Archive for the ‘Volunteering’ Category

One Month at the Zoo

by | February 6th, 2013

One month in already? Could it be? It’s true; I wrapped up another exciting week as the Marketing Intern at the Oakland Zoo. This past week I worked on putting together talking points for a shoot with CBS 5, promoted our Living Social deal through our social media platforms (which sold out), spent a lot of time learning how to use Vocus, wrote and released a press release (with much help), and even learned a few Photoshop skills.

I spent two days out of the office and on Zoo grounds assisting with our training video project and a video shoot with CBS 5. I continued to learn a lot about media and how it all works behind-the-scenes. I greatly enjoyed those two days, being outdoors in this beautiful Zoo, and visiting each animal exhibit. It also allowed me to meet many other Zoo staff and network with local media professionals.

Nicky and Amber also took time out of their day to sit down and go over objectives with me and have greatly assisted in making those become achievable. For example, one objective of mine is to help with events taking place at the Zoo, so I was able to attend and provide input at the first Earth Day committee meeting and will continue to be involved leading up to the ‘day of’ in April.

Another goal that I expressed is to experience more animal encounters. To my surprise, the next day I found myself on a sixteen foot platform hand feeding the giraffes! I had so much fun and loved being that close with the animals. It was a great week being around the animals and out on Zoo grounds with film crews. I’m learning so many different things, keeping busy, and still have three months of experience to gain.

Weeks Two and Three as a Marketing Intern

by | January 29th, 2013

Week one of my internship at the Oakland Zoo went well, but now things are getting serious. Week two consisted of some decent assignments such as: stamping passes for a marketing trade for on-air mentions and promotions, editing and re-writing the event calendar listings from February 2013 to July 2013, downloading iTunes songs for the training video in progress, writing a blog on the new hyenas, scanning and emailing documents, mailing out tickets, and Facebook and Twitter posts.

A few highlights include riding the Outback Express Adventure Train, Carousel, and of course, the Tiger Coaster.

Tiger Coaster

I will let you know that I am still not fond of things that go ‘round and ‘round, but I had so much fun in that 20 minutes and it was the perfect energy boost during lunch to rock and roll my assignments for the rest of the day. I also found it awesome that I am only two weeks in and already get a three day weekend. I must be doing something right around here.

Week three was an interesting week. I was left to fend for myself and hold down the fort while my entire department was out sick for most of the week. Believe it or not, I actually spent some time over the 3 day weekend posting on Facebook to see the response as well as research Pinterest, a media outlet we may be pursuing. Once Tuesday rolled around, I continued my learning in the office. I spent some time editing YouTube video descriptions on the Zoo’s channel, I handled an entire pledge drive donation deal on my own, and reviewed a guest video submission from their visit to the Zoo and shared it on Facebook. I kept very busy this week.

Training Video Shoot

Favorite parts of week three consisted of spending a rainy day (which I didn’t mind, being a desert rat) assisting with the filming of the training video. I was able to meet a lot of employees, learned a lot about videography, and even left my mark by doing some acting in the video.

Wednesday night was quite funny. Toni, the Manager of Group Services, offered me a ride to my BART station so that I could attend the Annual Board Meeting after work. Toni and I were the last in the office but then somehow, I ended up being the only one left and almost got locked in. All I could picture at this point was Night at the Museum about to take place…even though the animals here already come to life during the day. Luckily, as I was walking out of the office, she pulled up and saved me from walking down through the dark, cold, Zoo to get to the Auditorium for the Annual Board Meeting. I am so glad I was offered a ride and able to stay for that meeting. It was very beneficial for me to be a part of. You should also know that I may or may not have photo bombed some pictures (Nancy, the Managing Director, knows all about this) and juggled granny smith apples in front of some very important professionals while at the meeting. Through this however, I found out that some of the other staff here possess juggling talents as well (Nik, Director of Strategic Initiatives), and I feel that is important to express to the rest of the world.

I was also lucky enough to receive a two hour, one-on-one docent tour of the Zoo with Docent Mary Ann. During this tour, I gained so much insight about the animals, their stories, and the Zoo in general. I was able to have lunch out with Nicky (Senior Manager, Marketing/PR), Amber (Manger, Special Events) and Nancy on Friday, which is really awesome and always great to be included in those types of things. I ended the week by checking out the launch of “Friday Nights at the Oakland Museum of California” with some coworkers, (fellow Geminis) Toni and Heather (Major Gifts and Grants Associate). So it turns out that I am able to take care of business when all alone, but I look forward to having my colleagues/supervisors back at full health this upcoming week.

Behind the Scenes with a Marketing Intern

by | January 18th, 2013

Last week, I headed out from Phoenix, Arizona to San Francisco, California as a poor college student to join my sister and brother-in-law in their 500 square foot apartment and bunk on their couch for the next four months. Why you ask? To pursue an amazing opportunity that has been offered to me here at the Oakland Zoo.

I am in my final semester of my undergraduate degree program at Arizona State University studying Nonprofit Leadership and Management and minoring in Special Events Management. I have a great passion for animals and this field and was highly interested in playing a role at this wonderful organization. As much as I would love being an animal care intern, I want to take this chance to learn more about the daily ‘behind the scenes’ operations that take place in the Administration Office. After several months of communication through emails and phone calls with Senior Marketing/PR Manager, Nicky Mora and Special Events Manager, Amber Frisbie, the position of Marketing Intern was offered to me.

I began my internship on January 7, 2013 and cannot begin to express how welcomed I felt in just the first ten minutes of me walking into the office. My computer desk is nestled right in between Nicky and Amber, with Everard just across the way from me. (That’s right. Go ahead and ask them next time you see them just how lucky they are to all be sharing my presence. It’s kind of a big deal). Something else that was a big deal upon my arrival were the two wall hangings left for me to decorate my area. One happens to be a painting by Donna, one of our elephants. How cool is that? I was definitely bragging to anyone and everyone that day about the awesome painting left for me to hang up. The other one was a Wild Australia sign. Little did Amber and Nicky know, but elephants are one of my favorite animals and I have a deep love for Australia as well, for I spent a month there back in 2011. Major brownie points for these two ladies already (as if they really needed them).

After receiving a tour and introduction around the office, I came back to my desk and got familiar with things.

Here are some highlights of my first week:

Monday: Today I was greeted with smiles, my own computer, desk, phone, email, and even an elephant painting.

Tuesday: I had the opportunity to watch and assist with an on-site film shoot by KOFY TV covering the gibbons love story and the three newest spotted hyenas. I also interviewed Deb Menduno, the Director of Operations, for the staff profile page and gained excellent insight and wisdom from her.

Wednesday: Being half way through week one, I began to realize how awesome it is to walk through the Zoo every morning, be able to watch Nikko and Gladys (the gibbons) swing around, and in general, what a beautiful property this is. I did my first Oakland Zoo Facebook post and watched Nicky send out a press release (had no idea it works that way). Then I embarked on another field trip to KTVU Channel 2 Studio to watch the taping of a Bay Area People show on the California condor, with some highly educated individuals such as our very own Dr. Goodnight, Ventana Wildlife’s Kelly Sorenson, and Myra Finkelstein, PhD researcher at UC Santa Cruz.

Thursday: I met Sarah, the Education Specialist, at KOFY TV’s Studio in San Francisco, in which I spent an hour and a half on a bus commuting to and may or may not have gotten lost in the process. However, I made it in time to see some taping of Wildlife Wednesday on set. I can also say that I was visited by the EMT at work today. Not to worry, all is good.

Friday: Today, I started the morning off at a Healthy Living Festival planning meeting (an event held on Zoo grounds in the summer), experienced a department lunch meeting, and missed my bus to BART, but was able to hitch a ride from Brendan in the Education Department.

It was a warm welcome in my first week and a big thanks to everyone for definitely looking out for me in so many ways, whether that involved giving me a ride to the BART station to lessen my transportation costs, making me a PB and J sandwich, or showing me around the Zoo, etc. Again, a special thanks to Nicky and Amber for all the work and sacrifice they made to have me join their team.

Solid Support for Yes on Measure A1

by | October 25th, 2012

I have been an Oakland Zoo Docent for 1 ½ years, have a zoo membership, and am proud to support the Zoo and Measure A1. As a volunteer, I have witnessed the enjoyment of all zoo visitors as well the educational programs it provides. To be clear, Measure A1 is a not about expanding the zoo. It is a $1 per month parcel tax that will allow the zoo to continue to maintain its superior animal care and extend educational programs throughout Alameda County. This measure should not be confused with the project that was previously approved in 2011 by Oakland Parks & Recreation, Planning Commission and the Oakland City Council which included construction of a new, state-of-the-art veterinary hospital which is near completion. These approval agencies and the Alameda County Superior Court judge all determined the zoo had met the requirements to proceed with a project that will benefit hundreds of thousands of zoo visitors. The Zoo is proud that Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Humane Society of the United States, as well as local education and animal rights advocates support A1. Other supporters are: 1) the East Bay Regional Park District, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools, Sheila Jordan, and School Superintendents in every city of the County due to the critically needed environmental education it provides children, and 2) animal care organizations, including the Ventana Wildlife Society, the Felidae Conservation Fund/Bay Area Puma Project, and leading Veterinarians due to A1’s goal to provide humane animal care. These supporters understand the intention behind A1 and how the funds will be used. Please join me and others in support of one of Oakland’s leading cultural, educational, and animal care organizations by voting Yes on Measure A1.

— Ann Thomas, Oakland Zoo Docent

What Measure A1 Means for Tortoises

by | October 18th, 2012

Aldabra tortoises are among the largest in the world – sometimes weighing in at over 500 pounds! Anyone who has spent any amount of time with them will tell you that each one has a distinct and very interesting personality. In fact as a zookeeper, one of my favorite animals to introduce visitors to is the tortoises because I never get tired of seeing people fall in love with them.
The Oakland Zoo has six Aldabra tortoises ranging in age from 40 years old to more than 100 years old! Gigi – one of our middle aged tortoises (she’s about 80 years old) received a wound on her shell last year after one of the male tortoises was little rough in his mating ritual. Turtle shells take a VERY long time to heal and require x-rays to monitor the progress. Just try x-raying through the shell of a giant tortoise. It’s not easy and requires very special equipment -the type of equipment that we haven’t had on zoo grounds.
Last year, in order to monitor Gigi’s progress, we had to take her all the way to UC Davis where she could have a CT scan on their larger and stronger equipment. The scan showed us that our treatment was working, but now it is time to check on her again.
Moving a giant tortoise is no easy feat! It requires several people to lift and move her. Then we need a van that she will fit in and it has to have climate control because reptiles are ectothermic. Of course, it is also stressful on her to be removed from her group, make a two hour drive to Davis, be put into a large machine for the scan and drive two hours back to the Zoo afterwards. That’s a pretty crazy day for a tortoise.
If Measure A1 passes this November, our new veterinary hospital will be outfitted with a brand new high powered x-ray machine – one that will be capable of going through a giant tortoise shell. This means that Gigi will have a five minute drive to the hospital and be finished in less than an hour – rather than taking a full day! A great deal less stressful for her, which means improved animal welfare!

Gigi says “Vote YES” on Measure A1!

Stepping Through ZAM: Day 9, Savannah Module

by | May 11th, 2012

This is Franette Armstrong's last post in her diary of Zoo Ambassador training for the Savannah area of our Zoo.






Outrageous nests, forked tongues and pancakes were the topic tonight. Keeper Jason Loy and Zoological Manager, Michelle Jeffries, came to class to introduce us to the Reptiles and Birds of the Savannah.

Down in the Children’s Zoo we have dainty Black Tree Monitors but up here on the Savannah we have a 7-foot-long, 60-pound Black Throated Monitor. Monitors are the only species of Lizard that have forked tongues.

Forked tongues let the Black Throated Monitor capture scents and literally fork them into tiny holes leading to their nasal cavity. Photo Credit Steve Goodall

What is the purpose of a forked tongue? You might know, if you’ve been reading my ZAM blogs, that Snakes and Monitors have something called a Jacobsen’s Organ—a patch of sensory cells on the roof of their mouths. When they stick out their tongues, the forks catch moisture beads that have scent particles in them. Then the tongue brings them into the mouth where they are deposited into two little pits in this group of cells. From there they get processed as smells. Put in simple terms, Snakes and Monitors don’t breathe in odors—they taste them instead, and from two directions at once, a help in finding warm-blooded prey.

Our guy is related to Komodo Dragons and, like them, is nothing to be messed with out in the wild. He’ll give his opponents a tail whipping, a nasty bite, and carve them up with his claws for good measure. All these capabilities keep them from making ideal pets.

But that hasn’t saved them from the leather trade and sometimes they are killed just out of fear. All this plus habitat loss makes Monitors very threatened in the wild.

Flat and Happy

The opposite in size to our Black-Throated Monitor are our little Pancake Tortoises…the only turtles that can actually climb walls! These 7-inchers actually brace their shells against one side of a crevice and use their feet on the other side to propel themselves upward. And on flat ground they really move quickly, zipping under rocks and into crevices before a predator can say “what’s for dinner?”

Pancake Tortoises fill their lungs with air and their flat, slightly flexible shells expand to let them wedge tightly under rocks.

Because they are small and cute, Pancake Tortoises and their eggs are captured for the pet trade and they are also losing their turf to the lumber industry, so they too are a threatened species.


Flower Child

The opposite in size to our Pancake Tortoises is our African Spur Thigh Tortoise…the third largest Tortoise in the world, after the Galapagos and our Aldabras. These start out little (4-5” in diameter) so people buy them as pets not realizing that pretty soon they will weigh 100-200 pounds. As they can live 100 years or more, most owners get tired of them before the Tortoises get tired of living and then problem becomes, what do with old Torty? Sadly, the solution usually isn’t a happy one for Torty.

Tortoises love red and yellow fruits and flowers, so a favorite dessert is carrots and tomatoes. Ours is only 14 years old so she has a lot of eating ahead of her. Photo credit Steve Goodall



Because they are the most popular pet Tortoise in North America, Spur Thighs are nearly extinct in Africa. The best way to help them is never to purchase a wild-caught Tortoise, if you have to purchase one at all. You can always come visit ours!


Savannah Architects

We have two aviaries in the Savannah section of the Zoo and in them are some fascinating nest builders. I’ll just tell you about two and leave the rest for you to discover on your next trip.

Hammerkops are smallish brown crane-like birds who build such huge nests, and so many of them, that their nests become home not only to other birds, but to mammals, reptiles and insects— like snakes, owls, honey bees, mongooses and the cat-like Genets. Luckily for all these househunters, Hammerkops build nests constantly whether they need them or not.

Hammerkops got their name from the anvil shape of their heads

In the wild Hammerkop nests can be 6 feet wide by 6 feet tall and 45 feet up in trees.

Opposite in size are the fortress-like nests that Red-billed Hornbills construct. These hopping little ground birds create a nest and then the female goes inside and lets the male cement her in with clay he makes out of food, feathers  and dung, leaving only a tiny hole to feed her through.

The female sits in there, waiting to be fed, waiting for her eggs to hatch, and losing all her feathers (probably tearing them out from boredom!) until the babies are big enough to be left alone. Then she breaks out of the nest and she and her mate cement the babies in—again, leaving only a small hole to feed them through. Eventually the chicks get big enough to rebel and they start pecking their way out from the inside while the parents help them from the outside and the family is finally united.

In Africa, Hornbill feathers are highly prized for ceremonial headdresses and this is endangering the Hornbills. To help, a college professor has partnered with zoos to gather feathers that are dropped off these and other birds and give them to the Africans for their ceremonies. A small idea with a big impact!

You can see how Red-Billed Hornbills got their name. Photo credit Steve Goodall



And that is a central theme of so many conservation projects now going on to save African animals. One or a few people notice a problem (like snares capturing Chimps by accident) and come up with a solution (like training poachers to become snare removal troops and teaching them to raise goats so they don’t have to snare wild animals for food). From beehive fencing for protecting Elephants, to fuel-wood projects for protecting forest habitats, creative solutions that also help people are making a difference for animals.

Here at the Zoo we are supporting projects like this through our Quarters for Conservation program ((link)) and many fundraisers. If you’re looking for a chance to help all these animals, you can start right here.


Tonight was the last lecture in the Savannah module. On Saturday we give our final presentations and then we have a week to study for our final exam. After that, if we pass, we will be mentored by an experienced docent to make sure we are ready to roam the Savannah on our own.


Next stop? The Rainforest Module. Monkeys, Apes, Tropical Birds and….Tigers! As Tigers are my favorite animals, it is fitting that they should be saved for last.


See you in the Rainforest,