Posts Tagged ‘Zoo’

Who’s the Oldest in the Zoo?

by | December 8th, 2010

Quick – how many dinosaurs can you name?

I bet you came up with at least three: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, and Triceratops.  Maybe you are better at this than me, so you got Pterodactyl and Velociraptor too.  Good job!

Now quick – how many other prehistoric animals can you name?

In my experience, most people can come up with just one, the Woolly Mammoth.  But the truth is that many creatures inhabited the Earth along with the dinosaurs and were related to animals we know today.  Three fossil replicas live in the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo, right alongside their modern descendants.

Protostega gigas lives next to the underwater alligator windows.  It is pretty easy to recognize it as a turtle.  In fact, Protostega was a sea turtle that lived 97-66 million years ago.  Its preserved remains are found from South Dakota to Texas, from Colorado to Kansas, since 97 million years ago the Great Plains of today were underwater!  This turtles wide, flat ribs were probably connected by a leathery covering, similar to the shell of modern Leatherback Sea Turtles.

Now this fossil is pretty easy to recognize as a turtle, but some prehistoric animals are much harder to identify.

Check out Eroyps and imagine a salamander that was 5-6 feet long!  This was no gentle giant, Eroyps was a fierce predator that hunted both in water and on land, similar to crocodiles today.  It lived roughly 280 million years ago, which pre-dates the dinosaurs.

Our last Children’s Zoo resident fossil is much younger, a mere 144-65 million years old.  This coincides with the peak of dinosaur populations, which makes sense because Sarcosuchus imperator* ate dinosaurs!  This ancient crocodilian grew up to 40 feet long and weighed about 17,500 pounds.  Notice how the eyes and nostrils are on top of the skull, which is very similar to modern alligators.  Scientists think Sarcosuchus was a “sit and wait” predator like our American alligators.  They would float motionless in the water, able to breathe and watch the shore because their nostrils and eyes are on top of their head.  When an unsuspecting dinosaur (or deer today) came to the water’s edge to drink – BAM!  Sarcosuchus would launch itself forward with tremendous speed and power and grab it’s prey.

So we have three fossil replicas in the Children’s Zoo, none of which are dinosaurs, but all of which are related to animals alive today in our exhibits.  To find turtles like Protostega gigas, head to the RAD Room pond exhibit and look for our spotted turtles or three-toed box turtles.  While you are there, check out all the different frogs; they are amphibians like Eroyps.  And don’t miss the American alligators, a modern day (and much smaller) Sarcosuchus!

*Sarcosuchus imperator holds a special place in my heart because that’s the nickname I use during our ZooCamp program.  It’s not unusual for children in the grocery store to call out “Hi Sarco!” when I walk by!

20 New Frogs Arrive

by | October 14th, 2010

Panamanian Golden Frog

I received a call on Friday, October 8th that went something like this, “Hi Nicky, we just came back from the airport. The frogs are here.” I thought to myself, well, that’s pretty cool.  I’ve never seen frogs get unpacked.  This would be a chance to get away from my desk and see something rare. So, I grabbed a camera and headed down to the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo to check out our new Panamanian Golden frogs.

As I walked in behind-the-scenes of the RAD Room (Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Room), I was delighted to see Keeper Adam Fink eager to unpack TWENTY brightly colored little frogs.

Keeper Adam unpacks frogs

The yellow and black amphibians reminded me of those little plastic frogs you see in gum ball machines, except these were very jumpy.  There were ten containers that resembled something you would see at a deli counter. Each container held two frogs…and yes, each container had breathing holes. As soon as I arrived, Adam jumped into action to unpack each frog carefully, weigh it, photograph it, and place it into a special aquarium. These tasks took patience and persistence because the frogs are fast and slippery!

Frogs in containers

The twenty Panamanian Golden Frogs were born at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, MD. The frogs are extinct in the wild and several zoos in the US are breeding them for release into the wild in the future.  The Oakland Zoo does not breed them, but instead we are holding individuals for the breeding program and to help educate the public about the Panamanian Golden Frogs.  They are the national symbol of Panama.  So, to Panamanians, this would equate to the Bald Eagle being gone in the US.  They are one of the poster-frogs for the global amphibian crisis, which is being caused by climate change, the chytrid fungus, pollution, and other things that has caused one-third of the amphibian species in the world to decline and become endangered or extinct.

Panamanian Golden Frog

The frogs were packed into the cargo area of a Delta flight bound for Oakland and arrived the morning of October 8, 2010.  This frog shipment was the second shipment the Oakland Zoo has received in the past six years. They were born in December, 2009, so they are almost one year old. They are now off exhibit for a thirty day quarantine, which is part of the Oakland Zoo’s regulations with acquiring new animals. We monitor new animals and test them for diseases to ensure they do not have anything that can spread to our animal collection. Currently, we have nine Panamanian Golden frogs on exhibit in the RAD room, so when the new ones are added, we’ll have a total of twenty-nine.

I asked Adam if they make any ribbit sounds and I was told no, but they do make little wheezing sounds.  I tried to listen closely while they were being unpacked, but didn’t hear a peep. Adam also mentioned that these frogs are not big swimmers; they are more of a waters edge species, meaning they like to be around water but not necessarily in it. The black and gold patterns on their backs also change each year, so it’s hard to name and distinguish each frog. But, the Oakland Zoo weighs and photographs each frog every three months. As for food, these frogs feast on tiny crickets and fruit flies.

So, the next time you are at the Oakland Zoo, stop by the RAD Room and see if you can spot a Panamanian Golden Frog.

What can make a ZooCamp teacher smile?

by | July 22nd, 2010

(While Sarah was busy getting camp up and running, one of our returning camp teachers offered to be a guest author.)

By Rebecca Stern, aka Vella

As a recent graduate from an elementary teaching credential program I can say Iʼve
seen my fair share of good and great schools and good and great programs. The Oaklandʼs ZooCamp is run like a great school with an exceptional amount of fun thrown into itʼs agenda. The strategy for camp is simple. Learn about animals, conservation, and our role in the environment, and have tons of fun.

As a third year returning teacher to the Oakland Zooʼs summer program I can say that working at the zoo has itʼs perks for even us teachers. Seeing the same animals so often provides opportunities to see the animals grow and change. From 2009 to 2010 alone the zoo has seen many fascinating changes. Among my favorites are the baboons fondness of their new exhibit, watching new animal introductions (such as the sunbear and chimpanzees) and oh, the babies! The most notable are the hornbill mother nesting in her exhibit while her mate brings her food and the baby squirrel monkey who rides on its motherʼs back.  Itʼs no wonder our zoo members visit time andtime again throughout the year.  If only Zoocamp was year-round!

What makes Oaklandʼs Zoocamp significantly different from other camps? Oaklandʼs Zoocamp is notable for many reasons. First, the focus isnʼt on “time-fillers” to keep the kids busy during the summer months. Each year we focus on a conservation project and teach the campers what they can do to help. We play games, sing songs, and create crafts that you can actually use. We explore and we work on developing a childʼs natural curiosity of the environment. Often itʼs as simple as letting a child pick a leaf or flower at the creek and letting them crush and smell it or lifting a rock to see what bugs are underneath. I am in awe of campers who listen intently about watershed problems and decide theyʼd like to spend time picking up trash around the zoo. Campers also go behind-the-scenes to learn how keepers care for the animals and much more.

What are some other things that make working the entire summer at the zoo so much fun? For one, I enjoy seeing my campers grow, sometimes several inches from one year to the next. I take pleasure in truly getting to know parents who love camp as much as I do. I also love meeting new campers who have not been to our camp before. They are enthralled by the activities and animal encounters that are unique to the program. I am fortunate to work for a Camp Director who fully supports my curriculum and craft ideas, among other things. In addition, I benefit from working with many different types of people with biology, zoology and education backgrounds. Ultimately, I love seeing
kids really enjoy learning without knowing thatʼs what theyʼre doing.

All together, ZooCamp is so much fun kids can’t wait to come back each summer…and neither can I!

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

ZooKeeper Celebrates 30 Years at Zoo

by | December 22nd, 2009

Erica Calcagno, Animal Keeper III Photo credit: Nancy Filippi

“It’s a dangerous job, but somebody’s gotta do it.” This is a cliché Erica Calcagno would laugh at, because those words would never come out of her mouth. Calcagno works with lions, tigers, camels, bison, and California tule elk. It’s a job she truly loves. When asked if the work she does is dangerous, Calcagno replied, “Obviously lions and tigers are dangerous, but it’s the pressure and responsibility of taking care of the animals that can be stressful. They can’t tell you what they want or what they need. You have to anticipate it and figure it out.”

Erica began her career at the Oakland Zoo in 1977, and she’s had the opportunity to bond with many animals, watch them grow up, and sadly, she’s been there when they die. She prefers working outside with animals rather than indoors with humans. “It’s a job that just fits,” stated Calcagno. It’s a fit that’s lasted thirty years.

The relationship between an animal keeper and an animal is unique and inspirational to see first hand. Erica Calcagno actually gets greeted by the tigers with a noise similar to that of a cat purring. “But, it’s different than actual ‘purring,’ because tigers only make the chuffing sound to greet one another or someone they know,” said Calcagno. When you are in the same room as a lion, “you actually feel the vibrations of the roar in the air around you,” said Calcagno. The male camel expresses himself to Erica by expanding his throat to make a percussive sound. It’s a sound Calcagno really enjoys hearing.

The Oakland Zoo is very fortunate to have animal keepers like Erica Calcagno; she is a person who has spent decades providing quality care to animals. Thank you, Erica, for the hard work you put in each day and the dedication you show the animals at the Oakland Zoo. Happy 30th Anniversary!