Lake Superior Zoo, Duluth, Minnesota

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Friday, January 18, 2013

The New Girl
Blog by Kim Matteen

I work at a zoo- I can’t believe it!  After 25+ years of working in mental health I really was taking things in a totally different direction. Some might argue that it wasn’t that big of a leap.  I will be blogging my “steep learning curve” in the hopes that you can have some fun reading about my adventures and learning more about the zoo at the same time.

Day One:  Within the first hour of my employment with the Lake Superior Zoo I had already played with 3 ferrets and been “warned” by a beautiful little bird native to the Amazon area to take it s-l-o-w while saying hello.  I’m not shy and I was on a mission to introduce myself to “Cricket”.  A former co-worker had to find a new home for Cricket after developing allergies and the nice folks at the zoo took him in.  My new boss Sam gave me some good and sage advice.  “Kim, just assume that all of the animals here might be able to bite you.  They probably won’t, but just keep that in mind.”

Day Two:  1/15/12  Everything I learned about lemurs I learned from “Madagascar” movies.  Peter, the Director of Zoo Operations was kind enough to educate me about the matriarchal society lemurs live in- so actually, “King Jullian” should really have been “Queen Julie Ann”.  Over at the “PCC” (Primate Conservation Center) I met Dave and Emily- devoted and talented keepers who were kind enough to show me the wonderful improvements for the animals in the nocturnal exhibit.  I was surprised and relieved to find 2 very relaxed foxes (yes, they were the same ones that in the “old days” that would pace incessantly).  Changes to their exhibit and diligent work by the keepers had helped calm their anxieties.  So much so, that these foxes had given birth to two kits that they raised to “adulthood”.  Quite a feat!

Day Three:  Zookeepers are artists.  Yep.  It was surprising to me as well.  Take the new Gila Monster exhibit for instance.  James is working on creating a visually appealing exhibit that is also pleasing to the Gila Monsters.  A fair amount of consultation on color, texture and design occurred today as James was working on creating the rocks for the exhibit.  It seemed that opinions were plentiful and I had a great view of the activity from my office. At the end of the day I stopped by to check it out for myself.  Not bad for a guy who is more passionate about hatching Peeking Duck eggs than forming, shaping painting fake rocks out of high density foam. 

Day Four:  Peter, our Director of Zoo Operations made the announcement on the two way radio system-  “Attention All Staff- Berlin will be going on exhibit this morning at 9:30 at her new home at the Kansas City Zoo.  You can see her live on their bear cam.”  Here’s the link: .
Ahhh- I love technology!  I couldn’t log on fast enough.  After stumbling around on the big world wide web I found it.  Sure enough, there she was!  I got goose bumps and even a little tearful.  

Next: spread the good word.  I had the opportunity to write a short press release.  My original title was “Lake Superior Zoo’s Berlin Goes On Exhibit”.  Our Education Director Sarah kindly stopped by after receiving my emailed version and said, “Kim, you may want to make a change to that title.  People might get confused and think that Berlin is back here and on exhibit if it wasn’t read carefully.”  She’s one smart lady.  The press release was edited to read “Lake Superior Zoo’s Berlin Goes on Exhibit in Kansas City”.  Much better.  Thanks, Sarah.  And just in case you’re wondering, so far today no one has asked to visit Berlin.

Day Five:  I knew it was going to happen sooner or later.  It took a 4 ½ days and I’m not sure if I should be disappointed or pleased, but I’m interesting to look at!   Well, at least I was for about a half a minute to at least one little boy this afternoon.

My (small) office has 2 windows that open up to the lower level of the main building. I am the first person to use this office that has opened the blinds.  It’s like I’m on exhibit.  Talk about a learning experience.

I made eye contact with my admirer.  Then I surprised him by putting a big-eyed stuffed tree frog up to the window.  He laughed.  So did I.  It’s the little things that can bring joy. 

My “Week One” is wrapped up.  I can say with certainty that I’ll show up again on Monday.  Good place.  Great people.  Awesome animals.  Happy Friday, everyone!

posted by Keely Johnson at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay to a great first day!

January 20, 2013 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

For a moment while I was reading your article I struck to me that I always thought about this thing. But could not put it into words! How you do this is marvelous. Wedding sarees

June 21, 2013 at 2:09 AM  

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