Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Deep Dive

by | January 2nd, 2014

I live for a night like this. It is a perfectly warm and still after an evening rain, there was a beautiful sunset and a magnificent full moon, we are on a gorgeous island in the Celebus Sea. How can this be my last night in the wilds of Borneo? Visiting Mabul Island has been the cherry on top of an expedition that went beyond my greatest expectations. Today, we got to truly witness the wonders of the oceans. Some of us went scuba diving, but most of us snorkeled in the reefs and outer islands around Mabul. It is no-wonder this area around Sipidan Island is rated as a world-class dive site.IMG_4907

Some of the group had never seen such underwater wonders and it was a joy to witness the reactions, such as “I’m in a fish tank! “ and “how can this be real?”. Indeed, there were fish of every color, shape and size, like cigar fish that seemed to stand on their tails, bobbing up and down as they moved, parrott fish who you could hear munching on their lunches, lion fish and harlequin sweetlip fish, peacock rabbit fish and even a ray. You cannot help but respect the ocean after you have seen the wild beauty of a coral reef world.

I am so happy that Intrepid Travel, our travel company, chose Scuba Junkie’ Mabul Beach Resort as our place to stay, because on top of the beauty of the habitat, we got to learn about their excellent conservation work. Roan, their conservation manager, gave us an impromptu presentation on the challenges facing sharks due to shark finning and all that they are doing to help with Project AWARE. IMG_4897

We were so inspired, that late this afternoon we spent a few hours combing the beach for garbage. The island is challenged by this issue due to garbage washing in from the open sea, and to the many nomadic people who are currently living on the island. Scuba Junkie is working with them to do better when it comes to throwing away garbage – and it made me think of the challenges on my own street in Oakland, California – not so very different. Joining them in their beach clean-up efforts felt great.IMG_7871 IMG_7849

It is late and most of the group has lumbered off to bed. We spent the night in joyful competition with other divers in a trivia night that raised funds for the victims of the typhoon (we did not win). We also gave toasts to a wonderful expedition.  Toasts were made to the rain, to the orangutans, to the sun bears, to the leeches, to the ocean, to the forest, to our incredible luck at viewing wildlife, to the flying squirrels, to the inspiring people and to the feeling of having been part of something that only happens once in a lifetime. I toasted to Oakland Zoo, for employing me to help wildlife in Borneo and around the world and for allowing me to give others the gift of experiencing the wildlife first hand. It’s been another deep dive conservation expedition that changes lives.

 

Out to Sea with Sea Turtles

by | December 23rd, 2013

We spent last night in the town of Sandakan which used to be the capitol of North Borneo. It is nice to get needed provisions and have a good sleep. It was especially great that we all got to have dinner with Siew Te Wong, the founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and bombarded him with questions that he answered with humor and grace. We are very excited to spend time at the center later this week.

This morning we had an adventurous boat ride into the Sulu Sea to Turtle Island. Turtle Islands Park is located 40 km north of Sandakan and consist of tree islands, Pulau Selingaan, Pulau Bakkungaan Kecil and Pulau Gulisan. The park is known for its protection of the nesting of two endangered species of the sea turtle, the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the smaller hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). The two turtle species lay their eggs here year-round.

This afternoon was free beach time and everyone had a ball snorkeling in the clear waters and relaxing in the sand. As only 50 people can come to the conservation island per night, it was a peaceful and relaxing experience. We all got to see one of my favorite sea creatures, the Christmas tree worms, a very bright and colorful polycheates, or marine burrowing worm.IMG_7316

Finally, after dinner and a film about the program, the announcement was made, “It’s Turtle Time!”. We followed the turtle team into the night and onto the beach where a huge mama green turtle had crawled up and dug herself a trench. We watched in awe as she laid around 100 wet, white eggs that looked like ping pong balls.  The staff collected the eggs and took them to a hatchery, where they buried them and labeled the nest. This keeps them safe from feeding reptiles, or other turtle mamas laying their own eggs.IMG_7348

Next, we walked to the edge of the sea and lined up behind a drawn line in the sand, cameras at the ready. In the arms of the staff was a laundry basket filled with a new clutch of hatchlings. They squirmed about all over each other, waiting for the moment when they were let loose. The basket was gently tipped over, and out they scrambled. As a conservationist, I am not allowed to use the word “cute”, but WOW — it was hard not to pick one up and give it a kiss for good luck. Instead, we did get to steer a few wayward ones towards the sea, but in general, the 100 babies knew exactly where they were going.

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I am now writing by headlamp, Lovesong fast asleep. Another big day in Borneo! I can’t help but marvel over the wild miracles of nature. After those babies enter the big sea, they experience the “lost years”, and only 1% will survive long enough to return to lay eggs themselves. We were told they navigate through crystals  in their heads that work as a magnetic compass. These are the mysteries of nature. I couldn’t dream up more miraculous stuff.

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!

A Wild Night at the Movies

by | September 6th, 2013

zoovienights_bannerSky-high ticket prices, over-priced snacks, difficult parking and noisy customers—no wonder people often stay home from the movie theater these days. But who says going to the movies can’t still be fun? Now, you can bring the family to Oakland Zoo for a reasonably-priced evening of movies, snacks, and old-fashioned family fun.

Presenting Zoovie Nights, the new family-themed entertainment events at Oakland Zoo!

From 6:30 – 9:30 on select Friday and Saturday nights throughout the year, the Zoo is hosting nature and conservation-themed movies for families with kids 4-11 years old. So get the family car ready. But don’t worry about dressing up. Our guests are encouraged to come in their PJs and bring comfy blankets and pillows—whatever you need to feel at home here at the Zoo. We’ll provide the snacks (hot chocolate and fresh-popped popcorn, but you can also bring your own favorites.) Roosevelt the alligator (Oakland Zoo’s mascot) will be there in his own PJs to greet you and will be available so you can have your photos taken with him.

We’ll gather in the Marian Zimmer Auditorium located at our lower entrance, where you’ll also get the chance to meet a few of our small animals up close before the movie starts. Once you get settled in with your pillows, popcorn and drinks, it’s showtime!

Here’s the schedule we’ve got for you so far:

9/20 Antz
9/28 Mr. Poppers Penguins
10/11 Charlotte’s Web
11/15 Madagascar
12/20 Fantastic Mr. Fox
1/17 Horton Hears a Who
2/15 Madagascar 2
3/21 Rio
4/26 Fern Gully
5/30 Madagascar 3
6/28 Ice Age
8/30 Rango

Sounds like a pretty cool line-up, doesn’t it? There’s something for everybody. So if you and your family want a movie-going experience that you’ll never forget, come check out Zoovie Nights at Oakland Zoo. For program fees and other information, please see the link above or call our Education Reservations Associate at (510) 632-9525 ext. 220. We’ll see you at the movies… I mean Zoovies!

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!

 

 

Spring is in the Air

by | March 18th, 2013

With spring around the corner, mating season is picking up and the Zoo family is starting to grow. In the past month, Oakland Zoo has welcomed four new kids, three pups, a blue-bellied roller fledgling, and some blue spiny lizards, all of which have been born here at the Zoo.

Wait, whose kids are being kept at the Zoo? Well goat kids, of course. New comer goat resident, Annie, was in need of a home, so Oakland Zoo took Annie in to join the rest of the trip (group of goats). Zoo staff knew little about Annie’s history, Jeffrey and Cowboybut soon found out she was expecting. Oakland Zoo doesn’t normally breed goats because so many are already in need of homes. It’s very common for a goat to have one, two, or even three babies, called kids, but with much surprise to staff, Annie gave birth to four healthy kids. These are the first kids born at Oakland Zoo in over fifteen years. They have been a joy and a big hit to have around, and they are sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face. There are two boys and two girls named: Jeffrey, Cowboy, Maggie, and Norma Jean.

Next, the announcement came that three meerkat pups were born. This is also very exciting for the Zoo, since this is the first successful litter of pups in over a year. Since the meerkat mob has such an interesting hierarchy structure and infanticide is not uncommon, zookeepers have been keeping their distance when observing the mob. The pups do have names that are African in origin: Ayo, meaning joy, Rufaro (happiness), and Nandi (sweet). The mob is doing well and there are now a total of eight meerkats at Oakland Zoo. Keep your eyes open for these adorable six-week-old pups all over the internet, People Magazine, and even Good Morning America. Make sure you come out in person to take a look before they grow as big as the adults.

With all the fuzzy cuteness, one can’t forget the reptile and bird newborns as well. In the Aviary, two adult blue-bellied rollers gave birth to a baby. Blue-bellied rollers will eat flying insects in the wild, but get to enjoy a much more diverse diet at the Zoo that includes mealworms, crickets, hardboiled eggs, baby mice, and even small reptiles. They are often spotted in pairs and will nest in holes found in trees. Fledglings are able to fly within about four weeks. This lil’ one is doing well.

In the RAD room, there are more blue spiny lizards to add to the reptile family. This creature is very fascinating. They are ovoviviparous, which means that the mothers have eggs, but they do not get laid. Instead, the eggs stay in her body until they are ready to hatch, which then results in live birth. Once the male lizards mature, they will develop blue patches on their bellies and on the underside of the neck. This lizard is from the Southwest region of the US, but is closely related to the Western fence lizard, which can be found all over the Bay Area. Something that guests will often see on exhibit are the males displaying to the females by showing off their blue belly patches and bobbing their head. Another interesting fact about all reptiles is that their sex is determined based on which the temperature of the egg is incubated at, like mentioned in the spotted turtle hatchings blog a couple months back. Due to this, we know that most of the babies at the Zoo are male. Did you know Oakland Zoo has had over 200 blue spiny lizards born here since 2007? Where do they all go you ask? The answer is some stay here and some go to other AZA zoos and facilities across the US and Canada. There is much time and research that goes into this transfer process, but it has been very successful for the animals and organizations involved.

So there you have it – an update of the Zoo’s most recent baby bonanza. Make sure to stop by and visit soon before they grow up. You can also see pictures, videos, and new updates of the baby animals and all that Oakland Zoo is doing on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.