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A group of bearcats help out apes at Cincinnati Zoo

Posted at 9:39 AM, Aug 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-15 09:40:04-04

CINCINNATI — When you visit the Cincinnati Zoo, you may not think about the animals going in for a checkup.

It’s a critical part of keeping your favorite faces there for years to come. Some UC graduates were able to provide a major helping hand in prolonging their health.

Jack Buehler is an industrial design team member at the zoo.

“I did not come to UC as a designer thinking that I would work on a project with the zoo,” he said.

But that’s what Buehler and his team did … twice over.

“It was definitely kind of an out-of-the ordinary experience and opportunity,” said Ben Merk, the project’s engineer.

Before they graduated to great apes, they started with an interactive feeding system for giraffes in 2019. Something they followed up on even after the assignment ended.

“Thinking about the end user, the giraffe and the zookeeper. Thinking about what they would need and what they would want,” Merk said.

But the zoo had more for the team to tackle after helping the giraffes.

“He asked us if we wanted to take a look at another project that they had at the zoo,” Buehler said.

That project was figuring out how to take the blood pressure for the orangutans, whose arms were too small to fit the machine used for gorillas. Instead of an entirely new system, they designed a series of inserts ranging in size.

“It was definitely a challenge trying to work our way through what would be the best thing and best option to provide for the zoo animals when you couldn’t really communicate with them like you could with a typical human being,” Merk said.

The team ended up designing five different inserts to fit the different animals using a special kind of 3-D printing that would provide the most accurate reading.

For Buehler, an aspiring toy designer, it was solid practice.

“This is definitely something that I’d never really thought of before, but the more we kind of went into it, the more it made sense,” he said.

As a Cincinnati native, it’s a memory he’ll get to share for years to come.

“Whenever I get to tell somebody that I worked with giraffes or orangutans, there’s no other feeling,” Buehler said. “It’s very strange, but in a really great way.”