Author Archive

Oakland Zoo ZooKeepers in the Field in Madagascar!

by | November 20th, 2014

AWE!

Awesome is really the only way to describe Centre ValBio. The Brain Child of Dr. Patricia Wright, it is a state of the art research center located steps away from Ranomafana National Park. The raw beauty of the native flora and fauna of Madagascar surrounds you from every angle. At the same, time, the Centre has two floors of dorm rooms and several state of the art laboratories for researchers and study abroad students from all over the world. The sheer amount of research that is possible here is staggering, and the hard working staff atCentre ValBio make the most of it! There are also several satellite camps out in the forest where researchers and students can stay while doing observations. The Centre, however is home base, with electricity, Wifi, and hot showers right on the edge of the Park. One of the few places where primary forest still survives, you can easily run into several species of lemurs on one morning hike.

We were fortunate enough to have Dr. Wright give us a personal tour of a small section of the forest on our first day here.. She showed us her first campsite in the forest some 28 years ago, when she first discovered a new species of lemur. That lemur, the golden bamboo lemur, just happened to be the first one we saw in the wild in the forest – and we saw it with her! On the first trek, we also saw sifakas, red bellied lemurs and red fronted lemurs. We even saw black and white ruffed lemurs, which are not often found in that particular part of the forest.

Slash and BurnBamboo lemur

Centre Val Bio

One of the most striking things I saw on the trek, however, was not the lemurs, but the interactions between Dr. Wright and the locals. Ranomafana National Park is becoming more and more an eco-tourist site, similar to the model used in Rwanda with mountain gorillas. Most recently a French Colony, French is the most common language spoken outside of the native Malagasy which makes it a Mecca for French tourists. We must have run into at least 10 tour groups that day. My French is rusty, but I am able to speak enough to converse and understand most of what was said. Dr. Wright knew every single guide by name! She stopped to speak with each of them and they all made a point to introduce her to their tour groups as the founder of the park and the discoverer of the golden bamboo lemur. They were undeniably proud of her and their forest and cared deeply about the animals that inhabited it. One group had never heard of her, but after the guide explained who she was and how important she was to the park, they lined up to take their pictures with her.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most people survive on less than $2/day. That poverty was evident on the 10 hour drive we took from the capital city of Antanarivo (simply called Tana by the locals) to the Centre. However, Dr. Wright has done everything in her power to transform this area. Conservation is not just about research, it is also about the people.   The construction of Centre ValBio has brought jobs, education, and even electricity and clean water to the local town of Ranomafana. Logging has all but stopped in the area and though the slash and burn agriculture is apparent all around, more and more locals are finding employment not just at the Centre, but at local luxury hotels that are popping up in the area, bringing even more money into the local economy. Dr. Wright brought us to her Women’s Weaving Centre where the women make their own money by weaving the most beautiful scarves and bags out of cotton and a locally produced silk. In the center of Ranomafana, you can buy perfectly crafted baskets, woven placemats, and carvings made from sustainable wood.

Women Weaver signWeaver

While it may have been the lemurs that brought her here, Dr. Wright has improved life for all of the local inhabitants – human, animal, and plant. She is an inspiration. Earlier this year, she became the first woman ever to win the Indianapolis Prize for Conservation. She jokes that it is fitting that someone who studies matriarchal primates be the first woman to win that prize, but the truth is she deserves it either way! Dr. Wright’s work is the epitome of a well-rounded conservation program and Oakland Zoo is proud and honored to be a part of it.

Make Mine Chocolate!

by | April 15th, 2014

Rescued Rabbit, Photo credit: Steve Gordon

Spring has sprung and it is my favorite time of the year! I love the trees, the grass, and flowers. I don’t even mind the pollen, well, not much anyway. Of course, one of my favorite things about this time of year is the Easter candy. I have always been partial to the Cadbury bunny! After all, who can resist a cute little fluffy bunny that lays chocolate eggs?

Apparently, I am not the only one. Each year thousands children awaken on Easter morning delighted to find furry or fuzzy little creatures in their Easter baskets. However children, as we all know, have very short attention spans and by May animal shelters across the country are overrun with abandoned Easter Bunnies, fuzzy little baby chicks, and tiny ducklings. Even worse, many animals are simply turned loose to fend for themselves. In fact, our own rabbits right here at the Oakland Zoo, were domestic pets that had been turned loose at a local college and started breeding, quickly overpopulating the small area and pushing out local wildlife. Five volunteers from the Oakland Animal Services spent all summer catching the rabbits to bring them to get medical care.

These rabbits were lucky, they wound up here at the zoo where they get all the food, water, fresh grass and chew toys they want. But, I will never forget the scene at the animal shelter the first day that I went to meet our potential rabbits. The room at the shelter was stacked to the ceiling with rabbit cages, all of them full. There was also a small makeshift play area set up in the middle of the room that was being used to house more rabbits, and then I discovered that even more rabbits were being housed in foster homes! I went to the animal shelter intending to adopt 5 rabbits, I left with 10. I wish I had been able to provide homes for more of them, but sadly, we do have limited space. I truly admire the people at the shelter who work so hard to care for these abandoned and neglected animals.

Another great organization that cares for abandoned bunnies is the House Rabbit Society (HRS). Last year, HRS began their “Make Mine Chocolate” campaign which teaches people about responsible pet ownership and making good choices. They highlight the special needs of these fragile little creatures and educate people about the hazards of “casual” pet acquisition. The truth is that rabbits are delicate little beings that require time, space and money to properly care for them. Rabbits often have a lifespan of 10 years, and it is irresponsible to acquire a pet unless you plan to make a commitment for the entire life time of the animal. They also need attention, regular exercise and a balanced diet, just like any other pet. Rabbits can be great companions, but it is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.
I still love the Cadbury bunny! This year, I will be thrilled to “Make Mine Chocolate!”

Bunny rescued by the Oakland Zoo after being abandoned by his owners.

Leaping Lemurs!

by | March 25th, 2014
ringtails

Ring-tailed lemurs at Oakland Zoo

Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa, is a beautiful hotspot for biodiversity.  It is estimated that 90% of the plants and animals living in Madagascar are endemic, meaning they occur nowhere else in the world!  Unfortunately, the island nation (about the size of the state of Texas) and its inhabitants are facing some extreme threats.

While it may be rich in biodiversity, the Malagasy people are among the poorest in the world.  It is estimated that over 92% of the population lives on less than $2 per day.  A military coup in 2009 caused further economic instability, and the subsequent anarchy increased the illegal logging of rosewood.  One of the few reliable sources of income, thousands of Malagasy people flocked to the rosewood forests to support their families.  In addition to the problem of rapid deforestation, many people turned to lemurs as a source of protein, illegally hunting them for bush meat.

Eugene

Sclater’s or Blue Eyed lemur at Oakland Zoo. Photo Credit: Anthony C. Brewer

Lemurs are the most endangered mammals in the world.  Of the 101 species of lemur in Madagascar, IUCN considers 60 of them endangered or critically endangered.  Another 20 species are considered vulnerable.  Lemurs are prosimians, meaning that they are primates, but still maintain many “primitive” characteristics of other mammals such as the bicornate uterus.  Like other primates, they do possess opposable thumbs and fingernails rather than claws.    Oakland Zoo houses two species of lemurs, Ring-tailed lemurs and Sclaters or Blue-Eyed lemurs.  Blue eyed lemurs have been listed as one of the 25 most endangered primates for over 6 years.

Conserving lemurs is critically important for the biodiversity of Madagascar.  While logging of Rosewood is illegal, the political unrest that has been extant in Madagascar for over 4 years has allowed it to not only continue, but to increase.  Rosewood is valued for its rich color and hard texture, making it good for furniture.  While the supply comes from Madagascar, the demand for this wood is right here in the US and throughout the western world.  Recently, the Malagasy people elected a president and hopes are high that a stable government system will rein in the illegal logging and poaching practices that have become commonplace.

DSC_0047

Two of Oakland Zoo’s lemurs actually painting!

However, the fact remains that rosewood is mainly sold to westerners.  If the demand were lower or nonexistent, the motivation for deforestation would be almost nonexistent.  So what can you do to protect lemurs in Madagascar?  Do not purchase furniture made from rosewood, and educate your friends and family about the plight of the lemurs.  Email or call Genny Greene (genny@oaklandzoo.org or call (510)632-9529 ext. 167) to learn how you can win a special Behind-the-Scenes visit with our very own lemurs here at Oakland Zoo. Your special visit will include an actual in-person live painting made by our lemurs made just for you. All proceeds will go to lemur conservation efforts in Madagascar (see below for more detailed information). And don’t forget to go see the new IMAX film – Island of the Lemurs which opens on April 4th.

**All proceeds from the raffle benefit lemur conservation through Centre Val Bio.  Centre Val Bio is a research station in Madagascar run by Dr. Patricia Wright who has been studying lemurs for more than two decades.  She is the founder of Centre Val Bio and the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments which led to the establishment of Ranomafauna National Park in Madagascar.  Dr. Wright was the sole scientific advisor for the upcoming IMAX film “Island of the Lemurs” which will be released on April 4th.  For more information:   http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/centre-valbio/index.html

Toys needed for Sun Bears in Borneo
(Oakland Zoo Conservation Program)

by | October 21st, 2013
sun bear in basket

A rescued Sunbear at the Bornean sunbear conservation Center gets to relax in her basket.

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, located in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, rescues sun bears and seeks to rehabilitate bears that may be suitable to return to the wild.

 

Most of the 28 bears in residence at the Centre are victims of the illegal pet trade….mother bears are killed by poachers for their body parts (paws, bile from the gall bladder) and orphaned cubs are often captured and spend their lives in small bare cages without adequate space or proper diet. Many of the bears at the Centre have never walked on grass or been able to climb a tree, a tragedy for these very arboreal bears. The Centre currently has one new bear house built in

Enjoying a new ball

Enjoying a new ball

2010 attached to one hectare (2.5 acres) of forest enclosure, and is in the process of adding a second bear house and forest enclosure. A visitor centre, viewing platform and guest walkway connecting visitors with nearby Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, are all due to be completed in early 2014. Please visit the BSBCC website at www.bsbcc.org.my to learn more and find out how you can support the extraordinary work being done to save the world’s smallest bear species”.

 

 

Pagi, one of Oakland Zoo's sunbears enjoying her Kong.

Pagi, one of Oakland Zoo’s sunbears enjoying her Kong.

Through our fundraising efforts, our support of the BSBCC helps to fund completion of the much-needed rehabilitation facility in Sabah. Oakland Zoo’s own veterinarians have travelled to Malaysia to provide hands-on assistance in moving and providing medical care to the Sun Bears currently being rehabilitated by the BSBCC. Now, on October 31st, Oakland Zoo staff is leading a trip to Borneo very soon and they will be visiting the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. The bears at the center have been rescued as orphans due to poaching and often from the illegal pet trade. In fact, our bear, Ting Ting, was one of those cubs as were both parents of Bulan and Pagi.  The staff at the center would love to be able to provide their bears with “Kong” toys such as Pagi is enjoying. Here at Oakland Zoo, Pagi Bear is enjoying her “Kong” toy enrichment. and our zoo travelers are willing to pack such toys in their luggage for the trip.

Can you help out the bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre by purchasing an Extra Large “Kong” toy to send along with them?

You may purchase these and more on Amazon.com.  Just click here for the items specifically requested for the bears and make sure it will arrive by October 31st.  Thank you for caring about sun bears.

Appreciate Your Zoo Keepers!

by | July 25th, 2013

Keeper-Jeff margaretrousserEach year, the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) declares a National Zoo Keeper Appreciation Week. The idea behind it is to honor animal care professionals and their contributions to conservation while increasing public awareness about preserving our precious habitats and natural resources.

Zoo Keeping is one of the most physically demanding jobs a person can have, but it also one of the most rewarding! Zoo keepers work in all weather conditions, weekends, holidays and sometimes even overnight. The animals do not stop needing care just because it is Thanksgiving, or during a hurricane. Many of us have stayed up all night caring for a critically ill bear, feeding an orphaned squirrel monkey, or observing a new mother otter with her first litter. My personal record is 36 hours straight of animal care. You would be hard pressed to find a group of more dedicated people than you would in a zoo’s animal care department.

EricaZoo Keepers also work very closely with many of the other departments in the Zoo. Here are a few of the things they have to say about the keepers at the Oakland Zoo:

“I have never experienced such a dedicated and loyal staff that puts Oakland Zoo’s animal care first. The animal care staff is representative of what it means to love the job you’re in. I am proud of, and to be associated with, such knowledgeable and professional folks.” Nancy Filippi Managing Director of Operations.

“Keepers, you don’t care for gibbons and chimps, you care for Niko and Caramia, you care for each individual animal that is in your care, with all their unique issues, their unique likes and dislikes. You tap into what brings each animal happiness and health and deliver with love.” Amy Gotliffe, Director of Conservation

Keeper Ashley“I’m always looking for ways to promote Oakland Zoo stories to the public. Often times, I am asking a lot of questions and bugging zookeepers for details about the animals they manage and most the time they think I’m crazy, is my guess. But, those nuggets of information help me grab the media’s attention. I’m so appreciative for the little details zookeepers give me. Their jobs are fascinating and I ALWAYS learn new things about animals each time I bring a reporter or film crew to a location. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of cocktail trivia about animals. Being out in the zoo with zookeepers is usually a definite perk to my job at the Zoo. Kudos to our zookeepers. You work so hard and we appreciate all you do for the animals at Oakland Zoo.” Nicky Mora, Senior Manager of Marketing

Adam-Z“I appreciate the keepers because they do awesome work and serve a tremendous purpose. And, while I get to spend 95% of my time in a heated or air-conditioned office, the keepers do it all, rain or shine (and 98% percent of the time they smile doing it). I’m in considerable awe of their talent and dedication.” John Lemanski, Director of Human Resources

“We have dedicated zoo keepers and are truly blessed to have dozens of staff members that work day in and day out with our diverse collection of animals. Many of the animal species featured throughout Oakland Zoo are ambassadors to animals in the wild that are in danger or at risk of becoming extinct. Our Zoo Keepers are advocates for the animals they care for and they strive to make the public aware of issues facing those same animals in the wild. We work really hard at spreading the message of conservation and our keepers play an integral role in that process.” Dr. Joel Parrott, President and CEO of Oakland Zoo

Dannielle“National Zoo Keeper Week is an opportunity for us to acknowledge Keepers for what they do and thank them for the care they continue to provide our animals at Oakland Zoo. One of the core beliefs our Keepers all embody is educating the public about pets, specifically which animals do and do not make good pets. Besides educating the public about the animals, our keepers go to great lengths to provide the most natural and enriching environment for the creatures in their care. Not only do the animals benefit from the creative ideas, all of the keepers share their successes and new ways to keep animals stimulated. We all learn from each other and no day working with animals is ever the same.” Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation, and Research

Chimps need YOU!

by | June 12th, 2013
Oakland Zoo Chimpanzee

Oakland Zoo Chimpanzee

In 2011, a petition was started by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).  The petition requested that the United States Fish and Wildlife (USFW) agency reconsider its listing of chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  At that time, Oakland Zoo put out a call to action from our members – and it worked!  This week, the USFW agency announced its proposal to reevaluate their listing!  This great news, but it is not a done deal.  The agency will take comments on the act from the public for the next 60 days and we need YOU to stand up for chimpanzees again!

Under current listing, wild chimpanzees are listed as endangered, giving them a significant amount of protection under U.S. law.  Captive chimpanzees are a different story.  They are listed as “threatened,” a much lesser designation with significantly fewer protections.  Chimpanzees are the only species that is double listed this way under the law and it is time for that to change.  Please show your support for chimpanzees by commenting in agreement with this changed designation.

Here’s How:

Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R9–ES–2010–0086, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!” If your comments will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature of http://www.regulations.gov, as it is most compatible with  our comment review procedures. If you attach your comments as a separate document, our preferred file format is Microsoft Word. If  you attach multiple comments (such as form letters), our preferred format is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel