Archive for the ‘Family Fun’ Category

ZooCamp: It’s Not Just for Summer Anymore

by | March 12th, 2012

Singing Camp Songs

I’m sure you know that ZooCamp has been a popular summer tradition here at the Oakland Zoo for many years. But did you know that recently the ZooCamp program has expanded by offering three all new camp sessions? Taking full advantage of the various breaks in the school year, ZooCamp is now offered at Spring Break, Winter Break and even Thanksgiving.  Now, your kids can experience the joys of ZooCamp throughout the year.

Wildlife Theater

It all started in 2010 with an idea by veteran ZooCamp Director Sarah Cramer. After inquiring at other institutions that offered similar events, Sarah wanted to test-run a new four-day camp session between Christmas and New Years. She had no idea how popular this new camp would be.  In fact, the premier of the Winter Break Camp greatly surpassed all expectations. At that point, Sarah knew she was on to something big. It wasn’t long before she had initiated two additional camp sessions, bringing the total to four. A new era in ZooCamp history had begun.

“Most of the kids we see at camp are repeat visitors,” says Sarah. “They come two, three, or more years in a row. They have camp friends and favorite teachers that they look forward to seeing all year. These new camps are a way to keep these kids connected year round.”

Fun With Costumes

What’s unique about these new camp sessions is their shorter format. In contrast to the weeklong structure of summer ZooCamp, campers can sign up for any number of the two-day sessions being offered.  Sarah has found that this format offers more flexibility for parents who are trying to coordinate other family events during these busy holiday periods.

Visiting a Tortoise's Home

As one of many places offering family-friendly activities in the Bay Area, the Oakland Zoo realizes that its guests have a variety of choices when it comes to spending their leisure time dollars. That’s why the Zoo strives to give a good value with all of it programs, especially ZooCamp. As one parent recently commented about her child’s love of ZooCamp, “It’s expensive, but it’s worth it.” In fact, hearing the many favorable comments from enthusiastic kids would make a believer out of just about anyone.

Exploring the Creek

And guess what– the new Spring Break ZooCamp is just around the corner, in April! Here are some of the cool things your kids can look forward to. Nature Play (our most popular summer program) is lots of fun: looking under rocks in the creek, catching tadpoles, searching for various kinds of bugs, even building forts out of materials easily found here at the park.  Nature Play is what being a kid is all about.
Then there’s Zoofari, an adventurous expedition around the Oakland Zoo. Your kids get to tour zoo exhibits, make treats for the animals, play games, sing songs, meet some animals up close, and make new friends. Offered as a kind of “best of summer camp sampler,” this program is a great introduction for kids who have not participated in our full-week summer camp.

Making New Friends

This year, Spring Break ZooCamp is offering four (4) two-day sessions: April 2-3 and 4-5, and then the following week on April 9-10 and 11-12. Registration is currently underway.  It’s easy. Simply click here to visit the ZooCamp web page, where you’ll find further information, including fees and policies. By the way, registration for our popular Summer ZooCamp program starts March 12 for our Zoo members. So check out the new ZooCamps being offered year round at the Oakland Zoo. We’ll see you there!

Operation Pumpkin Pick Up

by | November 18th, 2011

Just some of the few dedicated Oakland Zoo staff and volunteers who made operation pumpkin pick up run smoothly. Photo by J. Moore.

After another bottle of Advil, it was yet another successful year of pumpkin gathering. Once again, the Oakland Zoo staff and volunteers made an endless team effort to make operation pumpkin pick-up run smoothly. We picked up well over a thousand pumpkins from small to extra large (the back-breaking kind). This doesn’t include the four giant boxes of mini pumpkins, holding at least a few thousand tiny morsels all together. The elephants especially love these bite-sized treats so if you come to the daily feedings you’ll probably see the keepers rolling the minis into the grass, providing the elephants with something like an Easter egg hunt. All of the animals benefit from the pumpkins which provide different types of enrichment from food to furniture to fun.

Pumpkins for months to come! Photo by author.

This is of important value to the zoo as the patches donate the remains after Halloween, which would otherwise most likely be composted. We would like to give special thanks to Johnnie Moore with Moore’s Pumpkins, Holly Prinz of Pick of the Patch Pumpkins, and Tommy Speer of Speer Family Farms, for their generous donations once again this year. Please come by and enjoy the pumpkin festivities for November and December.

Lisa elephant eats a decorated treat box, while her companions walk around in search for themed card board cut outs, candy corn, and festive popsicles. Photo by author.

With the sun shining brightly that weekend, I am happy to say that Boo at the Zoo was a huge hit this year. Hundreds of visitors gathered around to watch the animals get festive Halloween themed enrichment and pumpkins, participate in the costume parade, and get a treat bag with animal friendly, palm oil free candy.  You might have even gotten to see a keeper or two dressed up! Thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate the most fun holiday of the year!!

The Launch of a Zoo Evolution: Quarters for Conservation!

by | August 18th, 2011

Visiting the Oakland Zoo may bring you a number of positive feelings. The feeling of connection when you spend time with family and friends, the feeling of awe when you learn about animals and their amazing adaptations, or the feeling of wonder when you gaze at a gorgeous elephant or tiger, but starting on August 19th, a new feeling should come over all our visitors: pride.

That is because of our new initiative, Quarters for Conservation. Each time a guest now visits the zoo, a twenty five cent conservation donation will be contributed in support of several Oakland Zoo conservation projects. With thousands of visitors each year, these quarters add up to a significant increase in the zoos capacity to support animals and habitats in the wild. Our slogan, “Saving Wildlife with Each Visit” about sums it up.

Guests will even determine where the funding goes. When you enter the zoo, you will be given a token. This token can be taken to the conservation voting station in Flamingo Plaza and used to “vote for” a conservation project that inspires you. Quarters are also accepted.

This year, you can vote to:

Help protect chimpanzees in Uganda through the Budongo Snare Removal Project. This project provides a solution to poaching by sponsoring forest guards, snare removers and educators, and by offering nanny goats to ex- poachers as an alternative source of food and income.

Help conserve African elephants in Kenya, through the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. This renowned program is aimed at increasing our knowledge of African elephants and ensuring their long-term conservation. Through their efforts, every elephant in Amboseli National Park has been identified, named, and studied.

Help keep the California condor alive and in the wild through the Ventana Wildlife Society Condor Project. This innovative project collects thin-shelled eggs laid by ill condors, and replaces them with viable captive-bred eggs, treats lead-poisoned birds, and monitors the safety and health of each condor through radio telemetry.

These projects will be featured until summer 2012, when three new projects will be chosen

As a community, we have a great power to not only enjoy the zoo and learn from the animals, but to genuinely help their plight in the wild. Quarters for Conservation represents a true shift in the ways zoos see themselves, and the way the public is beginning to view zoos; as true institutions for conservation action. Engaging you, the zoo visitor, in this evolution is very exciting.

Ready to change the world?

Discover a New Species of Birthday Parties!

by | August 5th, 2011

Hey parents! Your kid’s birthday’s coming up, isn’t it? You need to plan that party. But maybe you’re tired of the same old bounce castle and party game routine. Perhaps you’ve been trying to think of a new and unique way to help them celebrate their birthday this year. With the Oakland Zoo’s ZooMobile program, you can give your child a memorable birthday party that he or she will be talking about with their friends for a long time to come. After all, how often do you get to touch wild animals in your own home?!

Great Horned Owl

Accommodating a group of up to 25 people, the Oakland ZooMobile comes to your own home with several kid-size critters for a fun, educational experience that your child and his friends will love. Led by one of the Zoo’s experienced education specialists, this entertaining and informative program lasts a full 45 minutes. This allows plenty of time to see, touch and learn about four or five of our animals, such as hedgehogs, chinchillas, lizards, snakes and cool big bugs. There’s always an interesting mix of native and exotic species. As our School Programs Manager, Sarah, likes to say, “We try to bring you one fuzzy, one prickly, one scaly and one buggy.” Specific themes are also available. If you like, you can request an all-reptile presentation (Hooray for Herps), Creatures of the Night, Amazing Adaptations, or one that deals exclusively with the fascinating world of insects, such as walking sticks, millipedes and tarantulas (Invertebrate Invasion).

Bearded Dragon

With the kids seated in a circle, the animals are brought out one at a time. Here, in a comfortable home setting, the kids learn about the physical adaptations that make each of these animals successful, the kinds of things that they eat and various behaviors that they display. Everyone who’s interested will have the opportunity to touch each of them. There’s also plenty of time for the kids to ask any questions they might have. Our enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff members are always ready to share their love of animals with everyone.

But there’s more. Included in the presentation is a gift bag filled with animal-themed items for each child in attendance as well as a special gift for the birthday

Touching a Turtle

child.

So if this sounds like a great new way to celebrate your child’s birthday, sign up today for a ZooMobile birthday party in your own home. Who knows, someone in that crowd of little faces who’s touching a wild animal for the first time may be a future zookeeper or wildlife scientist!

For more information, including fees and other policies, please check out the Birthday ZooMobile webpage on the Oakland Zoo website.

 

 

 

Fifteen Years of Celebrating Elephants

by | July 19th, 2011

Elephant Keepers Gina and Jeff explain the difference between free contact and protected contact management styles on a barn tour. Photo by Tana Montgomery.

Once again it was a successful year for our Annual Celebrating Elephants fundraiser. The event was split into two days; one full day at the Zoo where families came out to see fun enrichment for the elephants on exhibit, and also got the

Donna and Lisa enjoy twenty-five foot long tree trunks planted in the ground by their keepers. Photo by Tana Montgomery.

opportunity for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of our barn set-up, including a training and foot care demo with one of our elephants. Kids also had the opportunity to create fun enrichment boxes and bags for the elephants to eat, enjoy the animal-free Circus Finelli, and eat popcorn and cotton candy! The second part of the event was the evening lecture and silent auction where guests enjoyed wine and delicious appetizers while they bid on beautiful animal themed gift baskets, art work and photos. Most importantly, we had a guest speaker, the wonderful Winnie Kiiru, one of Amboseli’s top PhD students who studies and works to help with human-elephant conflict.   Winnie was a captivating and enthusiastic speaker, offering insight into the lives of the Maasai people and how they work to live with the elephants.

Jessica demostrates target training with Osh during a barn tour. Photo by Tana Montgomery.

This event is very important to the Oakland Zoo for two reasons. The first reason is that all the proceeds go to Cynthia Moss’s  Amboseli Trust for Elephants (www.elephanttrust.org ). Cynthia has been working on elephant conservation in Kenya for almost forty years; the longest running research study on African Elephants in the world. Mostly everything we know about these majestic creatures is due to Cynthia and her team’s effort and passion for the conservation and well-being of these animals.

The second reason for this event is to raise awareness of the cruelty to animals in circuses. During the behind-the-scenes barn tour, guests spend about thirty minutes learning how elephants should be managed in captivity through positive reinforcement and protective barriers. They are shown a training demo on how keepers can safely work with elephants in a gentle and positive way (See my Let Elephants Be Elephants blog for more details on this management style).

We are proud to say that this year we raised over 18,000 dollars for Amboseli.  All of the proceeds from the day and

Crowds of people watch Elephant Keeper John demostrating safe foot care during the barn tour. Photo by Tana Montgomery.

the evening events go directly to support Cynthia’s research to protect the elephants. Over the past fifteen years, we have donated more than $200,000 for Amboseli. Thank you to everybody who was able to make it to the day or the lecture. We hope you had lots of fun! If you didn’t join us this year make sure to come out next year (May 19 and 26, 2012) to help us celebrate how truly wonderful elephants are and to learn more about the Amboseli elephants by Cynthia herself. See you then!

Also, if you love to watch elephants. Don’t miss Feast for the Beasts on July 23. During this fun event, the public is invited to donate produce to the animals. The first 250 guests through the door will receive a special ticket that allows them to place produce inside of the elephant exhibit. Once all the produce in place, Zoo visitors get to watch our four elephants devour watermelons, apples, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and much more. It is fun for the whole family. The doors open at 9:00am for Feast for the Beasts, so arrive early!

Baby Otters!

by | May 11th, 2011

Otter pups at 1 day old

What’s more amazing than baby otters? Nothing! This year, our 4 year old female North American river otter gave birth to her first litter. First time moms often make keepers nervous since we never know how they will do, but Ginger has turned out to be a pro!
Ginger joined us here at the Oakland Zoo in 2008, when she was just one year old. North American River otters are not very prolific breeders, so AZA makes annual breeding recommendations. When Ginger came to us, she was still a bit too young to breed, but we knew that the AZA eventually wanted her to breed with our 12 year old male, Heath.
River otters are one of the few species that exhibit a phenomenon called delayed implantation. Essentially, otters breed in the spring but the fertilized egg doesn’t actually implant until fall! So how does one plan for such a unique pregnancy? As it turns out, hormone levels can be measured in otters’ feces! Our keepers collected samples from Ginger four times each week and mailed them off to Cincinnati to be tested. In December, we got the word that Ginger’s progesterone had spiked and that she was likely pregnant with a due date sometime between February 15th and 23rd.
Now the preparations really ramped up! The keepers had meetings with the vet staff to prepare for any and all possibilities. Cameras were set up in denning area. Supplies such as extra towels, an infant scale and thermometer, and data recording sheets were prepared and brought down to the night house. We also requested additional help from our Behavioral Observation Team, a group of dedicated volunteers who spent hours each week watching Ginger and observing her for any changes in her behavior. We also kept close tabs on Ginger’s weight and appetite at this time. The keepers had been training her to jump on a scale using positive reinforcement since she arrived, so they were able to monitor her weight several times each week and increase her food as necessary.
On February 15th, keepers arrived to find Ginger not only ravenous, but cranky as well! She wanted nothing to do with the two male otters with whom she shares her exhibit. A quick peek confirmed that she had given birth to TWO pups overnight (two to three is average for otters)! We quickly weighed them and put them back to cause as little disturbance as possible. The pups then had their first vet visit the following day where they were pronounced healthy!
The work doesn’t end there, however. Our otter observers now had to watch Ginger and the pups on a closed circuit monitor to ensure that Ginger was keeping them warm and that they were nursing. Otter pups are born blind and helpless, about the size of a stick of butter, so they depend on their mother for everything! Thankfully, Ginger is the best otter mom we could have hoped for and the pups quickly thrived under her care!

Twice each week, someone from the vet staff would come down to examine the pups. We monitored their temperatures, weight gain, hydration, respiration, and heart rates. Since Ginger had to be separated from the pups during the vet visits, we kept the checks down to no more than 10 minutes to minimize the stress on both the mother and the pups.
We are so happy to have healthy baby otter pups and we are so proud of Ginger. For more photos and video of our otter pups check out our otter webpage!

First veterinary exam, Day 1

 

Weighing pups, Day 30

First swimming lessons took place in a shallow water tub, Day 55

First time swimming in the "Big Pool" on exhibit with mom, Day 75