Posts Tagged ‘wildlife conservation’

Life on the Hacienda: Oakland Zoo Teens Get Gardening

by | March 3rd, 2014

In case you hadn’t heard, the Oakland Zoo Teen Wild Guides (or Twigs as we call them) recently participated in a new community program here in Oakland. Trained primarily as weekend interpreters in the Children’s Zoo, this dedicated group of local teen volunteers can also be seen at the tiger, chimp and sun bear exhibits, where they answer questions and provide information about the animals. In their first long-term partnership effort, the TWGs gathered at Hacienda Peralta Historical Park in December to volunteer their services in the park’s native plants garden. This newly-established 6-acre park, located in the Fruitvale District along the banks of Peralta Creek, is one of the most significant historical sites in the East Bay, being one of the earliest European settlements in the area.
On December 8, during one of four national community service days of the year, the TWGs brought their tools, gloves, and tarps to the park for a morning of pulling invasive weeds. During several scheduled days in the spring and summer, the TWGs will be returning to Hacienda Peralta to continue their work, allowing them to witness the development of the garden over time. This program represents a hopeful new direction for the Zoo, involving the TWGs with community institutions that work to promote wildlife conservation.
But this doesn’t end with the tossing out of a bunch of weeds. As it turns out, a great deal of this invasive plant material is edible. So the TWGs transport it back to the Zoo where (after being identified and approved by the staff horticulturists) is fed out to a wide variety of herbivorous animals. (Our giraffes especially like the thorny blackberry vines.) It’s a definite win-win situation.
The other day I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the TWGs who had participated in the gardening at Hacienda Peralta in December. As a 1st year TWG, Tano was proud to be a part of the project: “It was really cool to do habitat restoration. It was fun, with lots of wildlife, but the (blackberry) thorns hurt you.” Tano told me he was excited to have discovered a new type of plant at the park that he hadn’t seen before. “It was wrapped around another plant and appeared to be stealing nutrients from it.” As a passionate devotee of science, Tano impressed me by saying that the person he’d most like to be was Charles Darwin. He even recited one of the famous scientist’s quotes about evolution.
It was gratifying to witness this young man’s passion for science and discovery. It made me realize how important these science education programs are for channeling the energies of today’s youth. As a member of the Oakland Zoo TWGs, Tano definitely seems to be heading in the right direction. So the next time you visit the Zoo, take a moment to say “Hi” to some of the TWGs. You just might be chatting with the next Charles Darwin!

 

 

Quarters For Conservation: More Than a Token Effort

by | May 17th, 2012

 

Flamingo Plaza Voting Station

Kids certainly make things more fun. I had the chance to spend some time at the Quarters for Conservation voting station at the Oakland Zoo the other day. I was sitting with “Jungle Jake” Ledesma, one of the Zoo volunteers, who was staffing the station for a couple hours, along with his plush chimpanzee “companion.” Judging by his endearing jokes and puns, Jake clearly likes engaging the public,

Jungle Jake and his Buddy

making personal connections that the station’s graphics can’t do alone. As a steady stream of visitors stopped by, I soon found myself being drawn in. Yet despite Jake’s simian sidekick, it was the young kids that made the biggest impression. The issues at stake may have been serious, but the kids were definitely having fun participating.

 

In case you haven’t heard, Quarters for Conservation is a wildlife conservation program at the Oakland Zoo whose motto is “Saving Wildlife with Each Visit.” Whenever you come to the Zoo, you receive a token. This token does two things.

Explaining the Issues

First, it symbolizes the twenty-five cent donation that the Zoo earmarks for conservation on behalf of each visitor. Secondly, it serves as a means for selecting which one of three different conservation projects this money will be spent on. At the voting station by Flamingo Plaza, you’ll find three green funnel-shaped coin receptacles under a cute little tin roof. Here you’re able to use that token to vote for which wildlife conservation effort you’d like to support. This year, we’re promoting The Amboseli Trust for Elephants, The Budongo Snare Removal Project (saving chimpanzees) and The Ventana Wildlife Society Condor Project. Whether it’s from habitat loss, poaching, or other issues, these animals face serious threats in the wild right now. Quarters for Conservation allows the public to take part in helping them.

 

As I sat there under the tin roof beside Jake, I was impressed by how aware the kids were about these worldwide issues.

Girls Involved in Conservation Efforts

They were informed, passionate, and articulate.  A nine year old girl came up and immediately started to talk about the Disneynature film “Chimpanzee,” and how it inspired her to help chimps in

 

the wild. She dropped her token in the appropriate receptacle. It spiraled its way down the little green chute and fell to the bottom with a clink. Later, another girl stopped by with her family. She was participating in a walkathon for a chimp orphanage in Uganda (pretty impressive for such a young kid.) She was having fun with another girl as they dropped a steady stream of tokens into the chimp receptacle. The elephants, by the way, got almost as many tokens, but the condors were having a bit of trouble keeping up in the race.

 

Kids Love the Coin Spinner

The coin spinner receptacle is a clever gimmick. One kid had a whole fistful of tokens and had clearly mastered the technique of getting them to spiral gradually down the chute instead of plopping straight to the bottom. Another kid, peering down into the green funnel, was fascinated by the real money that was lying among the pile of shiny tokens.

 

The adults took a more pragmatic approach, simply tossing in their tokens without allowing themselves to enjoy it as

Mastering the Token Technique

Using Props to Explain Conservation

much as the kids were. But it was clear that they were just as interested in the conservation efforts of the Zoo, and were happy to do what they could to help out.  And they’d be equally happy to know that Quarters for Conservation has raised more than $40,000 this year. That’s definitely good news for elephants, chimps and California condors. So visit the Oakland Zoo soon and show your support for wildlife conservation. Jake and his plush pal say “Thank you!”

 

Wild Animal Ownership Can Hurt All

by | November 17th, 2011

The events in Ohio demonstrate that the United States has an exotic animal regulation problem. Our country has not been able to address the lack of proper control over the keeping of wild animals as pets. To a zoo community that cares about the welfare of animals, those in the wild and those in captivity everywhere, this event was sad on many levels. My heart breaks for the wide variety of precious animals that were killed, but the 18 Bengal tigers lost on this day hit close to home.

First of all, this gorgeous species, and Asia’s most iconic predator, is vanishing in the wild. At the turn of the 20th century, an estimated 100,000 wild tigers inhabited a range extending across Asia. There are only an estimated 3,000–4,000 wild tigers left, and only 7% remains of the tiger’s once vast geographic range.

Threatened by habitat loss, diminished prey, human–wildlife conflict, and the demand for tiger parts, especially bones for traditional Chinese medicine, tigers are now classified as endangered. Considering how few tigers now roam the earth in their natural habitat, it seems unnatural that between 6,000 and 8,000 tigers live as captive pets in the United States.

Regulations around these issues in the United States are divided into federal laws and State laws. The US Fish and Wildlife Agency oversees the import and export of live animals. Most of the exotic animals in the United States under private ownership are not imported, but bred from animals already here. Each state has very different policies regarding what exotic pets residents can own, and the care that must be given them. While the state of California has some of the strictest exotic pet laws, Ohio is one of ten US states that allows people to keep dangerous exotic animals like tigers.

This bifurcation of regulations makes it difficult to track the welfare and safety of privately owned tigers. The government has no way of knowing how many tigers there are in captivity, where they are, who owns them, their quality of life, or what happens to their body parts when they die. Authorities also have no way of knowing if the bones and skins of thousands of tigers in private hands in the United States are entering the wildlife trade and fueling the global demand for tiger parts.

It is my hope that the events in Ohio will awaken these sleepy policies, inspire tighter regulations within states, or even tougher federal laws. Meanwhile, we can act more awake in our own actions by avoiding all entertainment that uses tigers or other wild animals. We can also support organizations, such as the Performing Animal Welfare Society, Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund, and our own zoo, which has acted with compassion to give four tigers a new and forever home.

Please join us on November 17 as we screen the film, The Elephant in the Living Room. Winner of five Best Documentary Awards, the film courageously exposes the shocking reality behind the multi-billion dollar exotic pet industry with stunning photography, inspiring storytelling, and unprecedented access into a world rarely seen. We will also welcome special guest Warden William O’Brien from the California Department of Fish and Game. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Marian Zimmer Auditorium.

amy@oaklandzoo.org for more information.