Monday, November 23, 2015

Update: Goody the Giraffe

*Part three of a series documenting the treatment of Goody, one of the Sacramento Zoo’s Reticulated Giraffes

Recent visitors to the Zoo may have noticed that Goody can be seen out more often in the giraffe yard, sporting a fancy blue shoe. Her primary zookeepers, Lindsey Moseanko and Melissa McCartney shared the following update:

Goody is doing really well! Inside her blue shoe is a metal plate and a custom insole. The insole is made from putty used in corrective shoeing for horses. These are helping to align her joints better and correct the rotation of her foot caused by the arthritis. When she is wearing them she walks more normally.

Metal plate with putty insole

A company that produces horse slippers (to protect a horse's hoof when they need to wear a bandage) has been working with Animal Care and Veterinary staff to design custom shoes for Goody that accommodates her plate and insole and keeps her foot dry during inclement weather. This bootie helps reduce how often the wrap and plate need to be changed out and means less time that Goody has to spend inside with us taking care of her feet.  Goody also continues to receive laser therapy, acupuncture, pulse electromagnetic therapy mat time, icing, medications and topical pain relief patches.

Bluegrass Equine Products, Inc. custom designed this handmade shoe for Goody
Overall, we believe this variety of treatments is helping. Goody has been opting to stay outside with the herd more instead of going into the barn every day for a long nap. Sitting less often shows us she is feeling more comfortable, she is also choosing to socialize with her friends, and she is getting more exercise.
Goody's hoof with shoe in place
During the course of Goody’s treatment we have readjusted to working around her schedule. The other giraffes in the herd have all acclimated well to the changes in routine. One of the biggest changes has been  periodically separating Goody into her own stall and side yard. When this occurs, the other giraffes go about their business as usual with a few exceptions. Shani, the female Masai Giraffe, has taken a keen interest in Goody’s care. Shani will periodically go into the barn to check on Goody or hangout in the adjacent stall where she closely watches everything going on. Skye, Goody’s half-sister and companion since birth, has now readily adjusted to when Goody needs her “alone time” to rest, she also often goes to check on Goody. Skye has been a very supportive sister.

None of the other giraffes have demonstrated any unusual behavior towards the shoe, wraps, or slippers that Goody wears- she is readily accepted by the herd with her personal fashion statement. When Goody is done napping or being treated she returns to the herd and fits right back in with her family!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Western Pond Turtle Hatchlings

We are excited to announce a very successful Western Pond Turtle hatching season. So far seven eggs, one in September, four in October, two in November have successfully hatched in an incubator. These eggs were opportunistically collected from turtles in the lake exhibits.  The tiny turtles, weighing between 5 and 6 grams at hatching will stay in the Reptile House until they are large enough to be released into the lake exhibits.

The Western Pond Turtle is not only an endangered species throughout much of its range, but it is also the only turtle native to California.  The Western Pond Turtle is found in the most western of the United States. In Washington and Oregon it is designated as “Endangered”. In California (and Baja California) it is a Species of Special Concern and listed as “Threatened”.

The Sacramento Zoo is home to one of the largest populations of Western Pond Turtles housed within a zoo. The Zoo is also an active participant in the AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for them. Part of the Zoo’s animal conservation work with this species includes weighing and measuring each individual as they are found on the Zoo’s lakes. This data set, compiled over the last two decades, adds to the body of knowledge on growth information for this species.

The Zoo is also a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction); partnering with the entire AZA community to focus conservation science, wildlife expertise and visitors in saving species such as the Western Pond Turtle, in the wild.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wild About our Docents!

Here at the Sacramento Zoo, we have a lot to be thankful for all year long. We have a hard working and devoted staff, caring community members, corporate partners and wonderful volunteers. One of the most recognizable volunteer groups is the yellow-shirted Docents who are often on the front line of guest experiences here at the Zoo.

Docents are volunteer educators, 18 years or over, who have had Sacramento Zoo training to provide EdZOOcation Stations for Zoo visitors.  Docents love to share with people all that they have learned about the animals that live at the Zoo and current conservation issues worldwide.

Some of the many things Docents do to support the Zoo and make sure visitors have the best experiences possible are:

  • Interact with more than 60,000 school children that visit the Zoo every year on field trips
  • Attend regular training at the Zoo, keeping them current on animal updates
  • Participate in additional training and participate in live animal presentation after a year in the program
  • Participate in continuing education
  • Take fieldtrips to other zoos and conservation organizations
  • Donate Christmas trees to the animals
  • Coordinate the Zoo’s Tea and Tours program
  • Create enrichment for animals
  • Raise funds for conservation
  • Attend Zoo events

We want to wholeheartedly thank our team of docents for everything they do. The next time you see a yellow-shirted educator at the Zoo, be sure to give them a big thank you!

Sacramento Zoo Docents have a good time with each other, creating lifelong friends and memories. We have some Docents who have been volunteering for more than 30 years!

The Zoo is currently accepting docent applications for 2016. Being a Docent is a unique experience for educators and those passionate about animals and wildlife conservation. If you want to become an integral part of the Zoo’s education programs through volunteerism call the Education Department at 916.808.5889.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bat Training

Animal training or operant conditioning plays a very important role in the field of zoo keeping today. All of the behaviors trained are for husbandry purposes - opening the mouth for inspection, learning to have blood drawn voluntarily, going into a crate, showing paws or getting on a scale, just to mention some examples. Often this training is done in a “protected” manner with mesh between the animal and the keeper. In the case of the bats, training is done in the exhibit with the animals. It is a varied and wide-ranging craft that improves the lives of animals, enhances the safety of the staff, and is enriching for the animals. At the Sacramento Zoo, almost every individual animal is part of a tailored training program.

One of the more recent achievements in animal training at the Sacramento Zoo has been with our 20 Straw-colored Fruit Bats. Zookeepers have been working with the bats regularly to get them comfortable with climbing onto a piece of mesh at the end of a pole. The current goal is getting all bats to move from the pole to the scale. Keepers began by feeding the bats smashed banana from a plastic syringe when they were in the exhibit. Then, as the bats became more comfortable with the close interactions and getting on the mesh panel, the keepers introduced a scale for the bats to hang from. When the bats got on the scale, they were then given some banana as a reward. While the bats have their individual weight recorded, their microchip is checked with a reader. Positively identifying each individual allows keepers to document weights long term. While some bats are still apprehensive about the training, others are more than eager to get on the scale, often multiple times during one session!

A future training goal (once they all easily move onto the scale) is having them transfer comfortably from the mesh-on-a-pole to a specialized small animal carrier for transport to the veterinary hospital (when needed).

So the next time you are at the Zoo in the early afternoon, be sure to stop by Small Wonders of Africa to see if you can catch a glimpse of the bat training in action and chat with the keepers.

Feeding the bat banana while on the mesh attached to the scale
Recording weights
Checking the microchip while on the scale

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

African Lion Cubs 1st Birthday

On Saturday, October 24th, the three African Lion cubs turned one year old! Even through they didn't realize it was their birthday, it was a great chance for zookeepers and guests to celebrate them. They received an assortment of painted boxes with different scents or pumpkins inside and a multi-tiered ice cake with fish bits and meat juice frozen inside, topped with paper candles. They were a little startled when the crowd sang happy birthday but it didn't stop them from playing and chewing on all their gifts.

Thank you to everyone who signed the giant birthday card and celebrated with us!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Eyes Have It

By Meagan Edwards

Take a look around you…what do you see? The animal kingdom has many different ways of seeing things—including some we may not think of as eyes at all.

Animals like the Southern White-faced Owl and Henkel’s Leaf-tailed Gecko search for their food at night, so they need eyes that are adapted to see in the dark. Owls have eyes that allow them to see even the tiniest movement on a dark night. But even owls that can see 100 times better than humans at night have nothing on the nocturnal Leaf-tailed Gecko. They can see 350 times better than we can in dim light due to their specially adapted vertical pupils. Imagine how helpful that could be when trying to navigate around furniture in the middle of the night!

Animals that need to keep a lookout for predators can also have some remarkable eye adaptations. Grevy’s Zebras have a very interesting pupil shape – horizontal. This shape, along with the placement of their eyes on the sides of the head, gives them peripheral vision of nearly 360 degrees to keep a lookout for hungry lions. Their only blind spot is directly in front of them. Oustalet’s Chameleons, however, can see a full 360 degrees around themselves. Instead of eyelids, they have a cone-shaped piece of skin with an opening just big enough for the pupil. These cones move independently from one another, allowing chameleons to watch all around for predators and also tasty insects to eat.

The animal kingdom even has some eyes that are not really eyes. Sumatran Tigers have white spots on the back of their ears called “eye spots” which serve more than one purpose for these big cats. Since tigers are camouflaged in their natural environment, these spots help young cubs keep track of their mother as they move through the forest. They also serve as false eyes to make a tiger look larger to any potential threat approaching from behind. Next time you visit the Zoo, take a look at the eyes of the animals you see and try to imagine what you look like to them.

Reticulated Giraffe
Sumatran Tiger
Henkel's Leaf-tailed Gecko
Burrowing Owl

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Will you be the 500,000th visitor?

The Sacramento Zoo welcomes almost 500,000 visitors each year, so when we hit this milestone number, in October no-less, it's cause for celebration!  As of this morning, the count is 497,361. We will share the attendance number each morning until we welcome our 500,000th visitor to a raucous applause by Zoo staff and present them with a Sacramento Zoo Family membership, Zoofari Market prize pack, free lunch at the Kampala Cafe, train and carousel rides, and four exclusive SAFE Turtle shirts!

Visit the Zoo in the upcoming days and you may be the lucky 500,000th visitor!

The Hernandez Family celebrating the 500,000th visitor in December 2013.