South Pontotoc students learn about the job of a zookeeper

TUPELO – He wears diapers, drinks milk out of a baby bottle and clutches a stuffed pillow when he gets nervous.
He’s Gizmo the monkey, and a class of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students at South Pontotoc Middle School got to meet him Thursday morning at the Tupelo Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
The students in Dawn Hester’s gifted class were treated to a program about Gizmo by two guests from the Tupelo Buffalo Park & Zoo, where Gizmo lives.
Gizmo, a 5-month-old capuchin monkey, is the son of the famous Oliver the monkey. The students were in town to attend Disney on Ice’s “Finding Nemo” at the BancorpSouth Arena.
While the kids got to see and even pet Gizmo, Hester said the goal of the event was to introduce the students to new careers. As part of the presentation, Jesse Swinford, a zookeeper at the Buffalo Park, told the students about how animals at the park are cared for and about the work routine of employees at the park.
“The main reason I brought them here for this is we’re trying to get the kids to explore more careers and opportunities,” Hester said. “We have a lot of animal lovers in our group, and I know they enjoyed seeing this.”
South Pontotoc seventh-grader Alyse Adair said she learned about how the workers at the Buffalo Park take care of the animals and about just how much time they put into it.
“It was exciting because you don’t get to see a monkey every day,” Adair said.
Seventh-grader Colton Rogers said he enjoyed getting to see the monkey walk and to take a video of it on his phone, while sixth-grader Kirsten Hester said her favorite part was getting to pet Gizmo.
Eighth-grader Lane Williamson said he enjoyed learning about all of the different jobs at the park.
A group of 44 of Hester’s students will travel to Disney World Nov. 18 to 23 as part of a program that will teach them about properties of motion.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal