Horace Northup watched, eyes narrowed intently, as the macrauchenia herd peacefully grazed in the large herbivore paddock in Santa Cruz Safaris. At the moment, he was focusing on a male named Kuzco, who was reputed to be a bit of a troublemaker. For now, Kuzco was leisurely grazing alongside a female named Malina, but Horace nonetheless kept his eye on the male, determined to see if Kuzco was as troublesome as made out to be, even as the litopern continued grazing nonchalantly.
The sound of a deep bellowing caused Horace to turn to see the toxodon herd lazily making its way towards the paddock's watering hole after finishing their mid-afternoon grazing. At the head, he could see alpha male Pacha approaching the water alongside his primary mate Chicha followed by three young calves named Tipo, Chaca, and Yupi and the rest of the herd. Within moments, the entire herd had entered the water and began swimming and eating water plants. Horace smiled.
Contrary to what many of the other staff members at the park from outside his division thought, caring for the hoofstock animals was not an easy task. With that, the sight of the animals under his care happy and content was always a cause for happiness.
At that moment, he felt something soft, yet large, nudging up against his legs. He turned his head, a wry smirk on his face, just in time to Dermot standing right next to him. The doedicurus squealed, lightly slamming his tail against the ground as if in greeting. Horace chuckled and patted the glyptodont on the head, much to Dermot's apparent delight. "It's good to see you too," Horace stated. In reply, Dermot squealed and slammed his tail lightly.
It was in that moment that Horace remembered what he needed to get from his jeep. Fortunately, his jeep was near the paddock's gate. He took a brief look back at the macrauchenia herd, noticing with relief that nothing was happening. He went off to get the enrichment item.
. . . . .
Sure enough, ten minutes later, Horace was back in the paddock, with the enrichment item, a large red exercise ball, which was currently being passed around between Dermot and the other three doedicurus, lightly batted between them across the ground with their tails. And as if that weren't enough, he could also notice the glyptodon noticing the game.
Horace smiled. Of all the possible enrichment ideas for the animals he cared for, this was one of his favourites – what it lacked in inventiveness, it made up for in practicality.
At the same time he watched this though, he also was well aware that the exercise ball wouldn't be sufficient if the glyptodonts got angry. But fortunately, they still had time to work out a strategy for that. So for now, he continued to watch the glyptodonts relieve their boredom by playing with the exercise ball.
The sound of a macrauchenia snort caused him to turn his head away from the glyptodonts. He promptly raised his eyebrow. At that moment, he could see Kuzco glaring at Manco, a larger male Macrauchenia, who was standing on a large rock. As Horace watched, Kuzco snorted, his ears laying flat atop his head, eyes narrowed in anger. It was in that moment that Horace noticed Manco's fur get lightly ruffled in the breeze.
Horace nodded his head. He understood what was going on now. He'd seen Kuzco and several of the other macrauchenia position themselves on this rock to cool themselves. What seemed to have happened was that Kuzco had wanted a position on the rock – and Manco wasn't in the mood to indulge him.
As he continued watching, Manco snorted, crouched, and pawed his left front hoof as if willing to fight for his position atop the rock. Horace shook his head, reaching for his whistle as he prepared to head over, now starting to get an idea of why his peers had started calling Kuzco a troublemaker. All this in mind, he briefly checked that Dermot and the rest of the glyptodonts were still peacefully enjoying themselves with the exercise ball before making his way over to the two scrapping macrauchenia.
"Nobody said it would be easy," he thought as he made his way over.
. . . . .
At the same time, Cass Cheng was observing the ornithomimus herd at the Hell Creek herbivore paddock, staying as focused as she could on the animals. After all, herbivores were just as dangerous as carnivores, and she knew all too well that complacency could get you killed.
Fortunately, at that moment, the ornithomimus all seemed to be in good spirits, peacefully feasting upon the leaves, nuts, and dead insects she'd thrown down. Looking closely, she noticed seven of the females split off and head off into the undergrowth after they'd finished eating. After three days of this, she had resolved to report the matter, just in case. After all, one could never be too careful.
The sound of a hooting squeal coming from behind her got her attention, and she turned her head just in time to see one of the pachycephalosaurus sniffing at her lunch box. The slight horn on its nose and the ring of spikes surrounding the edge of its dome was enough for her to identify it as a male. The fact that it was sniffing around her lunch box was the clincher. "Oh no you don't," she said as she turned to start walking towards the dinosaur. The pachycephalosaurus squealed at the sight, and promptly backed away, as Cass shook her head, "You don't know when to give up, do you Einstein?"
Einstein the pachycephalosaurus grunted, seemingly amused, and shook his tail side to side while lifting his head proudly and playfully pawing his left front back and forth, briefly directing a swift gaze back towards the lunch box as he did so. Cass placed her hands on her hips and directed a stern look towards Einstein upon seeing him make this side glance towards her lunch box. She knew all too well just what it was he wanted.
"You're not getting any of my apples Einstein," she said, firmly. Admittedly, she was slightly amused – ever since he'd managed to get a taste of an apple she'd happened to drop, he'd attempted to get a taste. However, the rest of her couldn't help but also feel annoyed at how, despite her constantly telling him no, he STILL refused to give up on his attempts at getting another taste of the fruit. The fact that, unlike the rest of his herd, he was smart enough to know that she always took an apple for lunch didn't help.
The sound of a lower hooting squeal got the attention of both Einstein and Cass, who turned their heads in time to see the pachycephalosaurus herd's alpha male Sandor glaring towards his subordinate. Sandor snorted again and gestured his head backwards as if telling Einstein to come back to the herd.
Einstein grumbled, looked blankly at Cass, and then hurried off back to rejoin his herd. Cass nodded her head. As much as Einstein loved to try to take a bite out of her apples, he was always guaranteed to follow orders from Sandor. Cass turned her head to face the ornithomimus once more, taking note that the seven females had now completely vanished into the undergrowth. "Best go ahead and make that report," she said to herself as she drew out her communicator.
. . . . .
Half an hour later, Cass was keeping a close eye on the triceratops and torosaurus herds while eating her lunch. Whilst both ceratopsian herds were drinking from the paddock's lake, Cass couldn't help noticing how one of the juvenile triceratops, a male named Theo, was in the midst of a playful mock tussle with his sister Cera. Taking a brief break from eating, Cass watched as the two juveniles rammed their heads together, occasionally knocked each other onto their sides, and rapidly swung their tails while also occasionally rearing up and hopping like goats. This was simple play-fighting – with no violence about it.
She sighed, slightly envious, "Why couldn't Tina and I have been more like that?"
Part of her felt slightly embarrassed over both feeling envious over two baby triceratops and thinking about personal matters at work. But at the same time, she legitimately couldn't help but think of her relationship with her older sister.
She sighed, shaking her head once more. "Now's not the time to dwell on the past," she thought to herself as she reached for the apple she currently had in her lunchbox. "I need to focus on the now..."
Her eyes widened when she found herself grasping thin air - sure enough, the apple was gone. Her suspicions were confirmed when she heard a hooting squeal coming from her right, looking to see Einstein standing nearby and proudly holding the missing apple in his beak.
This knocked Cass out of her brief daze, her eyes widening at the sight of her pachycephalosaurus 'acquaintance' having successfully acquired one of her apples for the second time in his life. "HEY!" She yelled as she closed her lunchbox and stood up to which Einstein squealed and leant forward, eyes widened with excitement and his tail swinging side to side. Cass got up and ran straight towards the thieving pachycephalosaurus, yelling "Give that back!"
As it turned out, that was precisely what Einstein had hoped she'd do, as he started running away, hooting as he ran off with the stolen apple in his mouth. Before long, Cass, equal parts irritated and amused, ended up led on a merry chase.
. . . . .
At the same time, her older sister Tina was watching over the arctotherium. The bears had recently been fed – most of the adults were napping, whilst the two cubs were playfully wrestling in front of the cave where their mother was currently napping. Kronk was in deep focus guzzling honey from a small pot that had been placed into his territory.
That was something that Tina couldn't help but find funny. Since honeybees were not native to South America in the Pliocene, honey was a foreign substance to the arctotherium - yet Kronk had gained a liking for the substance. Honey wasn't the only unexpected food that Kronk had gained a taste for. Within a week of his arrival, he'd been found to have gained a liking for, of all things, spinach! In general, Kronk had proven to be surprisingly easy to work with. Compared to all the other adult arctotherium, he'd proven himself to be surprisingly passive – if you did not interfere with his food or when he was eating. However, she was not going to let her guard down – he was still an apex predator.
The sound of the cubs squealing caused Tina to turn her head to see them still playfully wrestling near their sleeping mother. Her eyes narrowed. She couldn't help but feel a twinge of… she couldn't describe what. She couldn't help but think of her and Cass.
Even now she could remember how rarely, if ever, she and Cass had got on as kids; partially due to their different personalities and partially due to their parents pitting them against each other, favouring the one who "won" – and she was the one who won most often. For a while, she'd seen nothing wrong with this; when you're raised around something you believe it's normal. But now, she'd been exposed to sights that now left her questioning whether that assumption was correct.
For starters, she'd managed to gain an insight into the dynamic between her superior Alice Denham and her reptile keeper brother Jack. When it came to the latter, Tina didn't have that high of an opinion of him. Whilst she'd never say this to Alice, she personally viewed him as a bit of a thrill-seeking idiot. However, she couldn't deny that he and Alice had a strong bond. And then there was the autistic keeper who'd tripped up in the Morrison Formation. While she rarely interacted with him, she knew that he had a younger sister named Sam who now lived in Indiana, who he was quite close to and talked to quite frequently.
Part of her felt annoyed at this whole business. After all, as their parents had made clear, familial relationships like their own were perfectly acceptable back in Vietnam, where their grandparents had come from. And besides, attempting to patch things up would be very bruising to one's pride. But at the same time, Cass was still her sister...
She shook her head viciously side to side, growling briefly. "Stay on task," she thought to herself, teeth gritted as she worked focus on the arctotherium. "Keep focused at all times." She resumed her watching over Kronk and the rest of the arctotherium, filing her dynamic with Cass to as far in the back of her mind as she could. "I can handle myself," she thought to herself, only half-believing it. "Regardless of my relationship Cassandra."
At the sound of snarling and barking coming from the theriodictis paddock, she looked at her watch and cursed herself mentally – it was past their feeding time. She could here "Well done you lummox," she thought to herself, heading off to the theriodictis paddock after a final glance at the arctotherium. "Well done."
. . . . .
Mohinder Chandra was in a much happier mood as he observed the myriad sauropods roaming around in the main Morrison Formation herbivore paddock. At the moment, the majority of the mighty beasts were browsing for leaves. The only exceptions were the apatosaurus, brontosaurus, and brachiosaurus, which were all gathered around and drinking at the large lake alongside the stegosaurus. He smiled as he observed the magnificent animals peacefully drinking.
He had to admit the stability was nice – of all the divisions, the sauropod division had undergone the least upheaval, compared to the mass influxes everyone else had been enduring. Since this stability allowed him to work regularly with the sauropods at the Morrison Formation zone, especially the brachiosaurus, he was quite pleased with that fact. He continued observing the drinking sauropods, nodding his head at the sight of Arlo and Shorty standing next to each other while drinking in between their herds – Arlo on the apatosaurus' side and Shorty on the brachiosaurus' side.
Much like Linda, Mohinder had been disappointed at how Arlo's attempted integration with the larger herd had ended with failure. However, Arlo had found a new "friend" in Shorty. Things with the Apatosaurus herd had also improved – now, even Bron's only reaction when he came to eat or drink near them was an annoyed snort.
A bellowing attracted his attention to elsewhere amongst the herd. To see Baylene using her tail to smack away a young male who'd attempted to cut between her and one of the females, and was now directing a disapproving glare his way as he grudgingly returned to his position. Mohinder chuckled. One thing he'd liked about Baylene was how, despite her age, she was still capable of personally disciplining the whippersnappers; almost as if she was saying 'I may be old; but I'm not THAT old'. In contrast, he'd noticed that the similarly aged Gertie the alpha female apatosaurus and Suua the alpha female brontosaurus, rarely personally disciplined misbehaving individuals, instead leaving it to younger enforcers.
The sound of bellowing brought him back to see Shorty, standing protectively in front of Arlo, having a stand-off with one of the young male Apatosaurus – evidently the young male diplodocid had tried to bully Arlo for his spot at the watering hole. Mohinder reached for his communicator as the bellowing got more intense… when suddenly, Bron charged in and, with a bellow and a stamp of his feet, sent the younger male into submission. Before returning to his position, he gave Arlo what Mohinder could only call a pointed stare.
Once things calmed had down, the stegosaurus left the lake as the diplodocus herd arrived and began drinking. As this happened, he noticed one of the brachiosaurus, Baylene's adult son Adin, briefly lift his head before lowering his head back down. Mohinder nodded his head, before reaching for his communicator, "Perhaps I can see if somebody can take over so I can go check on Custer".
. . . . .
Kyle Taymor was in a good mood, as he observed the dimetrodon feast on a large serving of salmon. It had now been a week since the Permian mission, and so far the park had adapted well to the new residents. The dimetrodon had proven to be interesting animals to work with – they reminded him of alligators in some aspects as well as Komodo dragons. What was, perhaps, ironic is that they were closer relations to mammals than they were to either
He then chuckled as this information caused him to remember how much difficulty the rest of the keepers had experienced in deciding whether to assign the synapsids to the mammal carnivore division or the reptile and amphibian division. Admittedly, part of him felt a little annoyed at the bickering he was noticing between the various divisions. In his eyes, all the different keeping divisions were all just multiple sides of a single coin; and no one division was inferior or superior to the rest. And, besides, the bickering was irritating to deal with.
The sound of snarling and snapping jaws from a little further back in the paddock caused Kyle to look towards the rear of the paddock in time to see Rommel feasting ravenously. Kyle sighed, shaking his head side to side. Of all the animals from the previous mission, Rommel was proving one of the more difficult to handle. The rescue team had been very quick to warn him and the other staff about how he had proven himself very temperamental and territorial when they'd encountered and rescued him; they hadn't been kidding.
Even now, the keepers assigned to work with him had to be extra careful in doing practically anything around him in case of incurring his wrath – given that he was a 10-foot-long, venomous (as confirmed by a flabbergasted Khatin, who had found four different hemotoxic enzymes) predatory reptile, this rarely ended well. Even the researcher Matt Thompson, who spent almost all his time observing the Dimetrodon, was wary whenever it came to potentially dealing with Rommel.
His period of contemplation on the matter was then interrupted when he saw Rommel abruptly turn his head and hiss towards the river segment that served as the border, where one of the juveniles, a male named Spiny, was now innocently taking a drink. In a flash, Kyle lifted a horn and began blaring it. The dimetrodons all looked towards the direction of the noise, yellow eyes all narrowed in unison at the noise. Rommel snarled, fangs briefly showing, before backing away from the river, staring at Kyle, cautiously. Rommel knew that Kyle using the horn was an invitation to back away. However, this was hardly ideal - Kyle seemed to be the only one at the moment capable of getting Rommel to stand down in this manner. However, Kyle hoped that this would, at the very least, allow Rommel the chance to respect him enough to let him work with him without trouble, giving the park time to find out a more ideal solution.
"Just stay there for a little bit," he said under his breath, keeping his eyes on Rommel and the horn pointed his way as Spiny continued drinking from the paddock's river as fast as he could. "Let young Spiny finish his drink. He'll head right back to further into his own side of the paddock as soon as he's done." And sure enough, once Spiny had finally finished his drink a couple minutes later, he scurried back to safety. Nodding his head, Kyle lowered the horn and removed his hand. Rommel also noticeably relaxed, letting out a low snarl before he then turned his head back to what remained of his serving of salmon and resumed feeding. Kyle nodded his head once more, equal parts proud and relieved. "Just another day on the job," he thought to himself, before checking his watch, "In 15 minutes, I'm supposed to be overseeing the construction work". Considering the target, he knew that that special care should be taken in constructing it, "Let's hope to God nothing happens."