Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boo at the Zoo

It is time for another spooktacular-good-time at the Zoo. Ghosts swing from the trees; mystery boxes are filled with creepy unknown bits; pumpkins are ready for bowling; the train route is full of exciting displays; candy stations are filled with chocolate and sweets; and now we just have to get our costumes on! See you tonight, if you can spot us:)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Craig’s List vs. The Landfill

By Jaime Wilson
Sacramento Zoo Green Team Member

Today was a good day for the Green Team.

Our Zoo Curator came to me and said there was a bunch of old reptile enclosures that were no longer needed and they were going to get thrown away, unless the Green Team wanted to do something with them. Of course we did!

A half an hour later, I downloaded some digital pictures of the items, wrote down dimensions and went online to I posted everything in the free section of the classified ads and by the end of the day, all of them were picked up and off to their new homes! All said and done, there were 15 enclosures that found a new purpose.

Giving away what you no longer need is great on so many levels! It cleans up your space of unwanted items, it stays out of the landfill and it helps someone else out. It’s a beautiful thing.

Here are some ideas for getting rid of things you don’t need:
Craig’s List

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!

How to tell a jaguar to stick out its tongue and say "ahh"

By Jessa Franck, Keeper

Imagine you’re a Zookeeper working with the giraffes. You are putting a flake of alfalfa in the hay feeder when you notice the youngest female has a cut by her eye. She’s moving around so much that it’s hard to get a good look at the injury. What do you do? Anesthetizing any animal is risky and giraffes are among the worst due to their height and sensitive nature. Fortunately, you have been training the giraffes to accept brief examinations. You call her over to the training platform and reward her with small pieces of apple, grapes, and acacia leaves as she calmly touches her nose to a pole after hearing the command “target.” She starts to back up and you say “move up” then “eye” and “ear” as you manipulate the corresponding parts. The vet is standing next to you and he also has a chance to look over the injury. The cut is smaller than you first imagined and no treatment will be necessary other than daily monitoring for infection.

Now what if that giraffe was a big cat? If you’re a Zookeeper working with the jaguars and notice the male jaguar has been chewing his food primarily on the right side of his mouth. Unlike the giraffes, you can’t have him stick his head over the fence and touch him. Fortunately, you have been training him to present different parts of his body. It’s done with protected contact, like a mesh barrier, for the safety of you and the cat. You tell him to “open” and make a special shape with your fingers that corresponds to the command. He opens his mouth and adds his usual snarling comment. The gums on his left side look a little inflamed. You’ll notify the vet. You reward the cat with a piece of meat on a specifically made long stick, once again designed to keep you both safe. The male jaguar could also stand on his hind legs with his chest pressed against the mesh, present either of his sides, and move from den to den.

Zoo keepers work to develop relationships with all of the animals they care for. Cleaning, feeding, and observations can tell you a lot about how an animal is feeling, but training gives keepers another tool to monitor animal health. At the Sacramento Zoo keepers work with management and vet staff to develop training plans for the animals in their areas with priority given to animals in need of more monitoring or with upcoming transfers. This planning involves a reason for the behavior and a step-by-step process in how the behavior will be achieved explaining parameters like where the training will be done, how often, by whom, and what training aids are needed.

Keepers train birds, reptiles, and mammals. The big cats and primates tend to be the easiest to train because they are the most food motivated. Guests have the opportunity to watch some of the training that is done on exhibit with animals like the Black and white ruffed lemurs and the North American river otters. Keepers have to remain very focused while working with the animals because the animals are still wild and therefore unpredictable, so wait until the session is finished before you ask questions. And remember that just because we can get a chimpanzee to accept a shot in the arm doesn’t mean our dogs don’t steal food off the counters at home!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Pond Turtles

By Jessa Franck, keeper

A bird keeper discovered three newly hatched pond turtles (Clemmys marmorata) by the flamingo feeder last week. They were quickly scooped up and transported to the reptile house. Loyal readers may remember from the post "A Day in the Life… of a Reptile Keeper" that we collect pond turtle hatchlings on zoo grounds and give them a head start. This allows them to grow larger more quickly and thus be safer from predators like crows. The three turtles weighed in at 6.7 grams, 7.0 grams, and 6.7 grams. Their shells were marked temporarily so we can tell individuals apart. The turtles will be weighed and measured weekly to monitor growth. They are now on display in the reptile house next to the single hatchling found in October of 2006. Favorite foods so far are small mealworms and crickets. They should be ready for release in spring of 2009.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Back from Philly

by Mary Healy, Zoo Director/AZA Chair

I just recently returned from our annual conference of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) in Philadelphia. This was a very significant meeting for me for several reasons. On a personal note, it was meaningful because, the last time the Association held a conference in Philadelphia, I attended as a college student trying to find out about zoo careers. It proved to be very informative and productive because I was offered a job as a keeper at a zoo in Columbia, SC. On a professional note, I was returning as the Chair of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Board of Directors. In that role, I was essentially host to the opening session and many special lunches and meetings throughout the week. Our guest speakers included actor Sigourney Weaver and former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt.

Sigourney with Jack Hanna

Returning to Sacramento, I was energized by the commitment and passion of my fellow members of the Association. During our week in Philadelphia over 2,000 delegates shared a common goal of working together to save wild animals and wild places. How fortunate we are to make our living in this very rewarding profession.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The crowds are gone, the animals are active

by Lauren

The weather has cooled off and the animals have come out to play. One of my favorite times to walk through the Zoo, is the morning after it has rained. Everything is quiet, there are only a few visitors strolling down big cat alley and the tiger cubs are putting on a show. Our trio of tiger boys can often be found mud wrestling or sliding through the slick grass. In fact, many of the animals come out to investigate the new smells after the first rainy days of the season. The birds seem to be calling louder, but that is probably just my imagination due to the extra silence around the Zoo. Yet, the penguins don't notice a thing in their temperature controlled exhibit.
Tell us, what's your favorite thing about fall??

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wild Affair - Wildly Successful

By Jaime Wilson
Very Tired Sac Zoo Worker

As you can tell by the content of the last few blog posts, it has been all Wild Affair, all the time! We promise to get back to our regularly scheduled blogging, just as soon as we have caught up on some much needed sleep!

Over the course of five days, we took a bare patch of dirt and turned it into an elegant tented dinner and show room. We turned the Zoo into an outdoor cocktail lounge and entertained about 250 guests in fine style! But there is no rest for the wicked, as they say, so after leaving the Zoo after 11pm on Saturday night, we were all back at it bright and early 8:30 am on Sunday morning, looking very pretty (heavy on the sarcasm here), to tear it all down, put it all away, and clean it all up. Until next year, of course!

From first counts, we raised over $110,000 on Saturday, our most profitable Wild Affair ever! From animal keepers, maintenance, membership, education, to family and friends, everyone pitched in to make it a great success!

I am on my 12th day of work, a little bit loopy but very excited and proud of what we have accomplished! It’s amazing what you can do with a great team of people. Thanks to everyone who helped, everyone who donated and everyone who attended.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Costumes, Auctions, Decor and much more

by Lauren

It has been a while since our last zoo post. We've been engulfed in all things "Wild Affair." This event takes a zoo army to put on. Some of the work is tedious and some is just fun. The auction is a lot of work, everything has to be labeled, organized, checked over, and double-checked (tedious work). But then there is the Stage Show, where organization is not always necessary, but inspiration comes in all forms. Yesterday I was on a mission for false eyelashes, fishnets and wig caps. A great show always involves wigs! The art form of the check-in/check-out tables is a honed skill that our staff has down packed. Everyone, from keepers to maintenance to managers, seems to have their fingers in a little bit of everything going on.
It's back to the trenches, time to set tables, move decor and find that little bit of pizazz that will make this night a Wild Affair to remember.