“We’ve never had anything bigger than 12 feet here, so we had to expand our constrictor policy,” says Curator Shawn Miller. When zookeepers need to go into her habitat, once or twice a week, it is now a three-person job instead of the former protocol that called for two. Now two zookeepers go inside the habitat, and a third is a spotter and stands on the public side of the glass to watch Olive’s moves and relay them to the other keepers. “We have worked in there with three people as well. It’s just if we have to get out quickly with three people you’re stumbling over each other,” explains Miller.
Another layer of training for constrictors revolves around confidence. “The big thing with constrictors like that is you can’t hesitate. As soon as you go in to grab and you balk, that’s when you’re going to get bit,” says Miller. Zookeepers have experience with this from working with the red-tailed boas and the former anaconda, Mo. Neck grabs are generally needed during health checks.
So far Olive has proven to be a great animal ambassador. Miller says people love seeing Olive and seem less afraid of her compared to some of the smaller snakes. “If someone doesn’t like snakes, you have a better chance of teaching them about a bigger snake because it is behind the glass and can’t slither behind something and disappear.” Miller is passionate about people learning about reptiles, and Olive seems to be opening a lot of eyes.