Posts Tagged ‘animals’

New Spotted Hyena Trio Joins the Zoo Family

by | January 22nd, 2013

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Most of us were probably first introduced to the hyena from the classic Disney movie, The Lion King. Who could forget the goofy spotted hyena trio, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed who served as Scar’s followers? Although this was an animated movie created for entertaining people of all ages, there are actually some striking similarities between the spotted hyena trio in the movie and the new spotted hyena trio at the Oakland Zoo.

First off, this new trio of spotted hyenas came to us through the Berkeley Hyena Center, where a team of UC Berkeley researchers were studying a large colony. The Oakland Zoo’s Director of Animal Care, Conservation, and Research heard about this research program possibly facing funding cuts and jumped on the opportunity to make the Zoo a permanent home for these spotted hyenas.

Like the trio of hyenas in The Lion King, the Zoo’s is also made up of one female and two males and happens to be the same species of hyena (there are four different species). This is fitting considering spotted hyenas are matriarchal, meaning females dominate the group and are also larger in size than males. Our female hyena is named Harley and the males are Tusker and Ozzie. One might look at the hyena and instantly compare it to man’s best friend, the canine. However, hyenas are actually more closely related to the cat (Felidae) family than the dog (Canidae) family. Also contrary to popular belief, newhyena1_emilydeneshyenas do not just scavenge or steal their food from other predators, but in fact, are decent hunters themselves and often have larger predators, such as the lion, stealing prey from them. Unlike the movie in which the hyenas communicate and serve a lion, Scar, the two species are actually opponents in the wild. These animals have really strong jaws that are actually able to crush through bone. As far as that unique hyena laugh goes, it is used when the animal is anxious or uncomfortable. Last, but not least, the spotted hyena is a crepuscular animal which means they are most active during dusk or dawn and spend a lot of their day sleeping.

The spotted hyena is a very unique animal and Zoo staffers, visitors, and media outlets have greatly enjoyed watching these new additions thus far. So gather the kids and come on down to the Oakland Zoo and visit Harley, Tusker, and Ozzie in the African Village.

What Measure A1 Means for Tortoises

by | October 18th, 2012

Aldabra tortoises are among the largest in the world – sometimes weighing in at over 500 pounds! Anyone who has spent any amount of time with them will tell you that each one has a distinct and very interesting personality. In fact as a zookeeper, one of my favorite animals to introduce visitors to is the tortoises because I never get tired of seeing people fall in love with them.
The Oakland Zoo has six Aldabra tortoises ranging in age from 40 years old to more than 100 years old! Gigi – one of our middle aged tortoises (she’s about 80 years old) received a wound on her shell last year after one of the male tortoises was little rough in his mating ritual. Turtle shells take a VERY long time to heal and require x-rays to monitor the progress. Just try x-raying through the shell of a giant tortoise. It’s not easy and requires very special equipment -the type of equipment that we haven’t had on zoo grounds.
Last year, in order to monitor Gigi’s progress, we had to take her all the way to UC Davis where she could have a CT scan on their larger and stronger equipment. The scan showed us that our treatment was working, but now it is time to check on her again.
Moving a giant tortoise is no easy feat! It requires several people to lift and move her. Then we need a van that she will fit in and it has to have climate control because reptiles are ectothermic. Of course, it is also stressful on her to be removed from her group, make a two hour drive to Davis, be put into a large machine for the scan and drive two hours back to the Zoo afterwards. That’s a pretty crazy day for a tortoise.
If Measure A1 passes this November, our new veterinary hospital will be outfitted with a brand new high powered x-ray machine – one that will be capable of going through a giant tortoise shell. This means that Gigi will have a five minute drive to the hospital and be finished in less than an hour – rather than taking a full day! A great deal less stressful for her, which means improved animal welfare!

Gigi says “Vote YES” on Measure A1!

What Measure A1 means for Baboons

by | October 15th, 2012

In Africa, Hamadryas baboons are called Sacred baboons because they were once worshipped in Egypt. Six Hamadryas baboons currently call the Oakland Zoo their home, but until this year, there were only five. We brought in Daisy, an elderly female, from another zoo after her mate passed away. Many Zoos would not have taken on the burden of an elderly animal with so many health problems, but that is what makes the Oakland Zoo different.

Daisy came to us with a host of age related medical problems. Like many elderly animals (and people), she has arthritis and requires daily medication with anti-inflammatories to make her comfortable. She also gets a glucosamine supplement to ease the strain on her joints. In addition, she needed some pretty extensive dental work when she arrived, so we brought in the experts from UC Davis’ Veterinary Medical School three times to perform the procedures.

None of this care is low cost, but here at the Oakland Zoo we take our responsibilities to the animals very seriously. The welfare of all the animals is our top priority. Getting great medical care means many animals are outliving their normal expected lifespan, which requires even more care. Daisy is 31 years old. The youngest baboon in our group is 22 years old, this means we have an aging group of animals who are going to continue to need geriatric care. If Measure A1 passes, we can continue to provide the high level of care to all of our Sacred baboons as they reach their golden years. Please consider voting “YES” on Measure A1 this November.

What Measure A1 means for….Bats!

by | September 25th, 2012

Did you know there are more than a 1000 different species of bats? Oakland Zoo has two of the largest species, the Island Flying Fox and the Malaysian Flying Fox. Both are diurnal fruit eating species and as the names suggest, they come from the Islands of Malaysia and Indonesia. Caring for species from all over the world means that many of them are not adapted to our Bay Area weather, so days that feel warm to us, may feel chilly to tropical or desert animals. Days that are cold for us, may feel warm to arctic or high altitude animals.

Flying Foxes are no different; their bodies are adapted to warm, humid, tropical weather. They find our summers pleasant, but winters are just a touch too cold for them! To combat this problem, zookeepers maintain large night quarters which are kept at a constant 75 degrees. This way, our bats are kept warm and comfortable no matter what the Bay Area brings us. However, bats also love sunshine (who doesn’t!) and spend a great deal of their daylight hours outside basking during the summer. In the winter, they are frequently unable to go outside even on sunny days due to the cold temperatures. If Measure A1 passes, the zoo will be able to provide outdoor heating sources for the bats in the winter, so they can bask in the sunlight and stay toasty warm no matter how cold it is outside. The zoo will be able to provide the best of both worlds and maintain a high standard of care and welfare.

Please consider voting “Yes” on Measure A1 on November 6th.

Red Hot Deals on Summer Programs Now!

by | August 3rd, 2012

In case you haven’t heard, Oakland Zoo is offering a limited time discount on many of its popular community programs. From now until the end of August, you can get a 25% off when you sign up for Zoomobile and ZooSchool presentations. It turns out that there is extra space on the Zoo’s event calendar this summer, so we’re offering this great deal. And, summer is the perfect time to schedule a fun-filled animal presentation for your school, camp, or youth group.

What sort of fun is awaiting with Oakland Zoo community program? For starters, there’s our Zoomobile program, which has been a big hit  for many years. With the help of one of our experienced Education Specialists, you’ll get the opportunity to see a variety of small animals up-close  and personal at your school, library or home. You’ll learn how these fascinating creatures live and how they fit into the wondrous web of life. You’ll even get the chance to touch these animals: everything from turtles, lizards and snakes, to hedgehogs and chinchillas—even cool giant millipedes.  Zoomobile is a great way to learn about animals in a fun, informal setting.

And with the ZooSchool program, you bring your class or group to the Zoo for a full day of adventure. Your Education Specialist will greet you and escort you to a classroom where they will introduce the special theme of your presentation. Then you’ll venture out into the Zoo to explore and see our many exotic animals on a guided tour. Afterwards, you return to the classroom to wrap up and review the day’s activities. After your program has ended, you can head back into the Zoo to eat a picnic lunch or go back to visit animals until your departure time. ZooSchool gives your class or group a great way to experience Oakland Zoo.

Programs are offered Monday through Friday from 10am – 3pm. Presentations are designed for a wide range of age groups: from pre-K through 8th grade, as well as programs geared specifically for seniors. Registrations will be taken on a first come/first served basis until all the spaces are filled. It’s easy to book one of our popular animal-themed programs and take advantage of these great savings. Contact our Education Reservations Associate at 510-632-9525 x220. See you at the Zoo! Oakland Zoo…It’s Your Zoo.

Behind-the-Scenes: Animal Commissary

by | May 2nd, 2012

Zoo Ambassador Franette Armstrong is taking us backstage in this new blog series.

 

 

 

 

Iron Chefs step aside…your challenges are nothing compared to the daily mission of feeding over 400 animals of 160 different species two to three meals a day.

And you think combining tripe with chocolate is a problem? Try satisfying omnivores who need a dozen different foods in different amounts plus nutritional supplements and snacks!

Chris Angel, primary commissary keeper, demonstrates the three different ways fish is cut up for different birds who need it to resemble what they’d find in nature.

 

 

That’s Logistics

Chris Angel is one of a team of commissary keepers who are in charge of making all this happen.  The commissary team translates the requirements of the Zookeepers into orders from suppliers and then makes sure every area of the Zoo has exactly what they need when they need it. Oh…and they have a food budget to worry about, just like any of us.

Chris’ background? After college he learned management in a factory and butchering in a meat department and volunteered for us. Then he entered the Zoo’s Internship program and before he knew it…he was on staff.

Career advice: “Degrees are valuable, but so is experience. My advice to anyone wanting a job here is to get involved with volunteering,” he said. “Don’t give up. Just keep on coming.”

 

Two full- and two part-time staff, plus volunteers and interns, work multiple shifts preparing the food every single day of the year. Yes, even Thanksgiving and Christmas

 

AIRline Food

To give you a sense of how complex the diets of our animals are, check out this food prep schematic for our birds:

The colors in the chart represent trays and for each tray there’s a list of ingredients ranging from “Flamingo Fare” or “Pretty Bird” to fresh fruit and cooked vegetables. Some require a little romaine lettuce or meat. What turns Flamingos pink? Beta Carotene from shrimp in their food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Megan Frye, Night Keeper, prepares the trays for birds according to the detailed schematics.

 

 

 

 

 

This is where the bird trays end up...in one of our many aviaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picky Eaters…and Keepers

The Zookeepers help design the animal diets in collaboration with our veterinarians and Animal Care management staff. Once a diet is set, all three have to be involved in any changes to it. When the ingredients are finalized, the Commissary takes over and is responsible for obtaining all the food and nutritional supplements.

“A third of all the animal food is prepared here in the Commissary. The rest is prepared at the animal enclosures from the ingredients we supply,” Chris explained. “The hardest part of our job is not making the food, it’s satisfying the high standards of the animals and their Keepers.”

This is one meal for five Tigers. Animal Management staff and volunteers will divvy it up into individual servings.

 

Take an Elephant’s diet as an example: they mostly get hay and “browse” (leafy branches) but also get four buckets of chopped produce each day. The Keepers spread most of the food around the exhibit to give them the challenge of finding it.

Everything—even lettuce-- has to be cut to a predetermined size so it takes the animals longer to find and eat their food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Constant Supply

The Zoo keeps two weeks worth of essential supplies on hand at all times, just to be sure the animals won’t go hungry in an emergency. Beyond that, just-in-time orders are placed with local feed stores, and produce and veterinary distributors who, in turn, stock a supply of what we are going to need so that they have it when our orders arrive.

 

In the Animal Commissary there is an entire wall of kibble bins plus huge jars and barrels of food like birdseed and popcorn (no butter or salt and used only for snacks).

A big part of our animals’ diet is fresh fruits and vegetables and nothing less than human-grade will do. “If we wouldn’t eat it, they don’t get it,” Chris said.

To help meet the ongoing need for fresh produce we rely heavily on donated food. Grocers like Safeway, US Food Service, and AL Lunardi and Sons contribute hugely along with Niman Ranch and Prather Ranch. In addition,  growers, hunters, fishers and home gardeners donate boxes of meat, bones and fresh fruits and vegetables daily.

Volunteers sort the food and store it in coolers or freezers until its needed. Our Chimps get apples, and oranges plus three other fruits like berries and melon. Elephants get potatoes with their fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

Even California Fish and Game and Caltrans get into the act when they find a newly killed deer or turkey. “As sad as that sounds, animals like our Tigers and Hyenas need a variety of hoofstock and large bones.” At least this valuable food doesn’t go to waste.

We never take predator animals from these sources, however, because they can carry bacteria and viruses our Lions and Tigers are susceptible to and they are more likely to have been poisoned. Safety first.

Our utensil board rivals the famous Julia Child’s, though she probably didn’t have hacksaws on hers.

 

Fun Food

Yes, even Zoo animals appreciate a treat or a snack, and just like kids, they enjoying playing with their food. An important but fun job of the Commissary staff and Zookeepers is coming up with new ways to stimulate the senses and appetites of our animal residents.

“You wouldn’t want to eat the same thing everyday, and neither do our animals,” says Chris.

Popsicles are a huge hit with the apes, lemurs and elephants. Sun bears love to scoop peanut butter out of the bottom of jars with their long tongues, so we volunteers bring our leftovers in for them.

 

Our elephants will spend hours licking a popsicle like this one that’s made of fruit juice and then stuffed with fruits and kale. Once out of its container, the popsicle on its embedded rope will hang from a tree branch.

 

Out in nature food has to discovered or caught, so we try to bring some of that challenge into the animals’ daily lives. Keepers hide snacks or intriguing herbs in cardboard tubes. Interns and volunteers dye berries and grapes different colors and freeze them to spice up dinner trays.

The snack bar section of one of the freezers is home to some strange- looking treats. The ones with the ropes are for animals without hands.

 

 

These carrot popsicles will soon make an Otter or Meerkat a happy camper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specialty Foods

Chris purchases exotic bird kibble, Marmoset Jelly and other prepared foods that are not easily replicated in our kitchen so that every animal’s dietary needs are met. Even ground beef comes from a veterinary food distributor because our tigers and lions not only require the meat, but also parts that  human hamburger doesn’t contain. The whole point is to closely replicate their diet in the wild.

Animals such as our Boas, which in nature consume live prey, are fed frozen mice here because catching food on the move is dangerous to the predator—it fights back—and we don’t want our animals injured. We defrost it for them before serving time—cold-blooded animals want warm food.

Live mealworms, crickets and goldfish are the only exception to the fresh and frozen meat we serve. They provide exercise and stimulation as well as nutrition to our otters, frogs and insects.

 

 

 

But this is not to say that people-food isn’t on the menu. In addition to their fresh food, our animals are given fig newtons (they are great for hiding vitamins and pills), gelatins, baby food, powdered sports drinks, spices and many other packaged foods you would recognize on your own pantry shelves.

Does this look somewhat like your own pantry? These foods are expensive so some of our wonderful volunteers go shopping weekly with their own money just so the animals can have them as treats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to Help Feed the Animals?

As you can see, feeding time at the Zoo is a community effort: It requires a huge quantity and variety of ingredients all the time and we rely on donations.

The Commissary will gratefully accept donations that are pesticide free.

If you are a fisher, hunter, or butcher, we may be able to use your  fresh or frozen overstock and raw bones.

If you’re an organic farmer, gardener, arborist or grape grower—or have friends who are—the animals would love your excess vegetables, fruits and nuts. The one thing none of our animals will eat is lemons and limes, which is a shame since so many of us have trees loaded with them.

If you are interested in donating give us a call Chris Angel at 510-632-9525 x 215.

Someone carved and donated a pumpkin “condo” to make our Meerkats’ day.

Flowers in your yard? Pick a bouquet for our animals. Most of our animals  would love your pesticide-free nasturtiums, roses, and dandelions.

Pruning your shrubs? We can take certain types of branches and leaves for our Giraffes, Goats and Zebra. Go to this page or call to find out if yours are edible.

Where to take donations? Small amounts can be dropped at our front gate. Even a few peaches or carrots are appreciated. For larger donations (bin size or more or frozen food), call Chris Angel at 510-632-9525 x 215 to arrange a drop-off.

 

 

We thank Steve Goodall, a local nature photographer,  for volunteering to take, and allow us to use, the photos for this article.