On a visit – stuck with the WSC
Some things have changed, others persist.
Throughout the last years the ScienceCenter has become primarily one thing: bigger! In 2011 I’ve been at the WSC for the first time. Back then the Center has been in the Ernstbrunn Wildlife Park just for a while. There was a testhouse, a house for the puppy raising, a few enclosures and an old forester’s house as accommodation and office for the students, to whom I belonged back then.
Meanwhile, numerous more enclosures for dogs and wolves were added, just like another test enclosure. The accommodation for students has been moved to a different little house and the old forester’s house is a single big bureau now. Even the shop, only a few years ago just a tiny, pretty shaky board shed, was replaced by a fairly small mini-cottage – even with wifi and electricity. Witnessing this development little by little when coming around from time to time is something quite special.
But probably it’s the familiar, albeit a bit changed, that draws me and others occasionally back as a visitor.
Of course this includes the wolves and dogs. With them no day is like the other. Everyone has their own character – and a mind of their own. It’s incredibly fascinating to see, how every single animal is developing. This can be seen in the behaviour, e.g. when a “little sunshine” becomes a little “grumbler”, or simply through the ageing. Aragorn actually would need hearing aid – if that would do any good at all anymore. Shimas eyesight is decreasing and both aren’t so light on their paws anymore. The appearance of the wolves is changing step by step, too, but sometimes even quite quickly. In Nanuk’s case for example I had to look twice before recognizing that it was him. There’s nothing really left from the brown colouring in his fur – except the funny brown line on his nose that proceeds up to his nosetip.
With the dogs, the external changes don’t stand out so much. Nevertheless, there are more and more tiny grey hairs sneaking in over time.
The WolfScienceCenter would of course be nothing without its old and new trainers. Like always they have enough work to do every day. Next to the general training they have to keep track of the scientific tests, be available for the visitor programs and, referring to the animals, they have to “expect the unexpected”. So they not only need to be flexible. Also team spirit, power of endurance and every now and then a portion of humour is quite helpful.
Altogether the team of the institute continues to grow. Meeting old acquaintances there is just as nice as getting to know new people from various countries. There are new trainers, a new management-team, further employees, e.g. especially for animal care or maintenance of the facility, as well as more tourguides. Apart from that lots of new interns, students, PhDs and postdocs are keeping the WSC on the go. The scientific projects they and the founders of the institution implement represent, so to speak, the centre of the research facility.
For me personally it’s quite exciting to learn something about which new tests are in progress to answer which scientific question. The several difficulties when running the tests and the solutions are interesting, too. At some experiments you can take a look and observe how the different animals behave in different situations.
Those are the reasons why I sometimes even drive half a day from the middle of Germany to pretty Austria. We’ll wait and see, when I will be drawn back to the WSC for the next time…