Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Create With Beads to Help Chimpanzees!

by | September 8th, 2016
Beautiful Kibale Beads

Beautiful Kibale Beads

Have you seen these beads around the zoo? We’ve sold them in the gift shop, at Earth Day, and at a special table we put out on the weekends. These beads aren’t just beautiful – they also have a very special story.

In 2000, facing the low social and economic status of women in Uganda, a woman named Margaret Kemigisa came up with an idea to create income by selling crafts. She founded the Community Action Project, recruiting six local women and teaching them skills such as making baskets and paper beads. This project has now grown to over 60 women, who use the time together to discuss and educate each other on important topics such as environmental conservation and family planning. An important aspect of the Community Action Project (CAP) is respecting the environment – they live near Kibale National Park, which boasts the densest population of primates in Africa, as well as many other species of wildlife. Margaret and her fellow co-workers choose to use recycled magazines and sustainable plant and fruit materials to make their crafts in order to reduce their impact on the environment. With the money they make selling crafts, the women of CAP are able to buy livestock, land, and help their community.

Creating the beads

Creating the beads

Oakland Zoo first met Margaret and the women of CAP in 2008, when they visited Uganda on an ecotrip. We were so inspired by their story that we purchased jewelry to be sold in the Oakland Zoo gift shop. When we returned in 2011, we were thrilled to find that the women had made enough money from their crafts to open up a small shop near the park! In 2014, Oakland Zoo decided to pilot a program where zoo guests could make their own jewelry using these Kibale beads, while learning about conservation. We purchase the beads from Margaret and the CAP in the tens of thousands. These beads have a long journey to make, from the villages of Uganda to the Bay Area. Here at the zoo, we sell them as pre-made bracelets and necklaces, packages of loose beads, and individual beads, out of which bracelets, necklaces, or keychains can be made.

My favorite question to ask zoo guests as they pass by the Beads for Chimps table is “What do you think these beads are made of?” I’ve gotten some creative answers – shells, rocks, chimp hair, or plastic, among many others. Some clever children have made the beads themselves and already know the answer. With the help of a magnifying glass, I can show people the details of these beads; the remnants of letters and numbers from the magazines they are made from. The table attracts all kinds, from children to adults, male and female.

Most people I talk to are inspired by the story of Margaret and these women. They become even more inspired when I tell them where the profits from bead sales go – to the Budongo Snare Removal Project, one of our close partners in Uganda, who employ former bush meat hunters to remove snares in the forest that are injuring wild chimpanzees.

The amazing chimpanzees we are working hard to protect

The amazing chimpanzees we are working hard to protect.

Earth Day 2016 marked two years of the Beads for Chimps table being out in the zoo. With the support of conservation volunteers and the Teen Wild Guides, we have sold over $6,000 worth of beads!

Come see the Beads for Chimps table, and many more primate-related activities, at Discovering Primates Day on September 24, 2016!

Learn about Birds and Save their Habitat with Golden Gate Audubon Society!

by | February 2nd, 2016

Q: What did the baby Burrowing Owl’s parents say when he wanted to go to a party in Oakland?

A: You’re not “owl’d” enough.

Seriously! Did you know Burrowing Owls (BUOW) are the only North American raptor that nests underground and may brood 4–12 eggs at a time? Mom BUOW incubates the eggs for three to four weeks while dad brings her food. After the eggs hatch, both parents feed the chicks. The owlets fledge four weeks later and can make short flights (to Oakland, if allowed!).

My Little Cutie

Dad BUOW is also pretty smart. Instead of flying around looking for insects to feed his babies, he lays cow dung around the nest’s “front door”, which attracts insects. Dad hides just inside the front door and pops out to grab an unsuspecting insect.

Are you curious about the Burrowing Owls as well as other Bay Area imperiled birds? Oakland Zoo and Golden Gate Audubon Society are offering a special opportunity to learn more about these Bay Area birds.

DSCN2692 Black-Crowned Night Heron in Oakland in coy pose by Cindy Margulis
On Saturday, February 20, Oakland Zoo Staff, Interns, and Volunteers will partner with Golden Gate Audubon for an hour of habitat restoration. Afterwards, attendees will be treated to a bird walk with an opportunity to view some imperiled birds, including Burrowing Owls. This FREE event will take place in the morning at Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline, Oakland (time to be determined). Contact Kyla Balfour at to register.

Just say Let Me Think Critically for a Moment to Palm Oil – In Preparation for Valentines Day

by | January 28th, 2016

The issue with palm oil is complex and evolving. It is true, forests have been devastated by the clearing of habitat in order to plant the oil palm plant, a plant grown commercially in rain-forests primarily in Borneo and Sumatra. These forests were home to tigers, sun bears, elephants and orangutans. Tragically, the industry poses a threat to these and other species, as much of it uses deforestation practices that are destructive to these animals’ delicate habitat. Ten years ago, biologists and environmentalistzoo grounds green signs 029ts were all encouraging a complete ban of the plant. It would be nice if it were that simple.

Endangered Sun Bear

Endangered Sun Bear

Palm oil is now in over 50 % of packaged goods like food, cosmetics and soap. According to most of the same biologists and environmentalists, it is here to stay, and is now best to use your purchasing choices as power to drive sustainable and responsible practices.

Responsible palm oil is produced without contributing to rain forest or peat land destruction, species extinction, greenhouse gas emissions or human rights abuses. Food manufacturing companies need transparent and traceable supply chains from the plantation where the palm oil was sourced to the final product on your grocery store shelf. There should also be requirements around what palm oil is called on the label, as there are currently dozens of acceptable names that lead to further confusion.

lableOn a bright note, there has also been much progress in awareness and positive action. Many organizations are doing their share to encourage industry change and increase public outreach. The Round-table for Sustainable Palm Oil is a start on the road to doing right, but it is our hope that the standards are increased for companies that produce, trade and use palm oil.

Individual actions truly matter when it comes to helping those sun bears, tigers and orangutans. You can help by reading labels when you shop. Choose products that don’t use palm oil (Palmitic acid, Palm kernel oil, Palm kernel) or that opt to use sustainable “orangutan friendly” palm oil. Explore companies that are part of the Round-table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and learn all you can about this complicated conservation issue.






This Valentine’s Day season and every day, use the following lists and smart phone apps to help you be sweet to the beautiful animals that will survive only if humans stop, learn and think critically.

  • Purchase items that do not use palm oil or that use sustainable palm oil only
  • Support companies that have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by downloading the Palm Oil Shopping Guide for iPhones and Android smartphones. You can also download this cool Palm Oil Fact Sheet for kids too
  • Use your power as a consumer: Write to your favorite restaurants and companies. Let them know that you care about orangutans, sun bears, gibbons and their rainforest home, and that your concern is reflected in products you are willing to buy. Ask them to join the RSPO if they haven’t done so already. We have a sample letter you can use for your convenience
  • Go see wild orangutans, sun bears, gibbons. Your tourist dollars make the rainforests worth more standing than cut down for plantations. Check out Hutan Project and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
  • Write to your local legislators and the President. Ask them not to explore palm oil as a biofuel option. Cutting down rainforests to grow palm oil is not a “green” substitute for gasoline
  • Write to Indonesian and Malaysian government officials. Ask them to preserve their precious natural resources. They are the only countries in the world that have wild orangutans!
  • Get involved in organizations that are purchasing land for conservation in affected areas
  • Learn more at

ZooKids On the Block 2015

by | January 15th, 2015

Do you know any young children who love animals? Tell them about Oakland Zoo’s popular ZooKids program. Two Saturdays a month, the Zoo offers this fun animal-themed class that’s perfect for four and five year olds. Developed and run by the Zoo’s dedicated docent staff, ZooKids gives children a chance to play and learn about animals, while meeting other kids their age.

Playing in the Children's Zoo

Playing in the Children’s Zoo

Classes begin at 9:30 in the morning and wrap-up at 12:00 noon. Here’s a taste of what we’ve got lined up: First, we start off with a mini tour of the Zoo. Then we head to the classroom for a craft project and a fun game. Next is the Animal Close-Up, where one of our docents brings in a small animal, like a ferret, hedgehog or reptile for the kids to meet and learn about. Then, we head back out to the courtyard to enjoy a tasty snack. At the end of class, the kids can take their completed craft projects home with them. Sometimes, the kids even get to learn a new song that they sing when their parents pick them up.
Each class has a particular animal-related theme, such as “Paws & Claws” or “Skins & Scales” so kids participating in more than one class can have a new experience each time without repeating the same activities. Enrollment is limited to 16 participants per class, allowing one docent for every four kids, which provides plenty of personal attention.

Fun Craft Projects

Fun Craft Projects

Program fees for ZooKids are as follows: $23 for current Oakland Zoo members and $26 for non-members. Fees cover program expenses as well as zoo admission for the participant. Be advised—this is a drop-off program, so it’s a kids-only affair, and pre-registration is required, as we cannot accommodate last minute drop-ins. Registration is online through Thriva, the same system we use for ZooCamp.
The next two ZooKids classes, held on Saturday January 24th and 31st, are entitled “Beaks and Feet.” Here’s an example of what you’ll be learning about… Did you know that a macaw can crack a walnut with its beak? Have you ever tried to climb a tree using only your toenails, like a woodpecker does? Come learn how a bird’s beak can tell us what it eats and how its feet can tell us where it lives.

ZooKids Storytime

ZooKids Storytime

Future ZooKids class dates are February 21st and 28th (“Tails & Tongues”), March 14 and 21 (“Paws & Claws”), April 11 and 19 (“Skins & Scales”), and May 9 and 16 (“Oh Yuck!”) So as you can see, there’s plenty of fun to choose from. Or if you can’t decide, you can enroll your kids in as many classes as you wish. But remember that enrollment is limited so go online and get registered now on our website at If you have any other questions about our ZooKids program, give us a call at 510-632-9525 ext 280, or email us at We’ll see you at the Zoo!

Bison Business – Spreading the Word about Bison Day

by | October 30th, 2014

Oakland Zoo is thrilled to be celebrating National Bison Day this Saturday, November 1st.

The first National Bison Day was celebrated in 2012 as part of a campaign to classify the American Bison as the National Mammal of the United States. The Oakland Zoo would love to help spread the word about this campaign and this wonderful animal.

Photo Credit: Alicia Powers

Photo Credit: Alicia Powers

National Bison Day is the perfect time to spread the word about the campaign to designate the bison as our National Mammal. Here’s what you can do:

Visit and

Take a photo of yourself with a real or fake beard. This Saturday, post it to social media and be sure to tag it with #BeardsforBison to get it trending!

Visit Oakland Zoo this Saturday, stop by our Action for Wildlife tables in Flamingo Plaza to learn more about bison and this national campaign and to enter a drawing for an exciting behind-the-scenes Bison Feeding. We will also have a Beards for Bison station for you to do a selfie.

Here Are Some Unusual Bison Facts for Your Enjoyment and Education:

The American Bison is the largest land mammal in the country.

During the “megafauna extinctions” at the end of the last ice age when woolly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and dire wolves went extinct, the Bison genus managed to survive.

Their strongest sense is not their vision or hearing, but their sense of smell.

They have horns that are permanent rather than antlers that are seasonal.

Bison wallow in dust for relief from flies and other insects.

Bison gestation is 9 months and they usually give birth in April or May.

There are many theories as to why bison have a hump. One is that it gives them more leverage to plow through the snow in winter.

The bison has been on the official seal of the Department of the Interior since 1912 and is on state flags for Wyoming and Kansas.

In the mid-1800’s the bison population plummeted from over 40 million to just a few hundred individuals in about 60 years. The demand for bison meat and robes in combination with the ease of hunting, transporting, and manufacturing almost resulted in the extinction of the bison. It was the work of a handful of ranchers who protected and preserved enough individuals in privately owned herds until the federal government could establish permanent public herds. Today, there are 10 major public bison herds, and national population of over a 100,000.

Photo credit: Alicia Powers

Photo credit: Alicia Powers

Oakland Zoo’s bison herd is composed of 4 beautiful cows (female bison), Ann, Twin, Winky, and Nickel. Our oldest girl is 27 years old, and our youngest girl is 21. They enjoy lounging around in their spacious exhibit which also happens to be the highest exhibit at the zoo. They spend their days grazing on the grasses and weeds in addition to the hay, fruits, veggies, and grain that their keepers provide them on a daily basis. Right now, they are in the process of growing in their winter coats in preparation for the cold season ahead. The best way to see them is to catch a lift on the Zoo’s Skyride (open weekends) where you can also get an overhead view of our tigers, giraffe, lions, camels, elephants, and elk.

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!