Posts Tagged ‘goats’

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.

 

Internship Weeks 11 & 12: My last two weeks

by | October 2nd, 2012

Intern Stephanie Lo

These last two weeks conclude my summer internship at the Oakland Zoo. During my past three months as an intern, I’ve made popsicles for lemurs, I’ve given belly rubs to pigs, and I’ve befriended a goat. By the end of my summer, I have become familiar with zoo animal husbandry through my daily routine and through the intern classes. The Oakland Zoo’s intern program is an excellent opportunity to gain experience working with zoo animals.

Nubian goats in the Oakland Zoo’s contact yard.

Oftentimes, I work in the Children’s Zoo contact yard, where visitors brush and pet the plethora of sheep and goats. The yard houses five sheep, six Pygmy goats, four Nubian goats and one Boer goat. The Pygmy goats are particularly popular among the zoo’s children visitors because of the goats’ short stature and tolerant attitude. Working in the contact yard involves keeping the area clean while ensuring the safety of the visitors and animals. There is a retreat pen in the barn where goats and sheep can retreat, if they want some personal space from visitors.

Scarlet, one of the three cats, wearing a “Cat Bib” when she goes outside of the cat cottage.

Three long-haired cats named Billy, Cali and Scarlet live in the “cat cottage” adjacent to the Contact Yard. After feeding the goats and sheep in the morning, I usually let the cats outside into the Contact Yard and made sure they didn’t wander off. Whenever the cats roam outside, they wear “cat bibs” that are designed to prevent them from successfully catching birds. The bibs are supposed to inhibit their normal pouncing motion, and I think they’re quite the fashion statement.

As part of the animal husbandry, I brush Ginny with the FURminator before letting her out on exhibit.

Part of my routine is brushing Ginny, one of the rabbits before letting her out of the night house. She was slightly skittish the first time I brushed her, but soon after she relaxed and began munching on her hay. Rabbits shed quite a bit of hair, but the FURminator helped me loosen and remove the undercoat.

On Tuesday, I got the chance to spend a few hours working up at the giraffe barn. I helped fill containers with pellets and produce, while the giraffe intern hung up branches of browse. My absolute favorite moment was hand feeding carrots to Tiki, one of the zoo’s giraffes.

 

Tiki is one of the Oakland Zoo’s giraffes.

Summer is quickly coming to a close. Shortly, I’ll be back in college fighting sleep deprivation and jumping headfirst into fall quarter classes. In some ways, it seems like I’ve been interning for far more than three months; I can’t imagine not feeding breakfast to the lemurs or hearing the familiar bleating of the goats in the morning.

Internship Week 5: Pig Walking and Lemur Watching

by | August 15th, 2012

Intern Stephanie Lo

Throughout this week of my internship, I got to both learn more about operant conditioning and participate in training a few zoo animals.

 

We turn on a misting hose in the guinea hogs' exhibit on warm days.

The week began with walking Jason and Sara, the two Guinea Hogs, up to the Oakland Zoo‘s Veterinary Care Center to weigh them. Three other interns and I worked to harness them and continue the training we started last week. Two of us were in charge of delivering the reinforcement; in this case it was a variety of chopped produce. The other two held the leash, harness and clicker. It was important the rate of reinforcement was not too low or the Guinea Hogs might lose interest and turn to foraging. When training any animal, especially one that is as large and strong as a Guinea Hog, it is imperative to be alert to your animal. For instance, Sara is afraid of large and loud trucks so we remained aware of our surroundings while leaving the Children’s Zoo. In this week’s intern class on operant conditioning, I learned that escape is a primary reinforcer and permanent associations about something can last for years.

 

Patrick, one of the Nubian goats, in the main stall of the contact yard.

As part of the routine animal husbandry, zoo keeper Alan works with the goats and sheep to trim their hooves. During this week, I got to give out the reinforcement, which was food, to the sheep during the training session. Although the zoo keepers oftentimes use clickers to mark the behavior, Alan whistles instead because he uses both his hands to hold the animal’s leg and to hold the pair of hoof trimmers. The sheep appeared more skittish than the goats about hoof trimming. Alan had them stand on a mat during the training session, and he also worked to desensitize one of the sheep to touching its hind legs in preparation for the actual trimming part.

 

A ring tail lemur interacting with enrichment. The PVC connector stuffed with food and straw is a form of manipulative enrichment.

As I mentioned in my Week 2 blog post, the lemurs get daily enrichment, which I mark on the calendar. String 7 zoo keeper Liz organized the list of possible enrichment into categories, such as manipulative, environmental or sensory. Manipulative enrichment includes putting food into containers with holes so the lemurs have to manipulate the object to retrieve their meal. One day this week, I helped fill plastic PVC connectors with their lunch and straw. After doing a thorough scrub of the lemurs’ night house in the morning, the other interns and I did a little interior designing. We rearranged the “furniture” inside the night house, which is a form of environmental enrichment.

 

A ring tail lemur eating a piece of Romaine lettuce, one of the leafy greens in their diet.

A major part of this week included conducting observations of the lemurs. Depending on the type of observations, the time intervals range from every 30 seconds to every 2 minutes. Usually I pick an easily identifiable lemur to observe while another intern keeps track of the time. The categories on the observation sheet comprise of social behaviors, like huddling with another lemur or being groomed, and also of agnostic behaviors like marking with scent glands or chasing. The observations can be done any time of the day and inform the zoo keepers on how the lemurs interact with enrichment and with each other. The data collected can be used to make ethograms or to determine what percentage of the day a particular lemur does a certain activity.

 

One form of enrichment is scattering their diet throughout the grassy areas of the exhibit. Three of the ring tail lemurs foraging for their food and sunning themselves.

Stepping through ZAM: Day 5, Children’s Zoo Module

by | November 23rd, 2011
All Zookeepers are comedians. Well, that might not be true, but the three we have met so far have been a lot of fun to listen to. I guess you have to have a sense of humor if you are going to follow goats or bats around all day at the Oakland Zoo.
Zoo Org Chart
Tonight we heard about how animal management at our Zoo is organized. The animals are divided into Strings and a primary zookeeper is responsible for each String. The Strings usually, but not always, correspond to where the animals live in the Zoo.
This can result in some strange collections for a zookeeper to care for. For example, tortoises are in the same String as zebras. Hornbills are cared for by the same keeper as the chimps. Lemurs go with the rabbits. Who knew?
Each String has, at the very least, a primary and a relief keeper plus a floating keeper who roams from one String to the next as needed. The elephants make up a string all by themselves and it takes four full-time keepers to manage their daily pedicures and all their other needs.
Margaret Rousser, who supervises the nine keepers related to the Children’s Zoo introduced us tonight to our River Otters and Bats.
Margaret Rousser, Zoological Manager
Our Zoo is part of the AZA Population Management Plan (PMP) for River Otters. The  two otter pups born here last spring, were the result of the AZA deciding that our otters had the right genetic strains to breed.
When Tallulah and Ahanu are at least a year old they likely will move to another AZA-accredited zoo to carry on the PMP program there. This is the way species are preserved in Zoos. There are dozens of these programs in operation throughout our Zoo.
Our River Otter pups
Did you know that animals raised by their own parents become better parents to their own offspring? Our otter pups were taken care of so well by their mom that our staff couldn’t even hold them at 12 weeks: they were just as wild as if they had been born on a riverbed somewhere. They are trainable, so that they can be cared for by our staff, but will never be tame and that’s what we all want. AZA zoos freely give each other animals so that species can be preserved.
Flying Foxes (AKA Fruit Bats)
Our Fruit Bats represent only two of over 1000 species of bats in the the world. The Malayan Flying Foxes,  our largest, have a wingspan of up to 6 feet. The Island Flying Foxes are smaller and sometimes visitors think they are babies. They aren’t, and we won’t be having any because all our bats are male.
An Island Flying Fox
Bats have fruit, heat and teddy bears to make them happy here. The toys were the creative idea of their keepers concerned that the  males were having trouble controlling themselves during mating season and this was causing injuries. When they were given stuffed toys, they all “bonded” with the bears instead of each other. We give our bats a temperature-controlled house for them to go in and out of, a huge aviary, and a balanced diet that they have to be tricked to eat. They love fruit, so we toss it in a sauce made of veggies and powdered vitamins. Fruit Bats are ideal for zoos because they are active in the daytime. Insect Bats would be pretty boring to watch because they go hunting at night and sleep all day.
Life in the Contact Yard
The animals in our contact yard (sometimes called the petting zoo) were introduced to us by Liz Abram, their keeper. It’s the only place in the Zoo where people can touch the animals, so we future docents needed some tips to pass along to the kids. It’s all about safety: don’t pet a goat’s head because he will butt you, wash your hands after petting the animals or being in the yard, don’t pick up stuff off the ground, wear shoes.
Here are just a few fun facts from Liz’s presentation:
Goats are social, Sheep are shy. Sheep can’t raise their tails, but goats can, and goats have beards which our sheep don’t. Sheep that shed are used for meat. Sheep that are used for wool don’t shed and have to be shorn. We have the shedding kind and brush them regularly. The wool that is brushed off gets used in other animal’s enclosures for sensory enrichment.
Our Pygmy Goats aren’t pregnant, they are just built that way. They have a two-chambered stomach like cows and they’re stocky because they were bred for meat.
Nubian Goats have long ears for the same reason rabbits do: to regulate their body temp. Elephant ears function the same way. So do horns on animals, surprisingly.
Long ears help keep the Nubian Goat cool.
The ears and horns are loaded with blood vessels that, being so close to the surface, allow the blood to be cooled as the ears are flapped or the horns run through a breeze.
Guinea Forest Hogs are a rare domestic breed and there are only about 200 left in the world. We have two of them.
Our puppy and kittens are new to the Zoo and in training to be Pet Ambassadors to kids who might be fearful of dogs or cats or might not have the chance to have their own pets. Our instructor, Sarah, predicts that Lily Rae, our Golden Retriever pup, will soon become kids’ most popular animal in the Zoo.
Lily Mae, Puppy Ambassador
Saving the few Lemurs that are left
All Lemurs come from Madagascar and, because of habitat destruction and hunting, are highly endangered. They have already lost 90% of their home turf.
Our Ring-Tailed Lemurs are part of the AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSPs actively keep endangered species going in captivity with as much genetic diversity as possible.
The little Blue-Eyed Black Lemurs are the only primates besides humans that have blue eyes.
Like Elephants and Meerkats, Lemurs live in matriarchal societies. The young males are kicked out of their family group when they are old enough to mate to prevent inbreeding.
This Ring-Tailed Lemur backs down a tree like it’s a fire pole.

To merge with another tribe, male Lemurs have to move in on another male’s turf and they do this by conducting Stink Wars—an amusing but peaceful way of establishing dominance. They have musty scent glands on their wrists that they rub against their tails and then they flash their tails at each other to see who has the strongest smell. The winner gets the females and a chance to breed. I’m guessing the loser is grossed out and takes a hike.

The island country of Madagascar has one of the most diverse animal populations on earth, yet species are disappearing every day. If you’d like to learn more about Lemurs and the other animals being pushed off the planet by population explosion and tree-cutting, start here.
You can help rainforest animals by using only paper and wood with the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification which assures it came from a sustainable forest. The Oakland Zoo uses FSC wood or wood substitutes whenever possible.
Tonight’s homework is to explore what pets are and aren’t—300 words minimum. Better get started. While I’m doing that, you can be thinking: What is a pet?
Talk to you Saturday,
Franette