Feb 9, 2014

Blackfish - It's actually not a hippie documentary

I know it's been quite awhile since my last post so I will update you on my life since September. I still work for a meat company, which was the job I acquired in my "I finally got a real job" post. Let me tell you, I hate it. I absolutely hate it. I have been there going on a year now. I never thought I would find myself doing the exact opposite of what I went to school for. I'll tell you why I did it. Money. You don't realize how unimportant money is until you are doing something you hate. I am currently going to school for an MBA hoping it will give me a way out of this industry. In the mean time I plan to write about what I actually love, animals.

I used to work at Shedd Aquarium so I am no stranger to people asking about keeping large mammals in captivity. The documentary that is all the rage on Netflix right now is about SeaWorld keeping orca or killer whales in captivity.

When I was younger my favorite movie was Free Willy. I loved that movie so much I asked my mom if I could go to Oregon to see Keiko when he was at the aquarium in Portland. I was in so much awe at just how large these animals are. I was so happy that he was being rehabilitated to be released into the wild even at that young of an age.

What I like about Blackfish is that I value the opinions of the people they interview. They have former SeaWorld trainers, people who witnessed the events of accidents, neuroscientists, biologists, and many other noteworthy scientists. I am usually very skeptical of documentaries because most of the time I don't value the opinion of people they choose to interview.

From SeaWorld's view, they are keeping the whales to promote business. They are very rare and valuable animals to have in captivity and are the star performers at SeaWorld. The main male in the film is named Tilikum and is the whale that killed the SeaWorld trainer a few years back in Florida. The documentary presents his violent history that was covered up from the trainers working with him as well as the public. They then went even further to use Tilikum for breeding and his genes are in a large population of captive orcas. The problem with this is that he has spread his aggressive tendencies to other whales in the population. What I found shocking was that they did not value the safety of their trainers. They unknowingly put themselves in more danger everyday because of the lack of information about Tilikum's temperament.

What I found most interesting was the discussion the neuroscientist has about whales and dolphins possessing a portion of the brain for processing emotions that was larger than humans. This is a great discovery to help prove the true intelligence marine mammals have. They go on to discuss the types of social groups the whales live in naturally and the stress captivity puts on them. Not only are they kept in small pools of warm water when they naturally spend most of their time in cool artic waters swimming hundreds of miles a day, they also have very advanced family groups. The whales in captivity are thrown together and do not always get along. This causes several problems that have even lead to whales killing other whales.

It leads to a very controversial question of keeping marine mammals in captivity, specifically large whales. I know when I was working at Shedd, they keep beluga whales. They had 7 whales and 8 or so dolphins that alternated between 5 connected pools. The belugas where never allowed to be in the same pools as the dolphins but they could interact between the gates. I liked to think these animals were healthy and well cared for in captivity. I did not see any wounds or bite marks on the animals or see any evidence of an animal chasing another. If this did happed the animals were immediately separated. The training also only used positive reinforcement. There was never any kind of punishment. That being said, do belugas in captivity have the same quality of life as wild belugas?
The line we were fed is that they receive food everyday and veterinary care that allows captive whales to live as long or longer than wild whales. After watching Blackfish, I don't know if I trust that information. Orcas were proven to live much longer in the wild than captivity. They are also much larger animals and were not kept in the correct temperature water. I can say the Belugas at Shedd are kept in cool water closer to their natural environment and are much smaller than an orca. Shedd is also a non-profit organization. Their main goal is education and conservation not to make money. They have to charge a high fee for admission because of the high operating costs associated with keeping a live collection.

I can at least say it has changed my view of SeaWorld. I do not like that they view the whales as property. They are there to make money. I used to love going to SeaWorld and I have been to Discovery Cove and I loved every second of it. Does that make it right? Whales and dolphins are not here for human entertainment. It is very hard to accept that I couldn't see the animals I love so much by just going to a zoo or aquarium if we did not allow them in captivity, but to know they had a better life in the wild would give me much more peace of mind. I would rather travel to the pacific coast and see them in the wild than at an amusement parks where they are not well cared for and present a danger to the people who care for them. Sometimes truly loving something is letting it go. Everyone loves seeing whales and dolphins in captivity especially when they exhibit all the wonderful behaviors they can do, but that doesn't make it right for humans to keep them in a cement pool. The only reason I could see it being a possibility is if that animal has no chance of survival in the wild. Shedd has done some wonderful conservation world with sea otters. They have rehabilitated some and released them back into the wild and also kept a few that were unable to be released. I think it is a wonderful relationship to have with nature. To be able to help animals in need and care for those who can't themselves. We still get to have cute playful animals to visit but are also helping natural populations. I would like to see more of this with larger marine mammals.

I also want to state I don't usually view myself as an environmentalist. I just want to see what is best for the well being, health, and survival of natural species. It is great to keep a small number of animals in captivity to study and learn from, but the majority should remain in the wild. They should also never be used for entertainment. There are still a lot of unanswered questions and huge helping of ethics with this one. I highly recommend watching Blackfish and forming your own opinions.

As for keeping any animals in captivity, it is a different topic for a different post. Clearly, I do not share the view of not having captive animals because I breed my own geckos and have several pets. I also realized those animals could have had a better life in the wild. The pet trade can have a detrimental effect on wild populations which is why you should always purchase pets from captive bred populations to minimize this effect.
Keiko at Oregon Aquarium.

Sep 5, 2013

How to make a headdress from a visor

Please see my updated post here on my new cosplay blog!!


So, I wanted to share how I made my awesome peacock feather headdress out of a visor. It was actually really easy and only took me about 30 minutes to put together. It cost me about $100 all together. Which sounds like a lot but it has 100 feathers on it, lights, and some gems. I could have probably gotten the gems cheaper on line but I was in a crunch so got them from the craft store. Here is what I used.

white golf visor
40 10-12" peacock feathers
10 6-8" white Ostrich Feathers
50 20" peacock feathers (pointy kind)
hot glue
30 ct mini lights battery powered
blue ribbon
blue rhinestones
5 pre-made headband feather attachments (to cover the front)

So I started by laying out all my feathers to see what it could look like. Here is what I got.
Don't mind the dirty table haha. 
So I started with the ostrich feathers and glued them on the bottom of the visor. 
I used hot glue in a line and pressed the stems of the feathers onto the hat. I burned myself many times. 
The next step was to glue the shorter peacock feathers on. I started in the middle and worked my way out. I had 50 feathers to use but only used 40. 
Next I added the long peacock feathers. I had to cut them down a few inches each because they were just too long. I started on one end and actually put a few too many on the ends and not as many on the top but I think it still looked ok. 
SO the back looks horrific haha. 
Next I glued the premade feather things on the front. 2 pink, 2 blue, and 1 white with a little gem. 
I thought it looked plain with the white band so I went back to the craft store to get blue ombre ribbon and some blue rhinestones. I had to glue 2 strips of ribbon and about 20 gems. 
Next I just laced the lights inbetween the feathers gently. The battery back is duct taped to the back of the hat by the base of the feathers. 
And it's all done!!

Good luck and don't burn yourself on the glue!! The best place to get supplies is ebay or online. I got all the feathers for about 20 to 30 dollars where at the craft store they want a dollar a feather or even more. It's ridiculous. 

Aug 26, 2013

Pacman Frog: The cutest most evil pet ever

    So I recently purchased an albino pacman frog from the all animal expo. I have no idea what sex it is but it was really cute so I had to get it. I always wanted frogs and it seemed like the easiest to care for.
     Of course I did want you aren't supposed to do and bought a pet without even really researching it. So in this picture, when I first setup the tank, I had moss substrate. I later learned this is bad for them as they can eat the moss and become compacted and die. I switched to ecoearth coconut fiber. I use the same substrate with my geckos. I also gave it a little water bath to bathe in. I have it currently housed in a nano exo terra tank. I will probably have to upgrade it when he gets bigger to a small or even a medium. These frogs can get quite hefty. The recommended cage size is a 10 gal or larger.
     Pacman frogs are ambush predators so they pretty much just sit in one spot. I never really see it move unless I feed it. They will not eat food that isn't moving. I dust crickets with calcium and multivitamin powder to make sure it gets enough nutrients. I also occasionally feed it horn worms. He did choke on one I fed him a few weeks ago, I had to fight him for it so he didn't choke. These frogs will try to eat anything even if it is bigger than its body. You have to be careful of the size of food you select so that you don't experience fighting with a choking frog.
     So it looks so cute and harmless and doesn't really do anything. So why is this little frog the most evil thing ever? Just watch this video...

yea.... sooo I saw this AFTER I bought my frog. They also eat mice. I am now terrified of my own pet. Luckily mine is still quite small and has never made any of those noises. The worst it has done is get puffy when I try to touch it. This is definitely a look don't touch pet. If you have to move it, just scoop it up from behind so it won't be tempted to eat your fingers. Those fingers look tasty. They also have teeth.
Yea looks awesome. I think I'll get bit by that. I have not started to feed my frog anything other than insects at the advice of some other vendors at the animal expo. I will wait until it is closer to full size before I try to feed it anything bigger than a worm.
He seems to be happy eating this worm anyways. As you can see in these pictures the substrate is ecoearth and his water dish is just deep enough for him to sit in but not drown. They are very round and have tiny legs so they don't swim all that well. They float very well though hah. The most fun thing to do is feed them. Other than that I try to just let him be. He sits on my desk watching me type. Always watching.... Always waiting....

Aug 13, 2013

Beluga Harvest Denied


As an Ex Shedd employee I knew about this when it was in debate. Shedd was supposed to help care for some of these belugas. Reading the article I am torn on how to feel about it. On the one hand, I am glad these beautiful animals get to be in the wild where they belong. On the other hand, I really enjoying being able to see them up close and personal. I had the pleasure of working at Shedd when the last calf was born. It was so cute. I just wanted to take it home and keep it in my bath. I am well aware these animals need much more caring for than a typical pet.
     My other concern comes from the genetic side. What will happen to the offspring of a highly inbred limited population that zoos and aquariums have now? As I recall, this was the sole reason they were importing the belugas in the first place. I do agree that 18 is pretty ridiculous. I don't know where they think they are going to keep 18 whales. AS for them living shortened lives, I know that Shedd has an a female that is close to breaking the all time longevity record in captivity.
     On the one hand, these animals are well cared for. They receive the highest quality fish and nutrition you can give an animal. They have constant attention from trainers and are never forced to do anything they do not want. I worked at the Shedd, I know this for fact. I spent my life going to school to care for animals and now that very profession is threatened. Although I do not care for animals in my current position I at least make sure they are comfortable as possible.
     I do not think the public will ever be able to allow the entire profession to fail. I worry that the well renowned zoos and aquariums will close and animals in captivity will be stuck in poor care by people who are only in it for the money and entertainment value they can provide. It maddens me that people would complain about the dolphins not doing enough tricks. This is a living animal, it is not here for your entertainment asshole. Can your dog do tricks? No? maybe you should spend some time with your own animals instead of bitching about the dolphins that didn't entertain your 4 year old snotty brat child that I want to feed to the piranhas. I used to feed the piranhas... Don't tempt me. ----------------->

Aug 11, 2013

Gecko Tank Assembly UPDATED with Baby Crested Care

UPDATE: Gecko Tank Assembly
Here is an update on how the tank is going. I have added some plants to the tank to give it some more oomph. I still think it could use some more plants that are taller and some more branches and I can't seem to find many plants that are tall and sturdy enough for crested. They can be quite heavy and like to knock down my plants. If you plant any air ferns make sure to secure them with fishing line but very carefully as to not catch any gecko toes in them. Also, they have knocked over my bromeliad stem. I have had a lot of issues with my waterfall throwing the water out. I have since disconnected it and now it is just a rock. Pretty expensive rock...
     Do not waste your money on this product. This is the second fountain I have had issues with.
     If you are breeding geckos like I have been it is difficult to find the eggs in a natural setting. My geckos seem to be burying them in the back of the enclosure. I find baby geckos every few weeks crawling around the cage. Be sure to separate them as quickly as possible because the larger geckos may be tempted to eat them. So far I have been fortunate that this hasn't happened to my knowledge. I have the correct amount of hatchlings 2 per female per month.     
     I have been very successfully raising my baby geckos in a pet pal plastic container with a fake plant and paper towel substrate. Just mist them at night and give them plenty of repashy diet and dusted small crickets. The babies love chasing the crickets. It is very entertaining to watch. I try to keep handling them to a minimum with just a few minutes a day as to not stress them out. I have been lucky enough to not have any get scared and drop their tales.
     I put their repashy food in a very shallow large gladware lid so it is easy for them to get to and they can't get stuck in it. I replace it every few days as needed and feed the crickets 1 time a week or more often if they eat the all right away. I keep them in the same cage until I can tell gender. I have a hard time with gender because you need a jewelers magnifier to see the pores on the underside. I am not quite sure what they are supposed to look like so to be sure I just wait until they are about 6 months of age when the gender becomes more obvious. Males have a very noticeable bulge. I haven't kept any babies yet past puberty but I am very excited at the possibility of a violet baby I have had recently. I will be keeping this one to see how the color develops as it ages.

Mar 24, 2013

Crested Gecko Tank Assembly, 3rd Times a Charm

Here we go. I think everyone likes to see how people build awesome tanks. I am not saying my tanks are awesome but every time I rebuild it, it seems to get better and better. Practice takes perfect. If your tank setup doesn't grow right, or look how you wanted, just keep trying. I have "redone" my tank hmmm idk like 5 or 6 times now. I am still never completely satisfied with it. However, here is a picture step by step guide on how I built my crested gecko setup.

1. Start with a nice clean tank. I have an Exo Terra Large Tall tank. It's nice because it comes with a backdrop already. I had to clean my tank first because I already had it set up. I have a lot of issues with my substrate being too wet. My tank had a water feature before but it started leaking so this time around I am opting for a self contained water feature to avoid future leaks. Crested geckos don't need a water feature but I think they look good and give a nice ambience If you have male and female geckos always be very cautious when removing your substrate because you don't want to disturb eggs. Reptile eggs cannot be turned or they will suffocate and die! Unless you are evil and want them to die. Then you shouldn't have both males and females together then because you will have babies. I threw away all my old substrate because it had become rotten. I only saved my hardscape (rocks, logs, backdrop) and my plants that were still alive. I noticed I had some small bugs in my soil but these are not harmful. Most people who have dart frogs love this because their frogs will eat the bugs. Unfortunately I can't house dart frogs with my geckos. :(

2. Add a layer of porous stone to allow the soil to drain so that it does not rot. I use a specialty product of round clay balls. You can use lava rock or other stone. I have even used aquarium rocks in a pinch. Just make sure the layer is about 2 inches thick to allow plenty of room for excess water to drain. It is also a good idea to add a tube that goes to the bottom so that you can siphon out extra water if it gets too full. Since my geckos do not need a super wet habitat I should not have to do this so I chose not to add a tube for siphoning. If you have frogs, this is a must. They need a much more humid environment than cresties.

This is a good visual of how thick my layer of
porous stone is on the bottom of my tank.
NOTE: If you have any kind of electric powered water feature or pump make sure to put this in BEFORE you add your layer of stone. As you can see in the picture, I added my water feature first and hid the cord behind my background. The nice thing about Exo Terra backgrounds are that they have a notch cut out for your cords already!

3. I like to add a barrier between my substrate and my porous stone. I use a thick batting material. You can get it at any craft store, just be sure to rinse it out real well. This is just some left over strips I had. Normally I like to custom cut one piece to fit the bottom exactly. This is not a necessary step but it helps to keep your rocks free of dirt. It can also help keep your geckos from digging down into the rocks to lay eggs.

 4. I have the Exo Terra Monsoon misting system. I really like that its automated and I can set it to spray whenever I want. It really helps keep my tank at a constant humidity. I add the tubing for the mister as well as add my sensor to my hydrometer and thermometer so that I can put my lid and light on top so that I can see what I'm doing better. I have the Exo Terra Dual Top canopy. I like this light a lot but I have issues with the halogen spots burning out often. I just buy replacement lights from a hardware store instead of paying 20 bucks a bulb. It still serves the purpose of heating the tank and they get the uv they need from the fluorescent bulbs in the hood.

5. Add your hardscape. I have some different logs and sticks because cresties are arboreal so they like to climb and are pretty heavy so they need something sturdy. I also started to plan my plant arrangements.  I have Hawaiian schefflera, peperomia, and a few bromeliads. I plan to add some air plants and orchids over time if this set up works well. Here is a great site of Crested gecko approved plants http://www.dartfrog.co.uk/plants.html however some of these are going to be too delicate for geckos so try to pick the sturdier ones. I also try to bunch a few together to make them stronger. I also have a magnetic feeder. It helps give me more space to allow for plants. Make sure if you have a mister it doesn't mist your food! Old runny food is never fun to clean out. I don't think the geckos like their food soupy either. It should be a nice thick consistency.

 6. Add your substrate. I use eco earth coco substrate. It doesn't hold too much water so hopefully this time it won't rot on me. I have mixed in some sphagnum moss in the past and I think this is why my soil rotted. The moss just held too much water for the need of my plants. It can also cause your eggs to rot if the soil is too wet. I only add about and inch or so of soil. Eggs will need at least a good 2 inches to lay in so they don't get smashed. I try to take out my eggs and incubate them in hatch right so a thinner layer of substrate helps me locate eggs easier but even then you can miss them. Make sure to cover up all your plant roots well so that the plants are well anchored. Geckos will knock them right over if they are not secure. I like to try to drape vines over my water features and hardscapes just to try to soften them up and make them look more natural. I have always liked the naturalistic vivarium.

 Here is a finished picture of my vivarium! its nice and colorful. Newly planted vivariums always look a little weird. Over time as the plants grow it will help fill in the gaps. I will also be ordering some other plants to add because the local hardware store only has so many tropical house plants. Orchids are way over priced at the store so I try to order them online. You can also get much more unique plants. Always inspect your plants for bugs and rinse off the dirt it comes with. Store bought plants can have unsafe fertilizers for your geckos. Chances are it won't hurt them unless they eat the dirt but why take the chance.

7. Last step is to add your geckos! This is a great opportunity to add different geckos to your vivarium. None have had a chance to claim a territory so adding a new friend or changing up your breeding groups is perfect to do when redoing or setting up a new tank. I have one male and two females. This is a good ratio because you shouldn't ever have more than one male together or they will fight. Having more than one female keeps the females from getting stressed from the males advances. If you want to have multiple geckos without the risk of babies keep females together. Males have a very obvious bulge once they are mature.

All that is left is to enjoy your tank! If you have any questions feel free to email me at petsnshit@gmail.com

My female enjoying her new tank!

Mocha says hello! My tri-color male. :)

Mar 7, 2013

I finally got a REAL job

Ha, I find it rather ironic that I finally get a job about a week after I posted my return post. I have been searching for a job since the fall before I graduated in 2011. It's now spring of 2013 and I FINALLY landed a job! I had to use a recruiter (ew) but luckily they got me a job with a company I had approached while I was still in school at a job fair but at the time didn't have an opening at the location I wanted. Being that I wanted to find a job in meat science around Chicago I had quite a few obstacles, one being that no one harvests in Chicago anymore. All those plants have been moved out of the city because people don't want that on their back door. I'm sure they think about it every time they go to McDonalds, out of sight, out of mind right? I think I managed to find the closest plant to Chicago and it is still in the middle of BFE.

However, the point of this post is just to encourage anyone that is job searching not to give up. I have been looking for so long, have gone on so many interviews, gotten so many rejection emails, it really starts to weigh you down. I have broken down several times thinking I had no skills and my degree meant nothing. All it takes is that one company to give you a shot. It also takes time to find that company. Do what ever you have to do in the mean time but never give up on what you really want. I have worked several dead end crap jobs including my last one where they don't treat you like an educated, valuable person to their company. You are a face to fill the space they need you to fill and you can be replaced by the next 100 applicants in the same position you are. That being said, you should still take pride in yourself and your job. I know that is so so hard when you hate your job and your managers don't give a rats ass about you as long as you are on time but you still want to be able to use your last job as a reference. No one will hire you for the job you want if they think you don't care about work. Find something you like about work and just focus on that. If you can't find anything you like AT ALL, then find a new job.

I know I had started this blog about animals but there is so much more I have to offer than my knowledge and skills on the cute and furry. Not every one holds other living things in the same regard I do, so this one's for you. However, except the next one to explode with cute.

Never give up, Never surrender.