Posts Tagged ‘elephant’

Zena the ZooKeeper

by | March 27th, 2014

zena-the-zookeeperHey Kids! It’s springtime in the air and you know what that means? Oakland Zoo’s first Feast for the Beasts event of the year!  For those of you who might not know about Feast for the Beasts, let me tell you all about it!

Taking place every spring and summer, this event is special because you, (yes, you!) get to bring fruits and vegetables to the Zoo for our elephants to eat. And let me tell you, they definitely enjoy their yummy treats. Our four African elephants eat around 300 lbs. of food a day- that’s 1,200 lbs. every single day! So we ZooKeepers definitely look forward to getting help with their feeding on these special days. On Feast for the Beasts days (when it’s not RAINING), Zoo visitors get to spread all the fruits and veggies they brought with them around the elephant exhibit.  After that’s done, the visitors leave the exhibit and the elephants are let in to gobble up all those delicious, nutritious veggie goodies. It’s way cool to watch!  BUT, when it rains the ground inside the elephant exhibit gets really muddy and – the elephants LOVE mud – but those muddy conditions prohibit us from letting Zoo guests come inside the elephant exhibit to spread around the goodies. This Saturday, it looks like rain, so we’ll have to save the elephant experience for our next Feast for the Beasts, in July….

IMG_5007 [800x600]

Now, when July does come, let me tell you what kinds of fruits and vegetables to bring for the elephants! Elephants just LOVE carrots, apples, ripe bananas, kiwi, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, whole cabbage heads, celery stalks, sweet potato, pineapple, pomegranate, and oranges. An elephant can eat an entire watermelon in one mouthful – just look at the picture here from a past years’ Feast for the Beasts event! Oh, and if you do bring something to eat for the elephants, you’ll get a free ride ticket. Nothing ends a great day at the Zoo better than some fun in the Rides Area.

Aside from the awesome elephant experience, there will be animal feedings all over the Zoo. Want to see the tigers, lemurs, or even alligators get fed? Well, here’s your chance. Check out the schedule below and plan your day with us. Can’t wait for you to join us on March 29th for Feast for the Beasts at Oakland Zoo!

Zena the ZooKeeper

Have You Met our Beautiful African Elephants?

by | September 27th, 2013

zena-the-zookeeperDSC00426 [800x600]Did you know that Oakland Zoo is the only zoo in Northern California with African Elephants?  We have FOUR amazing African Elephants, three females and one male, and although they look similar, to us animal keepers their personalities are about as different as up and down.  As sweet and sour.  As football and bowling. As … well, you get the picture.

All of the girls come from Africa originally, but sadly, they became orphans and were sold to Zoos in the United States when their families were culled. Culling is the very controversial method of population management. They had sad and difficult beginnings in life, but now they all make one big happy family! We zookeepers do our very best to make sure of that each and every day – we love our elephants very much! All four have such unique and fun personalities, so what’s not to love?!

Osh, our only boy, is 19 and has been with us since 2004. He came from Howletts Wild Animal Park, where he was born with his family group. Young males in the wild get kicked out of their herd from ages 8-12, and that is what Osh’s mom and aunts started to do to him, so we gave him a home here at Oakland Zoo. Osh is extremely active, exploratory, and curious. He’s got a very lively and chipper walk, and he loves to play, browse and graze.

Donna is 34 years old and came to Oakland Zoo in 1989. She very quickly became the dominant female because she had the biggest attitude. She is the most playful out of the girls.  At nighttime you will find her having fun playing with the large tractor tires in her enclosure and charging into the pool for a cool-down! Personality-wise Donna is impatient, loves to participate in training, and is closely bonded with Lisa, whom she sleeps with every night. See how and why we train our elephants here!

Lisa is 36 years old and has been with us since she was two years old. She came from Kruger National Park in South Africa and went briefly to a “training” facility for several months then came to the zoo. Lisa is an ‘elephant’s elephant,’ she likes all of her pachyderm friends, and wants to make everyone happy. She loves her pool. We call her our water baby, because she will take daily dips if the weather is right! Want to see Lisa taking a bath? She is sneaky, agile, and can be very stubborn!

M’Dunda is 44 years old and came to us in 1991. She has a bad history of abuse at her previous facility; which is amazing because she is an extremely gentle soul and wouldn’t hurt a fly. She loves to play with Osh, and is often spotted at night leaning over the fence into Osh’s area, trunk-twirling with him. She can be a little insecure, and scared of new situations. When she first came here she wouldn’t eat her treat boxes! She sure does now, though! She also has long beautiful tusks.

All four of these wonderful beasts just love pumpkins, melons and pineapples. Come to our next “Feast For the Beast” event in the Spring and you can bring some produce and place them around the elephant habitat yourself!

Until next time, see you at the Zoo!

The Conservation Expedition Returns

by | August 29th, 2011

After three weeks in Uganda and Rwanda, our fifteen Oakland Zoo expeditioners safely returned. We had an epic adventure! This blog is a general overview – with detailed blogs to come.

Eco-travel with the Oakland Zoo Conservation team is a bit different than most safaris. We do go on safari, of course, but we give each safari, each activity, and each day a dose of authenticity – a genuine experience of African culture and conservation. Our participants join us because they are passionate about conserving wildlife, and our partnerships in these countries allow them to jump in and do just that.

We started at the Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre  in Entebbe with a hug and tour from Henry Opio, an animal keeper who spent time at the Oakland Zoo earlier in the year. We brought Henry and his crew a much needed  primate net that could be used for emergency capturing (apparently one monkey was quite the escape artist).

Onward, we spend some time with the Budongo Snare Removal Project . We walked through the gorgeous forest with the snare removal team, visited a school to exchange a few songs and dances, and listened to poetry written by their conservation club. We participated in an eye-opening meeting of ex-hunters who have renounced poaching to instead raise goats. A day I will never forget was when we set up a goat clinic for the participating villages. Under the leadership of Dr. Goodnight of the  Oakland Zoo and Dr. Carol of the Budongo project, we de-wormed over 300 goats!

The beautiful Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve and lodge were next, with cushy couches to take in views of the expansive savannah. Game drives were in an old-school open truck and delicious meals were served by lantern light at a giant dining room table.

The Kibale forest was our next adventure – and our crew enjoyed chimp treks and bird walks in the lush forests. Our special treat there was a visit to the Kibale Fuel Wood Project. It was inspiring to see how this innovative project protects forests. Highlights were attending their outdoor movie night, visiting their science center, dancing along with their talented dancers and learning how to make their colorful paper beads.

At Queen Elizabeth Park we lost count of the number of elephants, hippopotamus and birds we saw. Spending time with Dr. Ludwig Seifert, lion conservation expert, gave us insight into issues facing predators that live near pastoral communities. Seeing a pride of lions out in the bush and up in a tree was breathtaking.

We then crossed the border into Rwanda where our focus was the endangered Mountain Gorilla. Trekking to see these majestic great apes is a once in a life time experience – and spending time with the International Gorilla Conservation Project, the Mountain Gorilla Vet Project and the Virunga Artisans offered us the big picture once again.

We returned with more than great art and wildlife photos, but with great connections, insight and wisdom that can only be gained when you jump in!

The Launch of a Zoo Evolution: Quarters for Conservation!

by | August 18th, 2011

Visiting the Oakland Zoo may bring you a number of positive feelings. The feeling of connection when you spend time with family and friends, the feeling of awe when you learn about animals and their amazing adaptations, or the feeling of wonder when you gaze at a gorgeous elephant or tiger, but starting on August 19th, a new feeling should come over all our visitors: pride.

That is because of our new initiative, Quarters for Conservation. Each time a guest now visits the zoo, a twenty five cent conservation donation will be contributed in support of several Oakland Zoo conservation projects. With thousands of visitors each year, these quarters add up to a significant increase in the zoos capacity to support animals and habitats in the wild. Our slogan, “Saving Wildlife with Each Visit” about sums it up.

Guests will even determine where the funding goes. When you enter the zoo, you will be given a token. This token can be taken to the conservation voting station in Flamingo Plaza and used to “vote for” a conservation project that inspires you. Quarters are also accepted.

This year, you can vote to:

Help protect chimpanzees in Uganda through the Budongo Snare Removal Project. This project provides a solution to poaching by sponsoring forest guards, snare removers and educators, and by offering nanny goats to ex- poachers as an alternative source of food and income.

Help conserve African elephants in Kenya, through the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. This renowned program is aimed at increasing our knowledge of African elephants and ensuring their long-term conservation. Through their efforts, every elephant in Amboseli National Park has been identified, named, and studied.

Help keep the California condor alive and in the wild through the Ventana Wildlife Society Condor Project. This innovative project collects thin-shelled eggs laid by ill condors, and replaces them with viable captive-bred eggs, treats lead-poisoned birds, and monitors the safety and health of each condor through radio telemetry.

These projects will be featured until summer 2012, when three new projects will be chosen

As a community, we have a great power to not only enjoy the zoo and learn from the animals, but to genuinely help their plight in the wild. Quarters for Conservation represents a true shift in the ways zoos see themselves, and the way the public is beginning to view zoos; as true institutions for conservation action. Engaging you, the zoo visitor, in this evolution is very exciting.

Ready to change the world?

Elephants Love Trees, Pumpkins, & Produce

by | February 25th, 2011

Finally, the holidays are over and the Christmas trees (and pumpkins !) are coming to an end. This year we had two companies that generously donated and dropped off over four-hundred trees combined. This operation is a win-win

Donna chews on a Fraser Fir, her favorite! Photo by author.

situation for all as it saves the tree companies from having to deal with the leftovers and provides the zoo with lots of fun enrichment for the animals. After the animals are done with the trees they are hauled off in our green waste dumpster and re-used for wood chips.  We were able to be a little pickier this year as to what type of trees we accepted as the main animals that use the trees

M'Dunda savors the moment. Photo by author.

are the elephants and they have grown to be quite picky with their menu. We took about two-hundred small pine trees from Brent’s Christmas Trees, and over two-hundred Noble Firs from Simonous Quality Christmas Trees. The elephants prefer the Noble and Fraser Firs to the Douglas Fir. Maybe they like the strong fragrance of the previous two better? I don’t know for sure, I didn’t try them myself. They enjoy eating the bark off of the trunk and then stripping the needles off the branches. The keepers started off giving each elephant at least five trees a day, but if your mom gave you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich everyday wouldn’t you get tired of it too? So they don’t go after the trees with the same vigor they did in the beginning but there are only fifty or so left to feed out, thank goodness. Sometimes a little honey or jelly smeared on the branches helps! You’ll see the trees hanging as food or a scratching post in the elephant and giraffe exhibits, as a home for a bird in one of our aviaries, or as a treat hiding place for many of the other animals in the zoo, but only for a couple more weeks. So hurry and come visit us, especially while the sun is still shining!

Donna wraps her trunk around Osh. Photo by author.

Come and join us for our Feast for the Beasts daytime event on Saturday, March 26. The public is invited to donate produce to the animals. The first 250 people through the door get to place their produce inside the elephant exhibit before the hungry herd arrives. Come see how an elephant munches an entire watermelon. It’s definitely something kids love to see. Feast for the Beasts begins at 9:00am.

How Much Pumpkin Can an Elephant Eat?

by | December 23rd, 2010

Osh hopes to get a pumpkin suspended in a hay net.

Well it was another long and exhausting pumpkin season for Animal Keepers at the Oakland Zoo this year. Due to the rain this fall, our usual local patches didn’t have quite the numbers that they normally do so we drove a truck and trailer all the way out to Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm in Half Moon Bay to top off our supply just to make sure it will last through the spring.  There were lots of helping hands this year . . . literally. The Animal Management Department staff and volunteers generously gave their time throughout our “pumpkin run” days to help load and unload one by one over two thousand pumpkins. We can’t just dump them on the ground from the truck, or they will crack and rot, so they have to be carefully unloaded and placed on wooden pallets to ensure their safety. After three long and exhausting days, the animals are reaping the benefits. From decorative furniture, to puzzle feeders, to popsicles, everybody gets to share in the fun. If you missed out on Boo at the Zoo, not to worry, we’ll be giving our animals pumpkin enrichment

Keepers and volunteers help unload just a small portion of donated pumpkins.

for months to come. Oakland Zoo would like to say a huge thank you to all the patches that donated this year: Moore’s Pumpkin Patch, Pick of the Patch Pumpkins, Speer Family Farm, Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm, Piedmont Avenue Pumpkin Patch, and especially Alden Lane Nursery for donating pumpkins before Halloween for our annual Boo at the Zoo event. Stay tuned for Christmas tree enrichment fun . . .