Posts Tagged ‘Family Fun’

Discover a New Species of Birthday Parties!

by | August 5th, 2011

Hey parents! Your kid’s birthday’s coming up, isn’t it? You need to plan that party. But maybe you’re tired of the same old bounce castle and party game routine. Perhaps you’ve been trying to think of a new and unique way to help them celebrate their birthday this year. With the Oakland Zoo’s ZooMobile program, you can give your child a memorable birthday party that he or she will be talking about with their friends for a long time to come. After all, how often do you get to touch wild animals in your own home?!

Great Horned Owl

Accommodating a group of up to 25 people, the Oakland ZooMobile comes to your own home with several kid-size critters for a fun, educational experience that your child and his friends will love. Led by one of the Zoo’s experienced education specialists, this entertaining and informative program lasts a full 45 minutes. This allows plenty of time to see, touch and learn about four or five of our animals, such as hedgehogs, chinchillas, lizards, snakes and cool big bugs. There’s always an interesting mix of native and exotic species. As our School Programs Manager, Sarah, likes to say, “We try to bring you one fuzzy, one prickly, one scaly and one buggy.” Specific themes are also available. If you like, you can request an all-reptile presentation (Hooray for Herps), Creatures of the Night, Amazing Adaptations, or one that deals exclusively with the fascinating world of insects, such as walking sticks, millipedes and tarantulas (Invertebrate Invasion).

Bearded Dragon

With the kids seated in a circle, the animals are brought out one at a time. Here, in a comfortable home setting, the kids learn about the physical adaptations that make each of these animals successful, the kinds of things that they eat and various behaviors that they display. Everyone who’s interested will have the opportunity to touch each of them. There’s also plenty of time for the kids to ask any questions they might have. Our enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff members are always ready to share their love of animals with everyone.

But there’s more. Included in the presentation is a gift bag filled with animal-themed items for each child in attendance as well as a special gift for the birthday

Touching a Turtle


So if this sounds like a great new way to celebrate your child’s birthday, sign up today for a ZooMobile birthday party in your own home. Who knows, someone in that crowd of little faces who’s touching a wild animal for the first time may be a future zookeeper or wildlife scientist!

For more information, including fees and other policies, please check out the Birthday ZooMobile webpage on the Oakland Zoo website.




Zoo-to-Community Is Spreading Its Wings

by | November 4th, 2010

There’s Big News happening with the Zoo-To-Community program (ZTC) here at the Oakland Zoo. The program just received its first big grant for schools outside of Oakland! Since its inception three years ago, the Zoo-To-Community (ZTC) program has offered vouchers for free Zoo admission and access to programs such as ZooSchool, ZooMobile, ZooSchool Discovery and Zoo field trips to local residents who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

ZTC Kids at the Zoo

And now, thanks to the generosity of the East Bay Community Foundation, funds are available to reach West Contra Costa County. That’s definitely good news for Richmond Title 1 elementary schools, (where 75% or more of the kids are on the free lunch program) child development centers, and Head Start schools. Head Start, as you may know, is a national program that promotes school readiness. The Title 1 program provides funding to school systems for students at risk of failure and living at the poverty level.

During these last three years, ZTC has been steadily expanding. Through the use of mailings to school principals, the word has been spreading, and more schools have been getting involved. Participation has quadrupled in the last year alone, enabling the program to reach an impressive 16,000 people, including 13,000 school-age children.

Grants from donor organizations are a big part of the Zoo-To-Community program. In a typical year, ZTC receives half a dozen such grants, ranging from $2,000 to $15,000 a piece, from supporters such as First 5, Bechtel, Clorox, Wells Fargo, The Junior League, and the Rogers Foundation. So the East Bay Community Foundation’s grant for $ 15,000 represents a substantial part of ZTC’s financial backing for the year.

Up Close with a Turtle

What all this financial business boils down to is this: last year we had the most funding ever for bus transportation. Up

Touching a Hedgehog

till now, the biggest headache for ZTC– the one thing that’s kept the program from achieving its full potential has been transportation. Oakland is one of the few major cities that doesn’t have its own school bus system. Even with free Zoo admission, many people simply had no way to get here. So the program’s resources weren’t being fully utilized. But now, thanks in large measure to the East Bay Community Foundation’s Grant, that’s all changing.

All of this is exciting news for Zoo-To-Community Coordinator Sarah Powers, who has derived great satisfaction from being able to offer the benefits of the Oakland Zoo to a whole new segment of the East Bay community. Ms. Powers, who’s been in charge of ZTC for the past year and a half, says she looks forward to continued expansion of the Zoo-To-Community program in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. So if you’re eligible for ZTC, get on the bus and check out the Oakland Zoo!

Baby Eland Makes Debut

by | May 12th, 2010

Baby Eland with Mom. Photo by Julie Hartell-Denardo

It’s been nearly 30 years since the Oakland Zoo has experienced the joy of an eland birth, so keepers were very excited on April 21st when after a 9 month gestation, one of our young female eland, Etana, gave birth to a healthy female calf.  Etana began her labor in the early afternoon and almost exactly 3 hours later she gave birth to her first calf, a daughter named Bali.  Eland have extremely precocious young and Bali was up on all 4 feet and nursing within 30 minutes of being born!

Common eland are a species that “tucks” during the first 10 to 14 days after birth, with calves lying extremely still and hidden in vegetation to hide from predators.  For the first week Bali spent most of the day hidden, curled up in a tiny little ball in a big straw bed.  She would stand to nurse and play and then immediately “tuck” herself right back into her favorite hiding spot.  Common eland calves grow very quickly, due in large part to the nutritiously rich milk provided by their mother.  Eland milk is twice as fattening as the milk of domestic cattle!  We have been immensely enjoying this great privilege of having a front row seat to Bali’s growth and development.  At just 3 days old we saw her learn how to coordinate the movement of all 4 legs as she began bucking, running, and leaping about.  As a prey species, eland calves have to develop very quickly. At just 6 days old we saw Bali start to munch her first solid food, sampling the fresh weeds picked for her and her mom.  As the days passed Bali showed great coordination, hopping about and cornering on a dime, and she stopped hiding and began following her mother throughout the day.

When she was 13 days old we decided it was time to introduce her to the big exhibit and the rest of her animal family.

Giraffe and Baby Eland. Photo by Julie Hartell-Denardo

Bali ventured onto the Veldt to meet the rest of the eland herd, her aunties Bella and Kashka, as well as our Dama Gazelle, Bhoke.  Leaving the nursery area and moving to the big exhibit was filled with firsts for Baby Bali.  She had room to run, waterfalls and pools to explore, rocks to climb, and many other big adventures!  Bali demonstrated the eland’s remarkable running speed and agility while galloping and leaping across the Veldt with her herd.  Adult eland have been clocked running at speeds up to 42mph, and can easily jump heights of over 5 feet.  At 14 days old Bali was introduced to the giraffe and she did very well!  The younger giraffe spent some time investigating and chasing her, curious about this new baby, but after some initial fireworks everyone is getting along splendidly.

Bali Takes off into a Run. Photo by Julie Hartell-Denardo

On your next trip to the zoo visit us on the African Veldt and enjoy this unique opportunity to see some great natural behaviors in our eland herd, as well as some fascinating interactions between different species.   Please come by Oakland’s own mini safari and help us welcome our newest little addition!

Keepers Amy and Sara

Watch an Elephant Munch a Watermelon

by | February 24th, 2010

African Elephant Enjoys a Watermelon. Photo credit Nancy Filippi

I remember arriving to work bright and early on a Saturday morning. It was 8:00am, caffeine hadn’t even taken affect, yet the parking lot of the Oakland Zoo was packing up with people. I scanned the lot and smiled as I watched children who could barely hold their excitement start to line up. Brown bags of groceries were accompanied by parents drinking Starbucks, giddy girls, and babbling boys.

Guests Donating Produce to Feast for the Beasts Event

Guests Donating Produce to Feast for the Beasts. Photo by Adam Fink

They were at the Zoo early for Feast for the Beasts: A day when the public can donate produce to the Oakland Zoo animals. Feast for the Beasts makes me laugh, because it is so much fun to be a staff member and people watch. The first 250 guests through the gate get a ticket, some might say it’s a “Golden Ticket,” and actually get to go inside the elephant exhibit, before the hungry herd, to place their produce in nooks and crannies throughout the enclosure. It’s a special moment to see kids with tomatoes, watermelons, apples, carrots, grapes, and cucumbers. The children really get a kick out of hiding treats. After the produce is all in place and the public has cleared the exhibit, the pacaderms go after their grub. You can actually see an elephant munch down an entire watermelon in a couple of bites. The crowd roars and kids cheer in delight, during this popular produce event.

Little Girl Placing a Carrot into the Elephant Exhibit

Little Girl Places a Carrot into the Elephant Exhibit for Feast for the Beasts. Photo by Amber Frisbie

If you have never experienced Feast for the Beasts, mark your calendar now for 9:00am Saturday, March 27. And, remember to arrive early! The first 250 guests will receive “golden tickets” for the elephant exhibit. Watch special animal feedings throughout the day, see live entertainment, and participate in family friendly activities. The Oakland Zoo welcomes produce donations for all of our animals. This event is included with general admission. For more information, check out our website

Guests Wait for the Elephants to Come Out During Feast for the Beasts Event. Photo by Margaret Rousser