Posts Tagged ‘Zoo’

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!