Press Release: 09/20/2012

Cats of the Oakland Zoo

Nicky Mora, Senior Manager, Marketing/PR
(510) 632-9525 ext. 130

Oakland, CA September 20, 2012

Oakland, CA…on Thursday, September 20, 2012, Oakland Zoo hosted a media tour of the behind-the-scenes areas for the Big Cats. Reporters and photographers went inside the Big Cat night houses and saw where they sleep, what they eat, and learned from zookeepers what it’s like to care for Big Cats. Plus, reporters and photographers got an up-close look at Leonard the Lion. Zookeeper, Erica, who has worked at Oakland Zoo for more than thirty years, answered questions and did interviews about what it’s like to care for lions and tigers.

One year ago, Oakland Zoo welcomed four new tiger sisters, Molly, Milou, Ginger, and Grace. The sisters were rescued by the Gladys Porter Zoo in Texas, from a very sad situation and were awaiting a permanent home. The sisters traveled via a FedEx flight from Texas to their final destination, Oakland. Twelve months later, Oakland Zoo’s zookeepers are proud to report the sisters are adjusting well to their forever home. Two of the tigers (Ginger and Grace) have been introduced to Torako, a former circus animal, and are getting along nicely. However, Molly and Milou are taking longer to befriend Torako and remain separated from their elder counterpart. Through the many months of introductions and changes, zookeepers have made diet adjustments, experiments with enrichment, and plans for exhibit improvement. Caring for big cats can be a challenge, but also rewarding.

“The reward is seeing them comfortable, relaxed, and engaged, said Erica Calcagno, Big Cats ZooKeeper. Forever is a long time; we strive to give them the respect and the quality of life they deserve."

Besides tigers, Oakland Zoo is home to two lions named Leonard and Sandy. Twelve years ago, as cubs, they were found with twelve other exotic cats and a wolf in Crockett, Texas. The cats were released to the SPCA due to animal cruelty and relocated to the Oakland Zoo.

“Oakland Zoo believes that it is vitally important to bring attention to the tremendous problem of wild animals like lions and tigers in the pet and entertainment industries, said Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation, and Research at Oakland Zoo. “By providing homes to animals that have suffered from these bad experiences we can improve their lives and tell their individual stories. We encourage people to boycott circuses with wild animals and let their government officials know to support legislation banning the use and sale of these animals.”

A dozen years later, the elderly cats require specialized care, exhibit modifications, and additional veterinary procedures. Keepers have specifically trained the cats for blood draws, medication, and exams.

“When dealing with "Big Cats" husbandry training is not only important but necessary, said Michelle Jeffries, Zoological Manager. “Saftey for keepers, as well as making procedures less stressful for animals, is one of Oakland Zoo's animal training goals.”

Behind the Scenes Video and Photos of our Tiger and Lion exhibits.


The Bay Area's award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kid's activities perfect for science field trips, family day trips and exciting birthday parties. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, in 500-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, off Highway 580. The East Bay Zoological Society (Oakland Zoo) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supported in part by members, contributions, the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks.