A farm reunion and my new goat companion!

Little Owl Farm

My second University year is quickly approaching an end, and what an incredible year it’s been! I’ve expanded on my knowledge, developed new interests and, wholeheartedly, become more confident as an Animal Behaviourist. I’m currently away from Bangor for the Easter break, as I focus heavily on my studies in preparation for my upcoming May exams: Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Practice.

Let your mind and heart rest for a while. You will catch up, the world will not stop spinning for you, but you will catch up. Take a rest.

While I’ve been increasingly motivated to engage in my studies productively, I also began recognising that I was in dire need of a break after running out of fuel following the dedication I possess with regards to meeting deadlines and completing my assignments to the best of my ability. I regularly engaged in 14 hour library study periods and soon began feeling overwhelmed. I’m *slowly* learning that breaks are OK, and necessary in order for us to thrive and concentrate fully.

Thankfully, I’ve seized the opportunity to reunite with my wonderful friends at Little Owl Farm (animal and human) who continuously welcome me back lovingly with a warm embrace. Whilst also balancing revision, blogging and allowing myself to appreciate valuable family time. It’s been a pleasure spending time in my happy place, and I’m excited for the upcoming Summer months.

Being the goat lady of the farm, I was extremely excited to meet new arrival, Gabriel, son of Poppy and little brother to Mary-Jane. I was ecstatic after hearing of his arrival and I desperately wanted to leave Uni early to meet him, but I persisted nonetheless and counted down the days until I had one extra goat companion. This made the usually lengthy journey to the farm increase accordingly as I sat eagerly waiting to arrive in Oldham. Gabriel received his fitting name as per the “cross-like” marking on his head. Izaak wanted to name him Elvis, which I believe to be his middle name.

Of course, he was jumping around excitedly as I arrived at the farm while I cooed over his cuteness and remained in awe over his long legs, in-between suckling and making himself comfortable with other inhabitants of the farm. He’s begun favouring the Donkeys as he jumps into their enclosure contentedly.

Lots of quality time allowed me to recognise his distinctive brown eyes and soft, fluffy fur. And similar to Poppy and Mary-Jane, he had stunning markings and a wonderful personality.

As an animal behaviourist, I love spending time observing the different behaviours exhibited by animals and concluding the reasons behind them. It became apparent to me that Poppy is an incredible mum, she groomed Gabriel within seconds of giving birth and he’s certainly developing into quite the character! She also observes him carefully, allows him to suckle without rejection and enables people to get close to him.

Gabriel is currently under a month old and he continues to thrive and grow at Little Owl Farm, surrounded with his family, staff and volunteers who adore him.

 

 

Olivia’s story: Animals + mental health

Mental Health

“There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need them to change your life or you’re the one that will change theirs”.

I had the privilege of meeting my wonderful, courageous friend, Olivia, through the use of social media. She very kindly opted to share her story about how rats have aided her (ongoing) recovery from multiple mental illnesses. I’m incredibly inspired by her continuous strength and bravery!

Olivia’s story:

Rats have a very unfair reputation in society.

Most people judge rats before they get to know them, they’re known as bad, something to be afraid of, something to avoid. A bit like mental health. People are too quick to judge those suffering with mental health problems, many people are demonized for their mental health, depression is a subject that’s avoided, anorexia an illness that’s so harmful yet people refuse to take seriously. Psychosis, personality disorders, the kind of mental health illness that people fear purely through ignorance.

Olivia’s companion helped her to overcome one of her fear foods implemented by her Anorexia battle, as he kept her company and provided a happy distraction.

When I say ‘people’ it’s not relating to anyone in particular and I also want to make it clear that there are SO many wonderful, supportive, understanding, patient people in this world that help others each and everyday. It’s just a shame that even with all the good a few negative comments, a few people that refuse to be educated can be more visible than all the good.

Anyway back to animals (as you can probably tell I find it hard to stay on topic ah!). Rats especially have had such an important part in my recovery and in my everyday life.

Animals are your silent support system, and are true proof that actions speak louder than words.

I’ve had lots of rats over the years and all have helped me massively.

Olivia doesn’t just love rats, she’s an all-round animal lover. Using her compassionate side to befriend friendly geese, alongside other animals.

My first three rats helped me through some really traumatic events in my life, my anxiety was at an all time high, I couldn’t sleep and suffered with flashbacks. My three rats helped to bring me back to reality when a flashback would happen, kept me company when I couldn’t sleep and helped to keep me calm.

My next rat honestly saved my life (even my crisis worker at the time agreed!) when I couldn’t go to school due to suffering with psychosis, self harm and suicidal thoughts he was there to help show me that it wasn’t such a bad thing I couldn’t go to school and that achievements don’t always just have to be academic. I knew I had to get up, feed him, take care of him, he gave me a purpose and would often come to crisis and CAMHS appointments with me so that I wouldn’t hallucinate as much or get so upset.

My next two boys helped me so much too, they were not with me very long but we got them as they were unwanted by their previous owners, they taught me and reminded me that it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel ‘loved’ or ‘wanted’ it’s only a feeling, not a fact. There’s always someone or something (two legged or four legged!) that needs you and loves you and that you’re important to.

My rat who lives with me now has and continues to help me each and everyday. I didn’t leave the house for about 2 months before he came, once he was there he gave me the confidence to leave the house again, he was my safety blanket and continues to be. He helped me when i couldn’t walk because I was so weak from anorexia, he laid next to me for days, sat with me at every meal I was forced to eat, he helped me to not be sectioned and most importantly he continues to help me recover each and everyday.

He was patient when I couldn’t go out because I was too ill, when I was crying, when I couldn’t sleep and when I refused to eat. When family members told me ‘just eat it’s easy’ ‘you look so much better now you’re slimmer’ ‘I wish I could loose that much weight’.

Rats are intelligent and loyal and I learned that even though people speak, sometimes it’s better to just not hear what they’re saying. Sometimes it’s better to be silent than to be unhelpful. During this time birds also really helped me. They were a symbol of freedom for me. I watched the baby geese and ducks grow up and get stronger and that’s when I realised that animals don’t care what weight you are. Animals don’t care how you look.

Animals look for inside qualities, it’s more important that they trust you than what the scales say, they showed me that eating is normal, something that you can enjoy and shouldn’t feel guilty about. Animals can be one of the best kinds of therapy (I’m absolutely all for medication and counselling and anything that’s safe that helps too!) and I’ll forever be grateful for all my animal friends.

My rats taught me that it’s important to be kind, patient and they gave me reason to live and continue to each day. They don’t measure my worth by my weight. The geese had to eat, had to grow so they could be free to fly, to not be stuck in the same place.

That’s what I want and why I’m determined to recover.

I want to be free just like the birds.

Autism and me – An insight into my characteristics

Autism

To my knowledge, everybody on the Autistic spectrum struggles with different aspects. Whether that’s beginning a conversation, using public transport alone or becoming comfortable with wearing only a specific brand/item of clothing.

For example, I’m obsessed with (vegan) Doc Martens and no longer feel comfortable wearing other footwear types. My friends Etta and Ava (also on the spectrum) love vintage clothing and have a preference for Lindy Bop in particular.

Our struggles can often result in sensory overloads and feelings of discomfort whilst we struggle to process bundles of information from the world around us.

I prefer not to relate to my struggles as “symptoms”. My Autism isn’t a disease, it doesn’t require a cure.

Feelings and emotions.

People on the spectrum are often misunderstood as being unable to feel. Though, in fact, the emotions we feel can be more complex than those without Autism. I personally find it hard to find a comfortable and maintainable balance with my moods, therefore either being extremely happy or worryingly low.

I believe that people with Autism are increasingly more sensitive than those without, or at least that’s the way it’s been established in my case.

I personally struggle with understanding and expressing my emotions. I quickly become distressed and go into meltdown following the anguish I hold to be able to release my thoughts, as opposed to managing them alone. I cannot always express the times I feel down, but it’s made easier in the form of emailing.

Busy places.

People with Autism often become distressed in situations filled with lots of people, due to the sensory overloads we face. The noise can become daunting, we can quickly feel trapped, the crowds can seem overwhelming and as though there is no escape, and the anxiety levels start to run high.

I prefer quite, solitary places. So the supermarkets offering Autistic friendly quiet hours definitely have my approval!

Loud noises.

It’s often commented upon that I have sensitive hearing, as I regularly comment on noises I have the ability to hear whereas those around me don’t. Ie: background noise on a tv programme or the sound of my cat from a far distance. This also means that I struggle with loud noises, I dislike the sounds of hoovers and the sirens of emergency services passing by, which I know cannot be avoided.

I view this as a positive attribute. I’ll hear animals in danger and I’ll very rarely miss out on important information.

Special interests.

I become particularly engrossed in my passion and admiration for animals, which has become my area of high education study. I talk about goats (alot) to anybody who’ll listen, really and I wish to become an animal behaviourist. I absolutely adore animals, we share a special bond and and I wish for them to be involved in my every day thoughts and routine.

I love that my Autism has expanded my interest of animals and that I’ve had the ability to maintain such a special interest throughout the duration of my life.

Understanding sarcasm.

In light of recent weeks, I’ve discovered that I can only understand sarcasm if I’m the one issuing the sarcastic comment. However, if another person makes a sarcastic statement, I cannot always interpret it, meaning I quite often take things literally and become confused about the situation.

Florida: Day eight 🇺🇸

The Florida Files

The sun was gleaming down on what was set to be the hottest day we had encountered throughout the duration of the Florida trip.

I was still suffering the (often confusing) effects of jet lag gained from both a combination of travelling and a significant different in time zones between The US and The UK. (Five hours!) Fortunately for me, this meant I was awake and ready, prepared to watch the morning sunrise whilst sitting comfortably in the presence of a blue heron (Ardea herodias) a known visual hunter who then proceeded to loudly vocalise before rapidly fleeing the area.

We began driving to Barefoot Beach at 9:45am, excited to reunite with Jimmy to gain a deeper understanding about various shells, following Jimmy’s strong and most upmost passion – Beach-combing.

Beach combing is an activity that consists of an individual combing on the beach and on the intertidal zone, looking for things of value, interest or utility. 

Beach combing made an appearance in Herman Melville’s novel – Omoo, (translated as wanderer) which was published in 1947. A tale about enchanting adventures partaken in the Southern Seas.

Throughout the years, Jimmy had taken up the hobby and had soon become mesmerised by his unique and fascinating findings as he trailed the beach during various points of the day. Although, he joyously announced that he had a preference for early morning, when the beach was quiet and there seemed to be a greater amount of shells and other items for him to keenly collect.

Sea beans, originating from The Caribbean and South America, stand as one of Jimmy’s preferred species to collect amongst the beach. And the Ecuadorian current has started to bring them near the Gulf Of Mexico.

Sea beans are often referred to as drift seeds and can be defined as seeds and fruits that are carried to the ocean by freshwater streams and rivers to then drift within the ocean.

There are also sea hearts which come from the monkey ladder vine that grows in The Amazon Rainforest alongside the Columbus bean, also originating from The Amazon. Sea glass is also an incredible species, known as mermaids tears, which are small fragments of glass that have been washed up, giving them a frostier appearance.

The best known time for beach combing is during times with a low tide and a new moon, or following a storm.

Some species are known to become caught up in wrack lines, meaning they act like a natural packing material. The species are rare and valuable and are often used as currency, or Wompum (The Native term for money).

We then made our way to the beach for the duration of one hour, where we proceeded to scan our open surroundings for unique shells which we had the pleasure of identifying. Successfully, we collected a wide range of items, including corals, shells that resembled cat paws and horn shells.

Whenever we met Jimmy, I became increasingly more enkindled upon hearing stories about his passions and the facts he delivered about species and their fascinating histories.

Autism and me – Autism Awareness Month

Autism

It’s Autism Awareness Month throughout the whole duration of April and the second one I’ve proudly celebrated. (Yay!) I’ll regularly be updating my blog throughout the duration of April to share more in relation to Autism Awareness.

I first began blogging about my Autism in 2017, a year after receiving my diagnosis.

Just yesterday, my Tutor told me to take it easy after undergoing Autistic meltdowns and subjecting to my tendencies to give myself too many tasks to handle (oops!) I’m making it my mission to find a balance in life, between working and avoiding falling into a rut of overdoing things.

However I struggle to rest, but I love to write, so here I am!

Prior to receiving my diagnosis, I lacked knowledge on all things Autism, and I certainly had no understanding of an Autism Awareness Month. Heck, I thought I knew what Autism looked like… (I’ll see myself out).

I’m proud of my Autism, I embrace my differences and I’m proud of my passions. I wish for everybody to feel pride in themselves, their accomplishments and the strength of overcoming a bad day. The World needs more love and less judgement, to accept differences instead of attempting to cure them.

Despite everything, and the constant battles I face to accept myself for who I am, I wouldn’t change my animal-loving self, and I most definitely wouldn’t change my Autism. Autism isn’t a disease, why should we wish to cure it?

Everyone has a mountain to climb and autism has not been my mountain, it has been my opportunity for victory.

Throughout the years, my knowledge and understanding on Autism has expanded significantly. I’m aware of not only the difficulties I face on a personal day-to-day basis, but I made it my upmost aim to gain a wider understanding into mutual struggles shared by those on the vast spectrum, because I wanted to help. I found that it’s not only important to accept ourselves, but to accept others, too. Be kind to others, be kind to ourselves.

Though having said that, it’s apparent that no two people on the Autistic spectrum are the same, as often misjudged, and it’s vital that we establish that. The spectrum is large, filled with people of all ages, genders and races. We hold unique interests that hold high levels of importance to us, we communicate and understand things to a different degree and develop at different paces.

None of that is wrong, it’s diverse.

I find that I easily become engrossed in a subject area and devote my energies to that, I love sharing my interests with others, which is why I constantly talk about goats and the reason I’ve been super engaged with my Behavioural Ecology module. I believe that my Autism and my strong passion for animals alongside the bonds I continue to form with them as companions lead to me opting to go down an animal related career path.

Autism awareness is crucial, always. Our conditions don’t magically erase after reaching adulthood. I was diagnosed in my late teens and others have been diagnosed in their 50’s. Aspies face our fair share of challenges and are often misunderstood following the lack of knowledge in specific areas. Ie: sensory overloads and autistic burnouts. Our behaviours have a tendency to be recognised oppositely, our quietness can be seen as rudeness, our politeness can be viewed as evolving attachment issues. We can often become confused by small talk and sarcasm efforts, distressed in busy places and caught up in our favourite activity, but that doesn’t mean we should be overlooked.

It’s hard to adapt in an ever-changing society when change is one of your largest fears.

My Autism diagnosis changed my life, quite literally, for the better. I’ve evolved to an acceptance stage after periods of shame and embarrassment. I love opening up about my Autism, after recognising that I have no reason to be ashamed, looking up to fellow animal lovers including Temple Grandin and the wonderful people I met in my support groups. I’ve learned more about myself and my struggles, and have used them as stepping stones to achieve wonderful milestones. I’ve made friends, I’ve made memories. But most importantly, I’ve grown.

For more information about Autism, please visit The National Autistic Society here:

https://www.autism.org.uk

Florida – Day seven: Part two 🇺🇸

The Florida Files

After the talk we received from Jerry, we were quickly divided into two groups after stepping outside to enable us to carry out two different activities throughout the refuge.

This allowed us to smoothly alternate between the activities we were occupying at the time.

I noticed various resources during my visit at the reserve, even amongst the beach, issuing advice and key information to the public about different issues – including plastic use and its impact on marine life, whilst encouraging people to avoid littering as a method of keeping beaches clean and protecting animals.

The first activity we engaged in was shell collecting to allow us to complete a dichotomous key. We went shell collecting along the secluded beach to enable us to create a factual dichotomous key with a sample size of ten shells per group (working in small groups of three). Dichotomous keys are often used in an assortment of species identifications typically amongst zoologists and biologists.

The shells differed in their size, shape and colour which could serve as indicators to enable us to easily distinguish them all (similar to those carried out in animal behaviour studies) Some shells gathered were small and pointed, whereas others were larger and more rounded.

During the shell collecting activity, we learned the seriousness of taking shells off the beach and the fact it can result in severe punishments in the eyes of the Law. Shells were not to be excluded from the beach as they were closely protected. But Jerry’s licence, aswell as his profession as an educator to people of all ages, enabled us to gain the permission to do so.

Dichotomous key: A tool that allows the user to determine the identity of items in the natural world.

Seine fishing: A method of fishing that employs a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. 

We became involved in a method of fishing named Seine fishing, where four individuals of the group would stand in the sea with a gigantic net, allowing them to easily encircle a variety of fish species.

The net was then dragged to land, myself and the other students (including teenagers from a local high school) had the job of picking the fish up from out of the net and placing them into an assortment of grey coloured treys.

The process was speedy, as we wanted to limit the number of species’ deaths during the experiment as a result of them remaining out of water for too long.

We categorised the fish to allow us to discover the frequency of the fish we had entangled within the net, with the aims of detecting whether some species appeared to be more abundant in comparison to others.

Throughout the duration of the experiment, we unfortunately experienced a mass of fish moralities due to accompanying reasons such as stress and heat exposure. In scientific research, moralities are expected due to many underlying factors. And the remainder of the fish were luckily freed back into their natural, open environment after the research had been carried out and recorded.

Seine fishing can withstand both pros and cons: It’s an excellent method for catching schools of fish, though the method can quickly become unsustainable if the population of that species cannot withstand it.

Autism and me: Suffering or growing?

Autism

It’s vastly approaching the 3-year bracket in which I received my Autism diagnosis back in 2016.

Time has truly flown by!

I often hear the term “suffering from Autism” which I felt encouraged to shed some light on, as somebody on the complex Autistic spectrum.

I understand that the spectrum is large and people enlisted upon it face their share of physical and mental difficulties. Everybody, of course, is entitled to their own opinion.

This is a reflection upon my story so far.

Autism for me has been a challenge, a continuous one beginning with acceptance and understanding, to growing the strength to challenge myself daily and to overcome any hurdles lingering in my direction.

Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colours every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion, and encounter every aspect of existence.

Some days I can wholeheartedly conquer The World and my intrusive thoughts. I can surprise myself with my strength and determination to tackle scary situations. Other days I simply cannot hinder the complexity of my thoughts, I cannot leave the house or tackle a conversation.

Balance is the key to life and that is okay.

I no longer devote time to questioning my struggles and areas of weakness. Instead, I accept them and the stage I am at. I use them as stepping stones for overcoming future hurdles and as indicators of the times I’ve refused to be beaten.

I’ve not once considered myself to suffer with Autism. Although, initially, I struggled to associate myself with my condition and would easily become distressed when the subject was mentioned. I remained ridden with questions until I attended support groups and met other like-minded people like myself.

Adults on the spectrum with inspiring stories to tell, achieving amazing milestones and overcoming the biggest obstacles in life.

I once believed receiving an Autism diagnosis would be the end of The World. It seemed catastrophic and daunting and it certainly does frustrate me at times. But I began to realise that my Autism wasn’t the issue, the way I viewed myself was.

I have so much to thank my diagnosis for.

My Autism diagnosis wasn’t the end of The World, but the beginning of a new one.

I face my fair share of mental problems stemming from anxiety and fears of the unknown. But I’ve slowly (but surely!) transitioned as somebody embarrassed of my diagnosis to somebody sharing my story willingly with The World.

And that is such a beautiful concept. Acceptance is wonderful and massively freeing.

I started to acknowledge that Autism is a profound strength of mine. With the likes of a well-known animal loving Scientist Temple Grandin and Broadcaster Chris Packham, I feel overjoyed to share a diagnosis with such intelligent people.

During one stage, where I began struggling with my lowest bouts of Depression, I narrowly avoided talking about my Autism. Over the years, I received multiple diagnosis’ and it felt like another label to add to the pile, I felt ashamed and every inch of me wanted to be normal.

I’m not suffering. Even throughout the days I struggle to leave the comfort of my home, the days I simply cannot maintain a meaningful conversation or on the days I cry following an Autistic meltdown or from a sensory overload.

I’m not suffering. I’m learning and I’m growing. And although the journey may be painful at times, often leaving me ridden with masses of questions with regards to myself, my worth and my abilities, I can acknowledge the progress I’ve made so far, which only encourages me to keep going.

To find strength, to seek happiness and to be brave.

I look back at my past self with pride and admiration for enabling myself to thrive in places I never imagined myself to. I’m learning the art of speaking to new people without assistance, the task of creating long lasting friendships and visiting new places.

My Autism isn’t making me suffer, it’s making me resilient.

I’m not suffering, I’m growing. Every day I am finding myself and transitioning into the person I’ve always longed to be.

Florida – Day seven: Part one 🇺🇸

The Florida Files

We arrived at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a non profitable organisation located in South-West Florida, at 8:15am. After an hours drive was required to reach our destination.

The Wildlife Refuge is located on Sanibel Island, in the Gulf of Mexico, Southwestern Florida and is compromised of 6400 acres.

We are a nonprofit that financially supports nature conservation, wildlife protection and education efforts for J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Southwest Florida.

The refuge gained its name after a local cartoonist (Jay Norwood Ding Darling) who prevented the land from being sold which was due to be used for other purposes. The conservationists remained well known for the creation of his duck stamps, essential stamps that have to be purchased in order to enter the refuge.

Jerry (a current volunteer at Ding Darling) presented a factual powerpoint presentation giving an indication into the past and present history of The Wildlife Refuge. The talk was both authentic and inspiring and allowed us to consider the activities we could engage in to better our planet, and to occupy conservation efforts. Jerry also, mercifully, introduced us to his wife – Belinda, who was also a current volunteer at the refuge.

Jay Norwood Darling blocked the sale of the environmentally valuable land on Sanibel Island. Darling also convinced the President at the time (President Truman) to sign an executive order to create the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge rewinding back to 1945. Moreover, the refuge changed the name to ‘JN Ding Darling’ in 1967.

Profits made at the refuge following visitor entrance fees and gift shop purchases, amongst generous public donations, is put towards conservation efforts that are carried out throughout the entirety of Ding Darling. Alas, the refuge alarmingly receives no Government funding, but works entirely to protect species and to encourage the next generations with their creditable efforts and high work ethics.

The Ding Darling Wildlife Society pays for essentials that The US Government fails to prioritise. The money is raised through various fundraising activities, aswell as through the visitor centre.

Carolina Parakeet: This species is the only species of parakeet that lives in The US. However, the species went extinct back in 1939, and the last known species tragically passed away in captivity (Simpsonati Zoo).

Passenger Pigeon: This species passed away in the same cage as the late Carolina Parakeet, though during the sooner date of 1914. Passenger pigeons are reliant on forests to aid their survival, but the species struggled to adapt to changing environmental conditions due to market hunting which wiped out the forests.

Moran and aesthetic nature preservation: John Muir is the President of the Sierra Club, who composed that ‘Nature deserves to exist for its own sake regardless of the degree of usefulness to humans’. The preservation exists and helped to establish The National Park Service in 1916.

Modern environmentalism: The industrial explosion occurring as a result of WW2 added new environmental concerns, which therefore allowed the Environmental Agenda to be expanded in both 1960 and 1970 to begin to include: Atomic weapons testing, fossil fuel issues, air and water pollution and wilderness protection.

The first National Earth Day began in the 1970’s as a result of an establishment of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

Global concerns have increased over time, due to an expansion of greater technology and communications alongside a better understanding surrounding different concepts and ideas, with previously little information available in relation to them. Environmental events and concerns are now reported Worldwide, therefore we gain an understanding into issues and improvements occurring around The World. The events also reported both locally and regionally.

Environmental issues include: Climate change, energy, biodiversity, human rights, agriculture/food, population, water and consumerism.

The refuge allows visitors to view a vast selection of animals in their natural environment, including 245 bird species which occupy a larger diversity throughout migratory seasons (January-April).

We walked around the refuge, witnessing charismatic red mangroves which gain their distinctive redness due to a lack of oxygen. The mangroves appeared to be home to bird species, including the white ibis perching upon a mangrove branch.

A normal, unharmed, manatee bone typically weighs roughly 2lbs, but with damage, the bone’s weight suffers an increase of a dangerous 6lbs.

We read the tragic story of a glorious manatee named J.Mullett, who became known during her first sighting on March 11th, 1996, whilst understanding the causes of her unfortunate mortality. Mullett first became sighted in Crystal River, FL and was easily identifiable because of the healing wound located behind her head, amongst significant propeller wounds from her mid-tail to tail base.

She also had a pit tag fitted beneath her skin to help locate and identify her.

The case of J.Mullett: Named J as she was found in the month of January, and Mullett, as the location she was found in had the name of ‘Mullett’s Gullett’.

The manatee was released back into the wild (Crystal River) on December 5th 2000, after 2 years of seeking rehabilitation (starting January 2nd 1999) at Lowry Park Zoo for her noted injuries.

Mullett suffered abnormal signs of breakage in her ribs, therefore developing an abnormal growth following an impact with a boat. (Air boats are popularly used throughout The Everglades, despite not being very environmentally or wildlife friendly, to encompass a range of species).

Manatees often appear in areas of human activity, which have big associations with the numbers of declining manatee in The World, often becoming injured from boat propellers, which can cause swelling in the muscles surrounding the tailbone, which negatively impacts the manatees abilities to swim efficiently, and without difficulties.

A necropsy case file revealed the avoidable causes of Mullett’s death. She received multiple strikes from passing by boats in the area she was inhabiting, which caused abnormal bone growth in both her ribs and her skeleton. The findings also informed us that a discarded fishing line was found located in her small intestine and colon, again, highlighting the human impacts upon marine life. The fishing line caused multiple injuries, including internal damage and the blockage of her intestines, which fabricated eating, digesting and defecating difficulties.

Devastatingly, Mullett had given birth to her calf and was said to be nursing her just 6 days before she gruesomely died.

How did J.Mullett die?

  • Watercraft: Collision with hull and/or propeller or any type of watercraft.
  • Crushed/drowned in a floodgate or a canal lock.
  • Perinatal: Death of a newborn manatee less than 5 feet long.
  • Death due to cold weather exposure.
  • Other natural causes: Infection, disease, birth complications, natural accidents or natural events (such as red tide poisoning).
  • Unfortunately, the causes of death have had no success in being determined.

Florida – Day Six 🇺🇸

The Florida Files, University

Florida Golf Coast University partners with my University in The UK. (Bangor University). Today, we visited and had a tour of their mesmerising campus, which seemed to be a completely different world to the small Welsh town we were all accustomed to.

Arriving at approximately 9am, we were all soon astounded when we viewed the university. Filled with restaurants, tall colourful buildings, home to alligators and with a gym placed on each floor in the halls of residence, it really was a step away from little Bangor!

And I imagine the campus itself was larger than Bangor as a whole!

Two lovely guides (Katie and Rachel) who were current students at the university kindly guided us around the campus, filling our minds with facts about the university and in depth details about courses and student life. Fun fact: The medical campus has a realistic “doll” that gives birth to up to three babies at a time, and it can go off randomly, which gives the students a random and valuable practicing experience, enabling them to learn to deal with given scenarios, as they head towards their chosen careers.

It sounded extremely appealing. I particularly liked and respected the sustainability efforts FGCU engaged in, including food forests and the appliance of solar panels around campus. It’s always inspiring to see Universities encouraging students and staff to engage in more sustainable, better for the planet, changes.

Soon after our typical, tourist-y group photo, we headed up to floor four for a talk from a student, and his work on sword-tail fishes. This lasted for around an hour, as we sat comfortably in reclinable chairs in the most hi-tech computer lab. The talk was interesting and went into in-depth detail about molecular ecology and prey identification, alongside thrilling information about the sword tail species. Admittedly, not my favoured study areas, but an interesting talk all the same.

The afternoon had arisen, it was time for an adventurous swamp walk outside the university campus, which I loved taking part in! (Even if my Lecturer did threaten to drag me in when he almost fell…) And, with wet shoes at the ready, we were soon knee deep in water, surrounded with nature, whilst climbing freely over logs and clinging onto branches and leaves for trustworthy purposes with the *peaceful* sounds of students screaming as they attempted to avoid falling face flat in the murky swamp.

Of course, being Zoologists always up for an adventure and a new challenge, we followed our lecturer who remained enthusiastic to lead us down the pathway clearly labelled “NOT A TRAIL”, which I believe only added to the enjoyment and happy memories formed that day.

After an incredible time wading through the swamp, occupying a range of new bruises and insect bites throughout, we quickly dried ourselves off on the crisp green grass and headed to a nearby shopping mall.

Throughout the short journey, I attempted to remove a collaboration of twigs tucked neatly in my hair. A swamp memorabilia?

We firstly headed into a shop (which I apologetically forgot the name of) which sold a vast range of interesting outdoor items. From walking gear and tents, to guns!!

Of course, guns are legal in The US, but the experience of seeing them closely for a first time was a surreal experience. Guns of all sizes and colours (even pink!) I was personally unaware of how available guns were to the public, so it was reassuring to know that checks on individuals are vitally carried out before purchase. Though, worrying all the same…

After a wander around the first shop, we then headed into a surfers shop which was incredible and had a beautiful range of clothing items and accessories available, for both males and females. I purchased a stunning, colourful tie-dye t-shirt in aid of turtle conservation, with profits going towards helping the endangered species.

Interestingly, we strolled through the surf shop until we reached the exit, soon finding ourselves back outdoors in the blazing heat, surrounded with stunning views and the oddly silent surroundings.

In the not-so-far distance, a puppy shop was facing us, which I (prior to stepping inside) believed to be a common pet shop. However, I soon came to the realisation that this was in fact a puppy farm in disguise after noticing distressed puppies for sale inside, some overly crowded in enclosures whilst others were going mentally insane from the lack of company, alongside both physical and mental stimulation.

And, heartbreakingly, all puppies were away from their mothers, with very few toys to play with. We stayed for a little while, stoking the puppies (they weren’t allowed to be held) and issuing them with entertainment and love.

Again, with puppy farms leading such a huge controversy in The UK, it was baffling to encounter one in a different country which appeared to be completely normalised. It made me wonder about differences in animal rights and welfare across the globe, why some of us were campaigning for places similar to be abolished, whereas others evidently had no issues with them.

Conservation practice meets Behavioural Ecology – Chimp practical, measuring behaviour and compiling ethograms!

Behaviour Ecology, University

As a component of my Conservation Practice module, we began (much to my fulfilment) learning about the importance of, and the roles, of animal behaviour in conservation.

It’s been a joy to combine my two passions!

Therefore, in order to carry out our own study and to gain a further insight into the area, we headed to Welsh Mountain Zoo where we proceeded to carry out a chimp practical.

Peter (a keeper at the Zoo) gave us a talk about the chimps, their feeding habits and ways in which we could identify each individual, since there are 11 chimps living at the zoo (including males and females) this could’ve been considerably difficult. Some chimps were easy to distinguish, especially Mabel, since she was the oldest of the group, the smallest and had noticeable sexual swelling on her behind.

It was interesting to hear about the chimp’s captive diet, where they are fed a range of vegetables and special primate pellets, alongside fruits occasionally acting as a treat. I believe the prime feeding method used is scatter feeding, which is wonderful at replicating natural feeding habits and encouraging foraging (searching) behaviours. And, of course, limiting boredom and creating both mental and physical stimulation.

The process began by placing ourselves into groups of six, enabling us to work together to compile a list of behaviours and codes which we could implement into our ethograms. Ie: feeding, movement and resting behaviours. The behaviours noted were then coded, so (for example) feeding was listed as FE.

We divided the group into pairs, with one group observing their chosen male chimp, whereas my friend and I studied an easily identifiable female chimp – Katie.

For a duration of one hour we kept our eyes on Katie, closely observing her every move and flinch. To implement accuracy to the study, we ensured we didn’t take our eyes off Katie, as we wanted to avoid missing any behaviours, with one of us engaging in recording duties and the other acting as the source of information in regards to the behaviours being carried out, alongside the times they began and finished. And some behaviours interestingly had a longer duration than others and it was wonderful witnessing Katie using a stick as a tool to aid her foraging behaviour.

During the practical, we noted a range of behaviours. Including perching, feeding, climbing and vocalisations which were noted shortly after being fed, as Katie proudly left the outdoor area, walking back indoors mischievously armed with vegetables.

After an hour, the alarm ringed and it was time to end the experiment, which was a blast to carry out! The information gathered could then be collated into an organised ethogram, preferably in hierarchical order, which can be added to our behaviour reports.