Beth Inches, the senior education specialist for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, with a blue-and-gold macaw.
Growing up in Buffalo, New York, I had the opportunity to go to Pennsylvania many times. Each time I would go through the Steel City I would stop at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. The zoological facility offers a great opportunity to connect with nature and get outside at any time of the year, with its more than 8,000 animal residents.
Beth Inches is the senior education specialist for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Inches has been working with birds for 15 years. “While in college, I completed an internship with the Education Department at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and absolutely loved the experience,?she said. After graduating, she accepted a position down the river with the zoo? Conservation Education Department.
What? her favorite bird? She said picking a favorite bird species is tough, but when cornered she would pronounce chickens the winner. “They are so animated and comical that it is hard not to smile when you see them,?she said.
This year, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is offering a new “Education Ambassadors?Wild Encounter. This unique, more personal experience is an opportunity for guests to have an up close encounter with a few of the almost 60 Conservation Education Ambassador Animals, including the birds in a smaller setting. Reservations are required.
“In addition to many of our classes that have birds incorporated, from Memorial Day through Labor Day we offer free daily presentations (weather permitting) at our Safari and Bayer Amphitheaters,?Inches said. “Presentations at both of these areas offer a chance to learn about not only birds, but a variety of other animals as well during informative, fun-filled presentations.?Afterwards, visitors are given the opportunity to get an up close encounter with the stars of the shows and take photos.
Other bird encounters that the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium offers include Flamingo Walks. On Thursday mornings during the summer peak season, the zoo? American Flamingos gangle, yet prance, throughout the zoo meeting visitors on the pathway.
Waddling through the zoo, the penguins take over on the weekends from December to March and enjoy the cold Pittsburgh winters.
A variety of classes, sleepovers, and special events year round are offered where live animals are included as part of the program. “This year, we developed a new class called “Be the Trainer,?where children learned about animal training and were then given the opportunity to help us train the education department? ducks and chickens,?Inches said.
Walk with penguins at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.
As a professional animal trainer Inches understands that going to the veterinarian could be a scary situation. To reduce the stress on the staff and animals she has trained several animals to cooperate in their own health care. She said one of the harder behaviors to train was teaching their blue-and-gold macaw to take oral medication from a syringe.
“We work with many of our animals to cooperatively join us in their care including nail/beak trims, medical exams, and prepare them in the event that they would have to take medications,?Inches added. “By having these behaviors already trained, we can be ready in case of a future health issue.?lt;/span>
The next time you find yourself driving over a myriad of bridges in the ‘Burgh stop by the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and encounter their feathered stars flying, waddling and strutting around.
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