Behind the Scenes at the Oakland Zoo’s Biodiversity Building
by | March 31st, 2017

 

Hello! Welcome to the Oakland Zoo’s Biodiversity Building!

Inside of the Biodiversity Building you will find keepers working behind the scenes on two of the Oakland Zoo’s conservation projects—helping both native and nonnative wildlife.

Our native Mountain Yellow-Legged Frogs live in two of the three labs. Each year, keepers and supervisors work with San Francisco Zoo, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the National Park Service to collect tadpoles from the wild and bring them back to the Oakland Zoo to be treated for the deadly chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Chytrid is a type of fungus that lives in water or moist environments and is causing mass amphibian population declines and extinctions worldwide. The Mountain Yellow-Legged Frogs are able to carry the chytrid fungus as tadpoles but it is not fatal to their system until they go through metamorphoses. In the late summer/fall of each year we work with biologists to collect third year tadpoles (yes—this species is in its tadpole stage for three years!) from their native lakes in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. We then take them back to the Oakland Zoo and treat them with anti-fungal medications until they have been cleared of the deadly chytrid fungus. The remainder of the year is spent helping the froglets to grow large enough to thrive in their natural habitat.

Spring has arrived and keepers in the biodiversity building are getting ready to re-infect the now developed and growing frogs with the chytrid fungus. That is right—after all of this we re-infect the frogs with the fungus!

But, why?

Re-infecting and retreating the frogs for chytrid is an inoculation process. We are now “vaccinating” our healthy frogs to help strengthen their immune systems. We are not able to remove chytrid from their native habitat but we hope to give them the immune support they need to thrive and produce future populations!

In the late spring/early summer we will pack up our larger, stronger frogs for release into the lakes from which they were collected and begin preparing our labs for the next round of tadpoles.

To learn more about this species and support Oakland Zoo’s onsite conservation projects, check out our Conservation Speaker Series event at 6:30 pm on Sunday April 9, 2017 in the Marion Zimmer Auditorium.

A Trail of Memories
by | February 8th, 2017

When guests come to the Oakland Zoo they are treated to a plethora of excitement. They see different animals (tigers, elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees, etc.), board the sky ride to see animals from a high distance, ride the roller coaster and other rides in “Adventure Landing,” and attend other various activities. But changes are being made to the zoo. Once the changes are made in the Knowland Park area, the California Trail will be born. The trail will open in 2018. As an Oakland Zoo employee, I think that this expansion is good because it allows the guests to make brand new memories.

For over a decade, the Oakland Zoo has been working on a plan to extend its borders in order to make way for the California Trail which will not only include a gondola ride and restaurant but will also include new animals including jaguars, mountain lions, and grizzly bears. The trail will also include a camp area along with a new playground and learning area. Having these new additions to the zoo is a good thing because change is good. Working in operations gives me the opportunity to see guests enjoy what the zoo has to offer. From seeing them ride the train to watching the elephants roam around their exhibit, kids and adults would have a great time enjoying the rides and watching/learning about the animals that dwell in the zoo. That and create fun memories. And with this expansion, folks will see new exhibits and learn more about the new animals that roam the park therefore allowing them to see something that is different and exciting at the same time.

When I was a ride operator, I would see to it that the kids and adults understand the rules so that they won’t fall down and get hurt. I currently operate the rides ticket booth and tell them how the tickets work and try to help them out as much as I can so that they can have a pleasant experience at the rides area. There are times when I see the same guests and their kids come by and say hi and let me know how they are doing. For me it’s not just about the talk but it’s about the connection that I make with guests so that we can understand each other. And once we connect with each other, nothing can go wrong. We at the zoo are here to help out in any way that we can because if we want the guests to have a good experience at the zoo, then we must provide them with all the attention that they need so that they can remember us in a good light. I don’t know what the future will hold for me when the trail opens but I hope that somewhere down the line I can be involved with helping the guests understand what they need to learn about the trail and the animals that inhabit the area. For all I know I can write blog more about the trail (I wrote for the zoo magazine, “Roar”). That way by helping out our guests, they’ll know that we can be counted on if they need our help.

Despite the fact that all of these changes are happening at the Oakland Zoo, I think that the one thing that won’t ever change is the zoo experience. When guests come to the zoo, they learn how animals live, eat, survive, and more. Going to the zoo is an educational experience because it provides them with an awareness about these animals and with this expansion, guests can see a whole new world of possibilities that they haven’t seen before. And by entering the trail, they can spread the word to their friends and family members about what is going on at the zoo. And when they come to the zoo, they can create their own experiences and share them with others and so on.

The Oakland Zoo is a place to make wonderful memories. And by having the California Trail in place, guests will enter and leave the zoo with a new trail of memories.

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).