Archive for the ‘Education Programs’ Category

Learning how to train animals…

by | March 10th, 2014
Me training a Scarlet Macaw to present its foot on the cage for a nail trim

Me training a Scarlet Macaw to present its foot on the cage for a nail trim

I recently had the privilege of attending a workshop on Contemporary Animal Training and Management hosted by

Me and my team leader training a Pied Crow to step on my hand

Me and my team leader training a Pied Crow to step on my hand

Me training a Blue-throated Macaw to land on my hand

Me training a Blue-throated Macaw to land on my hand

Natural Encounters, Inc. in Florida.  It was an amazing educational experience, and I honestly can’t stop thinking about it.

Me target training a Red-fronted Macaw

Me target training a Red-fronted Macaw

Just a beautiful photo of a Blue and Gold Macaw in-flight

Just a beautiful photo of a Blue and Gold Macaw in-flight

The 5 day workshop followed a format that balanced both theoretical presentations and practical hands-on training sessions. Experienced animal trainers and animal behavior scientists were on hand to share their expertise and answer our endless list of questions.  I got the opportunity to network with dozens of other zoo professionals, dog trainers, and companion parrot owners.  The challenge after any workshop, conference, or seminar that I participate in is applying my new or improved skills with the animals that I work with at the Oakland Zoo.  Fortunately, this challenge is the reason I love my job!

You may be wondering why we bother with animal training, who we train, or how we train.  Training has been described as the ultimate form of enrichment.  The application of enrichment seeks to stimulate our animals both physically and mentally while also empowering them to make their own choices and control their environments.  Perhaps that’s a bit of a “wordy” description of the concept.  Bottom line is the animal gets to exercise their brain and often their body by doing something…anything really.  At the Oakland Zoo, we do all kinds of training with all kinds of animals.  Leonard, our male African lion, is trained to place his paw on an x-ray plate and hold still for x-rays.  Tiki, one of our Reticulated giraffe, is trained to present her feet for hoof trimmings and acupuncture treatments. Torako, one of our tigers, is trained to position her tail through a hatch so that Zookeepers can safely draw blood from a vein in her tail.  The flock of Red-bellied Parrots in our Savannah Aviary exhibit are trained to perch on particular stations so that Zookeepers can examine them daily.

You may be noticing a theme.  Many of our training goals seek to empower the animal to willingly and eagerly participate in their own husbandry and medical care.  All of these animals have the choice to walk away in the middle of a training session if they want.  Ultimately, this allows the animal AND the Zookeeper to function in a low-stress, highly reinforcing tandem.  The animal is having fun, and the Zookeeper is having fun!

Thanks for reading!  I’ll leave you with some of my favorite pictures from the Contemporary Animal Training and Management workshop.

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!

Life on the Hacienda: Oakland Zoo Teens Get Gardening

by | March 3rd, 2014

In case you hadn’t heard, the Oakland Zoo Teen Wild Guides (or Twigs as we call them) recently participated in a new community program here in Oakland. Trained primarily as weekend interpreters in the Children’s Zoo, this dedicated group of local teen volunteers can also be seen at the tiger, chimp and sun bear exhibits, where they answer questions and provide information about the animals. In their first long-term partnership effort, the TWGs gathered at Hacienda Peralta Historical Park in December to volunteer their services in the park’s native plants garden. This newly-established 6-acre park, located in the Fruitvale District along the banks of Peralta Creek, is one of the most significant historical sites in the East Bay, being one of the earliest European settlements in the area.
On December 8, during one of four national community service days of the year, the TWGs brought their tools, gloves, and tarps to the park for a morning of pulling invasive weeds. During several scheduled days in the spring and summer, the TWGs will be returning to Hacienda Peralta to continue their work, allowing them to witness the development of the garden over time. This program represents a hopeful new direction for the Zoo, involving the TWGs with community institutions that work to promote wildlife conservation.
But this doesn’t end with the tossing out of a bunch of weeds. As it turns out, a great deal of this invasive plant material is edible. So the TWGs transport it back to the Zoo where (after being identified and approved by the staff horticulturists) is fed out to a wide variety of herbivorous animals. (Our giraffes especially like the thorny blackberry vines.) It’s a definite win-win situation.
The other day I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the TWGs who had participated in the gardening at Hacienda Peralta in December. As a 1st year TWG, Tano was proud to be a part of the project: “It was really cool to do habitat restoration. It was fun, with lots of wildlife, but the (blackberry) thorns hurt you.” Tano told me he was excited to have discovered a new type of plant at the park that he hadn’t seen before. “It was wrapped around another plant and appeared to be stealing nutrients from it.” As a passionate devotee of science, Tano impressed me by saying that the person he’d most like to be was Charles Darwin. He even recited one of the famous scientist’s quotes about evolution.
It was gratifying to witness this young man’s passion for science and discovery. It made me realize how important these science education programs are for channeling the energies of today’s youth. As a member of the Oakland Zoo TWGs, Tano definitely seems to be heading in the right direction. So the next time you visit the Zoo, take a moment to say “Hi” to some of the TWGs. You just might be chatting with the next Charles Darwin!

 

 

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!

PARENTS GET A “TIME-OUT”

by | January 28th, 2014

Hey Parents!parentnightout

Need a fun place to leave the kids while you go out and enjoy some time alone with your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day? Look no further than Oakland Zoo. Starting this year, the Zoo is offering a fun new program called “Parents Night Out” that might be just what you’re looking for. But it’s more than simply “babysitting at the Zoo” – geared for children aged 4 to 10 years, this program offers a full evening of entertaining animal-themed fun. Once you drop off your kids, you can rest easy knowing they’re having a good time and being well taken care of. They’ll start off enjoying a pizza dinner, followed by a cool guided walk through the Children’s Zoo to visit animals such as alligators, bats, turtles, frogs, lizards and bugs. They will even get a sneak peek at where the ZooKeepers prepare the food for all the animals of the Zoo. Later, in the auditorium, your kids will be able to participate in a fun game or craft, followed by an ‘animal close-up’, where they get to meet an animal up close and personal. Then, we top off the evening with an exciting animal-themed movie. All this for $30 per child (plus $25 for each additional sibling.) Not bad to ensure some quality couple time on Valentine’s Day.

You can drop off your kids at the Marian Zimmer Auditorium at 5:30 in the evening and stay out till 10:00pm, giving you a full evening to “get away from it all” with dinner, dancing, a movie, or a romantic stroll. And when you come back to pick up your kids, they’ll have plenty of exciting things to share about their evening at the Zoo. And if things take off like we’re expecting, we’re hoping to expand our Parents Night Out program on selected Friday or Saturday evenings at other times during the year. So if you want to have one of those special Valentine’s Days like you used to have, give Oakland Zoo a call and sign your kids up for “Parents’ Night Out.” Then, go out and hit the town. We’ll see you when you get back!

 

Attention Future Biologists!

by | November 11th, 2013

MollyAtBeachHave you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a real field biologist, studying wildlife in the great outdoors? What exactly do they do out there with all that cool equipment, anyway? Now, there’s an easy way to find out. Oakland Zoo is proud to introduce its latest educational program, the Field Biology Workshops, where we focus on modern, innovative techniques of field biology and conservation. If you’re a middle or high school student, this could be your opportunity to try your hand at this rewarding career while you’re still in school. And you don’t even have to go anywhere—the Zoo brings it all to your classroom.

The San Diego Institute for Conservation Research (ICR), who offers a summer program for science educators looking to institute their own science programs, was instrumental in helping to get this program off the ground. During a three-day conservation institute for teachers held by ICR, members of the Zoo’s education staff had the opportunity to learn the curriculum and were provided with teaching materials to get started

Here’s how it works. During our engaging one or two-day in-class workshops (an hour each) you’ll get the chance to use modern technology to study wildlife, analyzing real data collected in the field. A good example is with our condor program, the field study that uses GPS technology to track endangered California condors released back into the wild in Baja California and the Ventana Wilderness Area near Big Sur. As a young aspiring scientist, you’ll be asked to analyze data and give thought to the conservation challenges that these animals face in the real world. Using satellite mapping techniques, you’ll study and analyze the condors’ geographic range and make your own decisions about ways to protect it. One of the exercises involves the planning for a proposed wind farm within the condors’ habitat. Based on your analysis of the data, your job is to advise the company on the best place to locate the facility to minimize risk to the birds while still serving the needs of the public.

Condor119
One of the goals of the Field Biology Workshops is skill-building. We ask the students to come up with answers to these problems; not necessarily focusing on the right answer, but getting the students to think and work like a scientist. Through this program the Zoo is hoping to expand its educational reach by bridging the demographic between its ZooSchool, Teen Wild Guide and ZooMobile programs, offering educational services to students in middle and high schools. The program is still in the planning stages but we’re hoping to be up and running this school year. To find out more about the Field Biology Workshops, please call our Teen Programs Manager, Melinda Sievert at (510) 632-9525 ext 201. So if you’re a middle or high school student who’s interested in biology or if you know someone who is, give Oakland Zoo a call and get that young scientist onboard with the new Field Biology Workshops. See you at the Zoo!