Archive for the ‘Employee Spotlight’ Category

Forty Candles Burning Bright for the Docents’ Big Party

by | April 24th, 2014

 

 

Back in the Day

Back in the Day. Oakland Zoo now maintains a “protected contact” system in animal management.

Do you know who’s turning 40 at Oakland Zoo this year? No, it’s not Osh the elephant or Benghazi the giraffe. (Those guys are mere babies by comparison.) I’ll give you a clue. This creature has more than 160 legs and can be found roaming wild on nearly every pathway in the Zoo. Give up? It’s the Oakland Zoo Docent Council. And on April 27th, they’ll be celebrating a whopping forty years of serving the public here at the Zoo.

It was back in 1973 when Zoological Society Executive Director Flora Aasen suggested that the Zoo recruit volunteers to serve as docents to help educate and assist zoo visitors. From that idea, the first docent training class was established and held at the Zoo (which consisted of a mere ten people!) In the forty years since, as the Zoo has undergone tremendous growth, we’ve trained and graduated hundreds of passionate individuals into the program. During that same period, there’s been a wealth of noteworthy docent accomplishments, including the introduction of the Zoomobile, ZooSchool, and Wildlife Theater programs; the leading of untold thousands of guided cart tours, walking tours, and Animal Encounters; the creation of talking storybook boxes and docent bio-fact stations; the initiation of numerous events such as the public lecture series, Animal Fund Boutique, Animal Amore tours, Celebrating Elephants Day, and many others as well as the hosting of Jane Goodall’s National ChimpanZoo Conference . In addition, the docents have sold thousands of Oakland Zoo memberships, increasing the number from 600 to an impressive 26,000; supported and fundraised for causes like Quarters for Conservation, Budongo Snare Removal and Uganda lion conservation, and personally donated an astounding $200,000 to help in the construction of the Education Center, the Children’s Zoo and the new veterinary hospital. Through their tireless efforts, the docents have advocated for animal conservation by helping to improve animal care here, and helped elevate Oakland Zoo to compete with the best zoos in the world. Not bad for a bunch of volunteers. And in 2012, the Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents listed the Oakland Zoo Docent Council in the top ten of the longest running programs of its kind in the US.

Doing What They Do Best

Doing What They Do Best

On Sunday April 27th, the docents will gather at the Zoo to celebrate these and many other accomplishments– and just as important, to look ahead to what is sure to be an even brighter future. Honored guests include a distinguished array of heavyweights including docent co-founders JoAnne Harley and Pam Raven Brett, former education directors Arlyn Christopherson and Anne Warner , as well as video participation by Oakland Zoo President and CEO Dr. Joel Parrott. This celebration comes at a time when Oakland Zoo stands poised to embark on its ambitious California Trail project, heralding a new era of wildlife education and conservation in the Bay Area. With forty years of momentum, the Oakland Zoo Docents are certainly ready to be a part of it. This anniversary celebrates a great future as well as a proud past, and promises to be a most momentous occasion!

Appreciate Your Zoo Keepers!

by | July 25th, 2013

Keeper-Jeff margaretrousserEach year, the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) declares a National Zoo Keeper Appreciation Week. The idea behind it is to honor animal care professionals and their contributions to conservation while increasing public awareness about preserving our precious habitats and natural resources.

Zoo Keeping is one of the most physically demanding jobs a person can have, but it also one of the most rewarding! Zoo keepers work in all weather conditions, weekends, holidays and sometimes even overnight. The animals do not stop needing care just because it is Thanksgiving, or during a hurricane. Many of us have stayed up all night caring for a critically ill bear, feeding an orphaned squirrel monkey, or observing a new mother otter with her first litter. My personal record is 36 hours straight of animal care. You would be hard pressed to find a group of more dedicated people than you would in a zoo’s animal care department.

EricaZoo Keepers also work very closely with many of the other departments in the Zoo. Here are a few of the things they have to say about the keepers at the Oakland Zoo:

“I have never experienced such a dedicated and loyal staff that puts Oakland Zoo’s animal care first. The animal care staff is representative of what it means to love the job you’re in. I am proud of, and to be associated with, such knowledgeable and professional folks.” Nancy Filippi Managing Director of Operations.

“Keepers, you don’t care for gibbons and chimps, you care for Niko and Caramia, you care for each individual animal that is in your care, with all their unique issues, their unique likes and dislikes. You tap into what brings each animal happiness and health and deliver with love.” Amy Gotliffe, Director of Conservation

Keeper Ashley“I’m always looking for ways to promote Oakland Zoo stories to the public. Often times, I am asking a lot of questions and bugging zookeepers for details about the animals they manage and most the time they think I’m crazy, is my guess. But, those nuggets of information help me grab the media’s attention. I’m so appreciative for the little details zookeepers give me. Their jobs are fascinating and I ALWAYS learn new things about animals each time I bring a reporter or film crew to a location. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of cocktail trivia about animals. Being out in the zoo with zookeepers is usually a definite perk to my job at the Zoo. Kudos to our zookeepers. You work so hard and we appreciate all you do for the animals at Oakland Zoo.” Nicky Mora, Senior Manager of Marketing

Adam-Z“I appreciate the keepers because they do awesome work and serve a tremendous purpose. And, while I get to spend 95% of my time in a heated or air-conditioned office, the keepers do it all, rain or shine (and 98% percent of the time they smile doing it). I’m in considerable awe of their talent and dedication.” John Lemanski, Director of Human Resources

“We have dedicated zoo keepers and are truly blessed to have dozens of staff members that work day in and day out with our diverse collection of animals. Many of the animal species featured throughout Oakland Zoo are ambassadors to animals in the wild that are in danger or at risk of becoming extinct. Our Zoo Keepers are advocates for the animals they care for and they strive to make the public aware of issues facing those same animals in the wild. We work really hard at spreading the message of conservation and our keepers play an integral role in that process.” Dr. Joel Parrott, President and CEO of Oakland Zoo

Dannielle“National Zoo Keeper Week is an opportunity for us to acknowledge Keepers for what they do and thank them for the care they continue to provide our animals at Oakland Zoo. One of the core beliefs our Keepers all embody is educating the public about pets, specifically which animals do and do not make good pets. Besides educating the public about the animals, our keepers go to great lengths to provide the most natural and enriching environment for the creatures in their care. Not only do the animals benefit from the creative ideas, all of the keepers share their successes and new ways to keep animals stimulated. We all learn from each other and no day working with animals is ever the same.” Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation, and Research

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!

 

 

Going Batty in Australia – Part 1

by | November 4th, 2011

Buttercup in the seated position

Last Monday I began my trip from the Oakland Zoo to Atherton, Queensland, Australia to volunteer for three weeks at the Toga Bat Hospital.  From the moment I arrived (on Wednesday, because of the long travel time and the time difference) it was straight down to business.  My first duty as a volunteer was to feed a fun little Yellow-Bellied Sheathtail Bat (Saccolaimus flaviventris) named “Buttercup”.  Buttercup is one of approx. 100 bats that reside permanently at the hospital.  Injured as a juvenile far away from the bat hospital, the people who found her thought she was a fruit bat out of her normal range and so fed her fruit until she ended up at the bat hospital.  Because she was never fed a proper diet of insects she needs help eating her daily diet of mealworms.  What makes her funny is she likes to eat in very ungainly positions such as seated on her

Buttercup "standing"rear on the feeder’s leg, “standing” with her feet barely touching the feeder’s leg, and the slightly more natural position of upside-down against her feeder’s chest.

She may take a mealworm in one position but want to finish it in another.  Sometimes she needs to be rotated between the positions.  We try to get about 20 mealworms dipped in supplements into her while juggling her between the three different postures.  It was quite the introduction to my life for the next three weeks as I sat there in the sundress that I had just changed into in Cairns because of the intense heat and humidity feeding a bat, sitting her upright on my lap.  It was the first of many fantastic experiences that I would have.

Upside down Buttercup

I am extremely happy to be here due to the generosity of Elaine and Warren Lash who established a yearly fund to send an Oakland Zoo staff member to participate directly in a conservation project.  Without their contribution, I would not have been able to partake in this incredible experience.

 

PBI Leadership Camp — Blog 5

by | October 22nd, 2011

Absolute Commitment – A Group blog

Victor Alm – Zoological Manager, Oakland Zoo

Patty Young – Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Philip Fensterer – Oregon Zoo

Jennifer Funk – Pittsburgh Zoo

As we wrapped up our week out at the Tundra Buggy Lodge we spent our last full day in lecture bringing our time on the tundra full circle.

The Tundra Buggy Lodge -- Camp Headquarters

This was brought home to us as multiple polar bears circled our lodge while we learned about the daily and long term operations of Polar Bears International and what it means to be stewards of our planet.   One definition of Stewardship is the careful management of something entrusted to one’s care.  This is a very relevant definition and strikes to the major point of what is occurring on our planet due to climate change.   We are stewards of this planet and the life and systems that operate on it.   If we are not going to help then who is?  Another major part of our day was conducting our webcast to our own institutions and families.  This was a great opportunity to directly communicate with colleagues back home about our time at camp, what we learned, and describe our experiences. This was followed by a Skype with Robert Buchanan (President of PBI).   He reminded us of why we came here and of our obligation to future generations.

A farwell sunset from the tundra

Leaving camp we are now armed with the tools and knowledge we need to step out and create change. The first challenge we gave ourselves as leaders began at camp and was reducing our own carbon footprint for the week at the lodge.  We took on the no shower eco-challenge. This allowed for the conservation of many resources while adding to the aroma and ambiance of the experience! The most encouraging and supportive part of this final day was getting the opportunity to meet with our Polar Bears International facilitators one on one.  We used this time to finalize our forward action plans for change.   Putting our thoughts on paper, then discussing them as a group helped them to really resonate with us.  We are leaving the tundra this week feeling motivated and confident.  We can make a change.  We are committed to make a change.  We will make a change!

Change is needed!

PBI Leadership Camp: Blog 3

by | October 5th, 2011

Climate Change:  The Extreme Example of Human Wildlife Conflict

Victor Alm – Zoological Manager, Oakland Zoo

On several occasions at Climate Change Leadership camp we have discussed the human wildlife conflict in regards to polar bears.  The first time was in the town of Churchill, Manitoba with Natural Resource officer Bob Windser who works for Manitoba Conservation.

Bob Windser talking about human wildlife conflict

Bob is in charge of the Bear Alert Program in and around Churchill where they deal with the potential interactions between the residents and the migrating polar bears.  The main reasons for interaction are because polar bears are passing by on their migration north to meet the sea ice (which they depend on for their main food source of seals) and hunger (if they are in poor physical condition).  The response to polar bears can take many forms from deterrence to dispatch.  Deterrence is the preferred method and takes several non-lethal forms.  The first and preferred methods are used to drive bears from out and around town using noise emitting firearms called screamers, bangers, and crackers.  The second is to use paintball guns and white paint on those that are not fazed by noise.  The third is to chemically immobilize bears or trap bears and bring them to a specially designed polar bear holding facility where they can spend several days to a month, depending on the circumstances of capture.  For example, a sow with cubs would only spend a few days.  The polar bears are relocated thirty to forty miles outside of town and if possible back onto the sea ice.  The other Non-preferred method is to put the bears down. It is reserved for situations where the safety of the residents, tourists, or officers is at risk.

Bear Alert Holding Building

Over the last few years, officials have seen an increase in the number of polar bears that have gone  through their program.  More bears are also migrating through  and around town, approximately one month earlier than in years past.  This is unusual because once polar bears leave the sea ice in late spring/early summer, they tend to fast for several months and wait for the return of the sea ice, generally not interested in eating/hunting unless they come across something opportunistically. For a normal, happy, and healthy bear, fasting is not a problem.  But Natural Resource Officers are not always seeing healthy bears; instead, they are seeing them in declining condition.  Due to the increasing sea ice loss  from overall rising global temperature (caused by accumulations of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) bears are having to spend more time on land fasting and less time on the ice fattening up on seals.

Some say our changing climate could be seen as the ultimate trigger for a human and wildlife conflict; not only with polar bears, but potentially with numerous other species that will be trying to adapt and move as their habitats and natural behavior is altered.

Polar Bear waiting for the sea ice to return