Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Home Remodel Surprise for Percy

Percy the North American River Otter. Photo Credit: Erik Bowker

Imagine, on a return from an unexpected and extended stay at the hospital you come home to a surprise house remodel that includes new ramps, rearranged furniture, landscape pruning and in-pool additions for those times you want to float in the water without a lot of effort. What a great surprise it would make, just like a reality TV home-makeover show. This is exactly what Percy the North American River Otter will be surprised with when she returns to her exhibit from the Veterinary hospital at the end of the month.

Percy, an approximately 17-year-old otter, is receiving treatment for age-related ailments including arthritis in her hips, early renal failure and a “slipped disc” in her back. In late July, Percy had a disc rupture in her back causing pressure on her spinal cord that resulted in limited mobility. She was taken to the Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital to be treated. She has been recuperating under the care of veterinarians and her zookeepers. While she still has a way to go in the recovery/rehab process, she is making great improvement and regaining her mobility. The exhibit modifications will allow her to remain in her home that she is familiar with after she leaves the hospital. Much like a remodel to make a home more comfortable for an elderly person, we hope our changes to Percy’s home will help her be comfortable as she ages.

Percy has lived at the Sacramento Zoo for the majority of her life, over 16 years. She was a wild otter pup that ended up at the Gulf Breeze Zoo in Florida as an orphan via Florida Fish and Game in early 1999. She then came to the Sacramento Zoo in December 1999.

North American River Otters are native to the freshwater rivers and streams in the United States. The largest concentration of otters in California is the Suisun Marsh, about 40 miles from Sacramento. They can also be found in the Yolo Basin, and the American River range, even stretching to the foothills. The median life expectancy for a North American River Otter is 11.7 years.

On your next visit to the Sacramento Zoo see if you can spot the changes in the exhibit and how Percy might use them.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Truffle the Ice Cream Ambassador

Meet Truffle the Turtle! She is the newest staff member at the Sacramento Zoo and she’s an official Ice Cream Ambassador. Truffle spends her time job-shadowing staff, finding out what your favorite ice cream flavor is and talking about the Ice Cream Safari fundraiser on August 20th.

After her Ice Cream Ambassador job is done at the Zoo, she’ll find a new home with a very lucky GiRaffle winner at Ice Cream Safari! Until then, follow along as she explores the Zoo!

Truffle's question for you: What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Ice Cream Safari - August 20th, 4 to 8 pm
All-you-can-eat Baskin-Robbins ice cream.
Buy early & save! Early bird tickets on sale now:

Truffle helping guests at the Member & Visitor Services office
Truffle doing what she does best - telling folks about Ice Cream Safari!
Truffle got a ride from zookeepers & even had some training with the Zoo radios.
Truffle learning how to run an giraffe encounter for the visitors!
Truffle got distracted by the meals prepped for the primates. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Certified Green Gardener

When you visit the Sacramento Zoo, you may come to see the animals but you also can't miss the wonderful plant collection that surrounds the exhibits and lines the pathways. Our dedicated horticulture team works hard to keep the flora looking great year-round. They manage the different species (including some very rare plants!) all the while being considerate of drought conditions and cognizant of fertilizers and pesticides that could be harmful to the animals and environment.

Larry Hintz, who has a degree in horticulture, has been on the team for over three years. Always learning more, he recently completed the Green Gardener Program through the River Friendly Landscaping Training Program. It was an intensive 10-week professional program that covered everything from how to manage runoff and utilize organic fertilizers to composting and much more.

“What I came away with from this training program is that we can still have nice green yards and save water by using drip irrigation and alternate plants to replace turf, like Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), Little John bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus ‘Little John”), blue oat grass, (Helictotrichon sempervirens), and Siskiyou Blue Fescue (Festuca idahoensis 'Siskiyou Blue').  A good resource for choosing and grouping plants that have similar irrigation needs is the California Irrigation Management Information System.”

Larry was honored to be chosen by the Zoo to participate in the Green Gardener program and the Zoo is proud to have a certificated Green Gardener on staff!

For more information about the Green Gardener program and other eco-friendly landscaping tips, visit

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Only at the Sacramento Zoo

The Sacramento Zoo is home to more than 500 rare, exotic and endangered animals. Some of the animals at the Zoo can only be found in a few Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited facilities and in rare cases, only at the Sacramento Zoo. Next time you are at the Zoo, be on the lookout for some of the not-often seen animals representing their species in Sacramento.

Green Acouchi
You will not see another Green Acouchi like our girl in the country, that is because she is the only female of her species in the United States. The Green Acouchi is native to areas of South America and is represented in European Zoos as a European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) program, but not in the United States. At six-years-old Sami is enjoying her middle age retirement years at the Sacramento Zoo.

Yucatan Dwarf Club-tailed Iguana
The Yucatan Dwarf Club-tailed Iguana is the only one of his kind at an AZA-facility. He was donated to the Sacramento Zoo in 1992 and has lived in the Reptile House ever since. The species is native to the Northern Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico.

Giant Garter Snake
When winding your way through the Zoo’s Reptile House you will come across many native animals to California, including the Giant Garter Snake. The Sacramento Zoo is one of two facilities in the country, the other being the California Living Museum, to have a representative of the species. The female at the Zoo was injured in the wild and unable to care for herself which is how she ended up at the Sacramento Zoo.  The Giant Garter Snake is considered a Threatened species due to loss of habitat throughout its endemic range in central California and is a species of concern for the state of California.

The Sacramento Zoo’s Veterinary Medicine Department participates in the Giant Garter Snake Recovery Program by giving full examinations and placing transmitters into wild Giant Garter Snakes so that their movements and behaviors can be tracked by biologists in an effort to better understand their survival needs.

Buton or Knobbed Hornbills
There are nine Knobbed (or Buton) Hornbills in the United States, two of which live at the Sacramento Zoo.  They are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Vulnerable, are one of 54 species of hornbills. An amazing fact about them is that their wing strokes can be heard up to a half mile away! This is because they lack the cover layer of feathers (coverts) so air passes loudly through their flight feathers.

Friday, July 15, 2016

CFO of the Year!

We are very happy to announce that our Director of Finance & Business Operations Robert Churchill was named 2016 CFO of the Year in the Small Public Agency category by the Sacramento Business Journal. Robert is one of 17 CFO’s selected by a panel of independent judges as the area’s best with the ability to meet challenges head on and create new opportunities.

Robert has been at the Zoo for three years, moving from his previous tenure at for-profit companies to the nonprofit Sacramento Zoo. We are lucky to have him at the Zoo. While here he has proven himself to be a strong leader, calming presence, and passionate employee.

Congratulations Robert!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Rocket the Giraffe at 11 Weeks Old

At just over 11 weeks old, Rocket the Masai Giraffe is growing fast! At birth he was 163 lbs and 6' 1" tall and now he is 362 lbs and 7' 3" tall. His healthy appetite is keeping up with all of the growing he has to do, but just like many youngsters, he still takes lots of naps. Rocket’s zookeepers report that he is becoming more independent and venturing away from mom for short periods of time.

Rocket and mom are usually on exhibit daily until around 11am. Throughout the rest of the day, they can often be seen in the side yard of the barn.

Zookeepers have chalked a growth chart inside the barn to track his height.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

All About Bird Eggs

Many visitors love watching the Zoo’s feathery residents, but something that guests may not realize is the work that goes into hatching eggs from those residents. The Sacramento Zoo’s Primary Bird Zookeepers, Carolyn and Sebastian, dedicate a lot of time to properly monitoring and caring for a variety of bird eggs around the Zoo, giving them egg-sactly what they need.

Caring for the bird collection and their offspring sometimes includes the decision to move some eggs from nests to an incubator, giving those bird eggs a little extra support.  The decision can be based upon a variety of factors including the history of individual parents with their eggs and offspring, the endangered status of a species and future plans for the eggs after they hatch.

Keeper checking on eggs in the incubator
Burrowing Owl egg
In the photo above, Keeper Carolyn is completing a regular check on the eggs in the incubator. The incubator keeps eggs at a preferred temperature (around 99 degrees for most eggs), turns the eggs and has adjustable humidity based on the needs of the eggs. While looking after the eggs Keeper Carolyn will turn the eggs by hand to replicate movement they would experience in the nest and weigh each individual egg to monitor weight loss. Eggs are supposed to lose about 15% of their weight through moisture loss. If an egg is losing too much weight or not enough, Carolyn will adjust the humidity in the incubator.
Candling an egg
Candling an egg
Periodically during the incubation process Keepers Carolyn and Sebastian will check the viability of the egg and how likely it is to hatch.  They do this through a process called candling. During the candling an egg is briefly held near a bright light, giving a peek at what is inside.  When candling they are often able to check the egg’s fertility, age of the embryo, quality of the shell and the size of the air pocket.
Recording the egg weight
Zookeepers Sebastian and Carolyn are serious about the care of the eggs and birds under their care. Keeper Sebastian took a 32-hour intense egg incubation course taught by Susie Kasielke, curator of birds at the Los Angeles Zoo. The avian incubation workshop not only empowered him with more information and skills to care for the Sacramento Zoo’s birds, but he has also shared the information with many of his coworkers and hatched plans on how to best care for the Sacramento Zoo’s collection. Carolyn has plans to take the course.

The course includes topics:
  • Embryo and membrane development
  • Factors affecting hatchability before and during incubation
  • Hatchery management techniques 
  • Artificial incubation and its role in field conservation programs
Crested Guineafowl chicks
Egg Fun Facts
An egg is a single cell until it becomes fertilized. Thus, unfertilized eggs are single cells large enough to be seen without a microscope!

Brightly colored eggs often encourage males to play a role in sitting on the eggs and helping care for the young.

Pores in an egg shell allow oxygen in and carbon dioxide and moisture out.

Chicks have an ‘egg-tooth’ on the top of their beak which cuts through the egg shell when it is time for them to come out. The egg tooth falls off soon after hatching.