clinical Analyzer for Measurement of Ionized Calcium and Selected Blood Chemistry Values in Asian Elephants
- Comparison of Diff-Quick and Wright Giemsa Stained Whole Blood Smears in the Asian Elephant
- Analytic Assessment of the Vitamin D and Calcium Status of Zoo-Managed Asian Elephants
- In-Depth Assessment of Vitamin D and Calcium Status of Captive Asian Elephants in a Northern Temperate Climate
Q: How did each of you get involved with animals, zoos and conservation outreach?
Janet Agostini: I have loved animals all my life, so working for the zoo was just a natural fit, and it is a real privilege to be able to devote my working life to their benefit.
I became an animal lover as soon as I got my first kitten as a little girl in Michigan. Much to my mother’s chagrin, my father rented a small farm when we were stationed in Michigan, and the landlord brought an animal to each of us kids. Mine was a cat, my brother got a dog. We bought a couple of horses and we were underway. I have always had animals in my life.
When I was offered the position of President and CEO of the Friends of the Zoo 11 years ago, I felt it was the perfect fit for me — I could bring my business background and fundraising skills to benefit a cause I so firmly believe in. Being able to observe and interact with the animals on a daily basis is one of the best parts of my job.
Ted Fox: My dad taught large animal medicine at Cornell University and I started going on farm calls with him at age 6, and when I was old enough to work, I would work at different farms every summer. I also had racing pigeons from the time I was 10, and that turned into chickens and waterfowl and everything else. I had a guanaco in tenth grade because a circus came through Binghamton and some stupid teenager stuck a candy apple stick and in the eye of a baby guanaco. They brought it to Cornell and when they told the circus how much it would cost, the circus said, ‘Never mind, we don’t want it.’ I happened to be there and I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ That was the first weird animal I had (laughs).
I majored in animal science at Cornell with no history at zoos until I was nearly out of college. I ended up volunteering at this zoo in the bird department and then I took a summer job the next year and the following spring I was hired as a keeper. I’ve been here ever since. And though I have been offered jobs at other zoos, including San Diego and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I ended up staying here for the quality of life, family and a strong belief that the Rosamond Gifford Zoo is a truly special place that has so much to give to the Central New York Community.
As you can see the Rosamond Gifford Zoo team is dedicated to their elephant herd and elephants around the globe. They’ve made a commitment to helping their elephant ambassadors make a real impact in their community and beyond. IEF is honored to receive their support!