Thursday, October 1, 2009

Georgia's Blog Day 3

Tuesday 29 Sept

I was awakened by Robert Buchanan singing “Oh what a Beautiful Morning”. Personally I prefer the Gordon MacRae version, but I didn’t have much time to ponder this bizarre wake-up call because I had to report for breakfast duty. I hurriedly got dressed in my bunk and hid my hair under a hat.
Meal duty was actually quite pleasant, and I even made toast! Then we piled onto the Tundra Buggy, which was warmer today because we were all more properly dressed. One of the supervisors, Ian, taught us all about the local flora and fauna, and we actually got to go on the ground. There were little mussel shells everywhere, and squishy kelp because the tide was out. I loved taking pictures beside the giant wheels of the Buggy. I thought that would probably the most special moment of my day, but I had no idea what would come later.
After seeing no wildlife save some birds, we came back to the Lodge for lunch. The food is really good here, and it goes especially appreciated after being out in the cold. We even got fresh baked cookies. Someone had spotted a bear out on the tundra, so we rushed through a presentation about how to interact with and teach people. Once again the gang boarded the Buggy and after a short while, we saw a dot of a polar bear. We got gradually closer and closer, until the bear was maybe 100-200 meters away. It was just resting, because it’s too hot for the bears to be active at this time. Yep, 40 degrees is too hot for them. After maybe ten or so minutes, the bear got up to come and investigate us. I will forever remember the thrill, the view, the air, when a wild polar bear is ambling towards you. One of the girls compared the polar bear walk to the waddling ducks in the Aristocats. I went out on the uncovered platform of the buggy and was honestly only four feet above the bear. It just sat, staring. I loved the moment it made eye contact with me! It sits really slumped over, almost like a dog when it’s not feeling well. If I were to anthropomorphize, I would say it’s funny that this apex predator would act so sheepish and diminutive! Robert had us focus on the bear, and imagine what it would be like if we were one of the last people to have seen polar bears. My eyes were water, but I blamed it on the nippy wind. The cold didn’t bother me much, but most of us had stiff fingers from taking pictures without wearing gloves. Eventually the bear got up and retreated a little. It took a drink for a large puddle, which is really rare. The bears don’t need much water, because they only eat seal blubber which doesn’t require water to digest. Even the Tundra Buggy veterans had never seen a bear drink before.
I helped prep dinner then we watched Kay (the Aussie chaperone) give a presentation about climate change and the Aurora Borealis. It was some pretty dense stuff but I grasped most of it. We took a break for brownies then brainstormed how to approach the video project we are supposed to make. We’re targeting adults and emphasizing the fact that there is only five years to stop really permanent damage. I’m not that excited to do the video, though I did joke with the guy in charge of the film (a different Ian with cool glasses) if he was going to do German expressionistic or French nouveau. One of the other supervisors is from White Bear Lake! I told him that White Bear Lake didn’t really exist, because you’ve always realized you went the wrong way home from the Xcel before you reach it.
We watched some intense videos about how important this issue is and how little time we have. Everyone got a little misty-eyed watching some 12 year old girl talk to the U.N. about conservation. It really lit the fire under my butt. I think I’ll bike to school, and try to get Hopkins to ban Idling while waiting to pick up kids. I’ve got so many ideas, though I also feel like curling up in a ball and crying until it all goes away. We did more blogging, then bed.

Georgia's Blog Day 2

Monday 28 September

Our day began with a 5am wake-up call in the Four Points. Most of us slept pretty well, though the jet lagged Aussies (Stephanie and Kaylie) only got 3 hours of sleep. After some muffins we walked through a gusty Winnipeg street to the airport. The PBI people took up most of the little Calm Air plane. I slept a little on the flight, which was actually longer than my flight from MPLS to Winnipeg!
The airport at Churchill was itty bitty, though it did include a polar bear pelt. There we met Dylan, Churchill’s Ambassador (and the second tallest person in town!) He’s 6’5 I think? I was honestly expecting him to be at least a little kooky since he lives “just north of nowhere”, but he was really nice, funny, and proud of his town. He’s also a descendant from the First Nations (so he doesn’t need a hunting permit). Churchill contains about 900 people, though I only saw about 20. It was established as a military base by the U.S. during the Cold War. Today it’s even an alternate landing for the Space Shuttle! The main businesses are shipping (grain) and tourism. Dylan says everyone in town owns a “skidoo” (snowmobile) and most own a four-wheeler too. Kids our age go skidooing, hunt, skate, swim, play video games, watch TV, and surf the web. Apparently there are only 12 people in Dylan’s class, and that’s abnormally big for the school. Most of the town is quaint little houses, gravel, and rust. The school, hockey rink, curling rink, swimming pool, basketball court, and general gathering areas are all in one big brown complex that’s right on the ocean. There we saw a commemoration of a treaty between the First Nations people and Canada where the Canadian government pays the natives 5 dollars. There was a police officer in full ceremonial Canada police outfit. I got a picture with him! We ate at a place called Gypsy’s that had very delicious deli-style food. They also had a signed photo of Ewan McGreggor. We touched the Arctic Ocean and it was so unbelievably cold! I stole a heart-shaped rock for Patricia. It started to snow for the first time this season for Churchill and for me. That was one of the most special moments of the day.
We also went to the polar bear “jail” where bears that get too close to town are housed before being relocated. We heard polar bears moving inside and saw how their traps worked. We also tested noisemakers that scare the bears. I got to shoot a “screamer” out of a real, heavy handgun!
We saw a creepy, dilapidated research facility where they gave bears oil and inadvertently killed them. One of the coolest parts was listening to local trapper Parker Fitzpatrick discuss how hunting and trapping isn’t as bad as it seems. His argument is that while a city would take 50 years to return to its natural state, and if he left his grounds they would be normal in about 3 years. He also said that he’s very responsible and he helps strengthen the population by keeping it down and killing the slow ones. The traps are more humane now, but the foot holds especially seem still pretty cruel. Apparently it kills an animal a lot quicker than starvation or disease would. I respect Patrick and his way of life, but I don’t think everyone can live like him. Also I got to touch a wolverine pelt (and wolf, martin, and beaver)!
We drove in a bus a lot then we finally loaded up the Tundra Buggy. It was not as warm as hoped, especially since some of the school-bus style windows were broken and wouldn’t close. We moved at a very slow pace over lumpy terrain which was actually a road built by the U.S. military during the Cold War, but it took like an hour and a half! The land here is not the giant block of ice I expected. It’s really marsh-like, with puddles and water everywhere. It’s like a really frigid swamp. All the ground is brown and orange and green with little pockets of raspberry colored bush. You can see for miles and there are little, maybe 5-foot pine tree pockets everywhere. It’s simply beautiful. I sat at the front of the buggy with Steph and Hayley . At about 5:30 Mirielle spotted a young polar bear! Robert Buchanan said she (dubbed Sheila by the Aussies) was about 2.5 years old and would have just been turned away by her mom. Later though we saw her with another bear and reckoned it was the mother. The bear kept walking and galloping ahead of us, looking back at the Buggy a lot. We also saw an Arctic hare and some little sparrow-like birds.
FINALLY we arrived at the Lodge. There are like 5 boxcars in the middle of the Arctic marsh: boys’ sleeping car, girls’ sleeping car, lounge car, dining car, staff sleeping cars, and a generator car. There’s limited water so I’ll only be able to take 1 shower over 4 days.

Georgia's Blog Day 1

Sun. 27 September

My flight was on a tiny airplane with only 2 seats per row. As I was boarding I met another girl whom I recognized as Courtney Freyhauf, Arctic Ambassador from Ohio. We sat amid a plane full of hunters. We talked for the whole hour and a half flight, annoying all the other passengers with our incessant gabbing. Then we met the bubbly Kathy Myers and Kaylie (one of the Australian Ambassadors) at the Winnipeg airport. We chatted and waited for some others to arrive before crossing the street to the Four Points Sheraton. There we spent a few hours getting to know each other as all sixteen ambassadors arrived. Everyone is really easy to talk to and cool and funny and not nearly the collection of nerdy misfits I expected. There are a lot of overachievers though. I immediately connected with the Canadians, I think because of our proximity. Everyone else had these fantastic stories about their long journeys to get to Winnipeg and how they had never been somewhere so cold. Sadly I could not commiserate in the sentiments about how exotic Canada was. My favorite moment was when Mirielle for Quebec (aka Mimi) asked me if I was sick or if my voice always sounded like this. Yep. Someone else asked me the difference between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
We did icebreakers in the conference room for a while and watched a presentation by the MAAN (Manitoba Arctic Ambassadors Network). Then we got our beautiful goose-down with coyote fur trim jackets. We had a discussion that justified having real fur on the jackets, and it actually made sense though I cannot explain it in writing. The jackets are absolutely fantastic, but they make us all look like obese Smurfs. The girls came to Courtney and me’s after supper where we had great conversations, mostly comparing lifestyles with people from around the U.S and Australia. We also all made grand plans of visiting each other and sneaking home with the Aussies in their luggage. Even though we have an early flight tomorrow, I am too excited to sleep!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Como Zoo on Twin Cities Live!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy National Zoo Keeper Week!

This week is National Zookeeper Week. This national celebration is in recognition of Zookeepers, aquarists, and the animal care professionals in our nation's zoological parks and aquariums. Zookeepers serve as animal care experts, frontline educators, and conservationists. So if you pass a keeper or aquarist this week, please take a moment to thank them for their dedication to the animal care profession.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tortoise Home Makeover

Thanks to the help of the horticulture and maintenance staff, the Galapagos Tortoises received an exhibit makeover. New boulders were placed in the yard as a barrier to prevent exploration into the bird yard pool and new sod was laid for the tortoises to enjoy. In their night holding, old mulch and dirt was completely removed allowing for a thorough cleaning of the ventilation and heat system and new, fluffy mulch was put in. Marco and Erwin appear quite content in their made-over holding and exhibit. Thanks again to everyone who worked so hard to make the tortoises "happy".

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sparky visits the Doctor!

The 2009 Sparky Shows have started and are going well! This year the show is about how we prepare Sparky and all of the Como Zoo pinnipeds for visiting the doctor. We walk the audience through a visit to the doctor after Sparky pretends to hurt her flipper. The audience learns how we collect a blood sample on sea lion, how we prepare her to visit the opthamologist as well as all about the many other things we do to keep Sparky healthy. This year each show is a little different to help keep Sparky and her audience interested, but of course we finish with some high energy favorites performed by Sparky!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Baby giraffe, meet your adoring fans!

The baby giraffe at Como Zoo finally made his debut to the public this morning. Born a month ago today, he had to get used to his surroundings and his zoo keepers before being put on display. After a rough start in life due to septicemia, an infection of the blood, the little male was taken to the University of Minnesota where he was given round the clock care to clear up his infection. He lived at the U of M for 10 days before coming back to the giraffe barn.

Introductions with his mother, Clover are ongoing, but due to the extent of his illness and the length of stay at the U of M, she was unable to nurse him. He is being raised by the zoo keepers and will readily drink up to 4 liters of milk at a time from a bucket.

After initially just peeking at his adoring fans from the doorway, he mustered up enough courage to come out onto the display when a camera man arrived. He will be on limited display with the choice to go back into his holding for a while until his hooves toughen up to the concrete floor. Later this summer, the zoo keepers will work on introducing him to the outside yard and the rest of the giraffe herd.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Swimming with Sparky

This summer Sparky V, who retired from shows in 2000, celebrated his 31st birthday. As the second oldest sea lion in a North American zoo, he has encouraged his trainers to find new and creative things to train him to do that he is physically capable of doing in his old age. Sparky V has always had a uniquely laid back temperament and a trusting relationship with his trainers, so in the summer of 2008 we started getting in the pool with him and training him to do water behaviors. Because of his old age we had different goals than many other facilities that swim with their sea lions. Sparky V would not be doing any fancy foot-pushes or pulling us through the water; the purpose of our water work would be to keep his training new and exciting and allow him to spend more time in the water where he is most comfortable. This video is a clip from last summer when just began to work with him in the water. The first behavior we trained is called a water present, where he floats next to the trainer with flippers extended so we can take a good look at his entire body. The most important part of this behavior is that he is calm. He relaxed immediately with the behavior and responded positively to the water work. You can see in the video that a large portion of his training is using fish and touching him as reinforcement for his calmness. We continued this training inside during the winter, although it is more fun in the sun!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kudu Debut

After completing some upgrade work in the kudu exhibit over the weekend, today was the first day the three male Lesser Kudu were able to go outside for the season. While it was not an extraordinarily warm day, the three boys appeared to enjoy the weather and could be seen sparring, running around the exhibit and pushing their horns in the soil.

After a few days the kudu will be joined by two crowned cranes and two yellow-billed storks. Once all of them are settled in, we will introduce the two female zebra into the mix. Minnie, the younger zebra, has not been on the outside display yet as she just came to us only a month ago from Mesker Park Zoo in Indiana. She should be interesting to watch as she runs around the display and meets her display mates.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Orangutans in the sun

After a very long Minnesota winter, the orangutans at Como Zoo were let outside for the first time this year. All three adults explored the exhibit thoroughly munching on their breakfast as they moved around. Jaya, the one year old clung to Mom Markisa's back, not quite sure of his surroundings. I'm sure he'll be dangling from the ropes and hamming it up for the crowds in no time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Como Shuttle Ready For Action!

The new Como Shuttle kicks into gear THIS WEEKEND! Stop circling the parking lot looking for that elusive spot and hop aboard the super comfortable, super convenient shuttle. It will drop you off at the front door! It is wheelchair and stroll assessable. Pick up location is at the State Fair Grounds Parking Lot at 1736 Como Ave. It starts at 9:30am and the last run is at 6:30pm.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Baby Giraffe

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New Zebra On The Block!

On April 25th, we welcomed a new zebra into our collection. While she still has the coloration and fuzziness of a baby, she is almost a year old and came to us from Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, IN. The keepers have named her Minnie and she now lives with our other female zebra, Thelma. Once the weather cooperates and the okay is given by our veterinarian, the zebra will be seen frolicking outside with the lesser kudu, crowned cranes, and yellow-billed storks. For now, you can stop by and see her in the hoofed stock building closest to Zoooper Foods.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Whole Foods Shopping Trip to help Como Zoo

Buy groceries and earn money for programs and improvements at Como! Whole Foods Market in Saint Paul celebrates the community during select "5% Days" that allow nonprofit partners to receive a donation totaling 5 % of that day's net sales.
Today, Wednesday, April 29th shop at the Whole Foods Market located at 30 South Fairview Ave in Saint Paul and help Como receive a valuable donation!

I went this morning to do my part for Como Friends and purchased lunch for today. I also brought in my #5 containers as Whole Foods has teamed up with Preserve to recycle containers that can't go into the normal recycling pick up in the Twin Cities such as yogurt, hummus, and cottage cheese containers. These containers are ground up into pellets and turned into Preserve products such as toothbrushes, tableware, and kitchen bowls, cutting boards, etc. It's a great way to reuse the containers that would otherwise find their way into the trash. Make your way to Whole Foods today to help Como Friends and get some delicious food at the same time!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Seal Island is Open!

As the neighbors have probably already heard, the seals and sea lions are out on the island! And this year we have a new addition to the island, Chino, who came to Como Zoo in April, 2007. Chino has been sharing a pool with Sparky VI, the star of the Sparky the Sea Lion Show, over the past year. We recently chose to temporarily separate the two so we can focus on one-on-one training with each animal while Chino is still young and learning so much. Sparky VI will remain in her exhibit so she can continue doing shows this summer, while Chino joins harbor seals Max and Ginger on the island.
To prepare for the move, Chino was trained to voluntarily enter a sea lion transfer crate and the move went quite smoothly! We were also interested to see how he would interact with Max and Ginger, since it would be his first time meeting a harbor seal at Como Zoo. While the introduction went very well and they seem to tolerate each other and eat calmly together, they are not pals and seem to mind their own pinniped business. Max and Ginger have lived with sea lions before and were similarly indifferent while living with California sea lions Sparky V and Mystic. However, Chino is much younger and more playful than Max and Ginger's previous roommates and we are all interested to see how their relationship will unfold over the summer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Today the zoo celebrates Earth Day with a Party for the Planet. The bachelor group of gorillas at the zoo received a special enrichment today in celebration of 2009 being the Year of the Gorilla and Como Zoo is helping the public "Go Green for Gorillas" by educating them on simple ways to protect these great apes. By reducing, reusing, and recycling, we can all make a difference and help gorillas as well as all living things.

Togo, Gordy, and Schroeder came out of holding to find boomer balls paper-mached with rice paper to look like the earth hanging in their exhibit. Although the rice paper was tasted by the gorillas, they were more interested in the treats inside the balls. Underneath the rice paper crust nuts and seeds were placed inside the balls and had to be shaken out.
Go green for gorillas continues this weekend with gorilla games and activities. You can make gorilla mobiles, have your picture taken with a life size gorilla cut out and play the Gorilla Population Game! We hope to see you at Como Zoo!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A River Runs Through It

Spring has sprung and that means all the progress made on Polar Bear Odyssey over the winter is now starting to show! Recently, construction workers removed the protective plastic covering on the new rock work in the exhibit and it looks great! Our new exhibit will feature several areas where we can train the bears right on exhibit so visitors can see all the training we do with Buzz and Neil.

The keepers were invited into the exhibit to look at the progress being made. We all put on hard hats and went in to assess the location of a stream that runs from once side of the exhibit into a large diving pool. The stream runs right behind one of the training demonstration areas, so we wanted to make sure there was enough room for the bears to train near it. Afterwards, we took tour to see the progress of the exhibit and we're very excited for Buzz and Neil to come home and see their new habitat!

Como Zoo's TV Stars!

If you watched KSTP at all last week you may have noticed they had a number of unusal guests on the air! Among them were Como Park Zoo and Conservatory zoo keepers, educators, Stephano the sloth, Gonzo the hedgehog and Cupid the penguin! The occasion for all the animal stars was the annual Como Friends Sponsor an Animal Phon-A-Thon sponsored by KSTP. Over 20 people volunteered all day to staff the KSTP call room and helped folks purchase sponsorship packages to adopt animals here at Como Zoo. This was the 5th year the Phon-A-Thon has run, offering a special rate to those who call in, and it is a valuable part of our fund-raising efforts bringing in between 4,000 and 10,000 dollars! When you sponsor an animal, it helps us cover the costs of feeding, training, and enriching our animals as well as habitat maintenance. Throughout the day, zoo staff and their animal companions visited KSTP's studio to show viewers where their sponsorship money goes.

As you can imagine, being on TV was exciting, but it was even more special for Cupid who made his TV debut on the 5 o'clock news! We prepared Cupid for his TV appearance by setting up big lights in the zoo keeper office to mimic what he would see in the studio and taking him out to meet zoo visitors during our weekly Keeper Talks. He seemed comfortable with the lights and crowds, so we were hopeful he would do well on TV. Well, Cupid was a natural! We were interviewed by Cyndy Brucato and not only was he calm and curious, but when the interview was over and Cyndy had to go back to the news desk, he tried to follow her!

All in all it was a great day, thank you to KSTP and Como Friends for organizing it. If you are interested in sponsoring an animal, you can still receive the discounted Phon-A-Thon rate by clicking here. You can chose the animal you want to sponsor and you will receive a package that includes information about that animal and a photo of them as well as a plush stuffed animal, certificate of sponsorship, a 15% discount at Garden Safari Gifts, a subscription to our quarterly newsletter The Como Insider, and early news about animal births and happenings here at the zoo.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Good-bye Harriet

The zoo lost a longtime member of its collection last Thursday. Harriet the Caribbean flamingo had been at Como Zoo since 1970. She was an adult when she arrived here, making her over 40 years old! Harriet is quite famous in the medical world having survived several bouts of cancer resulting in both of her middle toes being amputated. She also went through radiation treatment at the University of Minnesota as part of her cancer treatment. Veterinarians and zoo keepers alike were unsure if she was going to be able to stand and walk when her first toe was amputated in 1999, but Harriet proved to be a trooper and was put back in with the rest of the flamigo flock once her wounds healed. When the cancer came back in her other foot in 2002, again it was unsure if she would be able to stand now that both middle toes were removed, but again Harriet proved to be a tough bird and was once again reunited with the flock. In 2003 we discovered cancer in the inner toe of her right foot. Since she would not be able to stand with only one toe, Harriet went through a series of radiation treatments at the University of Minnesota to reduce the size of the tumor in her foot. She again was returned to the flock. Recently though, zoo keepers had noticed a decrease in Harriet's appetite as well as difficulty standing. Bloodwork showed a systemic infection as well as an abnormality in her heart. After much discussion, the decision was made to put her down. To try to cure her of the problems she was facing would have caused her too much stress as well as a lifetime of treatment and never getting to go out to the Bird Yard again. We are all sad to lose Harriet, she was a great bird and will be missed.

Photo by Jennifer Gleason

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The most popular exhibit at the zoo!

I don't know what the fascination is, but visitors to the zoo love to watch zoo keepers work. This past weekend the aquatics keepers and I were in the empty island exhibit breaking up the ice and sweeping up leaves preparing to get seal island open for the season. At times there were larger crowds watching us clean and taking pictures of us then there were at exhibits with actual animals! Zoo keepers are very used to the comments of "what kind of animal are you?" or "Look, a human exhibit!" We've heard most of them before, but that doesn't stop people from saying them. I enjoy getting the more unique comments like "look at the beautiful plummage on that one" or "look a hippie preserve!" Good to know we can entertain the visitors even without animals.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Fun in the Primate Building

Holidays are always a great time in the primate building at Como Zoo because we get to do fun enrichment for the animals. At Christmas, they'll get gift wrapped boxes, for New Year's they'll get party hats and noisemakers. This year for St. Patrick's Day, I went to the store and purchased several festive hats and cups. The primates' morning diet filled the cups as well as green jello and green Gatorade. The hats were placed in the orangutans' and tamarin exhibits and as you can see by the pictures, were a big hit. Jaya ended up wearing one hat and looked like a little leprechaun. Every one is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day, even the monkeys!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gorillas in the snow

This past weekend was simply gorgeous! The warm weather brought crowds of visitors to Como Zoo and allowed us the opportunity to let the gorillas outside for some fresh air and sunshine. All three came out quickly and while it appeared they didn't really like standing in the snow, they made there way up the rocks in the exhibit grabbing handfuls of snow to munch on and sat on their wooden structure to watch the crowds. It didn't take long until the entire exhibit was ringed with visitors all watching the boys enjoy their "snow cones".

We will be able to let them out for a few more days until the ground starts to thaw then they will have to stay on their inside exhibit until the ground dries in the outside yard.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mr. Tarantula, are you ready for your close up?

This past week photographer Nathan Lovas, came to Como Zoo to do a photo shoot. Many of the animals that are used for education were brought up to the "studio" that had been set up in one of the classrooms. Some were more eager to participate than others. BJ the penguin was a bit shy at first, but eventually began to work the camera. Consuela the armadillo was a superstar and uncurled for the camera in record time. The rainbow boa was a bit more difficult to work with as the feel of the fabric from the backdrop must have felt a bit odd on her scales. The best client by far was the versicolor tarantula. Having just recently molted, her coloration was beautiful and she held perfectly still while Nathan shot frame after frame of her. We are planning on doing another session and bringing more animals for Nathan to photograph. I can't wait to see the final pictures.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Daniel J. Cox

Daniel J. Cox is visiting Como for the opening of the Polar Bear Arctic Ambassador Photo Exhibition this weekend. He is doing public presentations Saturday, March 7 at 10:30 & 12:00 for FREE.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Radio call number retires with zoo keeper

This Friday we will bid a fond farewell to one of Como Zoo's longest working zoo keepers. Roger R. has been working for Como Zoo since 1967! Roger has worked with a wide variety of animals over the four decades he's been with Como, everything from aardvarks to zebras. Roger has a calming presence that animals respond to. He is always able to get animals to come in from exhibits, eat when they aren't feeling well, and just do what he wants.

To honor Roger, Como Zoo has decided to retire his radio call number, Z-9. He was the original Z-9 since the use of radios for communication at the zoo and all the staff agreed that it just wouldn't seem right to give that number to anyone else.

To commemorate this occassion, a banner was made for him and a duplicate will be displayed at the zoo. All of the keepers at Como Zoo hope that Roger enjoys his retirement. We will miss him terribly, but are happy that he is able to go on to the next chapter in his life.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Como Welcomes Willow

As part of the Woo at the Zoo and Conservatory activities, Como Zoo guests helped name the baby giraffe born in October by submitting names throughout the weekend. Over 500 names were collected through noon today and at 2pm, Como announced the new name; Willow. The visitor that offered the name felt it was a great fit because the giraffe is graceful and slender, plus a willow tree is a beautiful flowering tree and Willow's mother's name is Daisy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Giraffe Enrichment

One of the best parts of a zoo keeper's day is being able to enrich the animals you work with. Enrichment provides mental stimulation and can also stimulate natural behaviors. With the giraffe herd at Como Zoo, we wanted to encourage them to forage more. The giraffe get alfalfa every day in mangers that are hung on the wall. Typically it takes only a couple hours for them to eat all their alfalfa. Zoo keepers came up with an idea for a puzzle feeder where there are only small openings for the giraffes to get at the alfalfa, which we figured would increase foraging time. With the help of City Trades staff, a puzzle box was created. It was made out of clear material to allow the public to see the giraffe working their tongues around inside to get all the treats and alfalfa out. Yesterday was the first day we tried it and it was a success! Mom Daisy and baby were both seen using their tongues to extract the treats inside.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Cupid!

It's February and the Aquatic Animal zoo keepers at Como Zoo are preparing for Valentine's Day. We're not preparing with your typical teddy bears and chocolates, we're preparing with a variety of fish! That's because we're getting ready to celebrate Cupid's 18th birthday! No not the Cupid you're thinking of, but Cupid the African penguin who was hatched right here at Como Zoo! As a special treat Cupid will be available to meet and greet visitors at 11 am on February 14th, and all of the penguins will be getting special enrichment as well--present the animals with items that encourage them to interact with their environment. Sometimes we give them things to play with or hide food around their exhibit to encourage foraging. It'll be fun! See you on Valentine's Day!