Donor and former Zoo Commission President, Shelby Kaplan Sloan established the Sloan Animal Keeper Advanced Studies Fund in 2003 to provide keepers with opportunities for hands-on field experiences with particular animals. Upon completing their fieldwork, they share their experiences and insights with the staff and the animals at the Zoo.
2004 Sloan Grant
Recipient of the 2004 Sloan Grant, Animal Keeper Tami Goodson used her funding to study at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida. Her experiences there have continued to enrich her life, even after retiring from the Zoo.
In 2004, I was very fortunate to be one of the first recipients of the Sloan Animal Keeper Advanced Studies Grant. As a great ape keeper, my focus was on aging apes, apes with special needs, and behavioral enrichment. With this in mind I chose to go to the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula Florida.
In January 2005 I arrived in Florida and made my way to the Center for Great Apes, founded by the amazing Patti Ragan in 1993. I was able to stay on site at this magical place where Patti rescues apes from private homes, roadside zoos, research facilities, and the entertainment industry. Chimpanzees and orangutans all find a forever home here. Starting with just two apes in 1993, Patti now houses over 40 apes of all ages— and some with special needs, including Knuckles, a chimpanzee born in 1999 with cerebral palsy. This was an area of special interest to me because one of our orangutans, Eloise, has the same condition. I was able to participate in the daily care provided for Knuckles and bring back some ideas that we implemented at the L.A. Zoo. I was also able to share some of our special care techniques with them.
Aging apes was another area that we discussed in depth as we shared how we were all dealing with apes who are living longer. We now must provide lifelong care to apes with heart problems, injuries, and limited mobility due to arthritis, just to name a few. Above all I found that all these apes were handi-capable, NOT handicapped.
Some of the great things about this trip were seeing Patti’s unique chute system, how well all the apes were taken care of, and the dedicated staff. They really focus on behavioral enrichment and I was able to bring back some new ideas: frozen monkey chow balls, cutting boards with fake grass for peanut butter spread, and black tubs containing applesauce and Cheerios set outside the enclosure that provide apes with an opportunity to use sticks to fish for snacks.
Making a friend for life, I have been back to the center to visit and to see all the new apes, old friends and I still support them by being a member. I am in touch with Patti a few times a year and have seen her at conferences on occasion. I would like to thank Mrs. Shelby Sloan for her ongoing support. Her grant provided me and other hard working and dedicated L.A. Zoo animal keepers the opportunity to travel and further their education in the animal field.