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