Teen Wild Guides Take on Yellowstone!
by | September 16th, 2016

The Teen Wild Guide (TWG) Program at the Oakland Zoo is a fantastic program for teens who are interested in animals, volunteering and having fun! One of the many perks of being a TWG is the summer trip! Every year we go on an international conservation trip with the exception of this summer 2016 we decided to stay domestic and visit the beautiful Yellowstone National Park.

Myself, one other chaperone and 13 zoo teens headed off to Bozeman, Montana on July 9, 2016 for a 9 day conservation camping trip. We went through an incredible program called Ecology Project International (EPI), which provides educational trips to youth based on wildlife research and conservation.

Hiking Hellroaring

Hiking Hellroaring

Prep for this trip included monthly meetings, journaling and a hike. During one of our meetings the high school volunteers were broken into groups for a research project. They were given a topic to learn more about and develop a presentation for the rest of our group. These awe-inspiring short presentations ranged from amphibians affect in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) to invasive and non-invasive fish species throughout the water ways. The awareness that each student showed made it apparent that they were in fact the perfect group to go to Yellowstone and participate in data collection for the National Park Service’s lead Bison Biologists research that investigates the grazing effect of Bison in the GYE. How did we do that you ask?! With camp food, sleeping bags, elk carcasses, rain coats, binoculars and more!

Geysers and geothermals in Norris!

Geysers and geothermals in Norris!

We experienced some pretty torrential rain for the first few days. Did that stop us? No way! Rain gear on and ready for adventure, the next 5 days were filled with geothermals, bison research and pulling invasive plant species.

Looking at a native carnivorous plant species

Looking at a native carnivorous plant species

We were very lucky to learn from and work alongside, Jeremiah, Yellowstone’s very own Lead Bison Researcher and Biologist. We counted grass, performed fecal transects and had a lab day.

It was a great privilege to be a part of such important conservation research! Believe it or not, the favorite part of bison research for the teens ended up being the day centered around counting and weighing poop! I was very proud of them!

Fecal transects in Lamar Valley

Fecal transects in Lamar Valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interested in doing wolf observations in Yellowstone? Why, all you have to do is wake up at 4:30am (preferably earlier) and find the legendary, Rick McIntyre! He has been observing Yellowstone wolves every morning for over 30 years. He is as much a story teller as he is a wolf biologist. It was so much fun learning about the ups and downs of Yellowstone wolf packs, we even spotted a few of the elusive animals near a bison herd in the distance and heard them howl!

Bison Burger

Bison Burger

Our last couple days were filled with individual species presentations, white water rafting and bison burgers!

We stayed in cabins that night and FINALLY got to take showers. Eight days of no running water was our (or maybe just my) biggest feat of the whole trip. Our three fantastic instructors led activities that evening about reflection and appreciation of our time there and each other. Hearing all the kids talk about how this trip has changed them, how excited they were about new friendships, and seeing the tears from not wanting to leave was a personal highlight for me. That’s what these trips are about.

We love Yellowstone!

We love Yellowstone!

Create With Beads to Help Chimpanzees!
by | September 8th, 2016
Beautiful Kibale Beads

Beautiful Kibale Beads

Have you seen these beads around the zoo? We’ve sold them in the gift shop, at Earth Day, and at a special table we put out on the weekends. These beads aren’t just beautiful – they also have a very special story.

In 2000, facing the low social and economic status of women in Uganda, a woman named Margaret Kemigisa came up with an idea to create income by selling crafts. She founded the Community Action Project, recruiting six local women and teaching them skills such as making baskets and paper beads. This project has now grown to over 60 women, who use the time together to discuss and educate each other on important topics such as environmental conservation and family planning. An important aspect of the Community Action Project (CAP) is respecting the environment – they live near Kibale National Park, which boasts the densest population of primates in Africa, as well as many other species of wildlife. Margaret and her fellow co-workers choose to use recycled magazines and sustainable plant and fruit materials to make their crafts in order to reduce their impact on the environment. With the money they make selling crafts, the women of CAP are able to buy livestock, land, and help their community.

Creating the beads

Creating the beads

Oakland Zoo first met Margaret and the women of CAP in 2008, when they visited Uganda on an ecotrip. We were so inspired by their story that we purchased jewelry to be sold in the Oakland Zoo gift shop. When we returned in 2011, we were thrilled to find that the women had made enough money from their crafts to open up a small shop near the park! In 2014, Oakland Zoo decided to pilot a program where zoo guests could make their own jewelry using these Kibale beads, while learning about conservation. We purchase the beads from Margaret and the CAP in the tens of thousands. These beads have a long journey to make, from the villages of Uganda to the Bay Area. Here at the zoo, we sell them as pre-made bracelets and necklaces, packages of loose beads, and individual beads, out of which bracelets, necklaces, or keychains can be made.

My favorite question to ask zoo guests as they pass by the Beads for Chimps table is “What do you think these beads are made of?” I’ve gotten some creative answers – shells, rocks, chimp hair, or plastic, among many others. Some clever children have made the beads themselves and already know the answer. With the help of a magnifying glass, I can show people the details of these beads; the remnants of letters and numbers from the magazines they are made from. The table attracts all kinds, from children to adults, male and female.

Most people I talk to are inspired by the story of Margaret and these women. They become even more inspired when I tell them where the profits from bead sales go – to the Budongo Snare Removal Project, one of our close partners in Uganda, who employ former bush meat hunters to remove snares in the forest that are injuring wild chimpanzees.

The amazing chimpanzees we are working hard to protect

The amazing chimpanzees we are working hard to protect.

Earth Day 2016 marked two years of the Beads for Chimps table being out in the zoo. With the support of conservation volunteers and the Teen Wild Guides, we have sold over $6,000 worth of beads!

Come see the Beads for Chimps table, and many more primate-related activities, at Discovering Primates Day on September 24, 2016!

Gearing Up for Lion Appreciation Day August 6th
by | July 13th, 2016

Please join Oakland Zoo in celebrating Lion Appreciation Day on Saturday, August 6th.  We will be hosting a slew of activities and events for all visitors to enjoy.  In Flamingo Plaza, make sure to visit our Action for Wildlife table where you can learn more about American Mountain Lions and African Lions and enter a raffle.  Spread the word and spread the love at the selfie station – you can take a photo with our lion-themed props and then share on social media.  #ozlionappreciation  Kids can participate in face painting, the opportunity to compare their hand print to a lion paw print, and stamp a lion-centric “passport” for their visit around the zoo.

Lion Appreciation Day 2015

Photo Credit: Oakland Zoo

We are also featuring two fabulous conservation partners at this year’s Lion Appreciation Day. Flamingo Plaza features Uganda Carnivore Program and Bay Area Puma Project.  Uganda Carnivore Program is dedicated to the conservation and research of three large carnivores – lions, hyenas, and leopards.  Bay Area Puma Project has a similar mission that focuses on local Mountain Lions.   If you can’t make it down to Oakland Zoo for Lion Appreciation Day on August 6th, you can still learn all about these conservation partners and how you can help their mission on our website: http://www.oaklandzoo.org/Conservation.php

Uganda Carnivore ProgramBay Area Puma Project

This is an extra special Lion Appreciation Day because Oakland Zoo is also celebrating the arrival of three new Southeast African lions to our Simba Pori exhibit.  Be sure to come by Simba Pori to see Mandla, Tandie, and Gandia – three brothers nearly 21 months old.  These males were born at Woodland Park Zoo in October 2014.  They are nearly 300 pounds already and just starting to grow in their iconic manes.  Adolescent male lions in the wild venture out on their own by 2 years of age to form coalitions that will hunt and live cooperatively.  Mandla, Tandie, and Gandia will live together as a coalition – playing together, resting together, and eating together.

Coalition as Cubs

Photo Credit: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

Coalition as Adolescents

Photo Credit: Alicia Powers/Oakland Zoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also can’t forget to appreciate our 16 year old senior lion, Leonard.  There are no plans to introduce Leonard to Mandla, Tandie, and Gandia.  Lion introductions are extremely stressful and risky.  Given Leonard’s age and the new boys’ youthful nature, Leonard will be more comfortable having his own space.  To manage these two groups, we will rotate Leonard and the coalition between the exhibit space and an off-exhibit space.  Some days Leonard will be on exhibit, and other days Mandla, Tandie, and Gandia will be on exhibit.  Be sure to come by the main viewing deck of Simba Pori at 1pm on Lion Appreciation Day for the keeper talk highlighting our 4 magnificent male lions.

Leonard

Photo Credit: Colleen Renshaw

There are many reasons to appreciate American and African lions.  Lions on both continents are apex predators, and as such, they are essential to the health of their respective ecosystems.  The history of the eradication of the apex predator from the Yellowstone area, the wolf, should be a cautionary tale to us all.  If we can’t find a way to live cooperatively with our local population of mountain lions, then the landscapes and open spaces that make the Bay Area so unique will forever change.  It is our hope that you will walk away from Lion Appreciation Day with a better understanding of the challenges facing wild populations of American mountain lions and African lions and some inspiration to take action.  We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, August 6th!

World Elephant Day 2016: Help Oakland Zoo #fightthecrime!
by | July 13th, 2016

World Elephant Day is a day to recognize all things elephant! Oakland Zoo is renowned for the conservation and advocacy work we do on behalf of elephants and this is a day to celebrate them.

Zoo campers learning about tusks and why 96 elephants a day are dying for them.

Zoo campers learning about tusks and why 96 elephants a day are dying for them.

Elephant staff will be tabling in front of the elephant exhibit to share all of our good efforts to visitors. The table will include artifacts, such as ivory tusks, so that visitors may learn about elephants being poached in the wild, our most recent legislative efforts on SB 1062 and AB 96, and information on our conservation partners. Also included will be action items where kids will get to color in an elephant coloring page to take home and share, and families will take an elphie in front of our elephant “crime scene” to #fightthecrime. Guests are encouraged to wear grey and will be given a special “96” pin, on behalf of the 96 elephants a day that are being poached in Africa. March for Elephants will also be tabling and handing out information regarding this year’s Elephant March in San Francisco, on September 24th.

In the meantime here’s a little history and a brief update of what’s been happening on the elephant front.

World Elephant Day 2014 and still going! Visotors were given special hand made pins made by Oakland Zoo staff in honor of the 96 elephants a day that die for their tusks.

World Elephant Day 2014 and still going! Visitors were given special hand made pins made by Oakland Zoo staff in honor of the 96 elephants a day that die for their tusks.

Oakland Zoo joined Wildlife Conservation Society’s “96 Elephants” campaign back in 2013 and it’s been quite the wild ride of success. In the fall of 2012, Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation, and Research, and staff attended a WCS lecture in San Francisco. John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs was the key-note speaker, introducing the 96 Elephants campaign. In January of 2013 we set up a phone call to talk to the “96” team to set up a partnership, letting them know we were on board and ready to take action for elephants. They’ve kept us busy ever since!

Shortly after that initial phone call, we were already talking about introducing legislature to California to

Oakland Zoo in collaboration with WCS, NRDC, March for Elephants, and HSUS, along with dozens of constituents work to pass AB 96.

Live from the Capitol! Oakland Zoo in collaboration with WCS, NRDC, March for Elephants, and HSUS, along with dozens of constituents work to pass AB 96.

ban ivory sales. After two years of meetings, community and visitor outreach and education, getting hundreds of signatures, letters, and drawings to our governor, and a few trips to Sacramento, that dream became a reality. In October of 2015, AB 96 was passed into law (all types of ivory including mammoth, as well as rhino horn), and it was just early July of this year when the law came into effect. California was the third state to ban the sales of ivory after New Jersey and New York), and since then WCS has worked and collaborated on passing laws in Washington and Hawaii. WCS also had us rally for the most recent federal ban on ivory sales, meeting the goal of sending over one million messages to be heard. Under the leadership of President Obama’s Wildlife Trafficking Task Force, we will now not allow ivory into the United States, with very few exceptions (unfortunately this does not include mammoth ivory). Here are the specifics on the federal regulations: https://www.fws.gov/international/travel-and-trade/ivory-ban-questions-and-answers.html.  Please know that the reason why state bans are so important is because the federal ban does not prevent trade WITHIN a state.

 

Since my last update (http://www.oaklandzoo.org/blog/2015/07/31/oakland-zoo-supports-world-elephant-day/), even more action has been happening on the conservation front worldwide.

  • June 2015: WCS, including several other conservation organizations and 3 government agencies hosted an ivory crush in Times Square.
  • August 2015: World Elephant Day across the nation generated three times more media outreach than the previous year.
  • September 2015: President Xi of China and President Obama announced a joint commitment to fight against wildlife trafficking and close domestic ivory trade
  • October 2015: Oakland Zoo staff and volunteers march in San Francisco for the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. The day of the march Governor Brown vetoes SB 716, the CA bill to ban the bullhook. The day after the march Governor Brown signs AB 96, the CA bill to ban ivory sales.
  • April 2016: Kenya hosts the largest ivory burn in history of over 100 tons of confiscated ivory. Since 2011 there have been at least 19 ivory crushes/burns. Click here to see more detail: http://96elephants.tumblr.com/post/145306232045/thanks-to-your-help-elephants-are-a-little-safer
  • May 2016: Cynthia Moss is the keynote speaker at Oakland Zoo’s Celebrating Elephants evening gala. Both day and evening events raised over $50,000, a record year
  • June 2016: United States announces a nationwide ban on ivory sales.

 

Here’s the most recent results from the Great Elephant Census to give us a more complete look at how Africa’s different elephant populations are doing http://www.greatelephantcensus.com/map-updates :

The Great Elephant Census. Efforts being made across the continent to estimate current elephant populations, something that hasn't been done in over 40 years.

The Great Elephant Census. Efforts being made across the continent to estimate current elephant populations, something that hasn’t been done in over 40 years.

It was reported that Tanzania has lost at least 60% of it’s population, and Mozambique at least 48% in recent years (these are the main areas in red in East Africa).  It’s important to remember that every country in Africa is different when it comes to wildlife trafficking and how they value their wildlife. We cannot paint the entire continent the same when it comes to these issues, although as a world issue we all need to come together to take action and create change.

What’s going on with the bullhook ban SB 1062?

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Team SB 1062 (originally SB716) to ban the use of the bullhook in California. OZ staff providing outreach and expert testimony.

As you may remember last October Governor Brown vetoed SB 716. This bill would have charged criminal penalties to those using bullhooks on elephants, but because of the governors concerns with adding more criminal law to our penal code, SB 716 was vetoed. Working with California Fish and Game, HSUS, Oakland Zoo, and Performing Animal Welfare Society, created SB 1062. This bill addresses the governors concerns with the criminal law and creates civil penalty with fines and possible revocation of a permit to have an elephant in California. This law would be written into the Fish and Game code. Recently, SB 1062 has passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee and will next be up for the full Assembly Floor vote. Oakland Zoo has provided expert testimony in several committee hearings the last two years, efforts crucial to the bill’s passing, as well as hours of lobbying state offices.

Join Oakland Zoo for World Elephant Day on Friday, August 12th and take action for elephants! Help us #fightthecrime (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1__6JrJ609I).

 

Elephant Care, Action, and Beyond!
by | June 17th, 2016
Protected Contact training with target poles. Photo Gina Kinzley.

Protected Contact training with target poles. Photo Gina Kinzley.

Here at the Oakland Zoo we have a strong belief and value system when it comes to animal welfare. We do everything we can to provide our animals with what they need, including space with the appropriate substrates, social dynamics, as well as enrichment and training for both physical and mental stimuli. Everything we do takes into consideration the health and well-being of the animal as well as the safety of the keeper. Wild animals can be dangerous and in no way should be treated like a pet. We work with them in a protected contact type of management to ensure our safety and theirs. You might be thinking why does the animal need to be safe? Aren’t you the one in danger? The answer is yes. I am in danger should I walk into an enclosure and right up to an animal, but for me to be able to do that involves punishment toward the animal. If you have been to a circus before you have seen all the different animals they work with up-close and personal. This is not because the animals enjoy being in the circus and close to their handlers; this is because the animals are forced and mistreated to behave as asked.

Since I am an elephant keeper, let’s talk about elephants specifically. Working with the largest land mammal on earth is a challenge. People

Donna, mudding in the grassy meadow on a rainy day. Photo Gina Kinzley.

Donna, mudding in the grassy meadow on a rainy day. Photo Gina Kinzley.

think they are gentle giants but more often they are and always have the potential to be extremely dangerous. For decades these intelligent creatures have had to put up with being in the circus where their handlers have abused them into submission, beating them with what is called an “ankus” or “bullhook”. When you see the handlers inside the enclosure working directly with the elephant, this is called free contact. This management relies on negative reinforcement and punishment. The ankus, similar in look to a fireplace poker, was and is specifically designed to cause pain, and for the elephant to move away from the two sharp points of the hook. When an elephant does not comply with the asked behavior the pressure of the sharp points is increased, which often times leads to striking and clubbing with the hook. Twenty five years ago an alternative system was created.

IMG_2425In California, bullhooks are not used at any zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums or at the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary. Instead, this alternate system is called Protected Contact. This style uses positive reinforcement, and trainers are always protected by a barrier whether it be spatial or with fencing. When we ask our elephants to do something they are reinforced with food treats and praise. This keeps us and the elephants safe. When we are training we stand outside the fence line and use target poles, which are a long piece of bamboo or rake handle with a soft tip, to target a part of the body that we need. The keepers or trainers are not dominant over the elephant, and if the elephant chooses not to participate then they have the choice to walk away from the session. Fortunately elephants are extremely food motivated and using their healthy diet they are willing to help the trainers with the care they need. Under Oakland Zoo’s management, the elephants at Tembo Preserve (http://www.tembopreserve.org/index.html) will be trained using the same management style. The Preserve will provide three heated elephant barns of approximately 26,000 square feet each, which will include various protected contact walls, with the first phase including one barn that can service up to 12 elephants, providing shelter from cold weather and facilities for veterinary care and basic husbandry training. Also, throughout the vast and spacious habitat, these training walls will be available to be able to access the elephants at a distance from the main barn when needed.  Most of our training is for husbandry and health purposes, but we do fun stuff as well such as catching a

Donna, playing with a tire for fun. Photo Gina Kinzley.

Donna, playing with a tire for fun. Photo Gina Kinzley.

stick in the trunk or picking up an object when thrown. Fun stuff is okay as long as it is not strenuous on the elephants. A lot of the behaviors you might see in the circus such as legs stands are taxing on the joints and in the long term can cause arthritis. Although rarely observed in the wild to reach a branch or dig up a root, elephants are not meant to do these behaviors repetitively every day. At our facility we can accomplish anything we train, such as foot care, blood draws, ultrasounds, and beyond. I would rather see an elephant out on 6.5 acres grazing and browsing and interacting freely with one another, than standing next to me in fear, wearing some silly outfit, chained and confined in box cars and parking lots and performing tricks for profit. So, please support the Oakland Zoo and let elephants be elephants! Don’t go to the circus, the cruelest show on earth! Support your local non-animal circus’ such as Teatro Zinzanni and Cirque de Soleil.

SB 1062 team. From left to right, Ed Stewart, Gina Kinzley, Jennifer Fearing, Catherine Doyle, Dr. Joel Parrott.

SB 1062 team. From left to right, Ed Stewart, Gina Kinzley, Jennifer Fearing, Catherine Doyle, Dr. Joel Parrott.

SB 1062, a California bill which would ban the use of the bullhook would be the first of it’s kind. Oakland Zoo, along with Performing Animal Welfare Society, and Humane Society of the United States are working to pass this bill. Public opinion regarding the use and treatment of captive elephants is rapidly evolving in the direction of increasing protection for them. The cities of Los Angeles and Oakland have prohibited the use of bullhooks, and San Francisco has banned the use of elephants, among other animals, in performances of any kind. Numerous other jurisdictions across California and the U.S. have similar restrictions in place and more are considering such actions. Today, no county fair in California offers elephant rides (run by operators who use bullhooks), in response to community concerns about animal welfare and public safety. Even Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus has ended their elephant acts and their last show with elephants was in May 2016. California is poised to become the first state

Osh browsing. Photo Gina Kinzley.

Osh browsing. Photo Gina Kinzley.

in the nation to end the abusive treatment of elephants caused by the use of outdated and inhumane bullhooks. SB 1062 would effectively protect elephants, while sending a strong message to the rest of the country that cruelty to elephants must not be tolerated. SB 1062 has already passed the Senate and will be heard on Tuesday, June 14th in the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee. Stay tuned on Oakland Zoo’s Facebook page for updates on the bills progress. Here’s detailed info about the bill: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_1062&sess=CUR&house=B&author=lara_<lara>.

 

Cynthia Moss, founder of Amboseli Trust for Elephants, at the 20th Annual Oakland Zoo Celebrating Elephants.

Cynthia Moss, founder of Amboseli Trust for Elephants, at the 20th Annual Oakland Zoo Celebrating Elephants.

A huge thank you to those of you that attended our Annual Celebrating Elephants Fundraiser. We have raised more than 300,000 dollars over the past twenty years and all of the proceeds go toward world renowned elephant researcher Cynthia Moss’ Amboseli Trust for Elephants, protecting African Elephants through conservation and research. We had the privilege of having Cynthia herself as our guest speaker at the silent auction and lecture. She gave us an update on the thriving Amboseli population of elephants and the research ATE is currently working on. The house was packed with the most people we have ever had attend and we had a record breaking year, raising over $50,000.

 

 

Snared! How
by | June 13th, 2016

In the Budongo Forests of Uganda, a large group of chimpanzees attempt to thrive in their natural habitat, eating plants and small prey. At the same time, humans who live around the forest are also trying to survive, working at places like the local sugarcane plantation and living in straw and mud houses. For food, they set out into the forest with small snares and aim for duiker and pig.

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Most of these snares are made from wire. As chimpanzees walk through the forest, their hands or feet may become trapped in the snare. In two of the forests where chimpanzees are studied, researchers have observed up to thirty percent of chimpanzees are maimed due to snare injuries. More die.

This problem is typical all over the world. How do elephants and people live together, or mountain lions and the people of the Bay Area? Though solutions seem impossible at times, we are inspired by the imagination behind the Budongo Snare Removal Project.

In January 2000, the Jane Goodall Institute in collaboration with the Budongo Forest Project initiated a snare removal program in the Budongo Forest Reserve. The objective was to reduce the number of snares set, reduce the number of animals caught in snares and traps, and increase the number of local people who obey wildlife laws and understand the need for protecting wildlife.

Teams of two men locate and remove snares. After the first year of operation, they found that the number of snares being set within the grid Wire snare cherie 2system of the research area dropped.

An education center reaches out to the local community and provides education around ecology, wildlife and the treasure that is the chimpanzees. A nanny goat program rounds out the project, offering ex-poachers an opportunity to raise milk, meat and money for their families in exchange for a promise to cease the use of snares.

Oakland Zoo adopted this project in 2001 and the support covers the salaries for four field assistants, two educators, two eco-guards, the nanny goat program and allowances for transportation, bike repair, gum boots, rain gear, backpacks, and compasses. The zoo is the only supporter of this project. We are proud of its compassion and respect for both animals, people and the entire ecosystem.

Please help these chimpanzee and join us for our annual Discovering Primates Gala on September 24th for delicious snacks, drinks, an exciting silent auction and special guest.