Thursday, April 3, 2008

White Oak Conservation Center

Alright, so I know this is a food blog. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve found that I really love writing about food. And talking about food. And, of course, eating food. But at the same time, it’s my blog, so I’ve decided to break from the norm a bit and tell you all about an unusual experience I had this week.

I’ve had the week off from teaching for spring break, but ended up cooking for clients on Monday and Tuesday. I would have loved to take the entire week of, but, they’re depending on me, and quite honestly I’m depending on the money. So that’s how my week started, but on Wednesday it started to get interesting.

I have a cousin who is currently interning at White Oak Conservation Center just outside of Jacksonville. Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either. White Oak is a wildlife research facility focusing on endangered and at risk animals.

I’m sure it’s not a secret that I’m not exactly, well, a nature type of person. I think I went camping once as a child when I was in Indian Princesses. In both high school and college, I had friends that loooved to camp. But I think their idea of roughing it was to get as drunk and stoned as possible and pass out by the campfire. Regardless, and point being, I don’t exactly run towards forests (especially after seeing Blair Witch Project!). But after a fantastic report from my grandmother, I decided to head on up towards Georgia and see what all the hoopla was about. And I’m really glad that I did.

My fears were soon head on as we drove on the dirt/clay road for a few miles, my Matrix creaking and groaning the whole time. But as we pulled up to my cousin’s housing (after passing through strict security), I was literally amazed to see the Rhinos just a few feet away from the building. My cousin lives above the hospital unit in an African inspired dorm unit and we settled in for a few minutes while she went to collect semen from a crane. Yeah, I’m not kidding. I remember pushing her around in a stroller and now look at her.

After the unsuccessful collection, we hit the road for a tour. Here are the highlights:

The Cheetahs:
Currently suffering from habitat destruction and being killed as livestock predators in Africa.

Scary Cheetah on his way.

But it turns out he is Max, hand raised and quite sweet. His purr was very very lound!

Max fur.

My cousin and I with the baby Cheetah she has been raising.

Really, how cute is this?

The Cassowary:
Aggressive with long dagger like claws (hello Jurassic Park!). The bird that which “the most human fatalities have been attributed”. It also made scary noises!

The Maned Wolf:
Described as looking like a tall fox, these wolves have a distinct skunk like odor.

This one in particular was quite aggressive and apparently does not like blondes.

The Okapi:
A native of the Republic of Congo, this animal is in the Giraffe family. Quite skiddish, it’s kick can decapitate a human. It’s velvety fur is quite oily leaving a dark brown shine on finger tips. (And apparently, after petting it, we also heard that it tends to head butt people).

The Giraffe:

They really love bay leaves!

My favorite part of the day!

I hoped you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. White Oak is not open to the public, but continues to be a leading center for research and reproduction of endangered species.
Check out their website:

And since this is a hodgepodge entry, here's me and my buddy Anthony:


Amy said...

I loved the animal pictures. How come they let Anthony out of his cage?

astronette said...

What about all the wild asses?

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