He's where the wild things are
for N.J. safari park gives a talk at MCCC
Monday, November 26, 2007
BY JULIA ERNST
to the Times
-- Dr. William P. Rives has turned down the traditional suit-and-tie,
9-to-5 workday for heavy-duty construction boots, padded gloves and
wake-up calls that come as early as 4 a.m., asking for help in delivering
a stubborn bear cub.
Rives is director and
chief veterinarian of the Six
Park in Jackson. He spoke to students and faculty
County Community College
re cently about his experiences at the park
over the past 14 years.
"Every day is
different, which is why I love what I do," explained Rives. "You're
Rives began at Six
Flags in 1993 as a full-time vet after earning his graduate degree in
veterinary science from the University
Rives provided information
on community activities the park is involved in, caring for the animals
and treating illnesses among the park's many species. The park is doing
work on the black bear population in New
Jersey. The increase in the state's bear population
has led to many confrontations between humans and the bears in suburban
and urban environments.
Attempts to decrease
the bear population include the use of contraceptives and limiting the
number of cubs each female bear is allowed to have.
public is a key to conservation," Rives added. "It has to
start with young kids," he explained.
Rives also discussed
the park's veterinary internship and education programs.
"Out of our internship
program, so far we've had about 40 or 50 kids, 10 got into vet school."
The Wild Safari Park
is home to a diverse animal population.
"It's not a traditional
zoo," said Rives. "We have over 1,000 animals. When you come
up with plans, you also have to have plans B, C, D and E."
The health and wellness
of the animals was a prominent topic of Rives' presentation.
"With wild animals,
they mask all their illnesses because that's how they survive,"
said Rives. "Stress is a major component in deaths of animals.
It causes more problems than anything else."
Pregnancy and birth
are closely monitored aspects of the animals' lives that the park staff
must keep track of.
"We don't want
to overbreed, so we have a population map," said Rives.
"We don't want births in the winter or the summer. We plan so we
know when we're going to have that baby."
Diagnoses and treatment
are very different with animals than with humans, explained Rives.
how you're going to react," said Rives. "You have a small
window of time to make a difference."
Managing such a large
number of animals is a lot of work. The park has 24 full-time employees,
in addi tion to seasonal workers,
administrators, keepers and technicians.
has its own building, its own paddock, its own heat," said Rives.
"Everything is about safety. The staff is really helpful; they
know these animals."
an associate professor of biology at MCCC who organized the speech,
said she was impressed with Rives' presentation.
"I attended an
all-day workshop for New Jersey
biology teachers and spent six hours behind the scenes," she explained.
"I thought he had a lot of good information to share."
a student at MCCC, said she enjoyed the presentation.
"He was entertaining,"
she said of Rives. "I found it very interesting to learn all of
those animal facts."
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