Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What Measure A1 means for Baboons

by | October 15th, 2012

In Africa, Hamadryas baboons are called Sacred baboons because they were once worshipped in Egypt. Six Hamadryas baboons currently call the Oakland Zoo their home, but until this year, there were only five. We brought in Daisy, an elderly female, from another zoo after her mate passed away. Many Zoos would not have taken on the burden of an elderly animal with so many health problems, but that is what makes the Oakland Zoo different.

Daisy came to us with a host of age related medical problems. Like many elderly animals (and people), she has arthritis and requires daily medication with anti-inflammatories to make her comfortable. She also gets a glucosamine supplement to ease the strain on her joints. In addition, she needed some pretty extensive dental work when she arrived, so we brought in the experts from UC Davis’ Veterinary Medical School three times to perform the procedures.

None of this care is low cost, but here at the Oakland Zoo we take our responsibilities to the animals very seriously. The welfare of all the animals is our top priority. Getting great medical care means many animals are outliving their normal expected lifespan, which requires even more care. Daisy is 31 years old. The youngest baboon in our group is 22 years old, this means we have an aging group of animals who are going to continue to need geriatric care. If Measure A1 passes, we can continue to provide the high level of care to all of our Sacred baboons as they reach their golden years. Please consider voting “YES” on Measure A1 this November.

YES ON MEASURE A1: An Insider’s Point of View

by | October 5th, 2012

By Rick Mannshardt, Oakland Zoo Employee

As someone who’s spent more than twenty years working at the Oakland Zoo, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know this place pretty well. It’s become a big part of my life. Working as a carpenter in the Zoo’s maintenance department, I keep all the fences and gates, roofs and doors, and hundreds of other structures around here in working order.  It takes a lot to keep a seven-day-a-week zoo running—you might say the animals are pretty hard on the furniture. Our tiny 6-person maintenance crew struggles to keep up with it all. The same goes for the Zoo in general.

Students excited about Measure A1

Even Our Monkeys Want to Vote YES

What we really need are more resources—and support from the community. Right now Measure A1 is poised to accomplish this. This November, you’ll have the chance to voice your support by voting yes for this badly needed initiative.  What it does is this: Measure A1 seeks voter approval to authorize an annual special parcel tax to maintain humane animal care and basic needs, and to maintain children’s educational programs. For a modest $12 per residential parcel and comparable rate for commercial property, the measure helps to ensure that the Oakland Zoo can continue its work in providing food, medical care, heating & cooling, and safe enclosures for its collection of animals, retain qualified veterinarians and animal specialists, care for wounded and endangered animals, support wildlife conservation—all this while keeping entrance fees affordable.  It also allows the Zoo to continue its level of excellence in offering children’s nature and science programming to students at a time when many schools are cutting back on such programs.

Measure A1 ensures humane animal care

But you don’t need to take our word for it. Numerous community leaders and business people have pledged their support for this important measure.  Here’s what just a few of them have to say:

“Yes on A1 allows the Oakland Zoo to continue quality care for zoo animals.”

Jim Maddy, President/CEO, National Association of Zoos and Aquariums

 

“Oakland Zoo animals deserve quality care. Many are retired circus animals or animals rescued from abuse—Yes on A1 ensures more animals can be rescued and get the care they need.” 

Laura Maloney, Co-Director, Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS)

 

“Yes on A1 supports the Oakland Zoo’s wildlife conservation and animal rescue efforts, saving animals wounded in the wild and giving sanctuary to endangered species.”

Ron Kagen, Founding member, Center for Zoo Animal Welfare

You might be asking: how do we know the money will be spent on these specific things? Measure A1 requires an Independent Citizens Oversight Committee to ensure funds are spent as promised to you, the taxpayer. By law, the A1 Oversight Committee must include Conservation/Environmental and Animal Rights representatives, the League of Women Voters, Taxpayer and Senior advocates, and a PTA representative.

It’s pretty straightforward. For just a dollar a month, you’re helping to ensure that the Oakland Zoo can

Lawn Signs Ready for Delivery

continue to provide:

  • Quality Humane Animal Care
  •  Basic Animal Needs
  •  Educational Programs for Children
  • Ongoing Zoo Affordability & Visitor Safety

And here’s an easy way to remember. In November, when you get to your local polling place, simply think “A for Animals.”  Then vote YES for Measure A1. With your support we can continue the valuable work we’ve been doing in the community these many years. Thank you and we hope to see you at the Oakland Zoo!

What Measure A1 means for….Bats!

by | September 25th, 2012

Did you know there are more than a 1000 different species of bats? Oakland Zoo has two of the largest species, the Island Flying Fox and the Malaysian Flying Fox. Both are diurnal fruit eating species and as the names suggest, they come from the Islands of Malaysia and Indonesia. Caring for species from all over the world means that many of them are not adapted to our Bay Area weather, so days that feel warm to us, may feel chilly to tropical or desert animals. Days that are cold for us, may feel warm to arctic or high altitude animals.

Flying Foxes are no different; their bodies are adapted to warm, humid, tropical weather. They find our summers pleasant, but winters are just a touch too cold for them! To combat this problem, zookeepers maintain large night quarters which are kept at a constant 75 degrees. This way, our bats are kept warm and comfortable no matter what the Bay Area brings us. However, bats also love sunshine (who doesn’t!) and spend a great deal of their daylight hours outside basking during the summer. In the winter, they are frequently unable to go outside even on sunny days due to the cold temperatures. If Measure A1 passes, the zoo will be able to provide outdoor heating sources for the bats in the winter, so they can bask in the sunlight and stay toasty warm no matter how cold it is outside. The zoo will be able to provide the best of both worlds and maintain a high standard of care and welfare.

Please consider voting “Yes” on Measure A1 on November 6th.

Stuffed Animals in the Bat Exhibit, Why?

by | September 14th, 2012

An Island Flying Fox interacting with a stuffed bear.

An Island Flying Fox with a stuffed bear.

One question we are asked frequently is “why do the bats have stuffed animals?” I would love to just say they are toys for the animals to play with (and often do when I am talking to small children), but the truth is that it is just more complicated than that.
First, I need to give you some background. There has been a lot of buzz in the media lately about the way zoos pair up animals for breeding. Many people are now aware that it is not done by chance and that we breed specifically to enhance and maintain as much genetic diversity as possible. What that means is that some animals are going to get more opportunities to breed than others, simply because of how heavily their families are represented within the captive population. The result is many animals are not recommended to breed and therefore have to be prevented from breeding by some method. The bats at the Oakland Zoo are on loan to us from Lubee Bat Conservancy where the majority of the fruit bat breeding happens in the US. Most of our bats have well represented genes in the captive population. The result is that Lubee gave us ALL male bats. That’s right; all 28 bats in our exhibit are boys, no babies here!
The second thing you need to understand is the concept of enrichment. AZA accredited zoos like the Oakland Zoo strive to provide animals with the optimal care and welfare. This means not only excellent medical care and nutritious food, but also enriched environments that allow animals to perform behaviors that they would naturally perform if they were living in the wild. This can take the form of large naturalistic exhibits like our sun bear or elephant exhibits, or it can take the form of a 50 foot tall enclosure that allows space for the large bats to fly. Sometimes it includes objects that may not be found in the wild, but still provide an opportunity for the animals to perform natural behaviors. This type of enrichment is most frequently seen with our primates. For example, in the wild, chimps will use twigs to collect termites from inside rotting logs. At the zoo, we will give the chimps other types of toys such as PVC tubes or Kongs with treats inside and they must use the twigs to retrieve them. Natural behavior from an unnatural object still results in increased welfare.
So now that we understand these two concepts, we put them together. Mostly our all male colony of bats works well, but for a few months out of each year, they go into breeding season and that causes some discord and a few disagreements in the group. Boys will be boys, right? They feel a need to chase each other out of territories, scent mark and generally just be cranky with each other. We discovered pretty quickly that the number of injuries in our bat colony increased each fall, coinciding with breeding season. While none of the injuries were serious, we still felt that we could improve their welfare if we reduced the number of injuries.
Enter the teddy bear! We hoped (and thankfully were right) that hanging stuffed animals in the exhibit would allow the bats the opportunity to take out their frustrations on something besides each other. Success! In fact, the concept was so successful (a 90% reduction in injuries) that keepers presented their findings at the 2010 Animal Behavior Management Alliance conference – winning an award for their efforts as well as becoming a cover article for their newsletter! The article has also been published in The Shape of Enrichment, an internationally known zoo trade publication focusing on enrichment for animals of all species.
Hanging stuffed animals in the bat exhibit allows our bats to perform the natural territorial behavior spurred by their hormones while preventing injuries within the colony. Natural behavior AND increased welfare from a simple child’s toy. While they may not look like a natural part of the exhibit, stuffed animals are an important component of the care we provide to our bats. Look around the zoo next time you visit and you may notice other exhibits with unusual enrichment items and now you know they serve some purpose that enhances the animals’ well-being.

Stepping Through ZAM: Day 3, Savannah Module

by | March 8th, 2012

Franette Armstrong is reporting on her progress through Zoo Ambassador Training.

 

 

You think you know Lions? Well, so did I until tonight. This is the first class of the Savannah Module for those of us who have already taken either the Children’s Zoo or Rainforest Module, or both.

If you’ve been following along, you know I just finished with the Children’s Zoo training. Brand-new Zoo Ambassadors started this module last week and you can read about what they learned in my Day One and Day Two blogs for the Children’s Zoo under the Volunteering tab on this website.

 

We have two lions here at the Oakland Zoo, brother and sister, rescued from a bad situation in Texas when they were just cubs. Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge about African Lions:

1.    Are Lions the largest cat on the planet? A) Yes  B) No

2.    Do Lions chew their food? A) Yes  B) No

3.    Does the color of a male Lion’s mane tell his age? A) Yes  B) No

4.    Are Lions loners? A) Yes B) No

5.    Are male Lions the hunters in their pride? A) Yes  B) No

If you answered A to all of the above, Stacy Smith, one of our Keepers, has news for you: None of those statements is true.

Lions are the second largest cats with Siberian Tigers being first. They live in grasslands or woodlands, not jungles, so I don’t know where they got the King of the Jungle rep. If anything, Tigers are the Kings, but that’s another story.

Lions, like all cats, have scissor-like  teeth that cut food so they can swallow it without chewing.  The color and size of the male lions’ manes are determined by their genes, not their age, and help protect their necks and make them look bigger and more threatening to other Lions.

 

Docent Carol Kerbel shows us that cats have pointed teeth for cutting and tearing instead of the flat molars for chewing that we have.

Unlike most other cats, Lions live in social groups, and the females are usually the hunters. They bring home the bacon, assisted by the males, but the males dine first. Cubs last. Go figure.

How can you tell a Lion is upset? Tail twitches, roaring and growling are hints that this is a Lion is not to be messed with. If you come across one lying on its back, with its ears flat and making puffing sounds…that one is mellow. A lion’s roar can travel five miles, which comes in handy when moms are calling their cubs home for dinner.

There are only about 20,000 Lions left in the wild because of hunting, poaching, and habitat loss. Keeper Stacy recommended we all go to www.lionconservationfund.org to learn more about how to help African Lions.

Mountain Lions here, like their African Cousins, hunt at the beginning and ends of the day, so we can protect them by staying off hiking trails at those times and keeping our pets protected to minimize human/Lion conflict.

The African Village

Next Lorraine Peters, one of our Primary Keepers, introduced us to the animals in our African Village.

Lorraine Peters, Primary ZooKeeper

Spotted Hyenas are fascinating and unique among the African species. Let’s see how much you already know about them:

1. Spotted Hyenas are scavenger animals because they have weak jaws.
A) Yes   B) No

2.  It’s easy to tell the males from the females by looking at them.
A) Yes  B) No

3.  Males dominate Hyena packs. A) Yes   B) No

4.  Hyenas laugh when they are: A) Amused  B) Anxious

If you answered A for all of the above, you and I have a lot in common! But Lorraine set us straight. Hyenas are fearsome, fast hunters who can take down animals as large as wildebeests. Their jaws are more powerful than the Lions’, exerting up to 1200 pounds of pressure.  And they are crafty: sometimes when they catch a large animal, they will hide it in water to cover up its smell so they can feast off it over a few days without losing it to others.

Lorraine engages our Hyena in a training exercise. Photo credit Steve Goodall

Hyenas get their reputation as scavengers because they eat the bones that other animals leave behind, but they are not like vultures: they prefer live prey and eat mostly meat.

It’s hard to tell the males from female hyenas by looking at them because both have similar-looking external sexual parts. Females dominate the males.

If you hear one of our hyenas laughing it is probably because a visitor is being too noisy: they make a laughing sound when they are worried agitated or upset, so keeping quiet is definitely the rule for visitors to our Hyena territory.

If you want to see our Hyena, look in one of the round plastic barrels, because that’s where they like to sleep in the daytime.

Hyenas always face out when they are in their dens so they can be the lookout for predators. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

A Merry Mob of Meerkats

When Life Magazine first printed a photo of Meerkats I thought “Moon Mice,” they looked so strange. But Meerkat Manor brought them home to all of us so we feel we know all about them. Do you? Test yourself:

1.The black around Meerkat eyes is most like:

a) a raccoon’s   b) a panda’s   c) a football player’s

2. Meerkats are:

a) carnivores  b) herbivores  c) omnivores

3. Meerkats are conservation role models because:

a) they purify their own water   b) they recycle their food   c) they use solar energy for heat

4. Meerkats are most closely related to the:

a) Prairie Dog  b) domestic cat  c) mongoose

Meerkats are very social. You seldom see one alone.

If you answered C to all of the above, you’ve been watching too much Animal Planet!

Flashmobs

Living in large groups we call “mobs,” Meerkats have a social structure that could make ants stand up and take notice. Each one has a vital role to play. The Sentries watch the sky and ground—if they see a hawk or snake, one call from them sends all the others underground. There are Babysitters and Wet Nurses and they work in shifts so that pups are protected while everyone gets a chance to loll around in the sun. Meerkats use their sharp claws to dig for insects and their favorite is scorpions. By eating those, they do all the other mammals a favor.

This Meerkat is Acting Sentry, alerting all the others to any danger. Photo Credit: Steve Goodall

 

The black circles around their eyes protect them from glare, like the smudges football players wear. In the morning and late afternoon they stretch out on their backs in the sun to collect heat, because after dark when they are in their burrow, their body temperatures drop and they need this solar energy.

Did you know that most of the Meerkat collections in U.S. Zoos started with pups from one female who lived in our exhibit?

Dark eye circles are built-in sunglasses. Photo credit Steve Goodall

Verdant Vervets

Vervets, or Green Monkeys, mostly live in Africa although there’s a large population in the West Indies that started when some were brought there on slave ships. The ones in our Zoo came from St. Kitts via a research lab, but now they are safe with us. Ours are yellow, white and black but when the sun hits them just right they do have a bit of a greenish cast.

I’m not going to give you a quiz because these monkeys were new to me and might be to you.

Vervets are Old World Monkeys which use their tails for balance, not gripping, and have long faces like baboons. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

Vervets eat insects—although ours are afraid of mealworms—birds, eggs and tropical fruit, but we also give them some veggies for the nutrients. Though they sleep in trees, they spend most of their time on the ground gathering food and hanging out with each other.

In Vervet society, the females rule their large troops (this is getting to be a theme among African animals, isn’t it?) and you can tell who’s dominant and who’s at the lower level of the society by how they hold their tails. Over their backs? Give them space. Dragging on the ground? They’ll be eating last. In our exhibit, the ones closest to the fence are on the lowest-rung of the Vervet ladder while the leaders get seats in the back where it is quieter and more private.

Vervets, like most monkeys, use social grooming as a bonding activity. Photo credit, Steve Goodall

 

Monkey Talk

Lorraine told us that Vervets, like all primates, have a complex language of calls, body positions and behaviors that speak volumes to them, but mean nothing to most of us. For example, if one Vervet turns her back on another, that means trouble, so if we turn our back on one of them, that can seem very threatening, as can emulating the sounds they make.

Vervets have over 60 different calls. For example, their Leopard warning call will send the troop scurrying to the ends of branches where heavier  Leopards can’t go. If one issues an Eagle call, they all run into the bushes. And a Snake warning? They stand their ground and get ready to fight it.

When we visit monkeys and apes in a Zoo we have to be careful that  we don’t send out signals with our voices or body language that could upset the animals.  It’s best to stand back a little, try not to make eye contact, and just be quiet so we can see them as they really are, and they can live calmly in their home here.

Homework tonight was an essay question on how pets are different from wild animals and what makes a good pet. Since I wrote on this during my last module, I decided to write about how to stop the pet trade in wild animals which is responsible for the death and abuse of thousands of animals every year. The heartbreaking events in Zanesville, Ohio in October, 2011, where nearly 50 beautiful wild animals had to be shot, was a vivid example of why we need laws preventing the sale and ownership of nondomesticated animals to private parties.

Saturday, we’re going out to the African Village to learn about these animals from experienced docents. What a treat.

See you then,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change the Channel for Chimps!

by | February 1st, 2012

Eddie, a former chimp "actor," who now resides at the Oakland Zoo.

In 2012 we are more enlightened by the plight of animal “actors” than ever before, at least we think we are. It turns out that some people still aren’t getting the message. This weekend is the biggest sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl! If you are anything like me, the commercials are sometimes even more exciting than the football game.

However, despite pleas from many well known animal welfare organizations, some companies, namely CareerBuilder.com, have once again produced advertisements using chimpanzee “actors.” This causes two major problems, the welfare (or lack of) for the individual “actor” and the more global problem of misrepresenting the status of chimps in the wild.

I’ve written about the problems of chimpanzee actors many times, but this is important and bears repeating. These animals are forcibly removed from their mothers as infants. They grow up living under dominance and constant threat of abuse. Chimpanzees need their mothers to teach them social skills so “actors” don’t learn normal chimp behavior. Finally their “career” is over by the time they reach 8-9 years old, not even teenagers, and then they are frequently discarded for the remaining 40-50 years of their lives often not able to be integrated with other chimps because they were not allowed to stay with their mothers long enough to learn how to interact with their own kind. For more information on what happens to chimpanzee “actors” click here.

Globally, seeing chimpanzees dressed up in human clothing and performing on TV and in films gives people the mistaken impression that chimps are not endangered. Two studies have confirmed this misconception in recent years and both were published in peer reviewed scientific journals. People simply don’t think that if an animal is on TV that it could be endangered.

So what can we do about it? Change the channel! I’m not suggesting that you don’t watch the Super Bowl, but I am suggesting that when you see a commercial with Chimpanzees in it, just change the channel for a few minutes, even if you are not one of the Nielsen Families. Share this strategy with your friends and family and encourage them to share it with their friends and families.  If we can get the word out to as many people as possible, it WILL show up on the Nielsen Ratings which will send a message loud and clear. To learn how Nielsen Ratings work, click here. In addition, don’t watch the commercials online. YouTube tracks how many views each clip gets, don’t let them think you are watching it.  Advertisers spend millions of dollars to create these commercials and millions more to get airtime during this event. Maybe if no one watches, they’ll get the picture!