Author Archive

A Dog and Three Kittens…at the Zoo?

by | September 12th, 2011

Lily Rae, photo caption Colleen Kinzley

You may have already heard that we now have an Oakland Zoo Dog,  Lily Rae, and Zoo Cats, Billy, Scarlet and Calli. Lily Rae began her formal exhibit hours (formal only because she is often accessible for many other hours of the day, but these are the hours that the keepers can be sure will fit into their schedules) .  She is “on exhibit” Mon., Wed., Thurs., and Sundays at 10-11am and 2-3pm.  Often, she is hanging out with one of her keepers in the Contact Yard in with the goats and sheep where kids can pet and visit with her.  She has progressed much faster than we expected and has been exceptional in these direct contact situations. I had a wonderful experience one day with a young girl, maybe eight years old, who absolutely fell in love with Lily. She pet her for a half an hour and did not want to leave. Her Aunt had to promise they would come back. She didn’t have a dog at home, but really wanted one. Her Aunt said it was in the works, so we talked all about how to care for the dog and the importance of puppy classes and training.

Lily with her trainer and Keeper Chelsea, Photo credit: Colleen Kinzley

Lily Rae  graduated puppy training with Chelsea Williams from Bravo!Pup Puppy One,  a five week course where she practiced sit, down, loose leash walking, and stay. She is now taking Puppy Two with Cathy Keyes, where  she faces greater distractions and durations on her stays, learns to ‘go to place’ and eye contact among other things. Cathy and Chelsea are the two keepers that take Lily home at night. Early training is so important to insure that your dog becomes a good family member, but training can happen at any time. To learn more about puppy and dog training classes visit

Lily Rae is a water baby and loves any opportunity to play in water, I’ve included a picture with her and the hose. She was a muddy mess shortly after this picture was taken.



Teen Wild Guides showing kittens to Zoo visitors

The kittens are also doing very well although they are proving to be a bit more challenging than Lily to train. They are much more interested in playing. The keepers are working on things like teaching the kittens to come when they are called and allow their nails to be trimmed.  Just like all of the animal training in the Zoo, it is done to care for the animals and only using positive reinforcement like food treats, praise, and petting.  We are working on the modifications to the Cat Cottage, so Zoo guests can come into the room to visit with the kittens. In the meantime, when the kittens have an attendant, they will hold the kittens up at a short fence for petting, which both the kids and the kittens are loving.

An Opportunity to Help Tigers Here in the US

by | August 26th, 2011

Photo courtesy of IFAW

Thousands of tigers are held privately across the US, more than what remain in the wild. They are often poorly cared for and irresponsibly bred. Tigers breed well in captivity, even under terrible conditions. Many of the cubs and the parents are destined to live out their lives in small, horrible facilities. These animals are sold as pets (yes many states allow this), perform in circuses, and are carted to malls and fairs. Often, the tiger cubs are used to make money through photo opportunities.

You can help stop this practice by urging the USDA to increase their regulations for protecting all captive tigers. Please take a couple minutes (I did it, it only took 2 minutes) to let the USDA know you support changes to protect all captive tigers.



Colleen Kinzley

Curator at Oakland Zoo


Find out more information on how to take action from Fred O’ Regan, IFAW President.

Click here to link to IFAW information.


Don’t Support the Circus

by | August 1st, 2011

You may have seen the ads that the Circus is in the Bay Area. For me it is a sad reminder that many elephants, tigers and other wild animals still suffer miserable lives in the circus.

For example the elephants spend most of their lives confined by short chains, and rarely, if ever, get to do normal elephant behaviors like grazing on grass or swimming. They are also forced by trainers to do unnatural and sometimes dangerous behaviors like standing on small tubs and turning in circles, or forming a chain of elephants; each elephant standing her front feet on the back of the other. The circus trainers use bullhooks, a stick with a sharp hook and point, to punish the elephants if they don’t do what the trainer wants them to do. For more information about the suffering of wild animals in entertainment visit the Animal Defenders International website at

Human circus performers perform by choice and are wonderful to watch. Be sure if you go to a circus it is one of the fabulous animal free= cruelty free circuses like the Pickle Circus and Cirque du Soleil.

Keep Your Eye to the Sky

by | April 17th, 2010

Barn Swallow, Photo credit Jason Loy

By Jason Loy, Animal Keeper at Oakland Zoo

Have you ever looked up in the sky, seen a flock of birds flying overhead and wondered where they were going? Perhaps they were headed south for the winter and to warmer climates, flying northward in the spring, preparing to find a mate, or merely looking for the day’s meal. Whatever the case may be, witnessing a flock of birds soaring by is always a sight to behold and there is no better day to celebrate this fact then on International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD).

Based around the second Saturday of May each year (this year it will take place on the 8th), IMBD is a celebration across the Americas of the nearly 350 migratory bird species that grace our skies and the conservation efforts that support them. Since its creation in 1993 by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, IMBD continues to grow with an estimated 500 reported events occurring in 2007 and hundreds of thousands of people participating nationwide. Organized currently by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Division of Migratory Bird Management, this day consists of all of the different activities and ways birds are observed and cherished. Everything from bird walks and counts, fairs and festivals put on by local organizations, photo contests, kids games, habitat restoration projects and cleanups, and live music and performances can be considered as a part of the celebration.

Black Phoebe, Photo credit Jason Loy

Each year has a different theme for IMBD and the theme for this year is “The Power of Partnerships”, which highlights the partnerships that allow bird conservation programs to be successful. For example, the Oakland Zoo partners with bird-friendly organizations like the American Bird Conservancy and the Ventana Wildlife Society, which do great work and research to make the lives of birds better.

The Oakland Zoo is also a great place to view different native and migrating birds. Not only does the zoo have quite a number of different species, there were also an estimated 47 different wild species seen within the zoo grounds and surrounding areas during last year’s Christmas Bird Count. With everything from hawks and turkeys to hummingbirds and warblers, the Oakland Zoo continues to be an excellent habitat for birds.

For more information and to find other events near you, head to online, or check out one of the other links below.