Oakland Zoo and Oaklandish…Partnering in Our Great City!
by | July 20th, 2017

A Different Kind of Zoo Partnership…

When you think about Oakland Zoo, seeing animals like the elephants, giraffes or tigers might come to mind.

Some people might also think of spending time with family and friends outdoors when it comes to the Zoo. Others, especially kids, might give our popular summer ZooCamp program a shout out. And those who dig a little deeper into our mission may think about our role in wildlife conservation and saving species from extinction. Yes, we’re proud to be known for our expert animal husbandry practices, animal welfare initiatives and conservation programs throughout there world.

But do you think about our role in contributing to the economic and social vitality of our community in our great city of Oakland? Probably not. We partner with a number of community-based organizations and local, like-minded businesses to support a thriving quality of life in our region.

For example, we support all Oakland Unified School District teachers with zoo passes while providing free or discounted programs to Title 1 schools; we organize a summer internship program for local youth (thanks to support from Pacific Gas & Electric); we donate 10,000 zoo passes for children through the Oakland Athletics Community Fund every year; and we give local seniors access to the zoo through summer free days and host the United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County’s Healthy Living Festival that promotes health and wellness every September.

Recently, we’ve had the opportunity to count Oaklandish as a new partner. We both share the goals of creating civic-pride and appreciation of Oakland. In their own words, the mission of Oaklandish is to spread “local love” by way of our civic pride-evoking tees and accessories, while creating quality inner city jobs for locals, and giving back to the people and places that maintain our city’s trailblazer spirit.” Oakland Zoo launched its first line of apparel with Oaklandish, showcasing the only urban gondola of its kind in California with the opening of our California Trail project. Just like Oaklandish, our civic pride soars sky high! Come check out our Oaklandish-designed new t-shirts in the Zoo’s gift shop.

So next time you think about Oakland Zoo, think a little differently about how we contribute back to the community and create economic and social value for the region. Stop by Oakland Zoo or an Oaklandish retail shop to capture some “local love” from two thriving Oakland institutions that truly love this great city of ours.

Giraffe: The Tallest Forgotten Species
by | May 2nd, 2017

Ever wonder how giraffe communicate? Have you ever been curious about what they might say to each other, or how far their communication can reach? Maybe you see two giraffe next to each other and wonder, “Are they friends?” or “what makes them want to be friends?”

If you have ever wondered these questions while watching our 8 resident giraffe at Oakland Zoo you may be surprised to learn that giraffe experts across the world ask the very same questions. Did you know that giraffe are one of the least studied megafauna in Africa? For whatever reason these animals did not grab the attention of our society in a way that invoked our curiosity to study them like the way the lion or elephant has.

The first person to truly dedicate her life to the study of giraffe was Anne Innis Dagg in the 1950’s, but her work was ignored for decades simply because she was a woman. There are accounts of giraffe in earlier time periods, but were quite brief, and nothing was done long term. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that researchers finally began to turn their attention towards the species and long-term studies began.

So what is going happening with giraffe in Africa now? What are we learning? We know that giraffe numbers are declining, and they are doing so fast. With under 90,000 individuals left, the population has seen a 40% drop in just 20 years. Habit loss, drought, war, and human-animal conflict are the biggest factors.

Thankfully there is a small group of incredibly dedicated researchers that have made different parts of Africa their home and different types of giraffe their focal point. Since 2008, John Doherty and the Reticulated Giraffe Project have worked to develop a trauma-free way of tracking and collecting data samples from the giraffe population in Kenya, so that he and his team can continue to study the species without any disturbance to their lives. Zoe Muller has done some of the longest studies of the Rothschild Giraffe, with the formation of her organization in 2009, describing the important and complex relationships that exist between giraffe individuals. Monica Bond and Derek Lee began the Wild Nature Institute and their study of Masai giraffe in 2010, beginning the largest land mammal demography study in the world.

How can you help? Visit Oakland Zoo on Wednesday, June 21st and purchase a ticket to feed one of our reticulated giraffe. Buy a raffle ticket that day to win a painting done by one of our very own and talented Benghazi. All the proceeds to this event will go directly to the Reticulated Giraffe Project to help continue their efforts to save the species. Can’t make it to the zoo that day? Visit any of the listed projects above and make a donation directly. With your help, we can stop the decline of this magnificent and forgotten species.

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!