Friday, August 31, 2007

Black & white ruffed lemur update: because he is so cute!

By Jessa Franck, Zookeeper

The baby Black and white ruffed lemur is now 3.5 months. He weighs about 4 pounds. Sometimes when just glancing at the exhibit, it’s hard to tell him from his siblings. He has his own food bowl along with each of his family members, but we still see him nursing periodically. Recently, I started training him with the rest of the group. To build up his confidence, I usually have him work with his sister who is my star pupil. He’s becoming quite the little treat hog, whether he’s earned it or not. Also, he’s completely mastered the exhibit and no limb or rope will stop him!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A day in the life... of a reptile keeper. Part II

By Jessa Franck, Zookeeper


1:00pm – Lunch is over. Before heading out into the zoo again, I prepare a big lunch for the spur-thighed tortoises. Together they consume 2 beets, 2 yams, 6 carrots, 6 broccoli stalks, and 4 bunches of greens. In the wintertime their food consumption is greatly reduced. They don’t hibernate being native to Africa, but they spend most of their time lounging indoors where the temperature is kept at 90 degrees.

1:30pm – The afternoon is usually the time for feeding out rodents. Some guests are grossed out by it, but most will actually call their family and friends over for a closer look. You’re most likely to see us feeding reptiles on the first Wednesday of the month in the afternoon. Some snakes like the jumping pit viper only eat once a month, but the smaller snakes like the rubber boa eat every week. Our biggest snake, the 8-foot female red-tailed boa, eats 2 XXXL rats twice a month! Experienced reptile keepers know it’s important to feed pre-killed food because a live rat or mouse can injure your animal. You may have also wondered how we deal with the venomous animals in the collection. Any time we open up their exhibits, we have two keepers trained in the handling of venomous animals present. We do practice drills of how we would react if we were accidentally bit. Special safety equipment includes bite alarms, CO2 fire extinguishers, and a phone line connected directly to fire dispatch. All of our venomous animals are native to North and South America and are nowhere near as toxic as snakes found in Africa and Australia.

2:30pm – The afternoon is also when we renovate exhibits. You have to take into account many different things: Does your animal like to climb? Will it eat the plants? Will it drink from a water bowl? How many hiding places does it need? What is an appropriate substrate?

3:00pm – Time for another break. There’s a better chance of seeing pond turtles in the afternoon because it’s basking temperatures. Any time we find newly-hatched turtles, we collect them up and give them a head start in the Reptile House. When small, they are vulnerable to predation from crows and they experience limited growth in the winter during hibernation. Being kept warm indoors all year long allows them to grow much faster. Historically, we have identified over 130 individuals. Right now we have a single youngster, which was found October 20, 2006 weighing 0.2 ounces. It now weighs 2.25 ounces.

3:15pm- Back to the Reptile House. Every other day, we test the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in our aquatic animals’ water using a Colorimeter. I also have to find time to take care of feeder animals. We keep live mealworms, kingworms, earthworms, fruit flies, and tubifex worms in the Reptile House.

4:30pm – Time to go home.

Some people would be less than thrilled to find themselves in a building full of creepy crawlies, but I find myself talking to them just like any other animal. In some ways, they are the most challenging animals in the zoo to care for because they each have such unique needs and we have over 100 animals in the Reptile House. So please make sure to visit us next time you’re at the zoo. Just don’t tap on the windows!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A day in the life... of a reptile keeper. Part I

By Jessa Franck, Zookeeper

7:30am – I get to work, put on my gear, and attend a morning meeting. After the meeting, I gather up a big bag of produce to haul up to the Reptile House. I stop by the spur-thighed tortoise yard in front of the giraffes. In the tortoise house, I record the temperature high and low. Then I do a quick cleaning of the yards and turn on the sprinklers. You might have wondered why we have two yards each with two tortoises. The big guys like to push the smaller ones around. It’s not a fair fight when one guy weighs 75 pounds and the other is closer to 20 pounds!

8:00am – I arrive at the Reptile House. I take a clipboard and walk through the hallway accounting for every animal and making notes about each exhibit, such as leftover food, feces, and pool cleaning. Then I have to remove the countless fingerprints and smudges from the windows. Guests sure like to get close to the animals! I also push a big broom over the floor and mop up sticky spots. Any other place in the Zoo a spilled drink would go unnoticed, but not on the hallway floor of the Reptile House where it invariably gets tracked all over. Please do not bring food or drinks inside!

8:30am – The food processor gets pulled out. I run 3 carrots, a large yam, 3 broccoli stalks, and a large beet through the machine. Then I hand chop two bunches of various greens, usually dandelion and chard or collard. If you have a pet reptile at home, you know you have to use fancy greens because things like iceberg lettuce have very little nutritional value. Also, we don’t use spinach because it has high levels of calcium that can build up in reptiles’ systems. The 15 pound rhino iguana gets her diet cut up separately because she can handle bigger pieces than someone like the 2 ounce Yucatan club-tailed iguana. Certain animals also get fruit in their diet. Our fruit mix includes 2 bananas, 2 oranges, 2 apples, and 10 grapes. Sometimes we add special things to the animals’ diets like melon, mushrooms, papaya, and kiwi.

9:00am – I spend time at each enclosure. A lot of the animals need to be misted. This activity increases the humidity in the exhibit and some animals, like the prehensile-tailed skink, even drink directly from the hose. About half of the building is set up with automatic misters and we’re working on adding more. I also change all the water dishes and clean pools as needed. I feed out the produce or insects and earthworms depending on the day.

10:00am – I take a short break and usually go to Kampala for a soda. On the way back to the Reptile House, I scan Lake Victoria for Western pond turtles (Clemmys marmorata). This species of turtle is the only one native to California and we have a thriving wild population at the zoo!

10:15am – I continue to make my way around the Reptile House, feeding and cleaning exhibits. We also have some animals in off-exhibit holding. Some are there for medical reasons, some for breeding, and some just because we have a lot of them and they don’t get along well enough to be on exhibit together.

12:00pm – It’s lunch time!

Check back soon for Part II- afternoon feedings and more creepy-crawlies!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Monitors, CPUs, Keyboards…oh my!

By Jaime Wilson, Sacramento Zoo Green Team Member

Today was e-waste day for the Sacramento Zoo staff. Over the last week, a couple of computer monitors in our barn multiplied into a full carload of stuff, as staff started to bring in their dead electronics from offices and homes.

This is our list of what we saved from the landfill today:
6 monitors
4 CPUs
7 printers
2 stereos
5 keyboards
3 surge protectors
1 laptop
2 phones
1 box of assorted hand-held radios, speakers, cords and more!

With technology moving faster than ever, there is a huge problem of electronic waste being dumped into landfills. Not only can parts and metals be recycled, but some monitors and equipment have toxic chemicals in them that need to be dealt with. Disposing of them properly is a great thing to do!

We offer e-waste recycling for the staff every couple of months, or when the pile in the barn starts to get huge. The Zoo is working on having a public e-waste recycling day in the future, but for now, here is some information so you can do your part!

E-waste options in Sacramento http://www.sacgreenteam.com/ewaste.htm
Where and how to recycle other stuff http://www.sacgreenteam.com/recycle/default.htm

Do you have other questions for our Green Team? Leave a comment with a question and we will put our little heads together and see how we can help! We have solved tons of dilemas... from "what is the best lightbulb to buy for my kitchen?" to "how does my chocolate craving affect other countries?"
Saving the world, one carload of e-waste at a time!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Party like a Rockstar!

The penguins are molting! Their bellies are big and Pepper has already lost most of his feathers. He only has his old feathers around his head and it looks like a mohawk (or a scarf, you decide). His new feathers are already growing in and are really soft. Come out and see this unique experience as the other three are just starting to molt.

Departments join forces to build exhibit

by Sabrina Friedline, Zookeeper, Lead Carnivores

Staff members from animal care, maintenance and horticulture teamed up to complete the hyena exhibit renovation, which they worked on for several months. When keepers decided to change the hyena exhibit many ideas were discussed and number of brainstorming session were in order.

After many designs, we decided to build a series of 3 platforms at various heights (1, 2, & 3 feet). The posts supporting the platforms came from a cedar tree that had to be removed from the front of the Interpretive Center (Yah- recycle!). The edges of the platform were capped with split peeler poles so, when the hyena chews on them (which we are sure she will) they can easily be replaced and will protect the actual platform.

For the rest of the exhibit we had other plans that involved many wheelbarrows of topsoil and compost to build up a thicker layer of dirt. Hanging over the top wall is another new plant, a trumpet vine that we hope will grow and creep along the exhibit walls. Then add some plants, a bit of sod (w/o plastic mesh), new and changed tree limbs and we have a much improved exhibit and some very tired Zoo staff.

Then, the moment we all were waiting for.... letting the hyena out into her much changed exhibit! Keepers placed some meat juice popsicles(blood-pops) around the exhibit and on the platforms. We also placed a flake of straw on the top platform in order to know if she actually went up there at night when no one was there to see.

When she was let out on exhibit, the hyena was a bit hesitant about the changes to her exhibit and definitely took some double-takes, but she quickly started exploring and wanted those blood-pops! She started slowly with one foot on the lowest platform, then two- stretching as far as she could. She would leave, then come back and get a bit closer and a bit more comfortable. In less than 30 minutes she had been on the two lower platforms with all four feet and she jumped on the the 3rd and highest platform to sniff around! She promptly got down and went for the treats on the other platforms. We were sooo thrilled!

All the staff had a great time seeing her explore her new surroundings and it made all the hard work and many, many hours all worth it. A huge thank you to all of maintenance, grounds, and keepers who worked in the carnivore area for all their hard work over the past couple of months. It is a job well done!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Brian's late-night creature encounter

by Brian Sodeman, Overnight Supervisor

It was late at night and pitch black. The only thing illuminating my way was a weak flashlight powered by dying batteries. I had one last task to complete before I could call it a night. The giraffe bottles needed to come down.

Now, normally this was a routine assignment. The bottles are five gallon jugs that are filled with produce. They are hung up so the giraffes can munch on the tasty veggies. When the giraffes are finished, the bottles are taken down. No big deal. Or so I thought.

I was already thinking of my soft sleeping bag while I walked to the Giraffe exhibit. As I approached the fence where the bottles were hanging, I heard a rustling in the bushes. Strange, I thought. The giraffes are usually pretty quiet. Plus, if they were the source of the noise, it would have been pretty obvious. It’s not like they are little and can hide in a small plant. No, it was something else making the racket. Long before my eyes located the source, my nose gave me an idea as to what it might be.

Finding my way thru the bushes, straining to see under the dim light, I came closer to the bottles. Directly under them was a skunk. And I was only a few feet away. I stood there and hoped that it would move on. Taking down the bottles was the last thing I had to do before I could go to bed. And the skunk was standing in the way.

Waiting patiently for the skunk to move on, I weighed my options. I could stand there for an undetermined length of time and hope the skunk left. I could try to take down the bottles with the skunk still near by. Or I could risk it all and try to scare the skunk away. None of those seemed like good options. Driven by the need to sleep, I decided to press my luck and persuade to skunk into leaving. I tried making noise and stamping my feet. It seemed to be working. The skunk started to walk away. I started to taste victory. But before I could enjoy it, the skunk came running back…with reinforcements. There was another skunk near by, and now they were both under the giraffe bottles.

Not to be out done, I armed myself with a near-by hose. With the nozzle aimed at the bushes, I watered the plants. This got the skunks moving. They left the area and I was free to take down the bottles. My night was almost over. I went to put the bottles away, when I encountered the skunk again.

It was standing in front of the gate I needed to walk thru, almost taunting me. It dared me to pass, and this time there was no hose around. Since the gate was wide, I decided to go for it. I went to the right, and walked right by the skunk. I had made it pass. Feeling quite confident that I would get to go to bed now, I walked away. If only the skunk could have done the same thing. It couldn’t let things go, and it ran after me. Almost in shock, I turned around and stared. It came within a few feet, looked me in the eyes, and stamped its feet. Stamp stamp stamp! I was the better man and backed down. After all, I was sleepy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Giraffe Yawn

ready for an afternoon nap, Skye gives a big yawn

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hyena exhibit gets a facelift

Our Hyena came out on exhibit today to discover new grass, plants and a new structure made out of an old tree. The Zookeepers have been working behind the scenes for over two months on the structure and other features.
Meat juice popsicles where placed around the exhibit to give her some motivation to explore the new areas. Zoo staff and visitors were watching as she cautiously tested the sturdiness of the new structure, but did not let fear of new things stop her from getting to all the treats in the exhibit. After gathering everything in the exhibit, she moved it all to her den and had a nice feast.
Come out and see the renovations before the hyena digs up all that beautiful sod:)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Kitchen Demolition

by Jim Schnormeier, Curator, Asst. Director

We are remodeling the kitchen. The main reason is the wall under the sinks had rotted away so a new block wall will be built to replace it. New paint, wall covering, lights and floor surface. A cabinet with new stove top and microwave will be added. A general clean up of the kitchen. Keepers are adjusting by doing some diet prep up in their animals' sections.
In the pictures above, one wall has been pulled out and is now covered with plastic. Keepers are sharing the one working sink. Hopefully these tight quarters will not last too long.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

After-hours party with the giraffes

By Lois Chappell, SZS Board Member/Docent


We had a great time last night at the giraffe cocktail party, which a friend of ours won during the live auction at Wild Affair in '06. The temperature was perfect, and the staff went all out. Everyone raved about the setting, food and ambiance. The giraffes were pretty cute, too!

The penguin molt

by Amanda Mayberry, Zookeeper

(left: Lacey, Kat, and Amanda change a band, right: all four birds in exhibit)
Today we had to change the Magellanic penguins hard plastic bands to softer bands called "soft bands." The soft bands expand as the birds swell during their pre-molt gorge. In the wild, penguins will gorge, or eat as much as they can prior to molting. During molt they are uncomfortable in the water and are unable to eat for about two weeks. This is the time it takes to exchange their old feathers for new ones. They burn the fat they have gorged during that period and are fit and ready to go once all their new feathers have come in. Here at the Zoo they will be offered food during molt but may not eat. They eat anywhere from 4-6 fish per day the rest of the year, but right now, during the molt, they are eating 6-12 fish a day! One of our males, Pepper, eats 12 fish a day already and has had a two-week jump on the others. Come out and see if you can spot his big belly.

Friday, August 3, 2007

It's a GIRL!

The veterinarians have confirmed.....
the Azure-winged magpie baby is a girl.

It has only been a week since our last pictures of this cute chick, and she is growing very fast. Already about the same size as mom and dad, but you can point her out by the way she still waits for food and has fluffier feather than the adults.

Healthy Day at the Zoo

On August 4th, celebrate your health with a day at the Zoo.

Check out these websites to learn more about how animals and pets help keep us healthy:
The Humane Society
Prevent Disease
About.com

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Week Full of Fun

By Emily Healy, Summer Camp Counselor

For my cousin Liane and me, the week of July 16 was full of exhausting, but exhilarating, experiences. We spent that week volunteering as teen counselors for the Zoo summer camp program, and we had a lot of fun doing it. Each day brought new activities and counselors alike. We all found ourselves amazed and entertained by the wondrous animals of the Zoo, whether we were feeding those gentle giants, the giraffes, or observing the antics of the chimps at mealtimes. Every morning we were introduced to new camp songs and I was over joyed to be able to add to the zoo's collection with my favorite camp song, "Da Moose." Throughout the week, the campers learned and made friends while playing games and exploring the Zoo. They decorated picture frames, made egg carton alligators, and exclaimed over every sort of animal, from snakes to penguins and otters. The counselors where only too happy to assist them in their numerous exploits. I believe that campers, counselors and teachers all had a fantastic week, and I can't wait to do it again next summer!
Emily Healy, Liane Healy, Elisabeth Reed

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Magpie Baby

inspired by Jason Skaleske, Zoo keeper

The Azure-winged magpies laid eggs around the 15th of June and one hatched on July 1st (they have a 16 - 21 day incubation). The baby is now flying around with its parents. You can tell it from the adults because its color is a bit duller and the feathers don't look as smooth.

The magpie exhibit is in the Red panda forest area just across from the Red panda exhibit. You can also find the Himalayan monal pheasant with the magpies.

Jason would sometimes find the chick laying on the other eggs in the nest with its head on them. The other eggs didn't hatch and most disappeared. This is not that unusual with bird nests. The veterinarians just did the first weighing, sexing and banding. Band #sac zoo B 010. The B is the size of the band.

From Wikipedia
The Azure-winged magpie occurs in two population groups separated by a huge geographical region between. One population lives in western Europe, specifically the south western part of the Iberian Peninsula, in Spain and Portugal. The other population occurs over a much larger region of eastern Asia in most of China, Korea, Japan, and north into Mongolia. In Chinese culture, the magpie is one of the most popular birds, and is seen as the messenger of good news and fortune. In fact, its name in Chinese means "bird of joy".