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Holiday Gifts for the Animals

by | November 14th, 2013

zena-the-zookeeper

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”

 

Have You Met our Beautiful African Elephants?

by | September 27th, 2013

zena-the-zookeeperDSC00426 [800x600]Did you know that Oakland Zoo is the only zoo in Northern California with African Elephants?  We have FOUR amazing African Elephants, three females and one male, and although they look similar, to us animal keepers their personalities are about as different as up and down.  As sweet and sour.  As football and bowling. As … well, you get the picture.

All of the girls come from Africa originally, but sadly, they became orphans and were sold to Zoos in the United States when their families were culled. Culling is the very controversial method of population management. They had sad and difficult beginnings in life, but now they all make one big happy family! We zookeepers do our very best to make sure of that each and every day – we love our elephants very much! All four have such unique and fun personalities, so what’s not to love?!

Osh, our only boy, is 19 and has been with us since 2004. He came from Howletts Wild Animal Park, where he was born with his family group. Young males in the wild get kicked out of their herd from ages 8-12, and that is what Osh’s mom and aunts started to do to him, so we gave him a home here at Oakland Zoo. Osh is extremely active, exploratory, and curious. He’s got a very lively and chipper walk, and he loves to play, browse and graze.

Donna is 34 years old and came to Oakland Zoo in 1989. She very quickly became the dominant female because she had the biggest attitude. She is the most playful out of the girls.  At nighttime you will find her having fun playing with the large tractor tires in her enclosure and charging into the pool for a cool-down! Personality-wise Donna is impatient, loves to participate in training, and is closely bonded with Lisa, whom she sleeps with every night. See how and why we train our elephants here!

Lisa is 36 years old and has been with us since she was two years old. She came from Kruger National Park in South Africa and went briefly to a “training” facility for several months then came to the zoo. Lisa is an ‘elephant’s elephant,’ she likes all of her pachyderm friends, and wants to make everyone happy. She loves her pool. We call her our water baby, because she will take daily dips if the weather is right! Want to see Lisa taking a bath? She is sneaky, agile, and can be very stubborn!

M’Dunda is 44 years old and came to us in 1991. She has a bad history of abuse at her previous facility; which is amazing because she is an extremely gentle soul and wouldn’t hurt a fly. She loves to play with Osh, and is often spotted at night leaning over the fence into Osh’s area, trunk-twirling with him. She can be a little insecure, and scared of new situations. When she first came here she wouldn’t eat her treat boxes! She sure does now, though! She also has long beautiful tusks.

All four of these wonderful beasts just love pumpkins, melons and pineapples. Come to our next “Feast For the Beast” event in the Spring and you can bring some produce and place them around the elephant habitat yourself!

Until next time, see you at the Zoo!

Animal Enrichment is Important to our Chimpanzees!

by | September 12th, 2013

zena-the-zookeeperGreetings, it’s Zena, and I’m back to talk to you about animal enrichment – that’s how we at Oakland Zoo help our Zoo chimpanzees live in captivity that is as close as possible to how they live in the wild. We use enrichments to keep our chimps physically fit, to provide mental exercise and give them interesting problems to solve, to encourage behaviors they use in the wild, and to improve their overall well-being.

chimpblog

We actually give enrichments to all our animals, and there are 5 different enrichment types:

Physical Habitat – putting furniture (like hammocks, platforms, and climbing structures) and natural features from the wild (like rocks and trees and vines) in their enclosures.

Sensory – giving them experiences with interesting smells, textures, tastes, sights, and sounds.

Mental Stimulation – providing behavior training and “puzzle-feeders” where they have to figure out how to get food and other treats out of cardboard toys and structures.

Social – putting them in groups with animals like themselves as well as with other kinds of animals.

Food – making special food treats for them and giving them food like they eat in the wild.

For example, we have seven chimpanzees here at the zoo. When you visit, you’ll notice there are a lot of toys, stuffed animals, pillows, cardboard tubes and boxes, hammocks, and other items inside their enclosure.  These are actually enrichment items, and the chimps just love coming into their habitat in the morning to discover new enrichments to explore and play with. Individual chimps even have favorite enrichments – like particular blankets and stuffed animals that they use to make up their beds when they sleep or just want to relax. Believe it or not, one of our female chimps even has a special love for toy snakes! Another loves to ride in big toy cars and trucks.  Imagine that!

Take a look at these pictures and see how many different kinds of enrichment you can find and name.

So, next time you’re visiting, be sure to look at all the enrichments we have for our animals and see if you can figure out why we used them and how they are more than just loads of fun for our animal friends.

 

Zena the ZooKeeper

Western Pond Turtles get a hand at Oakland Zoo!

by | August 22nd, 2013
zena-the-zookeeperHey there, fellow conservation heroes! Do I have an important conservation program to tell you about today, and it’s taking place right here at Oakland Zoo!  It’s a ‘head start” program for the endangered Western Pond Turtle. These adorable little guys were once plentiful and lived all over the entire West Coast – from British Columbia in Canada, all the way down to Baja California near Mexico.

pond_turtle

But today, they’re only found in a few parts of California, Oregon and a couple of places in Washington State. That’s because they’ve lost a lot of their habitat and are being eaten by non-native predators – including another kind of turtle that isn’t native to California.  It’s really sad. 
 
See how tiny the baby Western Pond Turtle is?  Because they grow very slowly in the wild, it takes them a long time to grow big enough to escape or fight off non-native predators like the American Bullfrog and Largemouth Bass who love to snatch them up and snack on them. The other species bullying these guys is the red-eared slider turtle. Many red-eared slider turtles were once somebody’s pet, but people sometimes release them into the wild when they get too big, and that’s bad news for the smaller, shyer Western Pond Turtle. Our little friend loses out to the bigger guys on food resources and warm spots to lie in the sun in their habitat.
 
But the GOOD NEWS is that we are raising hatchlings right here at the Zoo in our brand-new Bio-Diversity Center!  With our ZooKeepers taking care of these babies with plenty of nutrient-rich foods and veterinary care, they grow in just one year to the size it would take them three or four years to reach in the wild. Then, when we release them into the wild they are big enough to protect themselves and have a much better chance of survival. Right now, we are raising 44 Western Pond Turtles for release next year, and the babies are doing great so far!
 
So remember fellow conservation heroes, please don’t release pet turtles into the wild.  Help keep our lake areas clean, welcoming places for Western Pond Turtles. And be sure to teach others all about the amazing Western Pond Turtle!

Warthog Love is in the Air

by | July 31st, 2013

 

Basic CMYKHello fellow conservation heroes, Zena the Zookeeper here.   The summer excitement just keeps on rolling here at Oakland Zoo!   This month, we are celebrating the arrival of two totally beautiful new warthogs.  Yes, you heard right – bea-u-ti-ful wartrhogs!  I could just watch these two lovely ladies for hours on end!  We got them from two zoos in the southern United States, the Atlanta (Georgia) Zoo and the Jacksonville (Florida) Zoo.  I hope Simon, our resident male warthog, thinks they are as beautiful as I do. If Simon agrees with me, then maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have some baby piglets join the sounder (sounder means a small group of warthogs).

We zookeepers are pretty proud of our little three-warthog sounder, and of how well the three of them are all getting along.  Sometimes it can take many weeks for female warthogs to learn to get along, but our ladies had not problems at all adjusting to their new home or to Simon, or each other.  Hmmm… I wonder if it was all the fresh grasses, fruit, and enrichment items we put in their enclosure

everyday.

Just look at the three of them playing together with their ball in this picture! They’re getting along like three peas – I mean pigs – in a pod!  wart1

And here’s a little fascinating fact for you – warthogs really do have warts!  The warts are on their heads, where they also have not one but TWO sets of tusks.

Warthogs are also powerful diggers, using their disc-like snout with their legs to dig for roots and tubers. They often lower themselves closer to the ground by bending their wrists (like Simon is doing in this picture).

Looks pretty awkward to me, but don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.  They have special thick, calloused pads of skin to protect them when they’re bending down like that. And just like all species of pigs, warthogs love to roll around in the mud when the weather gets too hot for them.

So see?  These creatures are sweet and loveable and oh so fun to watch – just bea-u-ti-ful.  I’m sure you’ll agree with me when you come visit them for yourselves.  See you at the Zoo!