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Welcome to Riverswind notes

I hope you will join in my adventures here in Humboldt County and elsewhere as I explore nature & people.



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Monday, October 6, 2008

Close calls

In the early 70's while Murray Fowler was on sabatical leave I worked with Dr. Roy Hendrickson on Zoo rounds at the Sacramento Zoo. In those days the Zoo was a mish mash of farm-like enclosures for many of the Ungulates and Camels. We needed to restrain a camel to check it's foot for a problem noted by one of the keepers. It was roped around the neck and then tied to a large post in the ground. As we moved in to check the foot the camel reared back and the post came flying out of the ground. The camel more frightened by the post began turning in circles and the post became a flying missle which nearly wiped a couple of us out as it circled the entire enclosure.
Everyone luckily got out of the way but it was a very close call on that day.

While assisting Murray Fowler get a young camel into a cattle scale to weigh it the camel became nervous and got one of it's legs between the outer rail. As I grabbed the camels foot to push it back into the chute it turned and grabbed me by the back of the neck. Murray saved my life by punching the camel squarely on the nose which caused it to release it's hold on my neck. Had it shook it's head with my neck in it's teeth I wouldn't be sitting here writing about it today. I've always appreciated that Murray did what he had to do on that day. For the next week or so I walked around with my head slightly tilted and a very sore neck.

Murray Fowler and I were inside the Giraffe Barn at the Sacramento Zoo trying to get a long stomach tube down the throat of a recumbant Giraffe. During the procedure the Giraffe began thrashing it's long legs as if running on it's side. As it continued to thrash on the straw covered floor it became clear that we were cornered and the legs were getting closer and closer.

I realized that if hit by one of the thrashing legs it would be all over so I instinctively dove over the animals body and tumbled on the floor reaching safety. When I got up Murray was still cornered and I shouted to him to jump. I remember the look on his face was one of a person faced with a do or die decision. He soon dove over the giraffe also realizing it was the only way out. Another close call!


A young male elephant was delivered to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital for castration.

Dr. Murray Fowler would be the first person to successfully castrate an elephant. Male elephants go through a musth period not clearly understood physiologically but characterized by restlessness and aggressive behavior. Castration was indicated in this particular 8 year old male named Delinger due to it's recent history of destructive behavior. After the elephant had it's Testicle removed and was recovering in a outdoor enclosure it had to be medicated with large doses of Antibiotics on a daily basis. I was given the responsibility to deliver the antibiotics with a 30 cc syringe.

This responsibilty turned out to be not only difficult but treacherous. Although the elephant was tethered by chains to a metal fence it still had the inclination to slap at me with it's tail and trunk as I injected the very viscous antibiotic slowly into it's body. I learned to bob and weave while injecting with one hand using my other to deflect the attack. It was like defensive boxing which I had learned years earlier from my step father Jimmy Britt who was a former professional out of Tacoma Washington. I also learned quickly not to get between the elephant and the fence or it would squeeze you against it. It would additionally try to step on you if you were not careful.

A good friend and Zoo keeper at the Sacramento Zoo the late Tony Peters was seriously hurt by an Elephant. The elephants legs caught him as it attempted to get up from a recumbant position and knocked him to the ground. Tony recovered from that incident but his body was never the same.