Posts Tagged ‘Oakland Zoo’

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!

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!

Our Beautiful Macaws and Why They Need Enrichment

by | September 6th, 2013

IMG_4963Oakland Zoo’s Animal Care, Conservation, and Research team has the privilege and challenge of providing our animal residents with an enriching, well-balanced life and advocating for the conservation of their wild counterparts.

The zoo’s flock of Blue and Gold Macaws recently got a healthy dose of extra enrichment.  The ACCR team combed through a handful of creative ideas to give the Macaw Exhibit a new, fresh look.  In addition to replacing some of the wood perching that had suffered significant wear-and-tear from years of the Macaws using them to keep their beaks sharp and strong, the team also added two twenty foot sections of rope.  The rope is a novel perching surface in this exhibit.  It will not only give our Blue and Gold Macaws something new and fun to play with, but it will also help keep their little feet healthy.  With some resourceful alterations to the ends of the rope, the Keepers are able to move the ropes to different angles whenever they please.  This way the birds get a bit of a “different look” with their perching without the keepers having to make any permanent rearrangements.

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The fun doesn’t stop there though!  The team recycled some cargo netting and stretched it out between some perching to support brand new bird baths.  Just like the native songbirds that like to bathe in the little puddles in your yard, Macaws and other Parrots love to keep themselves clean too.

But one may wonder…why?  Why do our Blue and Gold Macaws deserve this special treatment?

Macaws are smart.  Macaws are REALLY smart and curious.  It is this very characteristic that makes them coveted as pets.  Ironically, it is also what makes them inappropriate as a pet.  Meeting the behavioral and enrichment needs of these incredibly smart birds is difficult. 2013_0831 P B on new perches 2 A behaviorally unhealthy bird may become aggressive, destructive, or even sick.

Add to this the fact that Blue and Gold Macaws can live for over 60 years, and the bird often becomes an unbearable burden even for well-intentioned owners.  In fact, the four Blue and Gold Macaws in the Zoo’s collection came from such circumstances.  The Keepers responsible for the daily care of our Macaws are tasked with keeping them behaviorally and medically sound.  Having flexible and varied perching options will help immensely with this goal.

Next time you visit the zoo, be sure to swing by our Macaw Exhibit.  Check out the innovative rope perching and bird baths and see if you can spot all the other enrichment that may be hanging around the exhibit.  But most importantly, make sure you walk away with a better appreciation for our conservation message – while Blue and Gold Macaws are a breathtaking, charismatic bird, the needs of the individual birds and the sustainability of the entire species are best accomplished by discouraging their role in the pet trade.

Happy Birthday Mokey!

by | August 30th, 2013

This Sunday Oakland Zoo’s youngest zebra celebrated her 17th birthday! Mokey was born on August 18, 1996, the daughter of mother Bingo and sister of Domino who are both currently housed with her at the zoo. Zebras typically live to be about 25 years of age but in captivity they have been known to live as long as 40 years.

Carrots and cookies, yum!

Carrots and cookies, yum!

I am lucky enough to be the primary trainer for Mokey during our collective training sessions and of course I felt we had to celebrate our girl in style! Lead keeper Leslie Storer suggested making popsicles with different layers of goodies in them for each zebra. The result was a double decker popsicle with a layer of carrots on the bottom and cookie crumbs on top.

The day turned out to be quite warm and muggy and I thought for sure we had one grand slam of a birthday hit. The initial reaction was a little wary on all sides and only Domino and Mokey actually ventured close enough to the pops to touch them. Their reactions were underwhelming to say the least. In all fairness to the species they tend to eat in what might be described as a nibbling action with the front teeth and then move to grind with the molars.

Keeper Jason Loy encourages the birthday girl towards her treat.

Keeper Jason Loy encourages the birthday girl towards her treat.

Surely, I thought, once these bad boys begin to melt they’ll be nibbling away at these carrot shards!  Well, no dice. By the end of the day the popsicles were completely melted and all that was left were several empty chains and a pile of unappetizing sludge. Stormy eventually moved in to pick up some of the leftovers.

It’s the thought that counts, right? Besides, there’s always next year!

Western Pond Turtles get a hand at Oakland Zoo!

by | August 22nd, 2013
zena-the-zookeeperHey there, fellow conservation heroes! Do I have an important conservation program to tell you about today, and it’s taking place right here at Oakland Zoo!  It’s a ‘head start” program for the endangered Western Pond Turtle. These adorable little guys were once plentiful and lived all over the entire West Coast – from British Columbia in Canada, all the way down to Baja California near Mexico.

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But today, they’re only found in a few parts of California, Oregon and a couple of places in Washington State. That’s because they’ve lost a lot of their habitat and are being eaten by non-native predators – including another kind of turtle that isn’t native to California.  It’s really sad. 
 
See how tiny the baby Western Pond Turtle is?  Because they grow very slowly in the wild, it takes them a long time to grow big enough to escape or fight off non-native predators like the American Bullfrog and Largemouth Bass who love to snatch them up and snack on them. The other species bullying these guys is the red-eared slider turtle. Many red-eared slider turtles were once somebody’s pet, but people sometimes release them into the wild when they get too big, and that’s bad news for the smaller, shyer Western Pond Turtle. Our little friend loses out to the bigger guys on food resources and warm spots to lie in the sun in their habitat.
 
But the GOOD NEWS is that we are raising hatchlings right here at the Zoo in our brand-new Bio-Diversity Center!  With our ZooKeepers taking care of these babies with plenty of nutrient-rich foods and veterinary care, they grow in just one year to the size it would take them three or four years to reach in the wild. Then, when we release them into the wild they are big enough to protect themselves and have a much better chance of survival. Right now, we are raising 44 Western Pond Turtles for release next year, and the babies are doing great so far!
 
So remember fellow conservation heroes, please don’t release pet turtles into the wild.  Help keep our lake areas clean, welcoming places for Western Pond Turtles. And be sure to teach others all about the amazing Western Pond Turtle!

My First “Feasts for the Beasts” Experience…

by | August 12th, 2013

blog3In all my years working at Oakland Zoo I have never attended one of our events in which food is donated to the animals. When the Zoo asked if I was interested in writing a blog for one of these bi-annual events (that have become a tradition over the last decade) I was game. The event – now a tradition – is called “Feast for the Beasts.”

“Feast for the Beasts” is an event that not only allows people to donate fresh produce to the animals but also gives them the opportunity to learn about the creatures that reside here at the Zoo. At first, the event was intended for Zoo members only. However, it became so popular that the Zoo decided to turn it into a public event. People bring bananas, grapes, kiwi, apples, cabbage, lettuce, and other fresh produce for the animals to snack on.

Baboons climbed on poles to get their donated food while meerkats poked their heads into enrichment bags. And while the alligators consumed dead rats, the otters enjoyed their dead fish meal. As the Zoo keepers fed the animals, docents were on hand providing information about those animals. Watching the animals eat their food was fun but it was nothing compared to what happened at the Elephant Exhibit.

The biggest highlight of “Feast for the Beasts” was the feeding of theelephants. Twice a year guests come to the Zoo with their produce to receive a ticket to enter the Elephant Exhibit and spread out food. I was one of the many people who received a ticket. The keepers allowed us the pleasure of placing food virtually everywhere around the elephant habitat. Some people left the food in plain sight (i.e., on top of the rocks) or out of sight (i.e., inside a tube). We turned the dirt/grass area into a luscious, colorful buffet.  After leaving the produce in the exhibit, we waited outside the area for the elephants to arrive.

Waiting in anticipation for the elephants to arrive, I didn’t even bother to think about what was on everybody’s minds as we waited for the elephants to enter. As I looked at the food that we placed inside the exhibit I kept thinking and thinking that this was going to be cool.

Then the elephants finally arrived and wasted no time getting their snack on. Once they spotted something (watermelons, carrots, apples, you name it) the elephants would quickly go in for their beloved sweet treats. Some would eat the food in its entirety while others would munch on it. The elephants also wrapped their trunks around a sponge-like object shaped like a sandbag and they turned over a tub to find more hidden food. No one could stop the beasts from enjoying all of that produce.

We were ecstatic to see the elephants munching on our produce. One person said, “May the melon be with you,” another person said, “Enjoy your fruit salad.” These behemoths ate their food like there’s no tomorrow. And to think all of this happened because the Zoo invited us to be involved in this festive event.

“Feast for the Beasts” is a great experience. It gave me the chance to view the animal feedings as well as become a part of the process in feeding the animals. I was happy to be part of this event and have the experience it provided me.  I hope that the Zoo keeps the “Feast for the Beasts” tradition for many years to come.