Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Butterflies are coming!!

Blooming Butterflies is new to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory this year. This exhibit will open June 6, 2008. Hundreds of butterflies will be housed in this caterpillar shaped building.
This week gardeners are finishing up planting and are preparing for the opening. Different butterflies found around the world will be showcased through out the season.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A new addition...

We had an unexpected addition to the Como Zoo family on Saturday morning, a baby reindeer! At first glance, the calf is easily missed as she is dark brown and usually curled up on the ground near her mom. We received two female reindeer last fall. They had been with a male at their previous facility, but hadn't produced calves for several years, so it was unlikely that they would reproduce this year. Although she showed no signs of carrying extra weight, Nikka the reindeer gave birth to a very strong and healthy girl on Saturday morning. Reindeer calves are about 12-18 pounds at birth. Come see the baby when you get a chance.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Kick-Off

Well, it may have come on quietly, but it is definitely summer! It's 80 degrees, the sun is shining, the ice cream stands are out, and the Sparky Show has started! This years show is "Sparky's Coastal Journey" and it's all about her imaginary trip to California and the Arctic in search of polar bears. The kick-off was Saturday and it was a hit as crowds learned and laughed while Sparky and her trainer gallivanted all over the United States. Chino even came down for a surprise visit and waved to the surprised crowd!

And of course we were all happy to see the seals and sea lions out on the newly resurfaced Island soaking up the rays. Training demonstrations with the animals occur at 3:00pm daily (except for Mondays) and will begin on Saturday May 31st.

It's been a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, and just think, we have an entire summer of fantastic warm weather ahead of us!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Let the sun shine!

After a long winter and an even longer spring, the weather and construction around the zoo has finally cooperated enough for the Zebra and Giraffe to go out. After the yards had been cleaned and given the once over, we opened the doors for Jahari and Daisy Giraffe, and Ulysses the Grant's Zebra to enjoy the sunshine. All were a bit hesitant as is usual for hoofstock when there is a change in routine, but after only a few minutes, Ulysses was running and kicking up his heels as the giraffe calmly walked their exhibit, nibbling the new grass and looking at their adoring fans. We hope to get the rest of the giraffe herd out in the next week. Jenga, the almost two year old, seemed eager, but has not ventured out yet. 8 month old Autumn and mother Clover will get to go outside when it warms up a bit more. For now, they can be seen on the inside exhibit.

Let the Sun Shine and Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Chino is learning how to be a star!

Training is all about baby steps or approximations towards a final goal. When you get to see an animal perform a behavior, it may only take a few seconds, but many times the animal and trainer have been practicing the behavior for months and sometimes even years in order to learn the final product. Chino has been part of the trainer process since he arrived to Como in April 2007. He is very good with training and we hope that someday Chino can co-star in the Sparky Show. However, before that can happen he has to get used to a lot of different things; things most people would even think are a big deal, but he sure does! Chino has been out on our new Sparky stage many times since the weather has been nice and he is slowly getting used to the sights, smells, and sounds of the stage, but up until today he has never had visitors in the Sparky arena with him. He's been doing so well that today we thought we would invite a small group of kids into the amipitheater to help acclimate Chino to crowds. His first audience was small with about 30 kids and grown-ups. Everyone had to be on their very best behavior and sit very quietly so Chino didn't get scared and leave. He was fabulous! He looked around at everyone, looked back at his pool upstairs and then decided he would work with his trainer on a few behaviors. He even barked for everyone! Afterwards he went back upstairs with his trainer while Sparky showed off for the crowd. Thanks Chino!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tiger training in the sunshine

One of the best parts of my job is getting to go to the different areas of the zoo to assist with the zoo's operant conditioning program. Operant conditioning, is a great way to mentally stimulate the animals as well as get them to participate in their own daily health care. Today, the cat keeper and I decided to try a session with Pahstrel, an Amur Tiger, outside on exhibit. Pahstrel was lounging in the sun in the tall grass at the center of her exhibit when we went out into the keeper area, but her ears perked up when she recognized our voices and heard us call for her, and after only a few seconds came over to the fence to begin her session. We do protected contact training with our big cats, meaning there is always a barrier between the trainer and the cats. As an added safety measure, we also use tongs to feed the training treats to the big cats. Even though they look cuddly and cute, these animals are wild, and would not hesitate to grab a finger or arm if the opportunity arose. Pahstrel was very eager and participated well for the session, putting her paws on the mesh when asked, as well as sitting and standing on her back legs on command. We kept it simple as she had not previously trained outside and was a bit distracted by the noises of the zoo getting ready to open for the day. At the end of the session, she returned to her spot in the middle of the exhibit to soak up the sunshine while it lasted.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

As a mother, I appreciate all of the hard work that animal mom's put into their offspring. The care and attention they need is often times staggering...

Imagine nursing a baby orangutan for up to eight years!

Being pregnant for nearly 15 months and then giving birth to a six foot tall baby!

Giving birth to hedgehogs with quills just below the surface of their skin!

Mothers are wonderful, and while we should appreciate them everyday, take an extra moment today to thank them for all they do.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

News from Polar Bear Country!

Well... actually Detroit, but the Detoit Zoo could be considered bear country since they are currently housing Buzz and Neil for us while we build their new exhibit! Buzz and Neil's new keeper just emailed us an update on the boys. They have been out on exhibit and they responded very well to their new surroundings. Buzz temporarily turned himself into a brown bear by rolling around in the dirt! In their new home they can watch the seals swimming next door and see other polar bears from across a mote. We definitely miss them, but it looks like they are adjusting very well to Detroit.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Polar Bears

Here's a little background on the new Polar Bear habitat.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fred learns to stick out her tongue...

One of the coolest adaptations of the kinkajou, Potos flavus, is their long tongue. Kinkajous belong to the same family as racoons, but look more like a cross between a monkey and a cat. I wanted Como to get a kinkajou since I started working here in 2001. Two years ago, Fred the kinkajou came to us from the Central Florida Zoological Park in Lake Monroe, FL. She is in my opinion, one of the coolest education animals we have. Recently, Fred, her keepers, and the education staff that work with her began an operant conditioning program. The goal is to keep her handleable for education programs as well as teach her to display some of her natural behaviors on cue. Training a kinkajou is similar to how you would teach your dog to do a trick, you just have to find the right motivator. For Fred, it's dried cranberries or blueberries. Her ears perk up and her nose wiggles when she smells those tasty treats. She seems to be a very smart creature and picked up quite quickly that when we came into her holding with treats, we expected her to do something. As we ask her to present her tongue, she puts a paw on your pointer finger and sticks out her 5 inch long tongue. Next on the list is training Fred to open her mouth wide to show off her impressive canines. Como does not have Fred the Kinkajou on display as she is an education animal, but if you ever come to a class or an evening event at the Como Zoo, you may be lucky enough to get to see her.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Flamingos on the move...

The annual migration for the bird yard birds happened this past Monday. The move is well rehearsed after doing it for more years than I can remember, but it never gets any easier. The keepers round up the birds from their holding pens in the Animal Support Buidling, holding each while they are checked over by the veterinarian, weighed, photographed, and vaccinated. They are then carried up to the bird yard and let go at water’s edge. During their vet check, the flamingos reach their long necks out to bite at anything they can reach. Often when you are working on one flamingo another is behind you biting your hair, nipping at your sweatshirt or honking incessantly in your ear. Or, your own flamingo turns at you and pinches and twists while biting your cheek, arm, or hand. The toughest birds, or at least they think they’re the toughest, are the ruddy ducks. These ducks weigh in at just under a pound, but they think they are the most ferocious. The one female I was holding nibbled at my fingers and hands the entire time I was holding her. If you get a chance, stop by the bird yard to see the 11 Chilean flamingos, 2 red-breasted geese, 4 ruddy ducks, 2 common shelducks, and 3 swan geese. The 6 American flamingos and the 4 White-faced Whistling ducks will get to go out when the weather is a little bit warmer as they are more sensitive to the cold.