Monday, November 19, 2012

We're Offering 'Holiday Daycare' While Parents Shop!

Como Zoo is offering parents an opportunity to drop off their kids for a few hours while they shop for holiday gifts. Como is offering 4-hour blocks of time, in which kids can play games and participate in activities.

Parents can reserve a spot on one of these days:

•Friday, November 23 (Black Friday): 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
•Saturday, December 1: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
•Sunday, December 9: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Drop off and pick up is 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after each program.

Space is limited & pre-registration is required. The cost is $30 per child. Family discounts are available. Children are required to bring a lunch and snack that does not need to be refrigerated or heated. Boxed lunches and snacks are available for an additional $7. Children must be three years of age or older and potty trained. For more information and to register call 651-487-8272.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gorilla Forest Construction

You may notice a different kind of primate in the gorilla exhibit at Como Zoo these days.  Construction workers are now on display five days a week while they modify the current exhibit and tie it in to the new construction of Gorilla Forest.  Where did the gorillas go?  Togo and Schroeder were moved to their newly constructed holding area on November 5th.  Zoo keepers brought all the comforts of their old holding to the new area.  Cargo nets and wood wool to sleep in, firehose to climb on, and lots of different enrichment items available for them to interact with.  Both boys are adjusting well to the new space and are actively participating in training sessions and shifting to learn the new space.  They will be off exhibit for about a month while the modifications to the exhibit are made.   

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Como zookeeper Pete Lee prefers the real thing, not Animal Planet (via MPR News)

25-year zoo veteran and Como Zookeeper Pete Lee was featured on MPR News this week! Check out the story text below, and click here for the full story, photos, and audio.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — When it's feeding time at the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Pete Lee heads out to experience something that Animal Planet and YouTube can't provide.

"I like to just get out of the zoo behind the scenes and interact with the visitors when I can because the sense of wonder of discover is amazing," the 60-year-old zookeeper says on a recent visit. "Some people say, 'Now that we've got everything on the Internet, Animal Planet, why do we even need zoos?' There's no substitute. Seeing a video of a giraffe is quite different from standing next to the 18-feet tall, marvelous creature."

The animals show some affection in return -- they recognize him because he's the guy with the treats. The orangutans are especially sharp.

"One of them will sight me first and then will actually tap the other one on the shoulder and point. 'It's him, it's the guy, the bearer of treats, stuff to eat!'" he jokes.

But there's a serious side to the work of zoos as safe havens for animals whose habitat is slowly vanishing.

"A lot of the creatures, even some of them here at Como, will not be in the wild because there will be no wild. With all the palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia there will be probably be no wild orangutans in our lifetime," he says. "There'll be sanctuaries which are really glorified zoos -- and that's just one animal. So many are threatened and endangered. "We are acting as something of an animal ark."

Pete opens the door to the animal barn and three reindeer come clattering in to feed out of pans.

"They are in the good appetite club, our three reindeer girls, and they've been grazing all morning on their alfalfa. This is the good stuff, this is the beet pulp, there's a little bit of sweet feed in there -- that's like the whipped cream on top." And when there's rolled oats on top, "that's the confectioners' sugar on top of the whipped cream."

The 25-year zoo veteran especially gets a kick out of the giraffes.

"They are ruminants, as are cows with their four-chambered stomach, so they chew their cud all day long. When they're chewing their cud they look like Dizzy Gillespie with their big bulging cheeks," he says. "The sad thing is you have to most of my younger co-workers you have to explain who Dizzy Gillespie was. "

Click on the audio link here to hear the full story.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Como Goes to Churchill: A Como staff blog from Polar Bears International's Leadership Camp

Friday, October 12: The Journey Ends

We're on our way home. It's been a great trip.

On Thursday, we moved from the Northern Studies Center into town. We have spent the last day and a half learning about the Churchill culture. We took a trip out to Cape Merry and actually saw beluga whales where the Churchill River meets the bay. They typically leave here mid-September, as temperatures cool and there is time to leave the bay before it freezes. In a way it was good to see them, but it was also a reminder that things are changing.

In addition to our time around town, our group spent a good part of the day discussing ways to inspire community action efforts to reduce climate change. It was inspiring to hear about the action plans that will be happening at zoos across North America as a result of this experience. There are plans to implement aggressive recycling programs, plans to encourage visitors and employees to commute by bike, plans to bring zoos to zero waste, and plans to plant trees. Each participant will return to their zoo and serve as a change agent within their community. We will invite our friends and families, members and visitors, neighbors and communities to join us in an effort to reduce our carbon emissions and preserve habitats across the Arctic.

When asked what inspired me most about the PBI leadership camp experience the answer is best summed up in a conversation we had with Dr. Steven Amstrup. He asked us to consider the following question; 'Do we want our children to inherit a world they appreciate, or do we want them to inherit a world they must endure?' The answer is easy. The time is now.

I am incredibly grateful to both Polar Bears International and Como Park Zoo and Conservatory for allowing me the opportunity to connect to the Arctic Ambassador Program. I look forward to the opportunities this experience will bring my way.

Tuesday, October 9: First Polar Bear Sighting!

We have spent two days going out on the Tundra with Frontier North Adventures Tundra Buggy programs. And yes, we have seen bears! The first was a large male, the second was guessed to be a female. Both were quite impressive and we spent a good deal of time observing, photographing, and discussing their behavior. The female had bedded down in kelp and was munching on it as well. Scientists say they aren’t sure why polar bears eat kelp. It does not provide any nutritional value for the bears. Some suggest it might be a way for the bears to kick start their digestive system. The bears in the Churchill area have not been on ice, and therefore have not had access to food since mid July. The ice most likely won’t form until mid November so it is thought they eat the kelp as a way to pass the time.

Most impressive about the animals up here are there camouflage. Many of the species are well-adapted to the changing landscape. Arctic hares, fox, and even ptarmigan are brown during the summer months and white in the winter. The fox and ptarmigan were difficult to spot with the dusting of snow against the brown earth. The arctic hares have grown their white coats already and stand out if not in the shelter. Luckily, their pretty good at hiding in the willows!

We took a tour of the Churchill Northern Science Center last night to learn more about the green features of the building we are staying at. This place is pretty amazing! Scientists, educators, school groups and visitors from around the world utilize this facility to learn about the tundra habitat through research and education. The new facility was designed to meet LEED certification at the gold level. One conservation measure they strive for is saving water. The average visitor staying at the center utilizes only ¼ of the water used by typical Americans. They achieve this through low flow faucets, timed showers, low flow toilets, and yes, even compost toilets – a concept that was new to me. Think indoor outhouse minus the stink – cool huh? Their water conservation efforts, in addition to their energy saving strategies set good examples for all of us. That’s why the center is a good place to for us to tackle our own eco-challenges. While in Churchill each of us at leadership camp has promised to use refillable bottles for our water, hand towels instead of paper towels for drying our hands, and we even given up showering for the week. All of our challenges are a way for us to reduce our impact on the environment while attending leadership camp.


Monday, October 8: Happy Thanksgiving!

People across Canada celebrated Thanksgiving today – how lucky for us! The traditional turkey dinner was served with stuffing, sweet potatoes and, of course, pumpkin pie. An October Thanksgiving holiday isn’t the only difference between Minnesota and Manitoba. We arrived in Churchill today and it’s a different world. This small town of just under 1000 residents sits atop a land of permafrost where the ground is always frozen. There are small lakes and pockets of water that dot the landscape where the ground has thawed, but below these ponds it’s frozen. The frozen ground gives rise to small trees. Their growth is stunted by the lack of accessible soil. Most interesting to me; the needles only grow on one side of the tree thanks in part to a relentless wind.

We took some time to explore the beach today and drove through the town of Churchill. Near the beach sits the “complex” or community center. The hospital, school, post office, hockey rink and more are all housed under one roof. Not a bad idea when living in the heart of polar bear country.

The complex isn’t the only strategy Churchill utilizes to coexist with one of the world’s largest land predator. The Manitoba Natural Resource Department runs a Polar Bear Alert Program to protect residents from accidental bear encounters. Each summer, as the ice in the Hudson Bay thaws, the bears are forced onto land where they enter a period of “walking hibernation.” Seals make up 95% of the polar bear diet. Without ice, there is no real food source for the bears. As fall approaches and temperatures drop the bears begin to gather near Churchill waiting for the ice to form. During “bear season,” a 24-hour hotline allows citizens to notify officials of bear sightings. Officers respond to about 2000 calls each summer and direct the bears away from town. This is often done with loud noises. Bears that pose a threat to citizens are trapped or tranquilized and taken to the bear holding facility. Most bears are held in the facility for 30 days and then transported by helicopter north of town to wait for the bay to freeze. The bears are not fed while in the holding area as the officers do not want them to associate humans with food. Bears that return to town repeatedly are held in the facility until the bay freezes over. Once the bay freezes, all of the bears who have been fasting on land will return to the ice to hunt seals once again.

All this talk about bears makes me want to see one. Tomorrow just may be the day!

Sunday, October 7: The Journey Begins

I’ve arrived safe in sound in Winnipeg. Before I left this morning, I took the boys down to the Twin Cities Marathon course. We were there to cheer on family and friends. Thousands of runners passed by, each one dedicating hours to training for this event. They worked hard, trained hard, and have their own stories to tell. Today their marathon journey came to an end and soon each one will begin a new journey.

Today, my journey to Churchill begins. Polar Bears International has worked hard to provide an amazing and immersive experience for our group. They will provide the opportunity to connect with others, to learn about polar bears, to experience life on the tundra. I have heard from others that PBI leadership camp is a life-changing experience. I am thankful to join them on this journey. I am eager to being writing my own story and excited to share it with you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Como Teen Heads to Churchill for Polar Expedition of a Lifetime

We are excited to send one of our Nature Walk teen volunteers, Tiana, to Churchill, Manitoba as part of Polar Bear International's Leadership Camp program. This is the 5th consecutive year that Como has sent a teen to Churchill. While there, Tiana will have the opportunity to meet other teens, learn about polar bears and conservation from leading experts, and see polar bears in their wild habitat. For more information about the PBI Leadership Camp and to follow their blog, click here.

About Tiana

My interests include community involvement, polar bears, climate change, the outdoors, art, debate, and teaching. Volunteering is very important to me, because I have always wanted to help others. Even when I was little I never dreamed of accumulating money or fame, but rather sharing what I had with others, helping people grow and finding some sense of peace in their lives. There is no amount of money that could stand up against a person’s smile and knowing that they are smiling because of you. I also love polar bears. They are such beautiful creatures so adapted to what most would see as a hostile environment. With their strength, patience, and uncanny wisdom, polar bears give me a great sense of joy to watch, and I hope I can help keep them here on earth for my grandchildren to learn from. Therefore, I am very invested in climate change and the effects it has on our environment. I love the natural world and I want to keep my home with all its wonders intact.

To communicate these interests and ideas that I believe are important I have come to love public speaking in the form of both debate and teaching. Both have very important skill sets and I am always amazed at what I’ve learned from these two activities. I also love art, and love integrating my passion for environmental consciousness with my love of creating art, to me it is another powerful form of communication.

From the PBI leadership camp, I hope to learn even more about climate change and human impact, specifically on the Arctic Circle. It would be a great honor to meet and talk to some of the best in their field of research and share what I learn with my community. I am also looking forward to gaining a network of other driven young people that also want to change the world for the better. I hope to gain lifelong friendships and grow from others’ experiences and ideas. Most of all, I want to go home more organized, wiser, and as a better leader of social and environmental change. I have no doubt in my mind that this opportunity will far surpass all of my expectations.
In five years, light rail tracks connecting the central corridor tracks and the surrounding suburban areas will be funded and built, giving people an efficient, inexpensive form of transportation to the midway community. This will create an influx of urban renewal along with a substantially reduced carbon footprint not only in the midway community, but also the surrounding suburbs. I will continue to share my experience and knowledge of the topic not only to my school, but also to anyone who will listen. I hope to inspire a truly green initiative in the community and I hope that this will diffuse eventually into a nationwide consciousness of the problems occurring in the Arctic Circle ecosystem.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Como on KARE-11!

Caroline Mehlhop of Como Friends stopped by KARE this Saturday morning to discuss a couple zoo topics with us.
The Como Park Zoo is celebrating member's appreciation day where Como Friends will get to enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of the Conservatory and Zoo.
The zoo will also be featuring a new learning experience where patrons will get a chance to meet and speak with a zoo keeper! A different topic will be featured every day and guests will get the chance to learn about day-to-day zoo operations. Saturday Zoo Keeper Talk begins at 11 a.m.
Another fun activity at the Zoo this year is ZooBoo, a five-night family friendly adventure for Halloween. Children and families will get to trick-or-treat through the zoo with themed stations, characters, and ghosts along the way.
ZooBoo days are October 20th, 21st, 26th, 27th, and 28th from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tickets to ZooBoo are $6 and may be purchased at Como's Garden Safari Gifts, all metro area Cub Food's, and online.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baby ball pythons!

Como Zoo has recently welcomed 4 ball python neonates (baby snakes). The eggs were laid in May and hatched approximately 60 days later at the end of July. The female ball python will coil around the eggs and increase her body temperature in a “hiccup” type movement with her whole body to keep the eggs at the optimal 90 degree temperature during incubation. However, Como zoo keepers chose to remove the eggs and incubate them in a controlled environment to monitor them closely.

Ball pythons (also called Royal pythons) are heavy-bodied constrictors native to West and Central Africa. They reach a maximum length of five feet. Snakes are born as identical miniatures of their parents. Upon hatching, they are completely independent and will search for their first meal after shedding.
The python parents (and the neonates when they’re older) are utilized in a variety of Como Zoo's education and interpretive programs.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Happy National Zoo Keeper Week!

The staff at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory joins the American Association of Zoo Keepers in wishing all zoo keepers a happy National Zoo Keeper Week!
"As the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats has increased, our role as educators and wildlife ambassadors has become essential. During the third week of July each year, celebrate National Zoo Keeper Week; both you and your animals deserve the recognition." - American Association of Zoo Keepers

Sparky shows some love to one of Como's keepers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Plug For Party For The Planet on KSTP-TV

We're taking inspiration from animals for our Party For The Planet, sponsored by Xcel Energy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Having Fun On KARE-11 with Perk & Zoo Keeper Liz!

We had a great time on KARE-11 on St. Patrick's Day. See our animals with an Irish twist!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bundle Up For Polar Bears...As seen on KARE-11!

Como Zoo celebrated International Polar Bear Day on February 27th. With Bundle Up for Polar Bears, Como Zoo is asking families, schools, and businesses to turn down their thermostats by two degrees on February 27th to lower carbon emissions and help save polar bears. Participants are invited to bundle up in their favorite warm clothing—or, in a twist, in their ugliest or tackiest sweaters—to help raise awareness of this worldwide conservation issue.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Good Question: Can Animals Predict The Weather?

When WCCO-TV had a good question, they came to the experts for the answer. US!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Coca-Cola “plays” it forward with recycled syrup barrels for Buzz & Neil

Above is a picture of Buzz playing with a Coke barrel.

Just before Christmas, Buzz & Neil got some holiday gifts of their own! Coca-Cola donated fifty clean plastic 55-gallon syrup barrels for the bears to play with in their own environment. Ordinarily, these plastic barrels are used to store concentrate syrup which is used during production at the Midwest Coca-Cola Bottling Company located in Eagan, Minnesota. The barrels were carefully cleaned and inspected before they were given to the bears. Buzz loved the barrels so much that he played with them for six hours straight and even took a barrel to bed with him! Since the barrels have been such a hit with the bears, zookeepers plan to introduce them to other animals within the coming months.

This isn’t the first time that Coca-Cola has done something good for polar bears. They were first featured in Coca-Cola’s holiday advertising campaigns in 1922 and have reappeared many times over the years. Last November, Coca-Cola launched its “Arctic Home” campaign – an initiative between Coca-Cola and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to raise awareness and funds to help protect the polar bear’s Arctic habitat. To call attention to the cause, Coca-Cola has introduced limited-edition “Arctic Home” Coca-Cola cans over the holiday season.

Coca-Cola is making an initial donation of $2 million to WWF and inviting others to join the effort. Anyone who wants to help the polar bears can text the package code to 357357 to donate $1 to WWF. They also can donate online at Coca-Cola will match all donations made with a package code by March 15, 2012, up to a total of $1 million. Funds raised will go toward WWF’s conservation efforts to protect polar bear habitatsfor their survival today and in the future. WWF’s vision is to help protect the polar bears’ Arctic home. This includes working with local residents to manage an area high in the Arctic where the summer sea ice will likely persist the longest. This area – potentially covering 500,000 square miles – could provide a home for the polar bear while protecting the cultural and economic needs of local people.

For more information on “Arctic Home,” visit

Neil playing with a plastic Coke bottle full of fish