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What Were You Thinking on ></a><a href=Bob Tarte, host of What Were You Thinking on

Bob Tarte
Exotic Pet Expert & Author

Do The Zoo!

..........Brian O’Malley on Pet Life Radio

Linda Tarte...............................Brian O’Malley


Maybe you don’t want a pet monkey smoking your cigars while swinging from the drapes. You might not even want a parrot eating the woodwork. One way of satisfying your craving for exotic critters without having pets of your own is volunteering at your local zoo. Brian O’Malley describes his volunteer duties at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Brian feeds macaws and sloths, raises crickets, and stays out of the way of large, serpent-like fish called arapaimas.


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“You have had a long day at work and you can’t wait to just get home, take off your shoes, plop yourself down in your favorite chair and relax.  You walk up to your tranquil residential home and your neatly manicured lawn in your quiet suburban neighborhood.  You put the key in the lock, open the door and [pets making noise!!!].  Yes, the pets have gone wild, “What Were You Thinking?  Welcome to the show about everything you always wanted to know about exotic pets, where to get them, what to feed them and how to care for them.  You will even find out why some people live with a monkey.  Now, here is your host, exotic pet expert and author, Bob Tarte.  Hey Bob, “what were you thinking?”

Bob Tarte: Brian?  Brian, it’s Bob Tarte.

Brian O’Malley: Bob!! I haven’t heard from you in months.  I think it has been since last December when I sent you a birthday present.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, yeah, yeah, never mind that.  Now listen, I am only calling now because I need a favor.  I am doing a weekly internet radio show for about exotic pets, don’t even ask.  And, I keep asking listeners to email me because I want them to be on as guests, but you know no one emails me, I don’t have any guests.

Brian O’Malley: Well, have you posted any in the shows yet?

Bob Tarte:  What does that have to do with it? I have done the shows, they are on my computer, that ought to be good enough.  Okay listen, here is the skinny: I am going to call you back and interview you about your volunteer work at the zoo.  But listen, do me a favor, don’t let on that we’ve known each other since kindergarten.  I don’t want to make it look like I am so desperate that I can only get my friends to appear on the show, okay?

Brian O’Malley:  By the way, did you like that birthday present?

Bob Tarte:  I don’t know, I don’t know, I think I threw the box away without even opening it.  So, okay, you are going to do the show or not?

Brian O’Malley:  Sure.

Bob Tarte:  Okay okay, I will call you back.

[Music Interlude]

Bob Tarte: Hi, I am Bob Tarte, author of the books “Enslaved by Ducks” and “Fowl Weather” and host of “What Were You Thinking,” a show about exotic pets.  Now, not everybody wants a monkey swinging around their house and smoking their cigars.  And, although it surprises me, most people don’t even want a parrot chewing up their woodwork.  Now, I am in the phone with Mr. Brian O’Malley.  Am I pronouncing your name correctly Mr. O’Malley?

Brian O’Malley:  That’s right Mr. Tarte, yes you are.

Bob Tarte:  Okay, now Mr.  Brian O’Malley, he lives in Virginia City, I think or…?

Brian O’Malley:  Arlington, Virginia.

Bob Tarte:  Mr. O’Malley lives in Arlington, Virginia and he doesn’t have a pet of his own, in the little cardboard hovel in which he lives.  But, he does love animals, in fact Brian loves animals more than any person I have ever—well I have never met Mr.  O’Malley, but he satisfies his cravings for exotic critters by volunteering at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.  Now, Brian works with monkeys, macaws and other animals that start with “M” at the Amazonia Exhibit.  So, Mr. O’Malley?

Brian O’Malley:  Yeah.

Bob Tarte:  How did this happen?

Brian O’Malley:  Well, it goes back probably about 10 years when my son was born and everyday off, I would take him to the zoo.  And over the years it became a favorite activity and then my daughter was born a couple of years later.  It was something we always enjoyed and during bad weather, Amazonia is the perfect exhibit to go to because it’s indoors.  They just had a circular there saying “volunteers needed.”  I called them, they said, well can you come by and talk and I went and talked to the volunteer coordinator and his first question was “Well, when can you start?” It was a pretty thorough thing, and I said, “Well, I don’t really know anything about exotic animals or really animals at all; I like them, but…”  They said, “We will teach you everything you need to know,” and they have done a wonderful job.

Bob Tarte:  Have you had pets of your own?

Brian O’Malley:  Had, I have had.

Bob Tarte:  Now, this isn’t a civet cat or a bob cat or a nanny cat or anything, it’s just a…?

Brian O’Malley:  It’s a cat, it’s an orange cat named Henry.

Bob Tarte:  Okay, but you were still interested in working at the Zoo?

Brian O’Malley:  Yeah.  I think the whole operation there fascinated me.  The Amazonia Exhibit is really quite spectacular.  Do you want me to give you a few of the little factoids together for you?

Bob Tarte:  Do it, yup.

Brian O’Malley:  It’s the largest most complicated exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo.  Its 15,000 sq.ft, it’s a dome.  Inside it kind of accommodates 50-foot trees and it also has a 55,000-gallon aquarium complex that duplicates the Amazon Rivers.

Bob Tarte:  Good grief!!! That’s bigger than the one I used to have.

Brian O’Malley:  Yeah, that one, that 100 gallon…

Bob Tarte:  Shhhh.

Brian O’Malley:  Anyway the 55,000 gallon tanks were spread out over four different types of systems.  So, there is the very large sort of pelagic river fish, then there are smaller ones, then there is a much smaller one for piranhas, and then there is something called the flooded forest, where they have arowana and stingrays.

Bob Tarte:  Cool.  Now, do you work with the fishies?

Brian O’Malley:  Well, it’s a wonderful program they have there.  I get to work with all the animals.  So, I have fed the fish, I have made lunch for the fish.

Bob Tarte:  You make them lunch?

Brian O’Malley:  Yes.

Bob Tarte:  What do they eat?

Brian O’Malley:  Well, different fish eat different things.

Bob Tarte:  Are you kind of the Emeril Lagasse of the National Zoo?

Brian O’Malley:  Well, actually there are some volunteers who make very pretty presentations of things, but I kind of just throw it together.

Bob Tarte:  I thought you had a reputation for really good plating of fish food.

Brian O’Malley:  Laughs.  Well, I actually do have a plate they bring out for the dosettes to show people what are the different types of food the fish eat.

Bob Tarte:  Now, do you wear a uniform of some kind when you are doing this?

Brian O’Malley:  I wear a T-shirt, this is pretty basic.

Bob Tarte:  Does it say National Zoo on the T-shirt.

Brian O’Malley:  Yes, it says National Zoo volunteer.

Bob Tarte:  Wow, I want one.

Brian O’Malley:  Well, you could come down and volunteer.

Bob Tarte:  Oh, that’s way too much work.

Brian O’Malley:  Yeah, it is a lot of work, you have to be able to give a good eight hours at least a week to do these things.  Because there is an enormous amount and the Amazonia Exhibit is unique at the National Zoo, because it relies very heavily on volunteers.

Bob Tarte:  Well, give me a run down on what kind of animals we are talking about that you interact with.

Brian O’Malley:  Well, let’s see.  We have got eight different species of birds in the rain forest.  And understand it’s a complete rain forest environment.  There is 350 species of plants.  There is 40 species of fish, there are a pair of titi monkeys, there is a sloth, and the sloth is, you know, I have worked at Amazonia for a couple of years now, and I’ve only seen the sloth twice.

Bob Tarte:  You have only seen it move, you have only seen it at all?  It’s kind of up in the..

Brian O’Malley:  Remarkably like a shrub.

Bob Tarte:  Ahh.

Brian O’Malley:  And it stays very high up in the tree canopies and it’s very hard to see.

Bob Tarte:  So, when you saw it, had it come down for a drink of water or something?

Brian O’Malley:  No, I had actually climbed up.  There are some pretty precarious climbs that we have in Amazonia to put the food up where the animals are.  So, we sort of climb up this ladder and then there is this kind of pulley thing that they raise up, so it’s right near the top of the tree canopy with a couple of trays for the sloth.  I have done that for a couple of years and I have noticed the foods gone, but I seldom have ever had seen the sloth.  And, then one day I happened to be up there and I turned around, and I was kind of face to face with him.  It kind of looked at me and kind of shrugged and kind of moved off.

Bob Tarte:  Now, you don’t think any of the other zoo keepers are may be climbing up there and sampling the sloth food themselves, do you?

Brian O’Malley:  It would be pretty slim picking.

Bob Tarte:  Oh is it?  What do the sloths eat?

Brian O’Malley:  Well, it’s kind of vegetables, and we kind of toss the food because he has got very long claws and so it sort of fits his grip.   But, eats carrot, sweet potatoes, they are all obviously raw, some lettuce.  There are things that we call monkey biscuits which are things that are made for nutrients for monkeys, but the sloths seem to like it too, and bananas, they like bananas.

Bob Tarte:  And, you work with monkeys too because you were speaking of monkey biscuits, these are titi monkeys, and could you describe those? What are they?

Brian O’Malley:  They are pretty small Amazonian monkeys.  I am used to say they are kind of cute.

Bob Tarte:  And, you write -- in the cage or the pen or….

Brian O’Malley:  There is no cage for them, they just roam all over the dome.

Bob Tarte:  Well, when people come into Amazonia, so are they also roaming in the dome?

Brian O’Malley:  Yes, there is a walkway through the middle, they come up the stairs and the monkeys will actually kind of watch people, in fact people—you know because it’s a very authentic jungle environment, it’s a little tricky to see the animals, you can’t just kind of walk through and expect to see them.  You have to take some time and stay still and suddenly you will start seeing all the animals.  And of course when I wander through with pans of food for them…

Bob Tarte:  You see many.

Brian O’Malley:  I have lots of friends, I can see all.

Bob Tarte:  Yeah, I bet you do.  Now, how many different kinds of animals are all kind of grouped together in one area of Amazonia.  I mean, would you have the macaws and some of the other birds in with the monkeys and in with the sloths?

Brian O’Malley:  They are all in together.  There is no separation.

Bob Tarte:  So, there are no animals that would prey on another animal?

Brian O’Malley:  Well, you have to be careful about that.  Sometimes the monkeys will prey on the birds.

Bob Tarte:  Oh they will?

Brian O’Malley:  Yes.  And, sometimes the birds will prey on the frogs and the toads.

Bob Tarte:  Yeah, I bet the monkeys leave the macaws alone though.

Brian O’Malley:  Yeah, the macaw is a pretty tough customer.

Bob Tarte:  You had a pretty good relationship with one of the macaws, didn’t you?

Brian O’Malley:  Yeah.  And the macaws are very interesting and I mean you know about parrots Bob.  I have read your books, they are fabulous.

Bob Tarte:  Oh, thank you Mr. O’Malley.

Brian O’Malley:  Your listeners should buy them both and they are just excellent entertaining reading.

Bob Tarte:  Why Mr. O’Malley!!!

Brian O’Malley:  Well, Mr. Tarte, what can I say, I think you are a genius, I have a lot of respect for your work.

Bob Tarte:  Well, thank you.

Brian O’Malley:  Anyway, we were talking about Mack the macaw.

Bob Tarte:  Yeah, is this like blue and gold or…?

Brian O’Malley:  He is blue and red.

Bob Tarte:  Okay.

Brian O’Malley:  And, can be pretty grumpy and we can’t feed him just like we hand feed the monkeys because that enables us to take a look and see if they are okay, if their feathers are in good shape, and with the monkeys, you know if their fur is okay or they might have injured themselves when running around.

Bob Tarte:  Right.  But you say hand feed, I have a couple of parrots and not Stanley Sue, Yeah, I used to feed Stanley Sue by hand and Bella also, but Dusty, these are all African grays I am talking about.  You know, you got to be kind of careful and I think I would be hesitant to hand feed a macaw.

Brian O’Malley:  Well, I was terrified actually and the way they teach you to do this is that we have sort of a tray and talking about the presentation of food, you want to do the stuff, so Mack sees the stuff that he likes.  So, he likes fruits and bananas, but there are other things there that he should eat.  So, what you do is you kind of hold it out at arm’s length and then sort of very delicately reach down and pick up the food and…

Bob Tarte:  This is out of a bowl or something?

Brian O’Malley:  And if he wants to—it is kind of a flat pan, it is kind of like if you imagine, a bread pan that was kind of cut off that…

Bob Tarte: Is there bread in it?

Brian O’Malley: No, there is monkey biscuits, they kind of like those two.  Those biscuits seem to be kind of a popular item although the moneys aren’t really in my experience too fond of them because they have kind of pitched them at me a couple of time and it hurt.

Bob Tarte: But who wouldn’t.  So, you would call them so called monkey biscuits?

Brian O’Malley: Yeah, although if you leave the tray there, the monkeys eventually get around to eating it.  By the way it is how you cut down on the predation problem because they, you know…

Bob Tarte: You keep them stuffed.

Brian O’Malley: The animals enough that they don’t feel the need to go hunting.

Bob Tarte: Okay, anyone who just tuned in and I am not sure if you can just tune into a podcast.  I mean you got to pretty willingly and deliberately listen to this thing, right?

Brian O’Malley: They go into the middle of them?

Bob Tarte: I don’t know but if anyone has a short attention span or something, I would like to remind them that I am talking to Brian O’Malley and he is telling me about volunteering for the Amazonia Exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.  You are listening to “What Were You Thinking” and we will be right back after this potentially interesting message from, I don’t know if it is from a sponsor, I don’t know if I have any sponsors, but it will be a message and then we will be right back.

“What Were You Thinking” will be right back after Bob gets the ducks out of his living room.  Don’t go away!!!

“There is a nothing like a shaggy dog, baby, they are shagadellic and this is the place to find out how to have harmony in the household with your pets.  Oh yeah, so stop by our pad every week and get switched on baby, switch on to the show that is all about attitude “Oh Behave” with your groovy host, pet edu-tainer Arden Moore, yeah baby, yeah, every week on the ramp on

“Okay, ducks are in the pond, rabbits in his hutch and monkeys…Oh! in my Car!!!  Okay, well I go check my insurance policy, we will turn you back over to Bob”

Bob Tarte: Welcome back to “What Were You Thinking,” I am Bob Tarte, Author of the books “Enslaved by Ducks” and “Fowl Weather,” which I just can’t mention enough.  And we are talking to Mr. Brian O’Malley who satisfies his craving for exotic critters by volunteering at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.  And Brian you were talking about macaws and about feeding the macaw.  And on the break, you were telling me something about poison dart frogs.

Brian O’Malley: Right.  In fact I do have one last story about the macaw before we go to the poison dart frog.

Bob Tarte: Tell me.

Brian O’Malley: And before even that let me just say Bob, I really respect the hell out of those books you have written.  They are funny and touching and you know, I recommended for the whole darn family.

Bob Tarte: Well, thank you, thank you.

Brian O’Malley: Getting back to Mack the macaw, there is kind of an interesting story.  Ed, who is one of the senior keepers at the zoo and a brilliant man, apparently ran a fowl of Mack the macaw a few years ago.  And they had bonded very closely and Ed guides the Smithsonian National Zoo trips down to the Amazon, is very knowledgeable, he has got a Doctorate in Biology in all these types of things and Mack never forgave him for leaving.  And so he was gone I think for two or three weeks.  And I guess it has been 10 or 12 years and Mack from being mad at Ed and Ed always wears a baseball cap.  So, the one thing you do, you don’t want to do when you feed Mack is go up and wear a baseball cap.

Bob Tarte: Ha, ha, because…

Brian O’Malley: Because he thinks you are Ed.

Bob Tarte: Yeah or at least he thinks you are enough like him.

Brian O’Malley: He learned to knock the pan out of your hand.

Bob Tarte: [Laughs].

Brian O’Malley: So, I mean I’ve sort of progressed with Mack; I can actually feed him out off of my hand.

Bob Tarte: That is pretty brave.

Brian O’Malley: Well, I sure as hell don’t wear that baseball cap.

Bob Tarte: [Laughs].

Brian O’Malley: But he is just a fascinating animal, he is just amazingly smart and when you brought into the forest because there is a lot of stuff you have to do.  We actually have to water the rain forests.  And when you walk in, you always hear this kind of “yaouuuuww” and if he likes the food you have given him, he will say “apple” for you.

Bob Tarte: Ohhh!

Brian O’Malley: He is a pretty interesting animal.

Bob Tarte: That is very good, birds are very smart.

Brian O’Malley: Bob, you asked about the poison dart frog.

Bob Tarte:  Yes.

Brian O’Malley: We have got 10 different species of frogs and toads in Amazonia.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, you probably know those frogs are getting popular as pets.

Brian O’Malley: Right.

Bob Tarte: So, tell me a little about them.

Brian O’Malley: The poison dart frogs are so vividly colored because it is a sign to predators that they are incredibly toxic.  The beautiful blue one I think are called dendrobates tinctorius and in the wild they have enough poison in them to kill 10 people.  Now, it is interesting because they don’t produce poisons like a snake.  They eat bugs that eat poisonous plant and the biological process is called sequestration and somehow that plant toxin that goes into the bug is somehow separated out by the frog’s digestive system and turns into a toxin on its skin.

Bob Tarte: Okay, so what do they eat? I guess my question is, so are they not so poisonous at the zoo.

Brian O’Malley: Oh, they are not poisonous at all in Amazonia.  We don’t feed them bugs that eat poisonous plant.

Bob Tarte: And do they still maintain that vivid color; the diet has nothing to do with that?

Brian O’Malley: Diet has nothing to do with the color.

Bob Tarte: Okay.

Brian O’Malley: And that is actually probably the biggest part of my job in Amazonia, is taking care of all the crickets that we raise there to feed the frog with some and for the birds.  The monkeys even eat those crickets.

Bob Tarte: And what do you do with the crickets, how do you take care of them?

Brian O’Malley: Well, we have two great big 100 gallon, 150 gallon aquarium and we have a cricket hatchery.  The zoo buys a certain number of weed and then we have it set up.  So, the crickets will lay eggs and then we raise small crickets, which are called pinheads and quarter-inches.  And that is the food stock for the whole food chain but fish love these things and as do all the other animals.  And yet, I will tell you, you don’t really think about—I mean most of the time you only see one cricket at a time and these aquariums that we have are kind of like one of those “Fear Factor” types of things.  Now, I have never actually before this had handled any bugs or done anything with any insects of any sort.  And I was kind of surprised that it didn’t really spook me more than it did.

Bob Tarte: What are you, sort of dipping your hand in or dipping something in…?

Brian O’Malley: You have to clean the things everyday and you’d be surprised how much poop is generated.

Bob Tarte: Really cricket poop.

Brian O’Malley: By crickets.

Bob Tarte: No kidding.

Brian O’Malley: It is like concrete, you literally have to take razor blades and scrap off the bottom of the aquarium.

Bob Tarte: Oh, see we have kept a few crickets when we raised starlings, not too exotic, but we never had that many that that was an issue.

Brian O’Malley: Yeah, it does.  I mean we figure the amount of crickets that we raise saves the zoo about $50,000 a year.  It is a fairly complicated type of thing.  In fact that is one of the main things the volunteers have to learn that is kind of the first thing, doing this.  And in fact, I have actually even made like a training video because it actually has kind of a monster movie charm to it.  You know, we have an egg carton things that is kind which uses the strata to raise them on.  And there is 50,000, 60,000 of these.

Bob Tarte: Oh my, so this isn’t really a glamorous job all the way around that you do?

Brian O’Malley: Well, I keep it in the back room, yes.

Bob Tarte: Yeah.  Now the frogs, last thing about the frogs I guess is I am trying to think of an exhibit like this, the frogs are so tiny, they’d be hard to see, is there a special enclosure or something for them?

Brian O’Malley: We have a thing that is called the Dr. Zill’s lab where we have aquariums and you can actually see dart frogs up close.  They are up in the forest but I have only ever seen them a couple of times.  And in fact the stairway that goes from the aquarium in the area.  And the aquarium joins the rain forests too, it is a two-level, the lower level aquarium help to keep them laterally but then you can walk up into the rain forest and look down into the aquarium too.  On the stairs that go up there, there is sort of an area that apparently there are all kinds of frogs in there too.  It looks like it is kind of a little garden area, but there are lots of little frogs in there.  And the only way you can tell is you can hear them but I have only ever seen them once.

Bob Tarte: Tell me your tiger story, is it a tiger or a jaguar or…?

Brian O’Malley: Oh that’s a—they like to familiarize you with all the other activities at the zoo too.  They have a very nice training program.  So, they took us over to the lion and tiger exhibit at the National Zoo.  And you know, they have a very active breeding program and we were right back there where they feed the animals and there was a juvenile tiger.  He was born at the zoo and he was about to—within a month of moving to another zoo, because a juvenile tigers weighs about 500 or 600 pounds.

Bob Tarte: Oh good grace, so how old would you say this thing was?

Brian O’Malley: Oh, he was maybe a year-and-a-half, two years.

Bob Tarte: Okay, that is a big guy, all right.

Brian O’Malley: Right, they grow fast and just like my cat Henry, how cats kind of like to hunker down, he was kind of hunkered in a corner and the keeper was talking about all the stuff they kept and watching his talk and suddenly, this cat leapt at the enclosure and claws were going through the cage and fangs were out and he was roaring.  He was so fast, it was scary, I mean it was literally in the blink of an eye, this cat had gone from what looked like it was dozing to full attack mode.  Now, the keeper didn’t even bat an eye at all, which is what, he does that to get my attention and that was just frightening.

Bob Tarte: I have been surprised by wild animals, you know native animals here that do that.  I am just thinking of raccoons that couple of times I have trapped raccoons to get them out of our yard in a live trap so that they wouldn’t eat our ducks.  And I take them somewhere else and open the cage and expect them just to kind of lumber away and like in the blink of an eye, you hear a snarl and they are just gone.

Brian O’Malley: All right.

Bob Tarte: So, I can’t even imagine seeing a tiger do that.

Brian O’Malley: And talking to the keeper, we had a discussion.  You know, there are people in this country, you are talking about exotic pets.  More people in the United States keep tigers than there are tigers in most of the Eurasian land mass.  There is anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people that are keeping tigers in their home or farm.

Bob Tarte: Good grace.

Brian O’Malley: What a crazy idea!

Bob Tarte: Yeah, so there is like 10,000 tigers in this country.

Brian O’Malley: Yeah.

Bob Tarte: I can’t even imagine having a tiger as a pet.

Brian O’Malley: Oh, I can’t either.  I think the problem is people—I think you can get these things pretty inexpensively as cubs but like I said in the course of a year they will grow to 500 or 600 pounds.

Bob Tarte: Now, can you imagine sitting at your word processor or your computer, you know, typing away and have a tiger hop-up on your lap and try and be able to do your work?

Brian O’Malley: [Laughs].

Bob Tarte: That is a nuisance.  I don’t know what those people are thinking of.  What were they thinking?

Brian O’Malley: Well, I thought my wife had a good line, which was, I said you know, keeping a tiger like that is more dangerous than just leaving a cocked loaded gun on your dining table. And my wife responded, so well maybe those are the same people that keep the tigers because they need their cocked loaded guns.

Bob Tarte: I think so.  Man and…

Brian O’Malley: They are not good pets.  As the keeper at Amazonia said that the big cats there said, they like me as much as they like anyone, but I have no doubt when I’d walk in there with them, they’d kill me.  And she also said that Siegfried & Roy, they are probably the most knowledgeable people in the world in handing wild animals.  And looked what happened.

Bob Tarte: That’s right, that’s exactly right.  So, in Amazonia, we are kind of running short on time now, believe it or not, what would you say is the most difficult animal to work with there?

Brian O’Malley: Probably the 7-foot arapaimas.  They are a big great beautiful fish, they are an air-breathing fish and they are really smart and when you feed them, they can shoot water about 10 feet.  And by the way this is an example of another thing about exotic fish.  When Amazonia opened 15 years ago, these things started off as 6-inch long fish, they are now 7 feet long.

Bob Tarte: So, you don’t want one in your aquarium?

Brian O’Malley: They just bought a couple of new arapaimas and they outgrew what is called the tightened tank which is like think of a 300-gallon tank.

Bob Tarte: So, not a good bathtub fish either?

Brian O’Malley: Yeah, they are not a good…well, it’d have to have a really big bathtub Bob.

Bob Tarte: Yeah.  Well, I do.

Brian O’Malley: [Laughs].  And you wouldn’t be able to use for it baths anymore, but it is not that they are a particularly mean fish, but they don’t really brook any nonsense.  They are sort of the top predator there, so feeding them is a very complicated process.  So you have to feed them at one end and then you go to the other end of the big pool and put essentially we have these kind of very long plastic PCV pipes down at the bottom to feed the fish below there, so the arapaimas don’t vacuum up everything, so that the fish on the bottom can get some of the goodies too and the arapaima don’t really like that.  And, so you will be standing there putting the stuff down there and these things will hit this tube, I mean it is enough to knock you over and you are sort of standing on the edge of this pool anyway, you don’t really want to fall in.

Bob Tarte: No! Now, you were going to be mention that there is a webcam at the Amazonia, so what?

Brian O’Malley: The national zoo has a website and it is obviously nationalzoo (one word) .si (that’s Smithsonian Institution) .edu (  And then you just on the site where it says Amazonia is, they have a webcam and you can see the fish, the arapaimas and arowanas swimming around.  It is quite spectacular there.

Bob Tarte: Well, there you go.  Well, thank you so much Brian.  We have been talking to Brian O’Malley, who lives in Arlington, Virginia and a volunteer at the Amazonia Exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. and I guess your message for people perhaps is: volunteer at your local zoo.

Brian O’Malley: As opposed to buying exotic fish or creatures and getting them out of the wild.

Bob Tarte: That is exactly right.  All right, well, thanks Brian.

Brian O’Malley: Well, it is my pleasure Bob.  You are a great author.

Bob Tarte: Oh, thank you.

Linda Tarte: That was great Brian.  Thank you so much for doing that interview.  You just make everything sound so exciting.  Gosh, you are going to make everybody want to be a volunteer at a zoo.  Gosh, maybe I should be a volunteer, what do you think sweety?

Bob Tarte: A volunteer at the zoo.

Linda Tarte: Yeah.

Bob Tarte: I think you are already a volunteer at the zoo, at the Tarte zoo.

Linda Tarte: Oh yeah, I didn’t think about that.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, we have to remind our listeners we have about 40 animals here, mostly birds.

Linda Tarte: 45.

Bob Tarte: And I think I am going to get Brian back on the phone and get him over here to do some volunteer…

Linda Tarte: He can do volunteer here.

Bob Tarte: That is exactly right.  Speaking of volunteer, we would like our listeners to volunteer to be our guests on the show.  So, just, if you have an exotic pet of some kind, a turtle, a tarantula, a snake, a cockatoo, cockatiel, what ever you have, tell us about it.  Yeah, we want to hear about it.  So, just send us an email at and who knows you might be the next guest on “What Were You Thinking.”

Linda Tarte: We can’t wait.

Bob Tarte: So thanks to everybody, thanks to our listeners…

Linda Tarte: Thank you Brian.

Bob Tarte: Thanks to our verrrrrrryy mysterious producers that no man or woman has ever seen and want to say goodbye to everybody.

Linda Tarte: Bye, bye.

“Thinking about buying a monkey, how about a parrot or a skunk, then check out the show that will answer the burning questions: Where do you get them? What do you feed them? How do you take care of them? And, most of all “What Were You Thinking, with exotic pet expert and author Bob Tarte, every week on demand from

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