Archive for the ‘Zena the ZooKeeper’ Category

Have You Met our Beautiful African Elephants?

by | September 27th, 2013

zena-the-zookeeperDSC00426 [800x600]Did 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 although they look similar, to us animal keepers their personalities are about as different as up and down.  As sweet and sour.  As football and bowling. As … well, you get the picture.

All of the girls come from Africa originally, but sadly, they became orphans and were sold to Zoos in the United States when their families were culled. Culling is the very controversial method of population management. They had sad and difficult beginnings in life, but now they all make one big happy family! We zookeepers do our very best to make sure of that each and every day – we love our elephants very much! All four have such unique and fun personalities, so what’s not to love?!

Osh, our only boy, is 19 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 34 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 36 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 44 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.

All four of these wonderful beasts just love pumpkins, melons and pineapples. Come to our next “Feast For the Beast” event in the Spring and you can bring some produce and place them around the elephant habitat yourself!

Until next time, see you at the Zoo!

Animal Enrichment is Important to our Chimpanzees!

by | September 12th, 2013

zena-the-zookeeperGreetings, it’s Zena, and I’m back to talk to you about animal enrichment – that’s how we at Oakland Zoo help our Zoo chimpanzees live in captivity that is as close as possible to how they live in the wild. We use enrichments to keep our chimps physically fit, to provide mental exercise and give them interesting problems to solve, to encourage behaviors they use in the wild, and to improve their overall well-being.

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We actually give enrichments to all our animals, and there are 5 different enrichment types:

Physical Habitat – putting furniture (like hammocks, platforms, and climbing structures) and natural features from the wild (like rocks and trees and vines) in their enclosures.

Sensory – giving them experiences with interesting smells, textures, tastes, sights, and sounds.

Mental Stimulation – providing behavior training and “puzzle-feeders” where they have to figure out how to get food and other treats out of cardboard toys and structures.

Social – putting them in groups with animals like themselves as well as with other kinds of animals.

Food – making special food treats for them and giving them food like they eat in the wild.

For example, we have seven chimpanzees here at the zoo. When you visit, you’ll notice there are a lot of toys, stuffed animals, pillows, cardboard tubes and boxes, hammocks, and other items inside their enclosure.  These are actually enrichment items, and the chimps just love coming into their habitat in the morning to discover new enrichments to explore and play with. Individual chimps even have favorite enrichments – like particular blankets and stuffed animals that they use to make up their beds when they sleep or just want to relax. Believe it or not, one of our female chimps even has a special love for toy snakes! Another loves to ride in big toy cars and trucks.  Imagine that!

Take a look at these pictures and see how many different kinds of enrichment you can find and name.

So, next time you’re visiting, be sure to look at all the enrichments we have for our animals and see if you can figure out why we used them and how they are more than just loads of fun for our animal friends.

 

Zena the ZooKeeper

Western Pond Turtles get a hand at Oakland Zoo!

by | August 22nd, 2013
zena-the-zookeeperHey there, fellow conservation heroes! Do I have an important conservation program to tell you about today, and it’s taking place right here at Oakland Zoo!  It’s a ‘head start” program for the endangered Western Pond Turtle. These adorable little guys were once plentiful and lived all over the entire West Coast – from British Columbia in Canada, all the way down to Baja California near Mexico.

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But today, they’re only found in a few parts of California, Oregon and a couple of places in Washington State. That’s because they’ve lost a lot of their habitat and are being eaten by non-native predators – including another kind of turtle that isn’t native to California.  It’s really sad. 
 
See how tiny the baby Western Pond Turtle is?  Because they grow very slowly in the wild, it takes them a long time to grow big enough to escape or fight off non-native predators like the American Bullfrog and Largemouth Bass who love to snatch them up and snack on them. The other species bullying these guys is the red-eared slider turtle. Many red-eared slider turtles were once somebody’s pet, but people sometimes release them into the wild when they get too big, and that’s bad news for the smaller, shyer Western Pond Turtle. Our little friend loses out to the bigger guys on food resources and warm spots to lie in the sun in their habitat.
 
But the GOOD NEWS is that we are raising hatchlings right here at the Zoo in our brand-new Bio-Diversity Center!  With our ZooKeepers taking care of these babies with plenty of nutrient-rich foods and veterinary care, they grow in just one year to the size it would take them three or four years to reach in the wild. Then, when we release them into the wild they are big enough to protect themselves and have a much better chance of survival. Right now, we are raising 44 Western Pond Turtles for release next year, and the babies are doing great so far!
 
So remember fellow conservation heroes, please don’t release pet turtles into the wild.  Help keep our lake areas clean, welcoming places for Western Pond Turtles. And be sure to teach others all about the amazing Western Pond Turtle!

Warthog Love is in the Air

by | July 31st, 2013

 

Basic CMYKHello fellow conservation heroes, Zena the Zookeeper here.   The summer excitement just keeps on rolling here at Oakland Zoo!   This month, we are celebrating the arrival of two totally beautiful new warthogs.  Yes, you heard right – bea-u-ti-ful wartrhogs!  I could just watch these two lovely ladies for hours on end!  We got them from two zoos in the southern United States, the Atlanta (Georgia) Zoo and the Jacksonville (Florida) Zoo.  I hope Simon, our resident male warthog, thinks they are as beautiful as I do. If Simon agrees with me, then maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have some baby piglets join the sounder (sounder means a small group of warthogs).

We zookeepers are pretty proud of our little three-warthog sounder, and of how well the three of them are all getting along.  Sometimes it can take many weeks for female warthogs to learn to get along, but our ladies had not problems at all adjusting to their new home or to Simon, or each other.  Hmmm… I wonder if it was all the fresh grasses, fruit, and enrichment items we put in their enclosure

everyday.

Just look at the three of them playing together with their ball in this picture! They’re getting along like three peas – I mean pigs – in a pod!  wart1

And here’s a little fascinating fact for you – warthogs really do have warts!  The warts are on their heads, where they also have not one but TWO sets of tusks.

Warthogs are also powerful diggers, using their disc-like snout with their legs to dig for roots and tubers. They often lower themselves closer to the ground by bending their wrists (like Simon is doing in this picture).

Looks pretty awkward to me, but don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.  They have special thick, calloused pads of skin to protect them when they’re bending down like that. And just like all species of pigs, warthogs love to roll around in the mud when the weather gets too hot for them.

So see?  These creatures are sweet and loveable and oh so fun to watch – just bea-u-ti-ful.  I’m sure you’ll agree with me when you come visit them for yourselves.  See you at the Zoo!

It’s Feeding Time at Oakland Zoo

by | July 9th, 2013

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zena the zookeeper

Over 660 animals reside in Oakland Zoo (one hundred and sixty species), each requiring a different meal:

  •  Large cats such as lions and tigers, along with vultures, eat different types of meat
    – pork neck bones, ground meat, chicken, and more.
  •  Fruit bats eat fruits like cantaloupes, apples, and pears.
  •  Chimpanzees and sun bears eat different types of fruits and vegetables. Sun bears will also eat small amounts of  insects and meat.
  •  Giraffes eat edible tree parts (browse), different types of   grass hays, and small amounts of chopped vegetables.
  • Warthogs eat different types of vegetables, small amounts of fruit, and small types of grass hays.
  • Carnivores (meat eaters) consume dead rabbits, guinea pigs, deer, pig feet and skulls, and horse meat.
  • Herbivores (plant eaters) have a sweet tooth. This allows the keepers to insert medications in their meals such as hiding pills in Fig Newtons.
  • Food is donated or purchased, from different vendors such as “U.S. Foods,” “Concord Feed,” “North Bay Meat,” and other vendors. For some of the animals, keepers use branches and leaves found on Zoo grounds.

Do you want to feed our animals? You can at our upcoming Feast for the Beasts event – bring in fruits and vegetables and watch as our elephants and other animals enjoy your treats. Find out more here.

Hidden Treats: The Fun Diet of an Oakland Zoo Sun Bear

by | June 18th, 2013

zena-the-zookeeperHey kids! Zena the Zookeeper here. Welcome to my cool new blog! Now you can read about my awesome zookeeping adventures at Oakland Zoo online.

Sun-bear-with-tongue-out_web You know what I love best about being a zookeeper? No, it’s NOT all the poop I have to shovel. What I love best is taking care of the sun bears. They’re so fun to watch, especially when they’re moving around their exhibit, searching and sniffing, climbing and clawing to find their food.

In case you didn’t already know, our bears are omnivorous (om-NIV-er-us). That means they eat a variety of food—meat as well as veggies, just like you do (okay, maybe with the exception of the meal worms!) And here at Oakland Zoo, we like to give them as much variety as possible. Here’s some of the fun food treats that the bears get every day:

  • SWEET MIX: made up of popcorn, dates, peanuts, raisins, coconut and Fruit Loops (the only cereal they like.)
  • FRUIT & VEGETABLES: like grapes, pineapple, melon and yams to make sure the bears have a well-balanced diet, which is as important for animals as it is for kids.
  • HOMEMADE RICE CAKES: cooked and mixed with fun flavors such as almond, coconut or maple syrup
  • PEANUT BUTTER: mixed with other treats, or big dabs of it on tree trunks, or leftover jars from home for them to lick clean with their long tongues.
  • MEAL WORMS: yummy crawly treats like the ones wild bears find in rotten tree trunks

But I don’t just toss this stuff in a bowl on the kitchen floor like you do with your pets at home. I hide it inside all kinds of fun containers that I put around the exhibit for the bears to find and explore with their tongues and claws, such as:

  • PLASTIC DRINK BOTTLES with grapes or raisins inside
  • HARD PLASTIC PLUMBING PIPES with holes drilled in them for getting at the treats
  • HOLLOW BAMBOO STALKS stuffed with small treats
  • PINE CONES smeared with sticky treats like peanut butter or honey
  • HOLLOW PLASTIC PET TOYS filled with treats and frozen into popsicles
  • HARD PLASTIC BOOMER BALLS I smear peanut butter or jam on the outside for them to lick off  

I bet your meals at home aren’t this much fun. But your mom probably has enough work to do already, don’t you think? Luckily, I’ve got a lot of helpers here at the Zoo.

ZENA’S QUICK QUESTION: How many sun bears do we have at Oakland Zoo and what are their names?

The next time you come to the Zoo, be sure to check out the bear exhibit and you’ll find out the answer. Also, if you want to check in on the sun bears from home, did you know you can watch Oakland Zoo’s Sun Bear Cam? Here’s a link to it: http://www.oaklandzoo.org/Sun_Bear_Cam.php

You’ll also see how much fun it is to be an Oakland Zoo sun bear. Well, that’s all for now. This is Zena the Zookeeper saying “See you next time!