Posts Tagged ‘Zoo’

Diving into Week Five

by | February 11th, 2013

I began this week meeting up with the Director of Conservation at the Oakland Zoo and going over the Earth Day event, “Party for the Planet,” and discussing where we need to start in the prepping process. Before we can mail out invites for the event, the vendor list needed to be updated, so I worked on updating throughout the week. This took some time, considering there were well over 100 organizations on the list, but addresses and contact information were updated and many new organizations were added. I also created the same document in Excel format for future use. During this whole process, I was able to familiarize myself with a variety of local conservation, environmental friendly, organizations in the Bay Area, which was pretty neat.

Next, I spent time submitting our latest press releases to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums through their online newsroom. The AZA actually picked up our story about Nikko and Gladys and shared it with their database, which includes over 200 accredited Zoos and Aquariums across the country. Not too shabby. I was invited and attended lunch with the Marketing Department again and continued to learn about various business items. This lunch was specifically about sponsorships and how they work. Following lunch, I sat in on a sponsorship meeting, watched how an outside agency presented a proposal, what our staff look for, and even added some input/ideas of my own.

It was a quiet and calm week when it came to media on-site. Instead of being out and about, I realized how much preparation actually goes into setting up a lot of these video/media shoots and projects. There is much coordination involved between several parties. For example, a day must be found that fits the specific media outlet, the Marketing Department, the animal schedules, and a number of other Animal Care staff schedules. All the details of the shoot schedule must also be prepared and ready to go prior to the actual day of shooting.

As a side note, a few of the segments from our training video ‘aired’ at the all staff meeting Thursday morning, and I was a pretty popular individual that day with everyone telling me what a ‘superstar’ I was acting out skits in those videos. Looks like I’ll be seen at the Oakland Zoo for years to come.

A few other contracts with local organizations came through this week and I was walked through our partnership with the Oakland A’s specifically. Nicky explained to me what each little part of the agreement meant and gave me examples from the past, so that I can assist in creating and delivering the 2013 points of action. This includes items such as creating PSA’s or short slogans that will market the Zoo and its wonderful programs at the A’s home games in the upcoming season.  Besides talking baseball, I then attended the Operations Lead meeting conducted by Deb Menduno (Director of Operations) and really enjoyed sitting in and observing how other departments operate, what they focus on, and how they communicate overall.

In addition to the above, I of course spent much time keeping Facebook, Twitter, and the blog updated, exciting, and engaging (that was the attempt anyway). There was also a goal set to reach 11,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook by Friday, and looks like we made it! We had so many shares on Friday and it is really awesome how an online community can come together when you ask for such a small favor. This is why I am such a fan of the power of social media, especially for nonprofits.

 

 

One Month at the Zoo

by | February 6th, 2013

One month in already? Could it be? It’s true; I wrapped up another exciting week as the Marketing Intern at the Oakland Zoo. This past week I worked on putting together talking points for a shoot with CBS 5, promoted our Living Social deal through our social media platforms (which sold out), spent a lot of time learning how to use Vocus, wrote and released a press release (with much help), and even learned a few Photoshop skills.

I spent two days out of the office and on Zoo grounds assisting with our training video project and a video shoot with CBS 5. I continued to learn a lot about media and how it all works behind-the-scenes. I greatly enjoyed those two days, being outdoors in this beautiful Zoo, and visiting each animal exhibit. It also allowed me to meet many other Zoo staff and network with local media professionals.

Nicky and Amber also took time out of their day to sit down and go over objectives with me and have greatly assisted in making those become achievable. For example, one objective of mine is to help with events taking place at the Zoo, so I was able to attend and provide input at the first Earth Day committee meeting and will continue to be involved leading up to the ‘day of’ in April.

Another goal that I expressed is to experience more animal encounters. To my surprise, the next day I found myself on a sixteen foot platform hand feeding the giraffes! I had so much fun and loved being that close with the animals. It was a great week being around the animals and out on Zoo grounds with film crews. I’m learning so many different things, keeping busy, and still have three months of experience to gain.

Recent Turtle Hatchings at the Oakland Zoo

by | February 5th, 2013

Spotted turtles are native to the Southeastern United States. They inhabit bogs (swamp like areas), but can also be found in fresh still water. The spotted turtle is endangered due to habitat loss and the constant threat of being collected and placed into the pet trade. However, we are lucky enough to have these little creatures hatching and thriving here at the Zoo and in other zoos around the country.

In the month of December, the Oakland Zoo welcomed a few more spotted turtles to the family, and another just last week on January 31, 2013. Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo Herp and Invert Keeper Adam Fink, fills us in about the most recent hatchlings as well as shares more facts about the spotted turtle.

A spotted turtle egg is about the size of a large grape, and unlike bird eggs that need to be rotated during incubation, reptile eggs must be kept in the same position as they were laid. This is because the embryo orients itself in the egg and turning the egg during this time could do much damage and kill the tiny turtle. Keepers are able to make an educated guess on whether the hatchling is male or female based on the temperature at which eggs are incubated. Females will result to warmer temperatures and males in cooler temperatures. “Like crocodilians, turtles can communicate to each other through the egg cases. This is why both species will have mass hatchings in the wild. The turtles or crocodilians will let each other know when they are ready to hatch and they all start hatching together. This is so that there is a better chance that at least some of the hatchlings will make it to the safety of the water,” says Adam.

Another interesting fact that Keeper Adam shared with us is that turtles, like all egg laying species, have egg yolks, which serve as nutrients for the developing embryo. However, unlike other eggs, the yolk is on the outside of the shell. The bottom of the shell has a small slit where the turtle comes out when ready to hatch. Once it hatches, the turtle will absorb the yolk sac, which in turn will close up that slit. If needed, the baby turtle can live off of the absorbed yolk for up to a few weeks.

Fink says the Oakland Zoo had about twenty spotted turtles hatch on site, with some continuing to live in our exhibit and some that have gone to join other zoos accredited by AZA, which is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Eight of the thirteen currently on exhibit have been born here at the Zoo.

Weeks Two and Three as a Marketing Intern

by | January 29th, 2013

Week one of my internship at the Oakland Zoo went well, but now things are getting serious. Week two consisted of some decent assignments such as: stamping passes for a marketing trade for on-air mentions and promotions, editing and re-writing the event calendar listings from February 2013 to July 2013, downloading iTunes songs for the training video in progress, writing a blog on the new hyenas, scanning and emailing documents, mailing out tickets, and Facebook and Twitter posts.

A few highlights include riding the Outback Express Adventure Train, Carousel, and of course, the Tiger Coaster.

Tiger Coaster

I will let you know that I am still not fond of things that go ‘round and ‘round, but I had so much fun in that 20 minutes and it was the perfect energy boost during lunch to rock and roll my assignments for the rest of the day. I also found it awesome that I am only two weeks in and already get a three day weekend. I must be doing something right around here.

Week three was an interesting week. I was left to fend for myself and hold down the fort while my entire department was out sick for most of the week. Believe it or not, I actually spent some time over the 3 day weekend posting on Facebook to see the response as well as research Pinterest, a media outlet we may be pursuing. Once Tuesday rolled around, I continued my learning in the office. I spent some time editing YouTube video descriptions on the Zoo’s channel, I handled an entire pledge drive donation deal on my own, and reviewed a guest video submission from their visit to the Zoo and shared it on Facebook. I kept very busy this week.

Training Video Shoot

Favorite parts of week three consisted of spending a rainy day (which I didn’t mind, being a desert rat) assisting with the filming of the training video. I was able to meet a lot of employees, learned a lot about videography, and even left my mark by doing some acting in the video.

Wednesday night was quite funny. Toni, the Manager of Group Services, offered me a ride to my BART station so that I could attend the Annual Board Meeting after work. Toni and I were the last in the office but then somehow, I ended up being the only one left and almost got locked in. All I could picture at this point was Night at the Museum about to take place…even though the animals here already come to life during the day. Luckily, as I was walking out of the office, she pulled up and saved me from walking down through the dark, cold, Zoo to get to the Auditorium for the Annual Board Meeting. I am so glad I was offered a ride and able to stay for that meeting. It was very beneficial for me to be a part of. You should also know that I may or may not have photo bombed some pictures (Nancy, the Managing Director, knows all about this) and juggled granny smith apples in front of some very important professionals while at the meeting. Through this however, I found out that some of the other staff here possess juggling talents as well (Nik, Director of Strategic Initiatives), and I feel that is important to express to the rest of the world.

I was also lucky enough to receive a two hour, one-on-one docent tour of the Zoo with Docent Mary Ann. During this tour, I gained so much insight about the animals, their stories, and the Zoo in general. I was able to have lunch out with Nicky (Senior Manager, Marketing/PR), Amber (Manger, Special Events) and Nancy on Friday, which is really awesome and always great to be included in those types of things. I ended the week by checking out the launch of “Friday Nights at the Oakland Museum of California” with some coworkers, (fellow Geminis) Toni and Heather (Major Gifts and Grants Associate). So it turns out that I am able to take care of business when all alone, but I look forward to having my colleagues/supervisors back at full health this upcoming week.

Stuffed Animals in the Bat Exhibit, Why?

by | September 14th, 2012

An Island Flying Fox interacting with a stuffed bear.

An Island Flying Fox with a stuffed bear.

One question we are asked frequently is “why do the bats have stuffed animals?” I would love to just say they are toys for the animals to play with (and often do when I am talking to small children), but the truth is that it is just more complicated than that.
First, I need to give you some background. There has been a lot of buzz in the media lately about the way zoos pair up animals for breeding. Many people are now aware that it is not done by chance and that we breed specifically to enhance and maintain as much genetic diversity as possible. What that means is that some animals are going to get more opportunities to breed than others, simply because of how heavily their families are represented within the captive population. The result is many animals are not recommended to breed and therefore have to be prevented from breeding by some method. The bats at the Oakland Zoo are on loan to us from Lubee Bat Conservancy where the majority of the fruit bat breeding happens in the US. Most of our bats have well represented genes in the captive population. The result is that Lubee gave us ALL male bats. That’s right; all 28 bats in our exhibit are boys, no babies here!
The second thing you need to understand is the concept of enrichment. AZA accredited zoos like the Oakland Zoo strive to provide animals with the optimal care and welfare. This means not only excellent medical care and nutritious food, but also enriched environments that allow animals to perform behaviors that they would naturally perform if they were living in the wild. This can take the form of large naturalistic exhibits like our sun bear or elephant exhibits, or it can take the form of a 50 foot tall enclosure that allows space for the large bats to fly. Sometimes it includes objects that may not be found in the wild, but still provide an opportunity for the animals to perform natural behaviors. This type of enrichment is most frequently seen with our primates. For example, in the wild, chimps will use twigs to collect termites from inside rotting logs. At the zoo, we will give the chimps other types of toys such as PVC tubes or Kongs with treats inside and they must use the twigs to retrieve them. Natural behavior from an unnatural object still results in increased welfare.
So now that we understand these two concepts, we put them together. Mostly our all male colony of bats works well, but for a few months out of each year, they go into breeding season and that causes some discord and a few disagreements in the group. Boys will be boys, right? They feel a need to chase each other out of territories, scent mark and generally just be cranky with each other. We discovered pretty quickly that the number of injuries in our bat colony increased each fall, coinciding with breeding season. While none of the injuries were serious, we still felt that we could improve their welfare if we reduced the number of injuries.
Enter the teddy bear! We hoped (and thankfully were right) that hanging stuffed animals in the exhibit would allow the bats the opportunity to take out their frustrations on something besides each other. Success! In fact, the concept was so successful (a 90% reduction in injuries) that keepers presented their findings at the 2010 Animal Behavior Management Alliance conference – winning an award for their efforts as well as becoming a cover article for their newsletter! The article has also been published in The Shape of Enrichment, an internationally known zoo trade publication focusing on enrichment for animals of all species.
Hanging stuffed animals in the bat exhibit allows our bats to perform the natural territorial behavior spurred by their hormones while preventing injuries within the colony. Natural behavior AND increased welfare from a simple child’s toy. While they may not look like a natural part of the exhibit, stuffed animals are an important component of the care we provide to our bats. Look around the zoo next time you visit and you may notice other exhibits with unusual enrichment items and now you know they serve some purpose that enhances the animals’ well-being.

Stepping Through ZAM: Day 6, Savannah Module

by | April 2nd, 2012

Franette Armstrong is taking us along on her adventures in Zoo Ambassador Training.

 

Bellowing Bison, rooting Warthogs, leaping Elands, calloused Camels, bugling Elk and zigzagging Zebras. The last two ZAM classes have been all about our handsome hoofstock.

Today, we visited the African Savannah area of the Zoo where experienced docents taught us how to use biofacts to teach visitors about the animals there. Biofacts are real or replicated materials like skulls, antlers, and teeth which are used for educating and amazing.

There’s so much to know about all of these critters, I can’t possibly cover everything we learned, so here are some common beliefs. Are they myths or are they facts?

Docent Ann Ditlefsen is Master of Biofacts here in the Zoo, making sure we have teaching aids for every animal.

 

 

Myth? We don’t know if Zebras are white with black stripes or black with white stripes.

If you follow the rule for determining the color of a horse, their muzzles, ear tips, and above their hooves are black. So we figure Zebras are black with white stripes.

Our Zebra's black muzzle is a dead giveaway to his true colors. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we don’t know is why Zebras are striped, but one theory is that when they run in herds they create a zigzagging mass of light and dark so it’s hard for predators to tell where one begins and the other ends. This is called the Dazzle Effect. Stripes also might be camouflage and they might help regulate the Zebra’s temperature because black absorbs heat and white reflects it.

 

Our Dromedary Camels store fat in their hump and have calloused pads for kneeling on hot desert sand. Photo credit Steve Goodall

Myth? Camels store water in their humps.

Their humps store fat which helps insulate them from heat and is later metabolized for energy and water. The desert plants they nibble give them nearly all the water they need but when they come to an oasis they can drink and hold an astonishing 40-60 gallons of water at one time. They can also drink salty water…something else that most mammals can’t do.

 

Myth? Camel skin doesn’t burn.

What lets Camels kneel down on blazing-hot sand? It’s not fireproof skin, it’s thick callous pads on their knees, ankles and chests. Their dense shaggy fur also helps insulate them from burning.

 

Myth? Warthogs have warts.

Nope. Those facial bumps are made out of hard connective tissue and are not fungal or contagious like real warts. They serve to protect the animal’s mouth and eyes from the tusks of their fellow Warthogs and predators.

Emma, the Grande Dame of our Warthogs, meets Simon, the interloper. Photo credit Lorraine Peters

 

 

Myth? Tusks and horns are basically the same.

No, again. Tusks are extra-long teeth that extend from a Warthog’s, Elephant’s or Walrus’s mouth. Horns are keratin (protein) covers over bones on the top of the head.…such as we find on Bison, Elands, and Goats.

Docent Paul Ferreira shows us the intricacies of a Warthog skull. Warthogs have tusks that actually are extended upper and lower canine teeth. The uppers are sharper and used for fighting. The lowers are used for digging.

 

 

Myth? Horns and antlers are basically the same.

Confusing headgear: Horns are permanent and irreplaceable, though they will grow longer every year. Antlers, such as those on our Tule Elk, get knocked off once a year and grow back even larger the next year. The “velvet” coating is like skin that nourishes the boney antler until it gets to full size, then the antler falls off.

Our gorgeous Tule Elk sport antlers that get larger year even though they are shed every year. Photo credit Alameda Creek Alliance

 

 

 

 

Giraffes and their nearest living relative, Okapis, are born with their horns, called ossicones, lying flat on their heads but they rapidly fuse to the baby’s skull, harden into bone and lengthen. You often can tell the male Giraffes from females because the gals have hair on top of their ossicones, which are purely decorative. Since the guys wear the hair off their ossicones during sparring, their horns are usually bald.

 

Baby Maggie and Mom both have ossicones...the Giraffe version of horns. Here, Maggie's are just beginning to straighten up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animals like our Elands and Giraffes enjoy friendly sparring with their own species using their horns to press the other guy’s head away in what zoologists call “displacement” maneuvers. Something you’ll see in our veldt that you won’t see in nature is one of our Giraffes doing this sparring with one of our Elands. According to Amy Phelps, their Keeper, these two just enjoy playing together. It is quite a heartstopper to see this enormous Giraffe swinging his head and neck straight down towards incredibly sharp horns, yet time after time they connect just right so that neither gets hurt.

 

Eland horns grow constantly and are used for the athletic sparring ours are doing here, as well as serious battle. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Myth? Giraffes are afraid of water.

Depends on where they are. In our Zoo and others, Giraffes will stroll through a pond to get to food and even seem to enjoy cooling off in the water.

In nature, though, they never go wading, which is good because their narrow hooves and legs would probably sink into the muddy bottom. Their aversion to water might have another source: The most dangerous time for a Giraffe is when it’s drinking at a waterhole, because it has to widely spread its legs to get down to water level. Lions and crocodiles know this and hang out near water to ambush them.

Maggie shows us why Giraffes are vulnerable when their head is near the ground. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

We learned all of this and so much more. Come on out to the Zoo and spend some quality time with these uniquely beautiful animals.

 

Next week: Elephants!