Author Archive

Zena the ZooKeeper

by | March 27th, 2014

zena-the-zookeeperHey Kids! It’s springtime in the air and you know what that means? Oakland Zoo’s first Feast for the Beasts event of the year!  For those of you who might not know about Feast for the Beasts, let me tell you all about it!

Taking place every spring and summer, this event is special because you, (yes, you!) get to bring fruits and vegetables to the Zoo for our elephants to eat. And let me tell you, they definitely enjoy their yummy treats. Our four African elephants eat around 300 lbs. of food a day- that’s 1,200 lbs. every single day! So we ZooKeepers definitely look forward to getting help with their feeding on these special days. On Feast for the Beasts days (when it’s not RAINING), Zoo visitors get to spread all the fruits and veggies they brought with them around the elephant exhibit.  After that’s done, the visitors leave the exhibit and the elephants are let in to gobble up all those delicious, nutritious veggie goodies. It’s way cool to watch!  BUT, when it rains the ground inside the elephant exhibit gets really muddy and – the elephants LOVE mud – but those muddy conditions prohibit us from letting Zoo guests come inside the elephant exhibit to spread around the goodies. This Saturday, it looks like rain, so we’ll have to save the elephant experience for our next Feast for the Beasts, in July….

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Now, when July does come, let me tell you what kinds of fruits and vegetables to bring for the elephants! Elephants just LOVE carrots, apples, ripe bananas, kiwi, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, whole cabbage heads, celery stalks, sweet potato, pineapple, pomegranate, and oranges. An elephant can eat an entire watermelon in one mouthful – just look at the picture here from a past years’ Feast for the Beasts event! Oh, and if you do bring something to eat for the elephants, you’ll get a free ride ticket. Nothing ends a great day at the Zoo better than some fun in the Rides Area.

Aside from the awesome elephant experience, there will be animal feedings all over the Zoo. Want to see the tigers, lemurs, or even alligators get fed? Well, here’s your chance. Check out the schedule below and plan your day with us. Can’t wait for you to join us on March 29th for Feast for the Beasts at Oakland Zoo!

Zena the ZooKeeper

Zena the ZooKeeper

by | March 3rd, 2014

zena-the-zookeeperHey Kids! Zena the ZooKeeper here to talk about what you can do for wildlife conservation!  With Earth Day coming up, what better time is there? I’m sure you already do things to help wildlife all year round; like picking up litter around your school or local park, so animals don’t get sick trying to eat it.  Or not bothering wildlife like baby birds in their momma’s nest, and always recycling to stop wasting things, and to reduce the amount of trash we make.palmoilkidsposter

Those things are great to do, and today I’m going to tell you about some things you can do that maybe you haven’t even thought of yet. Part of helping wildlife is being a compassionate consumer.  That means buying products that don’t hurt animals or wildlife.  Like avoiding food made with unsustainable Palm oil.  Did you know that people sometimes tear down the rainforest to build Palm oil plantations, where they plant and grow thousands of palm trees?  This is happening right now with the tropical forests of Borneo and Sumatra in Southeast Asia, where the rainforest is home to orangutans, tigers, sun bears and millions of other species of wildlife.  Once a rainforest is destroyed in order to plant palm trees, its habitat is ruined and these animals’ very existence is threatened!

But there is good news. There are companies that plant palm trees in a way that doesn’t ruin the rainforest and destroy habitat.  These companies grow and sell sustainable Palm oil  that doesn’t result in the loss of important habitat. Learn more about how to shop smart and buy products that use only sustainable Palm oil on our website. You can also download a poster for kids about Palm oil and how it is related to helping elephants.

Another important thing you can do to help animals is to never release pets into the wild. Sometimes people don’t understand how much care and work a certain kind of pet may need, and when they find they can’t take care of it, they just leave it outdoors somewhere.  That’s really sad.  Because the pet is not native to the new habitat, it usually dies or starts killing other animals or eats plants or destroys nesting sites which can really hurt the environment.

An example of this involves the Western Pond Turtle (WPT). Some people decided they didn’t want their pet turtles anymore and released them into the wild, where they were a non-native species and preyed on the WPT and its food sources. To help conserve the WPT, Oakland Zoo has a head-starting program to help rebuild the WPT population.  Learn all about it here.

So, be sure you research online and find out all about the kind of pet you want before committing to it.  And when choosing the right pet for you, always consider getting a rescued animal and please don’t choose a primate or other exotic pet.

And of course, educate others about conservation! If everyone does their part, then we can all be conservation heroes and change the world for all wildlife and humans alike!

Parent’s Night Out

by | January 29th, 2014

zena-the-zookeeperHey Kids!  Zena the Zookeeper here. Want to spend an evening at the Zoo without your parents? Well here’s your chance because we have a brand-new program we’d love for you to come to. It’s actually called “Parent’s Night Out” but don’t let the name fool you – it’s going to be blast for you, too. “Parent’s Night Out” lets your parents free to have an evening to themselves, I don’t know, doing whatever they like to do! The good news is, it means YOU get to come to the zoo for all sorts of fun at the same time!

Your parents will drop you off at the zoo in the early evening, and the fun begins! Our awesome education staff will greet you, and then take you and your newly-made friends to dinner – here at the zoo of course. Then, with the Zoo closed to the public, you get a super special nighttime private tour to see some of the nocturnal animals here. You might think the Zoo is a quiet place at night, but that’s not the case at all. Our spotted hyenas, lions and great-horned owls can be heard whooping, roaring and hooting off-and-on from sundown to sunup. At night in our Bug House, New Guinea walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches giant African millipedes skitter in the dark, looking for food. And then, there are my favorites: our beautiful bats, called Island and Malayan Flying Foxes. We also have some nocturnal frogs and geckos.

After the tour, we’ll head back to our auditorium to meet an animal up close! We’ll play some games and end the night with a movie you’re sure to love. Your parent(s) will pick you up after your fun-filled and exciting night and you can tell them all about the cool new adventures you had at the Zoo! Well, that’s it for now. Hope to see you there, on February 14th. Mark your calendars and make your reservation today!

It’s Hibernation Time!

by | December 6th, 2013

zena-the-zookeeperHey Kids! Well, it’s about time for some of our animals here at the Zoo to get ready to go into torpor and hibernate for the winter months. When an animal goes into torpor, its heart rate and breathing slow way down, and it is in a state of deep rest.  Hibernation is a kind of torpor that happens when the weather gets cold.  Some animals go into such deep hibernation that they are very difficult to awaken.  These animals don’t eat or drink while they are hibernating.  Others are light hibernators who are still resting, but they are easy to awaken and may even wake themselves up to eat or go to the bathroom.  It’s kind of like they are taking long naps throughout the winter.  Some other animals go into torpor when the weather gets hot.  That kind of torpor is called estivation, but we’ll talk about that some other time.

I used to think that it had to be really cold and snowy for animals to hibernate, but then I found out that that isn’t true.  Even though it doesn’t get really, really cold here in the Bay Area, some of our animals still hibernate for a time during the winter months.  You may be surprised to find out which of our Zoo and Park animals hibernate. Here are just some of them:

  • Snailscollage
  • Bumble Bees
  • Ground Squirrels
  • Brown Bats
  • Raccoons
  • Hedgehogs
  • Skunks
  • Garter snakes
  • Sonoran Desert Toads
  • Box Turtles
  • Hermann’s Tortoises
  • Desert Tortoises
  • Chuckwallas
  • Gila Monsters
  • Desert Spiny Lizards
  • Alligators

So, were you surprised by any of these hibernators? I sure was!  Did it surprise you that our sun bears were not on the list?  Why do you think that might be?  And what about our lions?  Hmmm…that’s something to think about, isn’t it?

Luckily you can still come and see some of our light-hibernating friends throughout the winter, but once they go into torpor, some of our deep hibernators will be fast asleep and out of sight until Spring rolls around again.

Well, seems like there are lots of reasons to get out to the Zoo and visit us as the holiday fun begins.  Until next time, remember – conservation rocks!

Your friend,

Zena the Zookeeper

Holiday Gifts for the Animals

by | November 14th, 2013

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And our sun bears love Kongs. Sometimes, we even fill them with peanut butter, which is the sun bears’ favorite thing to eat.

And our sun bears love Kongs. Sometimes, we even fill them with peanut butter, which is the sun bears’ favorite thing to eat.

Hey Kids! Zena the Zookeeper here.  It’s holiday time at Oakland Zoo, and I have a question for you: Name something you love getting during the holidays. If you said, PRESENTS! then you and our animals here at the Zoo have something in common.  Our animals love presents too.  And I’m here to tell you, we just love giving presents to them.  The presents we give our animals are called enrichments.  Those are special toys and games that help our animals live like they are back in the wild.  (If you want to learn more about animal enrichments, check out my blog from September called Animal Enrichment is Important to Chimpanzees!)

So, what kinds of presents do our animals like to receive? All kinds! Our chimps love lots of different toys. For example, one of our female chimps just adores plush-toy snakes. She wears them around her neck like a scarf. The ferrets and chinchillas love hanging beds, and the zebras go nuts for Jolly-Ranger balls.  We zookeepers put treats in the balls and watch the zebras happily work to get them out! Check out the picture here of my fellow 20131002_143235zookeeper prepping the balls with molasses and alfalfa for the Zebras to enjoy.20131002_144428

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Luigi the ferret, can spend hours playing hide-and-seek in his alligator bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, just last week we asked people to send presents for some of our Zoo staff headed to Borneo to help out some rescued sun bears over there.   And boy, did everyone help out! We got so many new toys for them – we even have some pictures of the Bornean bears playing with their new presents from Oakland Zoo.

If you’d like to give a present to one of our Zoo animals this holiday season, be sure to check out the wishlist we zookeepers put up on amazon.com .  It lists all the great toys and enrichment we know our animals love to receive.

 

The goats in the Children’s Contact Yard love butting around big, inflatable balls.  I suspect they may be playing some kind of top-secret goat soccer!

The goats in the Children’s Contact Yard love butting around big, inflatable balls. I suspect they may be playing some kind of top-secret goat soccer!

There’s lots to choose from, so I’m sure you’ll find something that will make one of our animals feel wild and wonderful.(Don’t forget to check with an adult before you purchase anything.)

So, until next time, remember – we only have one planet, so let’s all be conservation heroes and take good care of everything on it!

BOO AT THE ZOO!

by | October 21st, 2013

zena-the-zookeepertortoisehalloweenHalloween is almost here, and no one celebrates it better than Oakland Zoo!

Every year, we love to host “Boo at the Zoo!”, so you can come enjoy the Zoo AND Halloween for some spooktacular fun…come dressed in a costume, walk in the costume parade with our Zoo mascot, Roosevelt – I just know he’d love to meet you!

You’ll see your favorite animals, and get yummy treats from stations set up all around the Zoo.

Our animals love Halloween too- know why? Because you, the kids, can create delicious Halloween treats for them to enjoy too at a special station we’ve set up. We’ll have animal presentations through the weekend in our fabulous Wildlife Theatre so you can get up close and personal with some of our really cool creepy, crawly animals too!

ZC S2 LL 087And do you like scavenger hunts? Well, we have a great one waiting for you so if you’re good at finding clues, come join the fun!  How about Science? We’re featuring “Zoombie” animals, monster myths, and sensory skills- touch the foods zoo animals like to eat. Face painting, you ask? Of course! The Oakland Fire Department will be here on Saturday, and the Oakland Police Department will be here on Sunday to greet to and check our your cool costumes too.

So don’t forget to come to the Zoo in your costume so you can get a free ticket in our rides area- and you just HAVE to ride the spooky boo train while you’re here.  That’s all for now, Trick-or-Treat and see you at the Zoo!

Photos from previous years’ “Boo at the Zoo”