Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Farewell Jim

By Jaime Wilson, Zoo Blog Keeper

For 17 years the Sacramento Zoo has had a secret weapon. A formidable force of constant support, patience, dedication, a nice moustache and one pair of shorts (just for Ice Cream Safari). Our curator Jim, has lead the Zoo through many changes, ups and downs, building projects, temporary exhibits, 3 am phone calls, accreditations, and put up with a lot of our wacky antics along the way. So many antics, that you'll always see him hanging out by the closest door at any party or event with a very clear exit strategy.

Jim has been the man-behind-the-scenes for the Dr. Murry Fowler Veterinary Hospital, the Conservation Carousel, the Tall Wonders giraffe exhibit expansion, and spring exhibits from bugs to dinosaurs, mazes to penguins, white alligators to white tigers and involved with almost every aspect of what you see when you visit the Zoo including the giant frog on the Reptile House. It would take days to list all his accomplishments and the impact he has made at the Zoo.

This week marks the last of his days with his family at the Sacramento Zoo before he moves on to his new home with the Reid Park Zoo. We wish him the best of luck and know he will make his mark there as he has made his mark in Sacramento.

Personally, it has been a joy working with Jim for the last 10 years even though I can safely say I was completely intimidated the first year. Some days I'm sure he wishes I still was!

From the bottom of our hearts - Thank you Jim!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Other Side of the Moat

By Scott Johnston, Keeper-Aide Volunteer

August 14, 2009

8 a.m.
I’ve arrived! After 27 years of waiting, contemplating and hesitating I’ve finally made my way to the rear entrance of the Sacramento Zoo for my first day in the Keeper Aide program.

Just two weeks prior my life long adoration of all creatures great and small led me to the zoo’s Website and finally Volunteer Coordinator Valorie Schneider. After the mandatory orientation I was ready to go…

Next stop – The Other Side of the Moat.

Feelings of excitement (Oh, man, I can’t wait to sidle up to a Giraffe), anxiety (what if I don’t get to sidle up to a Giraffe?) and apprehension (what if I have to sidle up to a Giraffe?) fill my head as I’m buzzed in.

After making my way through the initial getting-settled-in formalities I find out that I will be assigned to the Ungulates, i.e. giraffes, zebras, bongos and ostriches, etc… YES!

While all the animals are fantastic (there are four other groups, primates, birds, carnivores and reptiles that I will be working with in the future) this is the bunch I am most excited about.

While I’m waiting for the keepers I’ll by assisting I try to look as much like a seasoned veteran as possible. My wardrobe, however, screams rookie.
Volunteer’s Keeper Aide T-shirt - Check.
Yellow and red nametag - Check.
Strange looking half rubber, half leather boots, recycled from a long-lost equestrian career - Check.

I’m set. Now what?

Ungulate experts Lindsay and Melissa arrived shortly there after and we we’re off! To most people mixing it up in the dirt, dung and dietary divisions required to care for a variety of large herbivore would not be the highlight of their day at the zoo. Not so for me, I enjoy the dirty work.

I spend the first part of my morning sifting through giraffe droppings, remaking straw beds and using a step ladder to clean water and food buckets that hang more than seven feet above the ground. All the while Skye, a 13-foot tall, and 11-year old reticulated giraffe, who has assigned herself as my foreman and keeps a watchful eye on me from just outside her barn, carefully critiques my work.

Skye shares the barn with roommates Guddy (11-years old, 13-feet tall) and Val, who is also 14-years old and stands 14-feet tall. The reticulated giraffe is the most well known of the nine giraffe subspecies, and is by far the giraffe most commonly seen in zoos.

9:45 a.m.
After the giraffes Lindsay, Melissa and I move on to the Bongo enclosure. The Bongo is the largest and heaviest forest antelope. Both males and females have spiraled lyre-shaped horns. The bright chestnut colored Bongos are found in rain forest with dense undergrowth. Specifically they are found in the Lowland Rain Forest of West Africa and the Congo Basin to the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan. Large-scale and continuous hunting has completely eliminated bongos in some areas.

While the keepers move the two females and one male into a holding pen I stay just out of sight breaking up alfalfa and dropping it into their feeding troughs.

The Bongo is a shy, flighty animal and the less stress the better when interacting with them.
We then move around the enclosure picking of droppings and laying out a vegetable treasure hunt consisting of small piles of lettuce, yams and other greens that are placed intermittently throughout the enclosure and serve as treats for the trio.

11 a.m.
After a short break my last stop of the day is at the enclosure shared by the zoo’s population of Red Kangaroos, Emus and Bennett’s Wallabies. These animals are quite laid back allowing me to move about freely while collecting the droppings.

While the four male ‘roos hang out off to the side and Wallabies hide out indoors, the two female Emus cruise along with me as a I make my way around. At four to five feet tall the birds can be intimidating, but Melissa assures me that the two large girls have been raised at the zoo since they were young and are quite used to keepers being near.

Before leaving the enclosure I’m allowed to hand-feed Pogo, the most social of the red kangaroos. He calmly sprawls in the sun as I feed him a handful of leaves and corn. He takes it much like a dog eating a treat.

Overall I have to say my four-hour day felt like 20 minutes. The interaction with the animals was awesome and unexpected and the “close-up” aspects of the program were extremely educational. I feel as though I’ve discovered a hidden voluntary gem and I can’t believe there aren’t more animal lovers breaking down the gate to do this.

I can hardly wait to see what else is in store on The Other Side of the Moat.

Stay tuned…

Find out more about volunteer opportunities at the Sacramento Zoo volunteer webpage.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dave Bender & Sacramento Magazine

By Marisa Hicks, Marketing Coordinator

Dave Bender of CBS13 came by the Zoo today for a photo shoot! Sacramento Magazine has an article coming out in September about him and they needed a good picture. He was once a zoo animal trainer before his days of weatherman fame here in Sacramento, so they wanted pictures of him with animals. Of course, we were happy to oblige!

Dave is a great supporter of the Sacramento Zoo. He has been the Master of Ceremonies for the Zoo's biggest fund-raiser for many years and is doing a repeat performance at Wild Affair on October 3, 2009. As the auctioneer, he makes it the wildest live auction in town!

Monday, August 10, 2009

What kind of bird is that?

By Jaime Wilson, Zoo Blog Keeper

Ask any Zookeeper... the most frequent question they hear is "What kind of animal is that?", while people point at the human cleaning the exhibits or feeding the animals.

Well, on a recent summer morning a man was spotted in the middle of Lake Victoria! This was definitely an odd sighting, but we confirmed that it was just one of our sure-footed Zookeepers armed with a fire hose doing some maintenance and cleaning in the lake.

Even the Zoo staff stopped to take a second look and ask "what kind of bird is that?".

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Molly the Snow Leopard's New Home

By Lauren, Sacramento Zoo Teen

It was a hot and humid day in New York City as I trekked through Central Park to the Central Park Zoo. I was excited to see the new exhibit hosting Snow Leopards - one of them our very own Molly! Before leaving for vacation I had read that Molly the snow leopard from the Sacramento Zoo had been transferred to the Central Park Zoo.

Inside, the animals I first went to see were the sea lions because the trainers were just about to do a feeding show. They were in a huge clear tank in the middle of a courtyard swimming around and doing flips. I really wanted to be in that water with them because it looked so refreshing! After I left the sea lions, I moved on to see the penguins waddling around and the polar bear exhibit. Except there were no polar bears - I guess it was too hot outside for them that day. A little disappointed, I moved on the the main event - the snow leopards!

Right away I knew I would see one of the snow leopards, hopefully Molly, because a whole bunch of little kids and their parents were gathered around the glass window. The exhibit was large and full of bushes and trees. Laying on a rock right next to the window was a beautiful sleeping snow leopard. I wasn't sure if it was Molly or not, but it made me happy enough that I saw one and that I got a fantastic picture! Reading the nearby placards, I discovered that Molly just recently gave birth to the most adorable baby snow leopard. The father, George, was from the Bronx Zoo.

My visit to the Central Park Zoo was tons of fun! I'm sad that we no longer have Molly at our zoo, but I'm glad she seems to be doing very well in her new life at the New York City Zoo.

Molly as a cub at the Sacramento Zoo with mom - 2006