Archive for the ‘Zena the ZooKeeper’ Category

Crazy About Bats!

by | September 27th, 2015



Hello, fellow conservation heroes, Zena the Zookeeper here!

Hot diggity dog!  It’s Halloween again, that most fabulous, silly, little-bit-spooky, dress-up-in-funny costumes, eat-waaay-too-much-candy time of year!  I like Halloween so much that I’m having a real battle trying to figure out what great thing to talk about this month.  I mean, I’ve been batting around all kinds of ideas, but I still don’t know which to choose. Hey wait a minute…maybe I’ll talk about bats!

Bats are some of the coolest, most amazing animals on earth.  There are 1,100 different kinds, or species, of bats in the world, and they range in size from the huge Malayan Flying Fox bat with a wing span of up to 6 feet (we have those here at the Zoo), to the bumble bee bat of Thailand that is actually smaller than a thumbnail!  Not only are bats nocturnal, which is really cool in itself, but some bats even help to control insect populations by eating up to 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour.  Bats are so awesome!

Here are some more fascinating facts about these beautiful, furry creatures of the night:

  1. Bats that eat fruit (like our Malayan and Island Flying Fox bats) don’t actually eat the whole fruit. They really just suck the juice out. While they are sucking the juice, they store the pulp of the fruit on the roof of their mouths.  Later, they spit out the disc of pulp, which just happens to contain fruit seeds and helps to plant more fruit trees and shrubs! Malayan_Flying_Fox_Bat If you look closely at our bats, you can sometimes see these discs of pulp lying at the bottom of their enclosure.
  2. The wings of a bat are actually its hands, and that little “claw-like” hook on its wing is really a thumb!
  3. Not all bats are blind. For example, our Malayan and Island Flying Fox bats can even see color.  That’s important because it helps them know when the fruit they eat is ripe – kinda like your mom or dad squeezes an avocado or plum to see if it is ripe.
  4. If you’ve ever wondered what the skin on a bat’s wing feels like, well, wonder no more. The wing skin feels a lot like the soft skin on our eyelids.  Imagine that!
  5. There really are vampire bats – three different species, in fact – but they mostly drink the blood of other animals, and they never sleep in a coffin or wear long black capes!

If you come out to the Zoo this month, be sure to stop by and visit our most magnificent friends, the Flying Fox bats.  You could also take yourself on a little discovery tour and see how many different kinds of nocturnal animals live here – you’ll be amazed how many there are. And don’t forget to come to Boo at the Zoo on October 24th and 25th.  Wear a costume, trick or treat for yummy goodies, and join in the Halloween Dance Party in the meadow.  This year we are even having a special family camping night to celebrate Halloween called Family Sundown Spookfari.  To find out how to register for this great overnight program or to get details about all the fun happening at Boo at the Zoo visit and check out our calendar.

Hope to see you soon!

Zena the Zookeeper

Real Conservation Action!

by | August 27th, 2015


Greetings, fellow conservation heroes – Zena the Zookeeper here!

Did you know that every time you visit Oakland Zoo, you are taking action for wildlife? Yes, consider yourself a real conservation action hero each time you enter our gates! This is because 25 cents of your admission fee, and one dollar of your membership fee goes to the conservation of animals in the wild. Each year, we choose three new projects to focus on and YOU get to choose where your contribution goes by voting with your token at our two voting stations. Your spare change goes directly to your chosen project, as well.

Quarters-for-Cons.1 2We are now ending a successful year of supporting Big Life, a project that helps elephants by hiring guards to protect them against the ivory trade. Centre Val Bio in Madagascar that protects the endangered lemur through research, education and community involvement, and Ventana Wildlife Society in Big Sur that conserves the incredible California condor. Check out our new live condor cam in the coastal redwood forest tree where a chick recently hatched!

We are thrilled to soon begin our fifth year of taking action for wildlife with YOU, our community of conservation heroes and we can’t wait to announce our new projects next month. Stay tuned and see you at the Zoo!

Zena the ZooKeeper

Bison – Princes of the Prairie

by | October 24th, 2014

Basic CMYKGreetings fellow conservation heroes – Zena the Zookeeper here.

Knock- knock!
Who’s there?
Purse who?
Purs-onally, I think bison rock!

I don’t know about you, but I just l-o-v-e jokes! The sillier the better. But you know, you can actually learn quite a bit from some jokes. For example, these jokes are all about American Bison – a fascinating animal that was once just about extinct. Take a look and see what you can learn.

Question:  What do you call a bison sunbathing on the beach in Miami?
Answer: Lost!
True Fact: It’s true, a bison at a Miami beach would be lost! There are two races of American Bison, plains bison that usually live in open grasslands in the Central United States, and wood bison that live in forests and tree-filled park-lands in the Northern United States and Canada.

Question: How do you know when there’s a bison under your sleeping bag?
Answer: When your nose touches the ceiling of your tent!
True Fact: Yup, because bison are the largest land mammal in America (they can be up to 6.5 feet tall at the shoulders and 12 feet long), you would know for sure if one of them was hiding under your sleeping bag. Your nose would definitely touch the ceiling!

Question: What time is it when a bison sits on your shovel?
Answer: Time to get a new shovel!
True Fact: This joke tells us two things. A shovel is no match for a bison, because female bison can weigh over a ton, and males can weigh over two tons. Also, bison hooves dig into the soil like a shovel when they walk around. This helps break up the soil and prepare it for seeds to fall in and grow.

Question: What did the mother buffalo say when her son went to college?
Answer: Bi-son!
True Fact: Although buffalo and bison are actually two different kinds of animals, in the United States, people often call our American Bison by both names. Take a look at the two pictures and see what differences you notice between a Buffalo and a Bison.

Man, those just crack me up every time! And see how you learned something while you were laughing?

Be sure to come out and visit the zoo on Saturday, November 1. We’re celebrating National Bison Day, and I guarantee you’ll have a great time watching our beautiful bison and learning all about these incredible Princes of the Plains.

Find out more about Oakland Zoo’s bison herd by clicking the photo above, or by clicking here.

See you then!
Your friend, Zena.

It’s Definitely Summer at Oakland Zoo!

by | July 30th, 2014

zena-the-zookeeperGreetings, fellow conservation heroes – Zena the Zookeeper here!

Glorioski it’s been hot lately! We zookeepers spend a lot of time outside, so we really try to remember to always wear a hat, stay in the shade as much as possible, drink lots and lots of water, and move a little bit slower than usual to keep our bodies from overheating. I’ll bet you do the same things on hot days (and if not, you should). Animals in the wild do those same things, too. They rest in the shade, find cool water for taking a little dip and drinking, and they keep their activity level low during the day.

Many of the animals at Oakland Zoo do other things to stay cool, as well, and some of them are a little weird – well, weird to us humans, anyway. For instance, griffon vultures and some other birds will poop and pee on their legs to keep cool – not exactly something most humans do! Other animals, like our Aldabra tortoises, estivate, which means that they go into a sort of sleep during hot weather, like a super-deep nap that lasts for months. Some mammals, like pygmy goats , lose a lot of fur, or shed when the weather gets really warm, so their coats aren’t so hot and heavy. If you see our elephants waving their ears during hot days, they are radiating heat from their ears: this cools down the blood as it moves through their ears first and then circulates through the rest of their bodies (this is how refrigerators work too). Our tigers pant – they breathe quickly through their mouths so the air going in and out will cool the moisture in their mouths. Our hyenas enjoy a cool dip in their water tub!Coolin' off!

Oakland Zoo’s animal keepers do lots of things to help our animals stay cool: we make sure they have shady places to rest in their enclosures, and we keep the doors to their night-houses open so they can go in and cool down any time they want – we even put fans in some of the night-houses.

We also give many of them popsicles to lick or eat. But, these aren’t your ordinary popsicles, though: some of our popsicles are made of fresh frozen juices and fruits, like the ones we make in big trash cans for our elephants; for our tigers, we create special meat and blood popsicles, and our otters get fish popsicles. I’m not so sure I’d like one of those as a snack, but our animals sure love them!We also make sure our otters have nice ice floes in their swimming water, and we use misters and hoses and swimming pits to help some of our animals stay cool. We even make sure our pigs and warthogs have big ol’ mud pits to roll around in and cool off. There is even a group of people (called the Taxon Advisory Group) who work with Zoos to make sure they only have animals that can live comfortably in the climate where the zoo is located.


As you see, we work very hard to make sure our animals stay cool in the heat and can enjoy the wonderful months or summer. Next time you are here on a hot day, be sure to look around see how many different ways you can find that we are making sure we have the “coolest” animals in town!


See you at the Zoo – and stay cool until then!




It’s Summer (almost)…and we’re ready for ZooCamp!

by | May 29th, 2014

zena-the-zookeeperHey kids! So now that you know all about Family Sundown Safari and how you can camp overnight here at the Zoo, let’s talk about our camp that takes place during the day – ZooCamp!! What better way to spend your      summer than learning about animals, nature, meeting new friends and having so much fun you are just wiped out at the end of the day? There different programs for all ages, so don’t worry, from pre-kindergarten all the way through 8th grade, ZooCamp at Oakland Zoo has the perfect program for you! If you’re already in High School we STILL have the perfect program for you. If you love animals and kids then we need your help! Come to camp as a Teen Assistant and spend three weeks playing with kids and helping to lead activities while earning community service hours.14073556282_9a6950f243_b

Middle-schoolers, do you like adventures? Imagine you are on a hike, and suddenly you find yourself lost in the woods-what should you do? Each day, you’ll learn about and practice important survival skills like building a fire, finding food, collecting water, or making a shelter. At the end of the week you’ll have the knowledge to help you survive and you’ll receive your very own emergency survival kit! For Elementary School aged kids, we have an exciting choice of programs for every grade level. From exploring Knowland Park, building forts, looking for native wildlife, and coming nose-to-nose with nature – every day at ZooCamp will be an adventure you’ll never forget.

And guess what else? This year we’re introducing several new programs and features for children of all ages:

  • Our Busy Beasts class (preK, transitional kindergarten, and kindergarten campers) connects our zoo animals to popular story booksFor campers entering
  • First Grade, our Furry Friends class introduces them to some very cool extreme animals
  • Campers entering grades 2-3 will learn all about animal communications in our Animal Adventures sessions
  • Eco-Explorers (grades 4-5) enjoy a unique behind-the-scenes Zoo experience
  • We have updated our Curious Cachers program (campers entering grades 6-8)
  • Starting in 2014, every Thursday at ZooCamp will feature All-Camp Games sessions
  • Our Wildlife Theater is hosting a new show featuring “Pond Turtle Pinko


All of us at the Zoo are really proud of our ZooCamp program to make sure you  always have an entertaining, engaging, and educational ZooCamp experience! You’ll leave each day with new friends, new memories, and a better understanding of the world around you and the animals that inhabit it!

Moms and Dads, here is what other parents of past seasons have to say about their child’s ZooCamp experience:

ZooCamp has been a wonderful experience for my children. Every afternoon, they came home bubbling over with new information and facts about zoo animals and life in nature. They have been singing ZooCamp songs for weeks! – Kristin K.

My son was hesitant to go, but once he got there he could not stop talking about everything he did when he got home at night! – Teena R.

I was very impressed with the level of professionalism among the staff. They were energetic and knew how to interact with kids. From what I could tell, they had varying appropriate activities for the varying ages. My daughter loved the Survival camp and found the “challenges” very engaging. I have been a high school teacher for 14 years and was impressed with the quick bond that this teacher made with his group over such a short period of time. It was awesome for my son to be with other people who loves animals as much as he does; the teachers’ passions about animals was evident. Thanks for a great program! – Rebecca H.

Zoo Camp was the perfect program for my child. She had fun, made new friends and learned about the importance of animal conservation. I look forward to next summer and participating in more zoo programs throughout the year! Thank you zoo camp! – Carly C.

There are some open spots still available for the 2014 Summer ZooCamp season so sign up today!


It’s “Celebrating Elephants” time at Oakland Zoo!

by | April 30th, 2014

zena-the-zookeeperDid you know that Oakland Zoo is the only zoo in Northern California with African Elephants?  We have FOUR amazing African Elephants, three females and one male, and if you know the Oakland Zoo, you know that elephant conservation is VERY important to us! Elephants in the wild are in trouble, and they have been for a very long time. Why? Because they are hunted for their beautiful ivory tusks. Trinkets, jewelry and other stuff is carved from their ivory. Hunting elephants is against the law, but sadly it still happens.

All elephants are individuals and have very unique personalities. This is M'Dundamella, 45 years old with long beautiful tusks.

All elephants are individuals and have very unique personalities. This is M’Dundamella, 45 years old with long beautiful tusks.

Not too long ago, we at the Zoo decided to get even more involved in saving wild elephants than we already are by joining a campaign called “96 Elephants”. 96 is how many elephants are killed in the wild every day for their ivory. But there is good news! There are new laws here in the United States to stop the importing of ivory! Lots if Zoos are banding together to help stop the ivory trade altogether, and you can help too!

Every year, we at the Zoo have a very special event called “Celebrating Elephants”. On May 17th, we have a fun-filled day where you can enjoy and learn about elephants, while helping to save elephants in the wild. The Zoo is home to four African elephants named Donna, Lisa, M’Dunda and Osh, you can read more about them below. On the 17th, you can see them up close by buying a ticket for a special private elephant barn tour! We will also be selling raffle tickets for great prizes and all the money raised will go to helping elephants in the wild through our conservation partner, the Amboseli Trust for Elephants in Africa.

Osh, our only boy, is 20 and has been with us since 2004. He came from Howletts Wild Animal Park, where he was born with his family group. Young males in the wild get kicked out of their herd from ages 8-12, and that is what Osh’s mom and aunts started to do to him, so we gave him a home here at Oakland Zoo. Osh is extremely active, exploratory, and curious. He’s got a very lively and chipper walk, and he loves to play, browse and graze.

Donna is 35 years old and came to Oakland Zoo in 1989. She very quickly became the dominant female because she had the biggest attitude. She is the most playful out of the girls.  At nighttime you will find her having fun playing with the large tractor tires in her enclosure and charging into the pool for a cool-down! Personality-wise Donna is impatient, loves to participate in training, and is closely bonded with Lisa, whom she sleeps with every night. See how and why we train our elephants here!

Lisa is 37 years old and has been with us since she was two years old. She came from Kruger National Park in South Africa and went briefly to a “training” facility for several months then came to the zoo. Lisa is an ‘elephant’s elephant,’ she likes all of her pachyderm friends, and wants to make everyone happy. She loves her pool. We call her our water baby, because she will take daily dips if the weather is right! Want to see Lisa taking a bath? She is sneaky, agile, and can be very stubborn!

M’Dunda is 45 years old and came to us in 1991. She has a bad history of abuse at her previous facility; which is amazing because she is an extremely gentle soul and wouldn’t hurt a fly. She loves to play with Osh, and is often spotted at night leaning over the fence into Osh’s area, trunk-twirling with him. She can be a little insecure, and scared of new situations. When she first came here she wouldn’t eat her treat boxes! She sure does now, though! She also has long beautiful tusks.

So come to “Celebrating Elephants” on May 17th and see our elephants up close, learn about elephants in the wild, and just have a great  ol’ time!