Hours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Admission: $12 Adults, $7 Child.
Animal Keeper Spotlight: Rhonda Pietsch
Rhonda Pietsch, one of the Zoo’s newest animal keepers, came to Blank Park Zoo this April after working at the Denver Zoo for 17 years. When she first moved to Des Moines five years ago, Rhonda worked for the Great Ape Trust, as one of the Denver Zoo’s disabled orangutans moved there before Rhonda eventually moved the orangutan to a sanctuary in Florida.
Rhonda Pietsch, Area Supervisor of Small Mammals and Kids Kingdom, in front of the red panda exhibit
At Blank Park Zoo, Rhonda is the area supervisor of the small mammals and Kids Kingdom. This means she oversees the care of the farm animals, wallabies, red pandas, golden-headed lion tamarins and Egyptian fruit bats. “My favorites are the pigs, donkey and red pandas,” Rhonda says.
Do you have a memorable moment at Blank Park Zoo so far?
Working with a breeding pair of red pandas!
Do you find any interesting personalities in the animals you work with?
Both the pigs and donkey love human interaction. The donkey loves to be brushed.
What kinds of training and enrichment do you do with the animals?
Kids Kingdom animals love ice treats in the summer. The ice treats may be just ice, or have some a carrot or apple in them. Red pandas enjoy all the extra bamboo we grow in the summer.
We are desensitizing most of the Kids Kingdom animals to the scale so they can be weighed easily. And we use a halter and lead to walk the llamas, or hold them for medical procedures or their physicals. They allow us to walk them outside of their pen for their shearing. This process gives us a lot of flexibility with llamas and makes life less stressful for them.
What do you enjoy the most about working at Blank Park Zoo?
My favorite part of my job is the training. I also enjoy working with the members of my team and making the animals happy every day.