Author Archive

YES ON MEASURE A1: An Insider’s Point of View

by | October 5th, 2012

By Rick Mannshardt, Oakland Zoo Employee

As someone who’s spent more than twenty years working at the Oakland Zoo, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know this place pretty well. It’s become a big part of my life. Working as a carpenter in the Zoo’s maintenance department, I keep all the fences and gates, roofs and doors, and hundreds of other structures around here in working order.  It takes a lot to keep a seven-day-a-week zoo running—you might say the animals are pretty hard on the furniture. Our tiny 6-person maintenance crew struggles to keep up with it all. The same goes for the Zoo in general.

Students excited about Measure A1

Even Our Monkeys Want to Vote YES

What we really need are more resources—and support from the community. Right now Measure A1 is poised to accomplish this. This November, you’ll have the chance to voice your support by voting yes for this badly needed initiative.  What it does is this: Measure A1 seeks voter approval to authorize an annual special parcel tax to maintain humane animal care and basic needs, and to maintain children’s educational programs. For a modest $12 per residential parcel and comparable rate for commercial property, the measure helps to ensure that the Oakland Zoo can continue its work in providing food, medical care, heating & cooling, and safe enclosures for its collection of animals, retain qualified veterinarians and animal specialists, care for wounded and endangered animals, support wildlife conservation—all this while keeping entrance fees affordable.  It also allows the Zoo to continue its level of excellence in offering children’s nature and science programming to students at a time when many schools are cutting back on such programs.

Measure A1 ensures humane animal care

But you don’t need to take our word for it. Numerous community leaders and business people have pledged their support for this important measure.  Here’s what just a few of them have to say:

“Yes on A1 allows the Oakland Zoo to continue quality care for zoo animals.”

Jim Maddy, President/CEO, National Association of Zoos and Aquariums

 

“Oakland Zoo animals deserve quality care. Many are retired circus animals or animals rescued from abuse—Yes on A1 ensures more animals can be rescued and get the care they need.” 

Laura Maloney, Co-Director, Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS)

 

“Yes on A1 supports the Oakland Zoo’s wildlife conservation and animal rescue efforts, saving animals wounded in the wild and giving sanctuary to endangered species.”

Ron Kagen, Founding member, Center for Zoo Animal Welfare

You might be asking: how do we know the money will be spent on these specific things? Measure A1 requires an Independent Citizens Oversight Committee to ensure funds are spent as promised to you, the taxpayer. By law, the A1 Oversight Committee must include Conservation/Environmental and Animal Rights representatives, the League of Women Voters, Taxpayer and Senior advocates, and a PTA representative.

It’s pretty straightforward. For just a dollar a month, you’re helping to ensure that the Oakland Zoo can

Lawn Signs Ready for Delivery

continue to provide:

  • Quality Humane Animal Care
  •  Basic Animal Needs
  •  Educational Programs for Children
  • Ongoing Zoo Affordability & Visitor Safety

And here’s an easy way to remember. In November, when you get to your local polling place, simply think “A for Animals.”  Then vote YES for Measure A1. With your support we can continue the valuable work we’ve been doing in the community these many years. Thank you and we hope to see you at the Oakland Zoo!

Party Animals Wish You A Happy Birthday!

by | September 11th, 2012

Fun With Animal Costumes

How would your child like to share a birthday celebration with some wild animals? It’s easy with the Oakland Zoo when you sign up for one of our animal-themed education birthday parties.  They’re available on Saturdays and Sundays year-round and offer a variety of fun and memorable activities. You can choose from either of two time slots: 10:30 in the morning or 1:30 in the afternoon. The basic party package accommodates up to 20 people, with an option for 20 more for an additional fee.

The party starts out in the festively decorated Discovery Room of the Zoo’s Education Center. There, your child and their friends will get the chance to explore

Playing With Puppets

and play with puppets, puzzles, animal costumes, and cool animal artifacts. Then, it’s story time, where they’ll get to hear an animal story told by one of our enthusiastic Education Specialists.

Then comes the best part, where the kids will get to see and touch some of our fascinating zoo creatures like snakes and lizards, chinchillas, ferrets and hedgehogs.

Meeting a Chuckwalla

After that they’ll get the opportunity to use their creative craft-making skills to make food-filled enrichment items for some of our other animals.

When it comes to food for your child’s birthday party, you have a choice. You can either bring your own, or you can leave it all to us and have the Zoo cater your party. Either way, the kids get to enjoy their cake and other treats in the exotic Rain Forest Room right next door.  The birthday child gets a special present and each of the party guests receives a goody bag filled with a variety of animal themed party favors. And in the spirit of conservation, the party bags are now made out of post-consumer plastic, and feature a fun “Go Green” wildlife message. Gifts inside the bags might include things like

Making Enrichment Projects

a small plant growing kit, recycled pencils made of bamboo, fun stickers, elephant magnets, or educational Top Trumps trading cards.

Later, the kids will meet one of our zookeepers and then head out into the Children’s Zoo to see animals like bunnies, otters, lemurs, pigs or bats enjoying the enrichment items the kids made for them.  Afterwards, your group is free to roam and explore the Zoo at your own pace. Or if you’d prefer, you can explore the Zoo earlier—before your party starts.

And one of the best reasons to have your party at the Zoo is that when the party’s over, you can leave the clean-up to us—we’ll take care of everything. But if you’d rather host your party in the convenience of your own home, we can bring the whole

Pizza Time!

thing, including the animals, right to your door aboard the Oakland Zoomobile. Either way, your child will get a fun, memorable experience that they will talk about for a long time to come.

It’s easy to book your special birthday party here at the Oakland Zoo. Simply call our Education Reservations Associate at 510-632-9525 x220. Who knows—this may be the best birthday party your child has ever had. See you at the Oakland Zoo!

Red Hot Deals on Summer Programs Now!

by | August 3rd, 2012

In case you haven’t heard, Oakland Zoo is offering a limited time discount on many of its popular community programs. From now until the end of August, you can get a 25% off when you sign up for Zoomobile and ZooSchool presentations. It turns out that there is extra space on the Zoo’s event calendar this summer, so we’re offering this great deal. And, summer is the perfect time to schedule a fun-filled animal presentation for your school, camp, or youth group.

What sort of fun is awaiting with Oakland Zoo community program? For starters, there’s our Zoomobile program, which has been a big hit  for many years. With the help of one of our experienced Education Specialists, you’ll get the opportunity to see a variety of small animals up-close  and personal at your school, library or home. You’ll learn how these fascinating creatures live and how they fit into the wondrous web of life. You’ll even get the chance to touch these animals: everything from turtles, lizards and snakes, to hedgehogs and chinchillas—even cool giant millipedes.  Zoomobile is a great way to learn about animals in a fun, informal setting.

And with the ZooSchool program, you bring your class or group to the Zoo for a full day of adventure. Your Education Specialist will greet you and escort you to a classroom where they will introduce the special theme of your presentation. Then you’ll venture out into the Zoo to explore and see our many exotic animals on a guided tour. Afterwards, you return to the classroom to wrap up and review the day’s activities. After your program has ended, you can head back into the Zoo to eat a picnic lunch or go back to visit animals until your departure time. ZooSchool gives your class or group a great way to experience Oakland Zoo.

Programs are offered Monday through Friday from 10am – 3pm. Presentations are designed for a wide range of age groups: from pre-K through 8th grade, as well as programs geared specifically for seniors. Registrations will be taken on a first come/first served basis until all the spaces are filled. It’s easy to book one of our popular animal-themed programs and take advantage of these great savings. Contact our Education Reservations Associate at 510-632-9525 x220. See you at the Zoo! Oakland Zoo…It’s Your Zoo.

A Night Among the Animals

by | July 23rd, 2012

Camping in the Meadow

Have you ever spent the night at a zoo? Well here’s your chance. In case you

Roasting Marshmallows at the Campfire

haven’t heard, there are several programs that the Oakland Zoo offers to groups and families that allow them to experience this unique and fun opportunity.

 

Bedtime with the Beasts is a great example. Catering to organizations like scouts, schools and community groups, it includes a private zoo tour, a close-up encounter with a small animal, a fun educational activity, and a continental breakfast the next day.

Fun with Drums

This year-round program is especially popular with Boy Scout and Girl Scout organizations, who utilize the Oakland Zoo as part of their badge-earning and

Breakfast is Served

“Journey” activities. Scheduled from 7pm until 10am the following morning, BTWB provides a unique environment for these kids to enrich their scouting experience.

 

Schools can also take part in the Bedtime with the Beasts program. The activities involved are fun and age appropriate, and the curriculum conforms to California science standards.

Greeting a Hedgehog

BTWB also serves community groups such as YMCAs, Girls, Inc., and church youth groups, offering activities such as “Zoo Snoops,” which gives participants the chance to use clues to identify a series of mystery animal species as they move through the Zoo, where they find boxes of artifacts that enable them to learn more about these fascinating animals.

Making Enrichment Projects

Since it’s offered year-round, BTWB allows for flexibility in sleeping accommodations:  either outdoors in the Zoo meadow, or inside the cozy education auditorium, depending on weather, curriculum, or group size.

But you don’t have to be affiliated with any group to enjoy the Zoo’s Family Sundown Safari, a fun summertime program from 5pm to 10am that caters exclusively to families. Held on five different dates throughout July and August, FSS offers families the chance to bring their own tent and sleep in the Zoo’s large grassy meadow. A series of cool activities awaits the participants. Once the tents are set up and people get settled in, they get to use their creative skills to make fun enrichment projects for the animals. Afterward, everyone goes on a nighttime tour of the Zoo. Back at camp, a professional storyteller awaits them with engaging tales of the animal world.  Around the campfire, everyone gets to roast marshmallows and make their own s’mores.  The next morning after a memorable night under the stars, a hot breakfast in the Zoo’s café starts the day off right. Next is a tour of the homes of the Zoo’s many rain forest animals. And finally, everyone gets the chance to see their enrichment items opened and enjoyed by the animals.  All in all, the Family Sundown Safari promises a memorable overnight experience for everyone involved.

Choosing Treats for the Animals

And things are on their way to getting even better. As you know, the Oakland Zoo is planning to begin building its long awaited California exhibit complex. When completed, we’re hoping to have special overnight facilities up on the hill behind the Zoo, including tent cabins, fire pits and hiking trails. The project will take some time to complete, but it’s something that we’re all looking forward to here at the Zoo.

 

So if you and your crew are looking for a memorable way to experience the

Enjoying the Enrichment

Oakland Zoo, try one of our fun overnight programs: Bedtime with the Beasts or Family Sundown Safari. It’s easy to book a date; simply visit the Zoo’s website or call our Education Reservation Associate at 510-632-9525 x220. See you under the stars!

 

Quarters For Conservation: More Than a Token Effort

by | May 17th, 2012

 

Flamingo Plaza Voting Station

Kids certainly make things more fun. I had the chance to spend some time at the Quarters for Conservation voting station at the Oakland Zoo the other day. I was sitting with “Jungle Jake” Ledesma, one of the Zoo volunteers, who was staffing the station for a couple hours, along with his plush chimpanzee “companion.” Judging by his endearing jokes and puns, Jake clearly likes engaging the public,

Jungle Jake and his Buddy

making personal connections that the station’s graphics can’t do alone. As a steady stream of visitors stopped by, I soon found myself being drawn in. Yet despite Jake’s simian sidekick, it was the young kids that made the biggest impression. The issues at stake may have been serious, but the kids were definitely having fun participating.

 

In case you haven’t heard, Quarters for Conservation is a wildlife conservation program at the Oakland Zoo whose motto is “Saving Wildlife with Each Visit.” Whenever you come to the Zoo, you receive a token. This token does two things.

Explaining the Issues

First, it symbolizes the twenty-five cent donation that the Zoo earmarks for conservation on behalf of each visitor. Secondly, it serves as a means for selecting which one of three different conservation projects this money will be spent on. At the voting station by Flamingo Plaza, you’ll find three green funnel-shaped coin receptacles under a cute little tin roof. Here you’re able to use that token to vote for which wildlife conservation effort you’d like to support. This year, we’re promoting The Amboseli Trust for Elephants, The Budongo Snare Removal Project (saving chimpanzees) and The Ventana Wildlife Society Condor Project. Whether it’s from habitat loss, poaching, or other issues, these animals face serious threats in the wild right now. Quarters for Conservation allows the public to take part in helping them.

 

As I sat there under the tin roof beside Jake, I was impressed by how aware the kids were about these worldwide issues.

Girls Involved in Conservation Efforts

They were informed, passionate, and articulate.  A nine year old girl came up and immediately started to talk about the Disneynature film “Chimpanzee,” and how it inspired her to help chimps in

 

the wild. She dropped her token in the appropriate receptacle. It spiraled its way down the little green chute and fell to the bottom with a clink. Later, another girl stopped by with her family. She was participating in a walkathon for a chimp orphanage in Uganda (pretty impressive for such a young kid.) She was having fun with another girl as they dropped a steady stream of tokens into the chimp receptacle. The elephants, by the way, got almost as many tokens, but the condors were having a bit of trouble keeping up in the race.

 

Kids Love the Coin Spinner

The coin spinner receptacle is a clever gimmick. One kid had a whole fistful of tokens and had clearly mastered the technique of getting them to spiral gradually down the chute instead of plopping straight to the bottom. Another kid, peering down into the green funnel, was fascinated by the real money that was lying among the pile of shiny tokens.

 

The adults took a more pragmatic approach, simply tossing in their tokens without allowing themselves to enjoy it as

Mastering the Token Technique

Using Props to Explain Conservation

much as the kids were. But it was clear that they were just as interested in the conservation efforts of the Zoo, and were happy to do what they could to help out.  And they’d be equally happy to know that Quarters for Conservation has raised more than $40,000 this year. That’s definitely good news for elephants, chimps and California condors. So visit the Oakland Zoo soon and show your support for wildlife conservation. Jake and his plush pal say “Thank you!”

 

New Captain Steering the Zoo’s Ship of Science Education

by | May 4th, 2012

Dr. Bo De Long-Cotty

Did you know that as of this past December the Oakland Zoo has a new Education Director? But you’re unlikely to meet this person on your average visit to the Zoo, so I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you something about her. Her name is Bo De Long-Cotty. Overseeing a professional staff of more than a dozen spirited individuals, Bo is responsible for shaping and guiding the science and conservation education vision of the Oakland Zoo through its many community outreach and curriculum-based science programs.  I recently had the chance to sit down with her for a most enjoyable and informative chat. I already knew much about her extensive qualifications (nearly two decades in not-for-profit fields such as health and human development, science program and curriculum development, non-formal science education—even a ten year stint as an EMT as well as earning an MA from Columbia and a PhD from UC Berkeley.) Wanting to learn what lies ahead, I asked Bo about her passions and dreams for the department.

Learning about Reptiles

I was curious how the transition to her new job was progressing. “It’s going well,” she said, adding that she finds the process fascinating. When I asked Bo what attracted her to the Oakland Zoo, she replied, “It’s a fun place, with a family atmosphere and huge opportunities for creativity in science education—in fields as diverse as art, crafts, music, drama, writing, even poetry.”  Yet it was also the timing that attracted her, as she sees the Oakland Zoo “on the verge of expanding in so many ways, especially in how we partner with schools in science education.”

I asked her what makes her a good fit for this important position here at the Oakland Zoo.  With her background in developmental psychology, Bo realizes that every child sees the world differently, based on their background, age and other factors. They also learn about the world differently.  Knowing how kids learn, play, socialize, and even develop a sense of humor aids her in structuring science programming for the department. “If I were five years old,” she queried, “what things would be important to me? What am I capable of learning?” This insight is invaluable in getting through to a youngster who may be here at the Zoo for only a short period of time, and Bo believes that everyone should leave here with something learned.

Making a Connection

Bo’s a big believer in the value of informal (fun-based) education which has been shown to reach children in ways that are often not part of formal education. Describing her approach as holistic, Bo also strives to infuse socialization into the learning environment: “Not just teaching the facts, but also promoting empathy for other living things.”

In her personal life, Bo and her husband enjoy such diverse cultural pursuits as opera, local theater, poetry slams, monster truck rallies and stock car races, even roller derby. As an avid birder, Bo truly appreciates the privilege of seeing wild animals—even if it’s something as ordinary as an opossum wandering through her back yard at home. And she wants to instill that same appreciation in everyone who visits the Zoo.

Speaking of animals, I asked Bo what her favorite was. Without hesitation, she

North American River Otter

said a river otter—one of our most popular residents here at the Zoo. “It’s their mixture of playfulness and industriousness that I admire. They’re very social but always busy working. It’s a well-balanced community.”

Well, she’s got to get back to work; another busload of eager school kids just pulled in. Come by sometime and see what’s new at the Oakland Zoo!