Archive for the ‘ZooKeepers’ Category

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!

 

 

Appreciate Your Zoo Keepers!

by | July 25th, 2013

Keeper-Jeff margaretrousserEach year, the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) declares a National Zoo Keeper Appreciation Week. The idea behind it is to honor animal care professionals and their contributions to conservation while increasing public awareness about preserving our precious habitats and natural resources.

Zoo Keeping is one of the most physically demanding jobs a person can have, but it also one of the most rewarding! Zoo keepers work in all weather conditions, weekends, holidays and sometimes even overnight. The animals do not stop needing care just because it is Thanksgiving, or during a hurricane. Many of us have stayed up all night caring for a critically ill bear, feeding an orphaned squirrel monkey, or observing a new mother otter with her first litter. My personal record is 36 hours straight of animal care. You would be hard pressed to find a group of more dedicated people than you would in a zoo’s animal care department.

EricaZoo Keepers also work very closely with many of the other departments in the Zoo. Here are a few of the things they have to say about the keepers at the Oakland Zoo:

“I have never experienced such a dedicated and loyal staff that puts Oakland Zoo’s animal care first. The animal care staff is representative of what it means to love the job you’re in. I am proud of, and to be associated with, such knowledgeable and professional folks.” Nancy Filippi Managing Director of Operations.

“Keepers, you don’t care for gibbons and chimps, you care for Niko and Caramia, you care for each individual animal that is in your care, with all their unique issues, their unique likes and dislikes. You tap into what brings each animal happiness and health and deliver with love.” Amy Gotliffe, Director of Conservation

Keeper Ashley“I’m always looking for ways to promote Oakland Zoo stories to the public. Often times, I am asking a lot of questions and bugging zookeepers for details about the animals they manage and most the time they think I’m crazy, is my guess. But, those nuggets of information help me grab the media’s attention. I’m so appreciative for the little details zookeepers give me. Their jobs are fascinating and I ALWAYS learn new things about animals each time I bring a reporter or film crew to a location. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of cocktail trivia about animals. Being out in the zoo with zookeepers is usually a definite perk to my job at the Zoo. Kudos to our zookeepers. You work so hard and we appreciate all you do for the animals at Oakland Zoo.” Nicky Mora, Senior Manager of Marketing

Adam-Z“I appreciate the keepers because they do awesome work and serve a tremendous purpose. And, while I get to spend 95% of my time in a heated or air-conditioned office, the keepers do it all, rain or shine (and 98% percent of the time they smile doing it). I’m in considerable awe of their talent and dedication.” John Lemanski, Director of Human Resources

“We have dedicated zoo keepers and are truly blessed to have dozens of staff members that work day in and day out with our diverse collection of animals. Many of the animal species featured throughout Oakland Zoo are ambassadors to animals in the wild that are in danger or at risk of becoming extinct. Our Zoo Keepers are advocates for the animals they care for and they strive to make the public aware of issues facing those same animals in the wild. We work really hard at spreading the message of conservation and our keepers play an integral role in that process.” Dr. Joel Parrott, President and CEO of Oakland Zoo

Dannielle“National Zoo Keeper Week is an opportunity for us to acknowledge Keepers for what they do and thank them for the care they continue to provide our animals at Oakland Zoo. One of the core beliefs our Keepers all embody is educating the public about pets, specifically which animals do and do not make good pets. Besides educating the public about the animals, our keepers go to great lengths to provide the most natural and enriching environment for the creatures in their care. Not only do the animals benefit from the creative ideas, all of the keepers share their successes and new ways to keep animals stimulated. We all learn from each other and no day working with animals is ever the same.” Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation, and Research

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!

Chimps need YOU!

by | June 12th, 2013
Oakland Zoo Chimpanzee

Oakland Zoo Chimpanzee

In 2011, a petition was started by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).  The petition requested that the United States Fish and Wildlife (USFW) agency reconsider its listing of chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  At that time, Oakland Zoo put out a call to action from our members – and it worked!  This week, the USFW agency announced its proposal to reevaluate their listing!  This great news, but it is not a done deal.  The agency will take comments on the act from the public for the next 60 days and we need YOU to stand up for chimpanzees again!

Under current listing, wild chimpanzees are listed as endangered, giving them a significant amount of protection under U.S. law.  Captive chimpanzees are a different story.  They are listed as “threatened,” a much lesser designation with significantly fewer protections.  Chimpanzees are the only species that is double listed this way under the law and it is time for that to change.  Please show your support for chimpanzees by commenting in agreement with this changed designation.

Here’s How:

Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R9–ES–2010–0086, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!” If your comments will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature of http://www.regulations.gov, as it is most compatible with  our comment review procedures. If you attach your comments as a separate document, our preferred file format is Microsoft Word. If  you attach multiple comments (such as form letters), our preferred format is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel