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Stepping Through ZAM: Day 4 Savannah Module

by | March 22nd, 2012

Franette Armstrong's diary on her Zoo Ambassador training is part of an ongoing series.

 

Sarah Cramer, our teacher, is back with us after an intensive week of training up in Yosemite, so this is the first time the returning and new ZAMs were all together with her and introductions were in order. Once again I was struck by the diversity and vastness of experience ZAMs bring with them to training.

Next it was on to Ecosystem Dynamics so we could see how all the information we are gathering fits together.

 

Sarah Cramer, Education Specialist and ZAM Instructor.

 

 

 

The Big Picture

Ecosystem Dynamics is a fancy way of saying “all life is interconnected, ” and today Sarah helped us see that with a little game:  each of us was a part of the Savannah ecosystem— from a Dung Beetle to the sun and everything in between. We used one ball of yarn to show how, for example, an Eland is connected to grass (they eat it) and grass is connected to the soil which is connected to the Dung Beetle, etc. It’s all about the transfer of energy from the sun.

By the time we were done we were all woven together through our dependencies and vulnerabilities. Then, dramatically, Sarah had a few of us “disappear” from the system. What happened? You can guess: the entire Web of Life fell apart. In the real world, this is called ecosystem collapse.

We experienced how everything in an ecosystem is connected through this Web of Life exercise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Functions are Different than Food Chains

The lecture that followed was pretty intense as we discovered the difference between habitats and range, niches and trophic levels and…well, you had to be there. Let me just say that I discovered something really major about ecology that I had never thought about before: there is a difference between where an animal is on the food chain and the functional role he might play in his ecosystem.

For example, Meerkats, by digging in the soil to make tunnels, loosen the soil so seeds can take root—that is one of their functions. But, they are also part of the food chain because while they are eating, say, a scorpion, they sometimes get eaten by a snake which in turn might get eaten by a bird and so it goes: the Circle of Life.

 

Keystone Animals

Another concept that was new to me was that some animals play such an important role in their ecosystems that the entire system will collapse if that single species disappears. One example is the African Elephant, which knocks down trees so that the savannahs, which support untold thousands of life forms, can survive. Without them, trees would take over and all the animals adapted to grassland living would suddenly find themselves homeless.

Elephants in Africa are Keystones, just like Grizzly Bears, Sea Otters and Prairie Dogs are here. Take them away and an entire ecosystem will collapse. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

It all gets back to consequences and how we really have to understand ecosystem dynamics before we go trotting off into a rainforest and start cutting down trees for our hardwood floors. Ask the Easter Islanders about this! (Oh, I forgot…cutting down all their trees led to their own extinction.)

You can learn more about Keystone species here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keystone_species

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out to the Zoo

After an hour in the classroom we were all ready to go out to the African Village so experienced docents could show us how to “interpret” the animals to the public. They used skulls and drawings and physical props to help children and adults see how the animals are unique and what we need to do to protect them and their cousins here.

Mary Ann McCleary showed us how to set up a docent station and demo'd a Vervet Monkey skull which has the teeth of an omnivore.

 

More Taxonomy

I must be a geek because I really enjoy the taxonomy lectures: it is so interesting to see how animals can be grouped by features we don’t even think about. And some of these groupings make for strange bedfellows.

For example, members of the Order Carnivora, which includes Lions, Meerkats and Hyenas, have whiskers, binocular color vision, 4-5 toes on each foot, a raised bone on the skull to anchor their powerful jaws (called a “sagital crest”), and scissorlike molars (called “carnassial teeth”).

 

This tiny Meerkat skull has the same elements as a full-scale Carnivore like a Lion.

 

Not all members of the class Carnivora are carnivores, however. Pandas only eat plants, but since they meet all the criterion of Carnivora, that’s where they get placed.

 

Vision is Destiny

The last subject today was comparing the vision of animals who have eyes that face forward (like Lions and Monkeys) to those whose eyes are on the side of their heads (like Horses and Zebra). It can all be summed up in this little ditty:

 

 

 

 

The reason is that the side-facing eyes of a cow have a blind spot in front of their noses so it would be pretty hard for them to keep their eyes on prey long enough to stalk and catch it, but they have a wide field of vision for keeping track of their herd, and finding grasses and branches to nibble as they amble along the plains. Here’s a sketch that illustrates the two types of vision:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forward-facing eyes like ours, have binocular vision which gives us great  depth perception, but less peripheral vision, so these animals are all about what’s out front.

Our camel illustrates the problem with eyes on the side: you have to turn your head to see in front of your nose. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All this is to prepare us for Wednesday when our Keepers will discuss the Hoofstock on our African Veldt.

Until then,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stepping Through ZAM: Day 3, Savannah Module

by | March 8th, 2012

Franette Armstrong is reporting on her progress through Zoo Ambassador Training.

 

 

You think you know Lions? Well, so did I until tonight. This is the first class of the Savannah Module for those of us who have already taken either the Children’s Zoo or Rainforest Module, or both.

If you’ve been following along, you know I just finished with the Children’s Zoo training. Brand-new Zoo Ambassadors started this module last week and you can read about what they learned in my Day One and Day Two blogs for the Children’s Zoo under the Volunteering tab on this website.

 

We have two lions here at the Oakland Zoo, brother and sister, rescued from a bad situation in Texas when they were just cubs. Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge about African Lions:

1.    Are Lions the largest cat on the planet? A) Yes  B) No

2.    Do Lions chew their food? A) Yes  B) No

3.    Does the color of a male Lion’s mane tell his age? A) Yes  B) No

4.    Are Lions loners? A) Yes B) No

5.    Are male Lions the hunters in their pride? A) Yes  B) No

If you answered A to all of the above, Stacy Smith, one of our Keepers, has news for you: None of those statements is true.

Lions are the second largest cats with Siberian Tigers being first. They live in grasslands or woodlands, not jungles, so I don’t know where they got the King of the Jungle rep. If anything, Tigers are the Kings, but that’s another story.

Lions, like all cats, have scissor-like  teeth that cut food so they can swallow it without chewing.  The color and size of the male lions’ manes are determined by their genes, not their age, and help protect their necks and make them look bigger and more threatening to other Lions.

 

Docent Carol Kerbel shows us that cats have pointed teeth for cutting and tearing instead of the flat molars for chewing that we have.

Unlike most other cats, Lions live in social groups, and the females are usually the hunters. They bring home the bacon, assisted by the males, but the males dine first. Cubs last. Go figure.

How can you tell a Lion is upset? Tail twitches, roaring and growling are hints that this is a Lion is not to be messed with. If you come across one lying on its back, with its ears flat and making puffing sounds…that one is mellow. A lion’s roar can travel five miles, which comes in handy when moms are calling their cubs home for dinner.

There are only about 20,000 Lions left in the wild because of hunting, poaching, and habitat loss. Keeper Stacy recommended we all go to www.lionconservationfund.org to learn more about how to help African Lions.

Mountain Lions here, like their African Cousins, hunt at the beginning and ends of the day, so we can protect them by staying off hiking trails at those times and keeping our pets protected to minimize human/Lion conflict.

The African Village

Next Lorraine Peters, one of our Primary Keepers, introduced us to the animals in our African Village.

Lorraine Peters, Primary ZooKeeper

Spotted Hyenas are fascinating and unique among the African species. Let’s see how much you already know about them:

1. Spotted Hyenas are scavenger animals because they have weak jaws.
A) Yes   B) No

2.  It’s easy to tell the males from the females by looking at them.
A) Yes  B) No

3.  Males dominate Hyena packs. A) Yes   B) No

4.  Hyenas laugh when they are: A) Amused  B) Anxious

If you answered A for all of the above, you and I have a lot in common! But Lorraine set us straight. Hyenas are fearsome, fast hunters who can take down animals as large as wildebeests. Their jaws are more powerful than the Lions’, exerting up to 1200 pounds of pressure.  And they are crafty: sometimes when they catch a large animal, they will hide it in water to cover up its smell so they can feast off it over a few days without losing it to others.

Lorraine engages our Hyena in a training exercise. Photo credit Steve Goodall

Hyenas get their reputation as scavengers because they eat the bones that other animals leave behind, but they are not like vultures: they prefer live prey and eat mostly meat.

It’s hard to tell the males from female hyenas by looking at them because both have similar-looking external sexual parts. Females dominate the males.

If you hear one of our hyenas laughing it is probably because a visitor is being too noisy: they make a laughing sound when they are worried agitated or upset, so keeping quiet is definitely the rule for visitors to our Hyena territory.

If you want to see our Hyena, look in one of the round plastic barrels, because that’s where they like to sleep in the daytime.

Hyenas always face out when they are in their dens so they can be the lookout for predators. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

A Merry Mob of Meerkats

When Life Magazine first printed a photo of Meerkats I thought “Moon Mice,” they looked so strange. But Meerkat Manor brought them home to all of us so we feel we know all about them. Do you? Test yourself:

1.The black around Meerkat eyes is most like:

a) a raccoon’s   b) a panda’s   c) a football player’s

2. Meerkats are:

a) carnivores  b) herbivores  c) omnivores

3. Meerkats are conservation role models because:

a) they purify their own water   b) they recycle their food   c) they use solar energy for heat

4. Meerkats are most closely related to the:

a) Prairie Dog  b) domestic cat  c) mongoose

Meerkats are very social. You seldom see one alone.

If you answered C to all of the above, you’ve been watching too much Animal Planet!

Flashmobs

Living in large groups we call “mobs,” Meerkats have a social structure that could make ants stand up and take notice. Each one has a vital role to play. The Sentries watch the sky and ground—if they see a hawk or snake, one call from them sends all the others underground. There are Babysitters and Wet Nurses and they work in shifts so that pups are protected while everyone gets a chance to loll around in the sun. Meerkats use their sharp claws to dig for insects and their favorite is scorpions. By eating those, they do all the other mammals a favor.

This Meerkat is Acting Sentry, alerting all the others to any danger. Photo Credit: Steve Goodall

 

The black circles around their eyes protect them from glare, like the smudges football players wear. In the morning and late afternoon they stretch out on their backs in the sun to collect heat, because after dark when they are in their burrow, their body temperatures drop and they need this solar energy.

Did you know that most of the Meerkat collections in U.S. Zoos started with pups from one female who lived in our exhibit?

Dark eye circles are built-in sunglasses. Photo credit Steve Goodall

Verdant Vervets

Vervets, or Green Monkeys, mostly live in Africa although there’s a large population in the West Indies that started when some were brought there on slave ships. The ones in our Zoo came from St. Kitts via a research lab, but now they are safe with us. Ours are yellow, white and black but when the sun hits them just right they do have a bit of a greenish cast.

I’m not going to give you a quiz because these monkeys were new to me and might be to you.

Vervets are Old World Monkeys which use their tails for balance, not gripping, and have long faces like baboons. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

Vervets eat insects—although ours are afraid of mealworms—birds, eggs and tropical fruit, but we also give them some veggies for the nutrients. Though they sleep in trees, they spend most of their time on the ground gathering food and hanging out with each other.

In Vervet society, the females rule their large troops (this is getting to be a theme among African animals, isn’t it?) and you can tell who’s dominant and who’s at the lower level of the society by how they hold their tails. Over their backs? Give them space. Dragging on the ground? They’ll be eating last. In our exhibit, the ones closest to the fence are on the lowest-rung of the Vervet ladder while the leaders get seats in the back where it is quieter and more private.

Vervets, like most monkeys, use social grooming as a bonding activity. Photo credit, Steve Goodall

 

Monkey Talk

Lorraine told us that Vervets, like all primates, have a complex language of calls, body positions and behaviors that speak volumes to them, but mean nothing to most of us. For example, if one Vervet turns her back on another, that means trouble, so if we turn our back on one of them, that can seem very threatening, as can emulating the sounds they make.

Vervets have over 60 different calls. For example, their Leopard warning call will send the troop scurrying to the ends of branches where heavier  Leopards can’t go. If one issues an Eagle call, they all run into the bushes. And a Snake warning? They stand their ground and get ready to fight it.

When we visit monkeys and apes in a Zoo we have to be careful that  we don’t send out signals with our voices or body language that could upset the animals.  It’s best to stand back a little, try not to make eye contact, and just be quiet so we can see them as they really are, and they can live calmly in their home here.

Homework tonight was an essay question on how pets are different from wild animals and what makes a good pet. Since I wrote on this during my last module, I decided to write about how to stop the pet trade in wild animals which is responsible for the death and abuse of thousands of animals every year. The heartbreaking events in Zanesville, Ohio in October, 2011, where nearly 50 beautiful wild animals had to be shot, was a vivid example of why we need laws preventing the sale and ownership of nondomesticated animals to private parties.

Saturday, we’re going out to the African Village to learn about these animals from experienced docents. What a treat.

See you then,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stepping Through Zam: Day 9, Children’s Zoo Module

by | January 25th, 2012

Franette Armstrong is sharing her journey through Zoo Ambassador Training.

Tonight we continue with invertebrates—those spineless creatures without which no horror movie would be complete—and I am already expecting chills instead of thrills. Maybe to know them is to love them, so I’m going to give them a chance to win me over.

Keeper Margaret Rousser was back tonight to give us a proper introduction to the many-legged residents of our Bug House. Margaret supervises the invertebrate Keepers and is responsible for keeping the exhibits filled with interesting animals, so who best to promote this part of the Children’s Zoo?

Margaret Rousser, Zoological Manager of the Children’s Zoo

 

 

All Insects are Invertebrates…

but not all invertebrates are insects. In fact, 40% of invertebrates are animals like spiders, scorpions and centipedes. Margaret said that invertebrates are the most popular exhibits in zoos today. Does that surprise you?

We covered our scorpions and millipedes in the lecture on Arthropods, so tonight our focus is on insects, which are also Arthropods. They lay eggs, might have wings, and some can metamorphose from one shape to another, like frogs. Butterflies have all these traits.

To be an insect, a bug has to have 3 body segments, 6 jointed legs, a pair of antennae, and a tough exoskeleton instead of skin.

 

Keeping Bugs in the Bug House

One of the challenges in keeping insects in a zoo is actually keeping them. Since all are pretty short-lived, constant replacements are needed and since they can fly and are small enough to get out through tiny openings,  the exhibits have to be, well, bug-proof.

In our Bug House the walls have windowed cut-outs that show different naturalistic settings similar to the insects’ home turf. Behind the scenes, though, these little dioramas are more like aquarium tanks sitting on wheeled carts. When the insects are fed, or need other care, the tanks are wheeled backwards where they can be [very carefully] opened.

So….off we trotted with our flashlights to seek out the Bug House and its occupants. I can’t say I let myself look at the cockroaches very long, but the branch-like Walking Sticks were fascinating—especially their molted exoskeletons (their hard outer “skin” which looked exactly like them.

Several of our New Guinea Walking Sticks

Our Honey Pot Ants use some of their colony members as food storage depots: the workers collect nectar and store it in the bellies of fat little repletes who hang from the ceiling of the nest all the time, taking food in and regurgitating it back up when needed to feed the others in times of food shortage. These ants are also predators: they kill and eat other insects like fruit flies.

And while we are on the subject of ants, there are the Leaf Cutter Ants. These are the most fascinating insects to watch as they literally turn trees and forest floors into moving green rivers. The “Forager” ants go off and cut leaves into pieces many times larger than they are, which they carry back to the nest. “Gardener” ants then grow fungus on the leaves which is later broken off and fed to the queen and others. Here’s a wonderful video showing it all in action: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/kids/animals-pets-kids/bugs-kids/leafcutter-ant-kids.html.

Here's a single Leafcutter Ant making off with his bounty.

 

The Cobalt-Blue Tarantulas are absolutely gorgeous and absolutely venomous. These bugs are very aggressive and can live 20 years.

Sometimes in nature, beauty is deadly—at least for predators who get too close to Cobalt Blue Tarantulas

Chilean Rose Tarantulas, on the other hand, take a passive approach to defense: they have hairs on their bellies that are very irritating to predators who happen to get close enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presentations are Next

We just got our final instructions for the presentations we each will be giving on Saturday. I’m going to talk about how our Black Tree Monitors, who only live in New Guinea (and zoos)  teach us how the adaptations of animals and their environments are inseparable. That’s why we have to preserve rain forests and rivers and deserts and oceans: animals that are adapted to live one place can’t pick up and move somewhere else. And if their climate changes, their adaptations might not help them at all. Ask the polar the bears about this.

Wish me luck!

Stepping Through ZAM: Days 10-12, Children’s Zoo Module

by | January 23rd, 2012

This is Franette Armstrong's last post of her Zoo Ambassador Training to become a docent in the Children's Zoo.

 

 

Day Ten found twenty-some very nervous ZAMs in search of an exit…because today is Presentation Day and none of us wants to go first.

But it wasn’t so bad. We each gave our 3-minute presentation of an assigned animal, then a class member was chosen to offer some comments, followed by constructive suggestions from Sarah Cramer, our teacher, or by an experienced docent. We all escaped with egos intact.

Sarah Cramer, ZAM Trainer extraordinaire.

To celebrate, we had a wonderful potluck lunch where visible relief was as plentiful as the food. Many of the keepers and docents came to take part in this festive occasion: We are getting to know one another and becoming part of the “Zoo family.”

Unfortunately, we were also given our final exams to take home and answer using our notes and printed handouts (but no phone calls to each other). We have until next Friday morning to go to a website and post our answers on line before Sarah gets to work that day. Snooze, you lose.

 

Day Eleven: Stay Home and Work on Our Exams

I can’t share the test with you because Sarah might stop speaking to me, but it was only 3-4 pages of multiple-choice questions. Not too hard and actually kind of fun because it’s forcing me to re-read my notes and all the “Blue Sheets.” It’s a great chance to reacquaint myself with the many animals we have studied in the past five weeks and I needed this brush-up.

If you’d like to see some of the Blue Sheets, which provide comprehensive information written by our Zookeepers about the animals in the Zoo, go to Oaklandzoo.org and click on the tab that says “Animals.” They are there by taxonomic groups: Mammals, Reptiles, etc.

 

Day Twelve: Zoo Trivia and Graduation

Part of of our final exam was to study all the information about the Zoo itself so we can answer any question a visitor might ask. Where are restrooms? The strollers? When are the otters fed? Where can I get a band-aid? Where’s my child????

We formed small groups and competed against each other for Trivia points with Sarah awarding bonus points as the mood struck her and competition becoming more intense and more hilarious as the morning went on.

A group shows its stuff in ZAM Trivia.

 

When Good Visitors Act Badly

The next activity: role playing what to do (and not do) if a visitor ever misbehaves, not that any ever will :-)

The docents and Sarah got together and performed skits of potential situations we might encounter and our groups had to show different ways we would get the situation under control. We were falling down laughing at how good the docents were at deflecting everything we did so they could continue acting out. I certainly hope I never encounter visitors like them!

The whole point was to review all the ancillary aspects of being a docent: radio operation, lost-child procedures, controlling visitor behavior that’s unsafe or upsets the animals, plus Zoo rules and how to enforce them.

 

Graduation Isn’t the End

Finally, it was graduation time. We got our certificates and were each assigned a docent mentor to meet with several times over the next few weeks so we can prove we are ready to be turned loose in the Children’s Zoo. They will help us with behind-the-scenes mechanics, such as where to find the biofacts and puppets, and how to do a radio check, and they have a long list they have to go through to make sure every base is covered.

These are a few items on the checklist we have to pass:

~Demonstrate a working knowledge of animal facts for the majority animals in the Children’s Zoo.

~Provide appropriate answers to sensitive or difficult questions.

~Present information that is educational, entertaining, comprehensible and age-appropriate.

~Demonstrate working knowledge of radio protocols (such as lost child and emergency procedures).

And 16 more!

When they sign us off, we get our t-shirts and name badges and are free to move about the Children’s Zoo. Whew.

 

Will we be Docents after all this?

Not quite! Once we have graduated from all three modules and passed the Docent mentoring in each part of the Zoo, we then can take a test on all of it and if we pass, we enter the elite corps called Docent Council—currently 77 members strong. What does this get us? Well, the chance to do even more for the Zoo such as learn to drive the electric carts and do cart tours, perform in the Wildlife Theater, take positions on the Docent Board, and go on all kinds of interesting field trips to animal research projects in the Bay Area.

Becoming a Docent is a Very Big Deal. This one module required 39 hours of classroom and in-zoo instruction plus homework, plus docent mentoring. Some of our Docents have been with the Zoo over 20 years and volunteer their expertise several days a week—not to mention all that they do to help train us ZAMs. When you see a Docent or ZAM walking around the Zoo, tip your hat and realize that they are highly trained by the best, and highly committed to helping you appreciate everything our Zoo has to offer.

Do our animals deserve anything less?

 

More ZAM Training Coming Up

In January the Savannah Module will begin and I am already signed up. Stay tuned as we learn about zebra and elk, giraffes and lions…all the charismatic animals of the African plains. Can’t wait!

Until then, hope to see you in the Children’s Zoo.

 

 

 

Read about previous ZAM Training here: www.oaklandzoo.org/blog/category/volunteering/

 

 

Stepping Through ZAM: Day 8, Children’s Zoo Module

by | January 5th, 2012

Franette Armstrong is taking us through her Zoo Ambassador Training as she prepares to become a Zoo Docent.

I don’t know about you, but I have never given much thought to animals’ teeth. Turns out you can tell what an animal ate while it was living by looking at its jaw later. Today we studied some “biofacts” (physical specimens) to learn the ins and outs of how animals eat.

Herbivores have lots of molars—back, flat teeth for grinding branches, grasses and seeds.  Since their food doesn’t try to escape, they use their front teeth like pruning sheers to clip leaves and stems.

Herbivores don’t need sharp front teeth to catch prey.

 

 

 

 

Carnivore teeth on the other hand, are sharp and scissor-like. Their front teeth bite and hold on while their long canine teeth tear into prey. Their molars are used for slicing rather than chewing because they mainly swallow their food in whole chunks.

The canines on one of our new Tiger sisters are not what you would want to see on a dark path at night—and she was just playing around. Photo Credit: Steve Goodall

 

Omnivores, such as otters and bears, eat both plants and meat, so not surprisingly, they have a combination of sharp front teeth and grinding molars. Humans are set up with teeth like this, whether we eat meat or not, so look in your own mouth to see an example of omnivore teeth.

Insectivores, such as rodents and some bats, have sharp molars that can tear through the shells of insects.

The jaw of a hedgehog shows the sharp molars and lack of incisors of insectivores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Onto Birds…and Australia

You might wonder why it has taken so long to get to birds when they form such a huge part of our ecosystem. Reason is, we only have one species of bird in the Children’s Zoo: the Emus in our Australia exhibit. Nonetheless, understanding them requires understanding Bird taxonomy.

If you were ever into dinosaurs as a kid, the first fact we learned won’t shock you: Birds are members of the Class Reptilia. Yes, indeed…birds are Reptiles right along with crocodiles, snakes, lizards and something called Tuataras.

Tuataras are the oldest species of reptile living today and are found only in New Zealand.

Birds are defined as an animal with feathers and a beak that lays eggs. Flying is not a requirement, so Emus, Ostriches and Kiwis, who long ago lost their ability to fly, still count as birds. Emus are the second largest birds in the world (Ostriches take first place) and give us a chance to learn about feathers.

We looked at many types of feathers to see what allows birds to fly. One of the reasons Emus can’t, besides the fact that their wings are tiny remnants of what their ancestors had, is that their feathers are soft and downy, each actually two separate feathers connected at the stem. Their main purpose is to give these land-loving birds extra warmth.

Emu feathers are a radical departure from the single-quilled types on flying birds.

 

 

 

Emus are fascinating for another reason: the males take complete responsibility for nest-building, egg-incubating and child-rearing while the liberated lady Emus go off to lay eggs for some other lucky male.

This baby emu is just coming out of his dark-green shell.

The devoted daddy Emus sit on the dark green eggs, which look like large avocados, for about 8 weeks without leaving the nest to eat or drink. They can lose a third of their body weight during this period so they prepare by pigging out for months ahead of time. Once the babies are hatched, Dad shepherds them around until they are old enough to have and care for their own eggs.  He will even take in orphan babies if they are smaller than his own.

 

Marsupial Moms are Busy

Interesting reproductive abilities are a theme today as we moved on to Wallaroos and their baby-having rituals.

Now you already know that Kangaroos, Wallaroos, Wallabies and Opossums all raise their babies in pouches. That’s what Marsupials do. You might not know this, though: A mother Wallaroo can have three babies at once: one in the uterus, one in the pouch, and a Joey “at foot” who can hop in and out of the pouch for a quick milkshake whenever he wants. You can watch a great video of that here.

The Joeys keep this up until they are 14 months old and then go off and start having kids of their own. Here’s a great video about two of our Joeys.

Our baby Joeys move in and out of their mother's pouch whenever they are hungry or scared.

About to Get Buggy

We ended our class today with a brief lecture on Arthropods, which include all the inhabitants of the Bug House: ants, spiders, scorpions, millipedes, beetles and walking sticks. These are the only invertebrates in our Zoo.

As you will remember from Day One, Arthropods don’t have backbones…their skeletons are on the outside of their bodies in the form of shells or scales, and they all have jointed legs, so worms don’t fit into this Class.  Wednesday night we’ll go up close and personal with all of them. Yikes!

Enjoy your weekend,

 

 

To read about previous Zoo Ambassador training classes please visit:

www.oaklandzoo.org/blog/category/volunteering/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stepping through ZAM: Day 7, Children’s Zoo Module

by | December 23rd, 2011

Franette Armstrong takes us through Zoo Ambassador training with her.

 

Bipolar. That’s how I felt after tonight’s presentation by Amy Gotliffe, our Director of Conservation.

On the one hand, we heard heart-breaking stories of what is happening to animals everywhere.

On the other hand, we heard heartwarming stories about what our Zoo is doing to protect and preserve animals and their habitats.

Amy Gotliffe, Director of Conservation

 

 

Which would you like first? The good news or bad? I’ll give you the bad first so we can end on an upbeat note:

One in five animals is in danger of extinction. That’s 20%, right? We are losing animals faster than their species can evolve to adapt to the changes humans have made to the planet in the last 35 years.

Illegal killing and collection of animals for Asian medicine, bushmeat and the pet trade is a huge cause of animal death and suffering. Sun bears are placed in “crush cages” so their bile can be extracted. Chimps are trapped in snares where their limbs are torn off, and everything from parrots to monkeys to lions are captured to sell to  stores, auctions, and over the internet.

I was shocked to learn that the money made off the black market for pets is second only to the drug trade. In Central America up to 80% of the tropical birds captured and exported die before they reach their destination,  but there’s still enough profit left to make the pet trade a major cause of animal endangerment.

Fashion is another killer of wild animals and a high-profit industry that supplies the endless market for ivory, leather, snakeskin, fur coats and other status symbols.

Amy suggested that we not lecture our friends who have these items, but we shouldn’t compliment them, either. There’s nothing beautiful about killing animals for vanity.

Western appetite for seafood is devastating our oceans.

 

We have to ask ourselves where we Westerners fit into the economics of all this. Amy pointed out that seafood is our version of  bushmeat and we are wiping out entire species of fish like Chilean sea bass and King crab by unsustainable fishing and fish farming.

If we accept as pets animals like Amazon parrots, Gila Monsters, and even ocelots and tigers, which either come directly from the wild or were bred from parents that did, how can we criticize Africans for selling their own wildlife?  Every time a wild animal is bought as a pet, a slot opens up for another one to be captured and killed in transit or sold.
I told you this was depressing.

Habitat loss is another reason species are disappearing daily. Entire forests are being cleared so that we can mine the Coltan mineral used in our cellphones and electronics. As a result, the Mountain Gorilla population in the Congo has gone from 258 five years ago to 130 at last count. This mining is just as bad for people: it has brought slavery and violence to the Congo.

Habitats are being destroyed every day to give us lumber, paper, palm oil, precious metals… things we use without giving it a thought. People need to feed their families, though, so many of our projects abroad are to help locals develop alternatives to killing their wildlife.

Air pollution, water pollution, careless introduction of
nonnative plants and animals, all are taking their toll on
animals as diverse as polar bears and frogs.

Our own wild animals here in the Bay Area—bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions—are losing out like grizzlies, elk, and wolves did a century ago. We want to build on their land,
hike on their hills and then when they are forced to meet us face to face, we want them killed. More often than not, they are killed because of property damage, not because of threats to human safety.  As Amy said, we are hardly role models for the rest of the world when our needs conflict with animals’.

That brings me to the good part

Whew! Thought I’d never get to this but our Oakland Zoo is involved in dozens of projects here and around the world to stop this steady death spiral. I’ll just name a few we learned about tonight:

The Budongo Snare Removal Project is supported solely by the Zoo to help chimps in Uganda who are being swept up accidentally in snares left for animals that are wanted for food. This project has turned former hunters into conservationists and is a model for programs in other countries.

One of many types of snares that are capturing and maiming wild animals.

The Zoo supports with staff and supplies the Kibale Fuel Wood Project to offer residents in Uganda an alternative to clearing their forest for cooking fuel.

In the Bay area our Zoo supports The Bay Area Puma Project to help protect our local wildcats through research and judicious use of dart guns.

California Condors are coming back from near-extinction and our Zoo is building a facility to help treat those that have lead poisoning from the buckshot they pick up in their food.

We already learned about our Head Start program for the Western Pond Turtles (ZAM Day 4) and there are many, many more conservation efforts the Zoo supports through donations, supplies, staff and public education.

Our new “Quarters for Conservation” program is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for projects Zoo visitors vote for with tokens they receive on admission.

Zoo Visitors have the chance to vote for 4 different conservation projects when they use the tokens they receive with admission.

On top of direct help to animals, the Zoo does its part by recycling, composting and using solar panels and hybrid or electric vehicles.

If you’re like me, you might feel overwhelmed by the size of the need and how urgent it is. I have an ache in my stomach just thinking about it right now. At least as a docent and volunteer I will be able to get directly involved in helping people understand that our choices have consequences.

A few easy things we can do right now

• Don’t flush kitty litter. The bacteria in cat feces isn’t killed by sewer treatment and is sickening the endangered sea otters.

• Don’t buy exotic or wild pets including reptiles and tropical birds. Here’s the  listing of illegal pets in California.

• Recycle your cellphones at the Zoo and demand that electronics companies develop gorilla-friendly technologies.  You’ll get a free train ticket and the phones will go to a group that refurbishes them to reduce the need for more Coltan. Write a letter to your cellphone maker today.

• Eat sustainably harvested fish. To get a list of what to avoid, go to  Monterey Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. You can print a pocket guide that makes choosing the right fish easy.

• Buy handmade products from the Zoo’s Conservation section of the gift shop. Sales of jewelry and other items help support people in Africa so they won’t have to kill wild animals to live.

Volunteer to make a difference.

I’m sure Amy’s complete list of things we can do would take a hundred blogs, but we have to start somewhere and I am going to go write Apple this minute about Coltan mining.