Archive for the ‘ZooKeepers’ Category

Holiday Gifts for the Animals

by | November 14th, 2013

zena-the-zookeeper

And our sun bears love Kongs. Sometimes, we even fill them with peanut butter, which is the sun bears’ favorite thing to eat.

And our sun bears love Kongs. Sometimes, we even fill them with peanut butter, which is the sun bears’ favorite thing to eat.

Hey Kids! Zena the Zookeeper here.  It’s holiday time at Oakland Zoo, and I have a question for you: Name something you love getting during the holidays. If you said, PRESENTS! then you and our animals here at the Zoo have something in common.  Our animals love presents too.  And I’m here to tell you, we just love giving presents to them.  The presents we give our animals are called enrichments.  Those are special toys and games that help our animals live like they are back in the wild.  (If you want to learn more about animal enrichments, check out my blog from September called Animal Enrichment is Important to Chimpanzees!)

So, what kinds of presents do our animals like to receive? All kinds! Our chimps love lots of different toys. For example, one of our female chimps just adores plush-toy snakes. She wears them around her neck like a scarf. The ferrets and chinchillas love hanging beds, and the zebras go nuts for Jolly-Ranger balls.  We zookeepers put treats in the balls and watch the zebras happily work to get them out! Check out the picture here of my fellow 20131002_143235zookeeper prepping the balls with molasses and alfalfa for the Zebras to enjoy.20131002_144428

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Luigi the ferret, can spend hours playing hide-and-seek in his alligator bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, just last week we asked people to send presents for some of our Zoo staff headed to Borneo to help out some rescued sun bears over there.   And boy, did everyone help out! We got so many new toys for them – we even have some pictures of the Bornean bears playing with their new presents from Oakland Zoo.

If you’d like to give a present to one of our Zoo animals this holiday season, be sure to check out the wishlist we zookeepers put up on amazon.com .  It lists all the great toys and enrichment we know our animals love to receive.

 

The goats in the Children’s Contact Yard love butting around big, inflatable balls.  I suspect they may be playing some kind of top-secret goat soccer!

The goats in the Children’s Contact Yard love butting around big, inflatable balls. I suspect they may be playing some kind of top-secret goat soccer!

There’s lots to choose from, so I’m sure you’ll find something that will make one of our animals feel wild and wonderful.(Don’t forget to check with an adult before you purchase anything.)

So, until next time, remember – we only have one planet, so let’s all be conservation heroes and take good care of everything on it!

Toys needed for Sun Bears in Borneo
(Oakland Zoo Conservation Program)

by | October 21st, 2013
sun bear in basket

A rescued Sunbear at the Bornean sunbear conservation Center gets to relax in her basket.

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, located in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, rescues sun bears and seeks to rehabilitate bears that may be suitable to return to the wild.

 

Most of the 28 bears in residence at the Centre are victims of the illegal pet trade….mother bears are killed by poachers for their body parts (paws, bile from the gall bladder) and orphaned cubs are often captured and spend their lives in small bare cages without adequate space or proper diet. Many of the bears at the Centre have never walked on grass or been able to climb a tree, a tragedy for these very arboreal bears. The Centre currently has one new bear house built in

Enjoying a new ball

Enjoying a new ball

2010 attached to one hectare (2.5 acres) of forest enclosure, and is in the process of adding a second bear house and forest enclosure. A visitor centre, viewing platform and guest walkway connecting visitors with nearby Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, are all due to be completed in early 2014. Please visit the BSBCC website at www.bsbcc.org.my to learn more and find out how you can support the extraordinary work being done to save the world’s smallest bear species”.

 

 

Pagi, one of Oakland Zoo's sunbears enjoying her Kong.

Pagi, one of Oakland Zoo’s sunbears enjoying her Kong.

Through our fundraising efforts, our support of the BSBCC helps to fund completion of the much-needed rehabilitation facility in Sabah. Oakland Zoo’s own veterinarians have travelled to Malaysia to provide hands-on assistance in moving and providing medical care to the Sun Bears currently being rehabilitated by the BSBCC. Now, on October 31st, Oakland Zoo staff is leading a trip to Borneo very soon and they will be visiting the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. The bears at the center have been rescued as orphans due to poaching and often from the illegal pet trade. In fact, our bear, Ting Ting, was one of those cubs as were both parents of Bulan and Pagi.  The staff at the center would love to be able to provide their bears with “Kong” toys such as Pagi is enjoying. Here at Oakland Zoo, Pagi Bear is enjoying her “Kong” toy enrichment. and our zoo travelers are willing to pack such toys in their luggage for the trip.

Can you help out the bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre by purchasing an Extra Large “Kong” toy to send along with them?

You may purchase these and more on Amazon.com.  Just click here for the items specifically requested for the bears and make sure it will arrive by October 31st.  Thank you for caring about sun bears.

Marching for Elephants . . . Join Us!

by | September 27th, 2013
M'Dundamella, 45 years old, with long beautiful tusks. Will her wild-counterparts survive if they keep being poached for their tusks?

M’Dundamella, 45 years old, with long beautiful tusks. Will her wild-counterparts survive if they keep being poached for their tusks?

If you haven’t seen a flyer around town, or a kind face at a table in front of the elephant exhibit at Oakland Zoo to spread the word, I am here to tell you about a very important event that is coming soon. The International Elephant March, created by the iWorry campaign at the Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, is going to be held on October 4th worldwide! The Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, or DSWT, is a non-profit who takes in all of the orphaned elephants that lose their mothers and families to the devastating poaching that is currently taking place. There are over one dozen official DSWT sponsored cities that are taking place in the march, and because there are so many people that care, there are now an additional twenty cities worldwide that are hosting a march as well, including San Francisco. Ivory poaching is nothing new, in fact in 1979 there were still 1.3 million African Elephants living, but by 1989 well over half of that population was wiped out due to a demand for their ivory, or tusks, which left a remaining 600,000. In that same year, a ban on selling ivory in Africa was created, which significantly helped to halt the trade. Elephants were left to be in peace . . . mostly. What remained were stockpiles of tusks in many countries in Africa, and with the unfortunate decision to allow a few countries to conduct a one-off sale of these stockpiles, opened up the floodgates.

In China, a sign of wealth is to own ivory, and due to a growing middle class, there is a high demand.

A photo of an ivory and rhino horn confiscation in Hong Kong in August 2013. Ivory is now worth 1,000 dollars per pound.

A photo of an ivory and rhino horn confiscation in Hong Kong in August 2013. Ivory is now worth 1,000 dollars per pound.

With gangs of poachers who are getting more and more sophisticated with their artillery, corrupt African governments, and the high demand from China,  elephants don’t stand a chance . . . unless we come together and make a change. Slowly, the issue is receiving more press and getting attention from politicians and movie stars. Prince William, David Beckham, Yao Ming, and Leonardo DiCaprio are just a few. The Clinton Foundation are strong supporters of the issue, and President Obama recently has put aside a task force, along with a ten million dollar fund to help stop wildlife trafficking. These are steps, but we need MORE! The more awareness we can create the better, especially amongst youth. When tabling at the zoo, I found that there are a lot of people who think that elephant tusks are just cut off without any harm and that they grow back or that they just fall out like our teeth. This is a huge misconception and according to a study by the International Animal Welfare Foundation that was conducted in China, 70% of Chinese people did not realize that ivory comes from dead elephants. If we can create awareness through social media and campaigning we may have a chance at turning things around for elephants. If we stop the demand, we stop elephants lives from being taken. Currently there are an estimated 400,000 African Elephants left, and conservationists are predicting if we continue at 30,000 plus being killed every year then the species will be extinct in another ten years.

A group of very dedicated and passionate local citizens have joined together to create the San Francisco Elephant March. These people have worked day in and day out, campaigning, writing letters, signing petitions, educating, posting flyers, tabling, and some right here at the zoo! I would like to invite you to join us at the March For Elephants in San Francisco on October 4th at 11am. We will be gathering in Portsmouth Square, marching a peaceful protest, and ending in Union Square to listen to keynote speakers Patrick Freeman, Elephant Field Biologist, Patricia Simms, creator of World Elephant Day, and our neighbor and friend Mr. Ed Stewart, co-founder of Performing Animal Welfare Society. Please visit www.marchforelephantsSF.org for more detailed information. You can register for the march, purchase a t-shirt, and check out the map of the march. Please, I encourage everyone to attend this special event and spread the word about what’s going on with elephants.

Please Join us for the March in San Francisco!

Please Join us for the March in San Francisco!

Ask yourself this, can you imagine a world with no elephants?

Adventures in Activism

by | August 30th, 2013
My first attempt at protesting.

My first attempt at protesting.

At Oakland Zoo we pride ourselves on the “protected contact” system of care for our four resident African Elephants. This system is based on positive reinforcement and prevents the need for keeper domination through barbaric tools such as the bullhook. Each year we host “Celebrating Elephants” to benefit the Amboseli Trust for Elephants in Kenya, and at this event we encourage people not to attend “free contact” elephant programs such as amusement parks where elephant rides are given and circus shows featuring elephants and other animals.

Well, I figured it was time for me to put my money where my mouth is. This last Friday our longtime volunteer Cheryl Matthews, my sister Chelsea, and I decided to boycott the local circus show at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. There was a group meeting there and the directions were pretty clear: Just Show Up.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve never been to the circus before  - as a protestor or a patron – so I wasn’t sure how exactly we were to go about protesting. I’m not a very confrontational person and the idea of yelling into a megaphone or accusing people of wrongdoing didn’t exactly appeal to me.

Cheryl Matthews - who wouldn't take a flier from this face?!

Cheryl Matthews – who wouldn’t take a flier from this face?!

Luckily this group is about educating people through peaceful means, not aggressively. Signs were provided for all of us and we were given flyers in both English and Spanish to offer to people as they walked by. Each of us was instructed to be polite, and to try to be as friendly as possible despite potentially negative reactions.

Truth be told, there were far less ‘angry’ people than I thought there would be. Many people refused our fliers and seemed irritated at being offered them, but no one was rude. Many people also took them on their way in. And holding signs is an attention-grabbing mode of spreading the message as well. There was an Oakland A’s game that night at the Coliseum and far more people were headed to that venue than to the circus. There were also encouraging people like the man who told my sister what a good job she was doing and that even if people don’t take the flier, they are listening, we are still a presence.

 

Cheryl engaging with potential circus goers.

Cheryl engaging with potential circus goers.

My hope is that for everyone that took a flier on their way into the show, they’ll at least give that flier a look. Maybe they were unwilling to tear up their tickets or turn around and drive home, but maybe that flier, and our message will make them think twice the next time the circus comes to town. And maybe if we’re really lucky, there won’t be a next time.

Happy Birthday Mokey!

by | August 30th, 2013

This Sunday Oakland Zoo’s youngest zebra celebrated her 17th birthday! Mokey was born on August 18, 1996, the daughter of mother Bingo and sister of Domino who are both currently housed with her at the zoo. Zebras typically live to be about 25 years of age but in captivity they have been known to live as long as 40 years.

Carrots and cookies, yum!

Carrots and cookies, yum!

I am lucky enough to be the primary trainer for Mokey during our collective training sessions and of course I felt we had to celebrate our girl in style! Lead keeper Leslie Storer suggested making popsicles with different layers of goodies in them for each zebra. The result was a double decker popsicle with a layer of carrots on the bottom and cookie crumbs on top.

The day turned out to be quite warm and muggy and I thought for sure we had one grand slam of a birthday hit. The initial reaction was a little wary on all sides and only Domino and Mokey actually ventured close enough to the pops to touch them. Their reactions were underwhelming to say the least. In all fairness to the species they tend to eat in what might be described as a nibbling action with the front teeth and then move to grind with the molars.

Keeper Jason Loy encourages the birthday girl towards her treat.

Keeper Jason Loy encourages the birthday girl towards her treat.

Surely, I thought, once these bad boys begin to melt they’ll be nibbling away at these carrot shards!  Well, no dice. By the end of the day the popsicles were completely melted and all that was left were several empty chains and a pile of unappetizing sludge. Stormy eventually moved in to pick up some of the leftovers.

It’s the thought that counts, right? Besides, there’s always next year!

A Bear of a Party

by | August 5th, 2013

 

TeddyBearTea296x172Sometimes the best kinds of animals are stuffed. No, I don’t mean the ones you find in a museum. I mean the cuddly plush ones like your favorite childhood teddy bear. After all, they provide comfort and security, and bring magic and imagination into our lives, even as adults. So after all they do for us, why not treat them to their own party. That’s exactly what you and your child (along with their favorite stuffed animal) can do at Oakland Zoo at the new Teddy Bear Tea Parties.

 

We’ve been hearing suggestions from parents who want more programs at the Zoo that they can participate in with their children (as opposed to our drop-off programs which are geared for kids alone.) So we came up with a very cute program indeed. Held once a month on Saturday mornings, Teddy Bear Tea offers an entertaining and informative activity for 4 to 8 year olds and their parents. But it’s much more than just a tea party. First, we gather in one of our classrooms, where you’ll hear a bear-themed story and learn how to be a bear in the wild. You’ll enjoy tea, coffee, juice and other snacks such as scones, cookies and assorted fruit. After that, you and your child will have the chance to make fun enrichment items for the Zoo’s sun bears, using cardboard boxes and colorful art materials. These decorated boxes will be filled with various yummy treats for the bears to snack on.

Exploring a Fun Box

Exploring a Fun Box

Afterwards, you’ll head up to the sun bear observation deck and watch as the bears eagerly discover and tear open the boxes that you just made for them. And as you meet one of our bear keepers, you’ll get answers to all those bear questions that you’ve been dying to ask. Enrichment is a big part of the animals’ lives here at Oakland Zoo, and our bears get excited whenever they find fun new things in their exhibit to sniff and eat.
Speaking of fun things to eat, when you attend the Teddy Bear Tea, you’ll get to snack on the same type of 5-fruit salad that our bears

enjoy eating every day. You’ll also receive a gift bag full of assorted animal themed goodies as well as a special personalized thank you letter with photo addressed to your child and their stuffed animal, signed by one of our sun bears.
So if you’re looking for something fun to do with your 4 to 8 year old, sign up for one of Oakland Zoo’s new Teddy Bear Tea parties. The next parties are scheduled for August 17, September 14, and October 12. Parties run from 9:30 am until noon. Don’t forget to invite your child’s favorite teddy or other stuffed animal.

See You at the Next Teddy Bear Tea Party

Awaiting the Next Teddy Bear Tea

For further information, additional tea party dates and to make a reservation, contact our Education Department at (510) 632-9525 ext 220, or email educationreservations@oaklandzoo.org. See you at the party!