Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Summer Afternoon…In a Freezer Truck?

By Jaime Wilson, Web Development & Fundraising Coordinator

One hot afternoon each July, you will see a peculiar sight at the zoo. Two short women walking through the zoo dressed head-to-toe in polar fleece, complete with scarves, hats, snow gloves and a check list.

Crowbar. Check.
Pencil (not a pen that easily freezes). Check.
Lip Balm. Check.
Inventory List. Check

Zoo visitors, dressed in shorts and tank tops, sipping iced drinks and fanning themselves in the sweltering heat, stop and stare. The two women climb onto a loading ramp, flip a switch, ride up to the door and disappear into the giant Baskin Robbins ice cream truck. The visitors wait, but no one comes back out. Shrugging their shoulders, they go about the rest of their day.

What are they doing? Well, I can tell you! The Zoo’s Development Coordinator and Web Development Coordinator are sorting all of the ice cream for our 23rd Annual Ice Cream Safari. The truck is delivered with almost 275 3-gallon containers of ice cream, loaded on big metal rolling carts. With 15 flavors, you can imagine how hard it is to find what you are looking for. So, we pry off the cross-bars that keep the metal carts in place, roll them all out (without squishing one of us) so we can get to the ice cream and begin.

And don’t forget, this is a FREEZER truck.

As our hair and scarves start to freeze with the condensation of our breath, we attack the first cart and sort the cartons. Chocolate there. Sherbets on top. Mint-chip at the end. (the ice cream slides quite well on the frozen metal flooring). Do you think this whole cart is all Vanilla? No, there are 30 on there, and we’re only supposed to have 27 vanilla. Just as we unload the last carton, and reload it to another cart, we find the pesky 3 Heath Bar Crunch at the bottom. Isn’t that always the way!

After 30 minutes of work, our lips are feeling frost-bitten, the generator has kicked into high gear and it’s actually snowing on us, and we look like winter-wonderland elves with ice-crusted gloves and rosy cheeks.

We emerge onto the loading platform and I lose all sight, because my glasses have fogged up. Lisa looks at me and starts laughing. Smiling, we descend, gratefully basking in the warmth, as our clothes become soggy with melted ice. After six years of doing this, we have a system and we have finished in record time!

As we change back into our summer clothes we consult our list. All ice cream accounted for! As for us…it’s just another day at the Zoo.

Editorial in the Sacramento Bee

Read the Ariticle:

Editorial Notebook: Yes, it's all happening at the zoo
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, July 28, 2007
Story appeared in EDITORIALS section, Page B6

Friday, July 27, 2007

How to Plan a Birthday Party for a Zoo Animal

by Jessa Franck, Zoo keeper

Chris, the youngest white-faced saki monkey, celebrated his second birthday today, July 27th. Zoo keepers love to make enrichment for their animals and its especially fun for the keepers who work in the primate area who get to see big reactions from their animals. One of my favorite things to do is throw a birthday party for an animal on its special day. This means instead of making our usual items, we make a whole bunch of stuff and overload our animals’ senses. I’ve thrown parties for the male orangutan and youngest chimp and even the sloth. So when I looked on the calendar and saw that Chris would be turning 2 years old soon, I decided he needed a party, too.

The first item on my list for party planning was a location. Okay, it’s admittedly easier to choose a location for a party when the birthday boy lives at the Zoo. (Marketing would want me to point out you too could have your birthday party at the Zoo.) Some animals, like the Interpretative Center’s Desert tortoise Herkimer have more leeway about where in the Zoo to celebrate. Herkimer had his 80th birthday celebration on the reptile house lawn recently. But this party would definitely be in the white-faced saki exhibit. Also, putting something like this, albeit redundant, on the list and then crossing it off gives me a sense of being very productive.

Next I needed to decide on a guest list. Well, I would definitely invite the birthday boy. And I suppose I’d have to invite his sister and mother since they live with him. Plus there’s the two-toed sloth that shares the exhibit. I should invite her even though she’d be sleeping inside. The keepers working in the area that day and also any other keepers that work with the sakis on a regular basis would want to attend. Then there will be members of the public that happen to walk past. Not that the birthday boy will care who shows up, which is pretty similar to a lot of two-year-old humans.

The biggest things on the list were entertainment, presents, and snacks. With animals, you can combine them all together. We have a list of items that have been pre-approved by management and the vets as being okay for the animals. Using that as a guideline, I made a stack of boxes and then used non-toxic paint to make them bright and attractive to little monkey hands and eyes.
-I filled the top box with roses.
-In the middle box, I put bedding and big mealworms for the monkeys to pick out.
-The bottom box had smears of peanut butter and a few grapes.
These are all things that the monkeys consider treats because they don’t get them every day. I also made sure not to include too much of the fatty or sugary stuff and to spread it out so everyone could get some without fighting. There isn’t supposed to be fighting at a party!

When the time came, I made a radio announcement so all the guests could get in place. I put the stack of boxes in the exhibit and right away Chris came over to see what was happening. He kept running laps around the exhibit and jumping off the boxes. Finally the top one fell off and oh, you mean there’s something in those things? He ripped apart a few of the roses. More laps were repeated, jumping on what was left of the stack and the overturned box. He wasn’t too interested in the contents of the second box. Chris sometimes acts like he thinks the big mealworms are out to get him. But the last box! Even his mom, who had mostly been watching the commotion, wanted in on the peanut butter action. And there was enough for everyone, so there was no fighting. All the boxes eventually got turned upside down and the family continued to jump on them throughout the day. Chris is going to sleep well tonight. I consider that a successful party!

My favorite thing about Zoo camp is

by Isaiah Velasquez, Summer Camper

My favorite thing about Zoo camp is the arts and crafts. I enjoy all the paints and fun brushes we use to create animals. Using clay and magic model is a fun way to show your imagination. My favorite is drawing because I can show the artist in me! I LOVE ZOO CAMP!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

And the winner is...

by Sprinkles Galore

The winners of this years Ice Cream Safari Relay are: Sam Curtis, Lindsay Moseanko, Christine Bui, and Jeff Ng!!!

It is hard to explain the madness, but with flippers on their feet and seaweed and coolwhip and a whole lot of water.....well you can kind of imagine.

I want to thank our Team sponsors:
Lux Taylor
Lois Chappell
Gail Lenhart and the Docent Council
as well as our contestant sponsors
Chris McGlasson and Terry Kastanis

Monday, July 23, 2007

I scream, you scream, we all scream......

by Sprinkles Galore

for ice cream! The Sacramento Zoo’s Ice Cream Safari is one of the oldest and beloved of the Zoo’s fundraising events. Each year, over 4,000 people come to the Zoo’s famous all-you-can-eat ice cream extravaganza.

Prior to the Saturday event, we have a special little activity here at the Zoo that not so many folks know about. It is our own reality show, entitled “The Ice Cream Relay”. Staff members from zookeepers, cashiers, maintenance people, education staff and membership must complete a Survivor-style obstacle course to create their final winning sundae….or some semblance of a sundae.

This year we have four teams of four people. They begin by donning heavy raincoats, special footwear and off they go…..diving into ice-cold water to retrieve a scooper, or crossing a balance beam without losing their scoop of ice cream, or digging through a pile of hay to find the whipped cream. They may slide through chocolate, toss whipped cream, or run through a maze of cones. They get wet and sticky and have a whole lot of fun!....then they go back to their jobs taking care of the Zoo.

All of this will be featured on Good Day Sacramento as well! If you would like to watch our moment of merriment and cheer on the teams, we would love for anyone to come on by at 9am Wednesday, July 25. After the relay has been completed and the coveted “Scoopy” awards given out, we all celebrate with our own scoop of Baskin Robbins ice cream --- FREE!

The hostess of this wackadoodle event is yours truly, Miss Sprinkles Galore ….formerly Miss South Dakota, 1962. I, along with my line judges, Cherry Toppins, Nikki Nutsontop, Latte Moolah, Sinnamon Toast Crunch, Chiquita Banana, Miss Honey Mae, Cinful Blast, and Ida Slapter, (just to name a few), make sure our contestants stay on course --- no cheating allowed!

Come join us!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Arts week only comes once a year

by Danny, Summer Camp Teacher

Arts week was a total blast. The kids did some wonderful art that really surprised me and their parents. Besides tie dye painters hats and the usual pencil and pen drawings of animals, the students created puzzles, planter bowls and window art. Sammy made the week with her constant antics and with 18 girls and one lone boy, it made for a really silly week. I can't wait for Radical Rivers and all that will offer. It really is an incredible opportunity to be able to teach these classes each summer. Hope the kids enjoyed it as much as I did. See you all next week or at least next summer!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Summer Camp is a blast!

by Amanda Castaneda, Education Manager

Summer Camp is in full swing and we are having a blast! Since this is my first year working at the Zoo and running the camp, I have really appreciated all of the help and guidance of the wonderful experienced teachers, staff, and volunteers here. I couldn’t have made it through these past few weeks without Lindsay, Asheley, Elaine, Jessie, Brooke, Katie, and of course, Serina, Michelle and my mentor Ann. As I learn the ways of camp, it has been really fun to see how differently the many classes and age groups experience the zoo.

For the younger grades, it’s mostly about the joy and wonder of touching a hedgehog or feeding a giraffe. Many of our teachers are especially talented with these young kids. It’s so much fun to talk with the campers about the animals and hear all of the unusual, and sometimes silly “questions” they will ask. In these classes, “My neighbor has 8 rabbits,” counts as a question.
It’s also exciting to see our 5th-9th grade campers and those that come to our Keeper and Vet Tag Alongs because these kids are interested in digging deeper into the world of zoos, zoology, and conservation. Since this is where my heart and interests lie, I love to see and hear them explore the world around them through our zoo. I especially liked some of the hands on activities the campers in Brooke’s Powerful Predators class did last week including hunting like a waterbird and constructing working hawk feet out of straws and string!

And then, of course, there is our intrepid corps of Teen Counselor Volunteers. We certainly couldn’t have a camp without them, and we appreciate their hard work so much! Of course, Alisha, the teen coordinator, has done the majority of the work with these teens. Her dedication and resilience when it comes to working with our 60-strong volunteer corps has been amazing! Together, we are learning so much about working with these remarkable young adults who thrive with more responsibility, but still love to run on the grass and play with the kids. In fact, the campers like playing with the teens so much that we have to have a special rule – “No breaking the counselors, they have to last all summer!”

Monday, July 16, 2007

Black and white ruffed lemur baby

by Jessa Franck, Zookeeper

A few months ago, I was in the Dr. Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital when the vet performed an ultrasound on our adult female Black and white ruffed lemur. She was very early in her pregnancy, but we could see two bright spots on the screen… two hearts! The vet turned the sound up on the heartbeat monitor and at that moment we were as giddy as any expectant parents could be listening to that “swish swish” sound!

The keepers started guessing the birth date. The day before my chosen day, I came to work early and walked through the quiet, empty zoo to the lemur building. Mom was in a big, black tub with bedding and I thought I saw a little body huddled under her. I excitedly called the supervisor. A little while later, we performed a quick vet exam on the surviving baby. We tentatively sexed it as male (sometimes things are swollen at birth and it’s hard to tell, which is why we have a female monkey named Chuckette).

Baby boy grew quickly. We weighed him weekly and within a month, we were performing what we call the “mesh test” where we attempt to fit him through a piece of mesh the same size as exhibit fencing. Black and white lemurs can have up to six babies at a time. Instead of carrying all the babies with them, they are left in a nest until about six weeks when they are strong enough to follow their parent around. Hence the need for a “mesh test.” He was way ahead of his siblings in growth. We joked that it wasn’t his shoulders that would hang him up, it was his fat little belly.

Watching the baby black and white ruffed lemur venture out onto exhibit with his family for the first time was just as exciting as a year ago when I watched his two older brothers and sister make their debut. He was very timid at first and spent a lot of time walking to the edge of the porch. He spent some time munching on the spinach not deigned tasty enough to eat by the older members of his family (they prefer fruit). Then he made a sudden decision to climb the mesh sides all the way to the top of the exhibit, higher than he had ever been. The keepers laughingly said that we would have to climb up and rescue him, but Mom came up and checked on him. It must have given him courage because he made his way back down and started navigating the ropes and limbs in the exhibit. And just like his big brothers and sister, the last thing he wanted to touch was the grassy ground. I found many excuses to walk past the exhibit throughout the day to watch him playing with his siblings. He likes to wrestle with one of his brothers and his sister takes on a more motherly role with him. Good practice for the future when she has her own babies! When I checked on him at lunch time, he, Mom, and sister were all sleeping together in a hammock.

I saw his siblings go from small, timid babies weighing only around 4.5 ounces to confident, young adults. And now the new baby seems like he is well on his way.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Welcome to Our New Blog

By Jaime Wilson
Web Development & Fundraising Coordinator

We are excited to finally have our very own blog! I have worked at the Sacramento Zoo for over seven years, in four different departments and I am still amazed at all the things we do that the public never knows about. From amazing conservation efforts and rare plants to absolutely wacky races and shows...now we have a way to share the Zoo on a more personal level and give you a glimpse of our world.

All of our posts will be written by Zoo staff and volunteers from every department across the Zoo. Hopefully we will be hearing from Education, Animal Care, the Curator, Director, Marketing Staff, Volunteer Docents, Board Members, the Interpretive Center, Membership, our Horticulturist, Vet Staff, Summer Camp Counselors, and many more!

Thanks for visiting and check back often for your personal peek into the Sacramento Zoo.