An up-close-and-personal experience with bees

Photo by Kelli O'Brien

Photo by Kelli O’Brien

The ZooTeen program, which began in 1993, gives young adults the opportunity to explore their interests in ecology and conservation. ZooTeens spend the summer educating our visitors about Zoo animals and important environmental concepts.

This summer they were invited to get up close and personal with our honey bees during an experience with Sweet Beez, a nonprofit that cares for the Zoo’s hive.

Watch the video here.

- Anneke Nordmark, Youth and School Programs Coordinator

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A little ZooTeen history

Photo by Kelli O'Brien

Photo by Kelli O’Brien

The ZooTeen program, which began in 1993, gives young adults the opportunity to explore their interests in ecology and conservation. ZooTeens spend the summer educating our visitors about Zoo animals and important environmental concepts. Maddie Watson, a ZooTeen for several years, shares this blog post with us.

During my ZooTeen shift a couple weeks ago, I asked Aaron Nobles, one of the ZooTeen coordinators, about the history of the ZooTeen program that people may not have known:

  • The program has been going on since the early 1990s and was started as a way for teens to get more involved with the Zoo.
  • The goal of the program is to help spread the word of conservation.
  • Aaron told me that when he was first in the program there were just five stations. Currently we run eight stations daily!
  • As for animal handling, ZooTeens were able to hold only insects and bugs. Now ZooTeen Leaders handle animals at stations every week.
  • There used to be about 60 ZooTeens each summer, but today there are more than 100.
  • Over the years, many extra opportunities have been added for returning ZooTeens and ZooTeen Leaders including shadowing interpreters, helping with ZooCamp, the ZooMobile, the ZooTeen newsletter and field trips around Rochester learning about conservation.

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The Palm Oil Crisis: A major problem for orangutans

The ZooTeen program, which began in 1993, gives young adults the opportunity to explore their interests in ecology and conservation. ZooTeens spend the summer at stations throughout the Zoo educating our visitors about Zoo animals and important environmental concepts. Isabella Fazio, a ZooTeen for several years, shares this blog post with us.

ZooTeen 3Hi! I’m Isabella Fazio, a 2nd year ZooTeen here at the Zoo. Last year, after I participated in the palm oil station, I learned about the biggest problem orangutans were facing in the wild: Deforestation. People cut down trees that orangutans called home in order to get a creamy, high-demand oil called palm oil.

After the trees are gone, palm oil plantations are then built where the beautiful jungles once were. Besides just destroying countless animal homes, the trees also release carbon dioxide into the sky, contributing to global climate change. But it isn’t all bad. At the palm oil station, I learned that more and more companies are beginning to grow their own palm oil on their own land which is called sustainable palm oil.

ZooTeen 2What we ZooTeens can do to show we care for orangutans and the environment is support companies that use sustainable palm oil. Right now you may be wondering how you can figure out if your favorite food has sustainable palm oil or not. Well, there are a few ways to tell.

  • Head to the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil’s Web site.
  • The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has a palm oil shopping guide on their Web site. Their list has a bunch of sustainable palm oil users and companies that promise to change their ways in a couple of years.
  • Use the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s app, if you have a smart phone. Just search “palm oil” and it will be the first app to come up. Also, it’s free! You can use the app to search for any product you are concerned about and it will tell you if it is orangutan friendly or not.
  • If these sources happen to tell you that your product is not orangutan friendly you can write or e-mail the company to stop using palm oil.

This DOES work. For a long time big companies like Nestle, Heinz and Nutella were using non-sustainable palm oil. But thanks to concerned people like us, the pressure was too much for the companies and they switched to sustainable palm oil.

Besides checking the label in your own home, SPREAD THE WORD! On August 1, to earn my Girl Scout Silver Award, I did my own project at the Seneca Park Zoo talking about palm oil to guests and passing out palm oil shopping guides. By the end of my project, I had talked to more than forty-six guests that day! Even if my message gets to one person, that one person could help make a difference for orangutans.

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My time with the elephants

The ZooTeens program, which began in 1993, gives young adults the opportunity to explore their interests in ecology and conservation. ZooTeens spend the summer educating our visitors about Zoo animals and important environmental concepts. Maddie Watson, a ZooTeen for several years, shares this blog post with us.

Photo by Maddie Watson

Photo by Maddie Watson

Have you ever wondered what the Zoo’s elephants’ daily routine is? Or if they actually get to walk around inside the Zoo in the morning? I sure did! When I went to interview Sue, one of the elephant keepers, she told me some interesting facts about the elephants that you might be interested to know.

  • There are two female African elephants at the Zoo, Genny C. and Lilac; both are 36 years old.
  • There are four elephant keepers at the Zoo. They all have really close relationships with the elephants. The elephants need to trust the keepers, which takes time to happen. Sue says all the elephant keepers have a strong trust bond with Genny C. and Lilac.
  • They were not born at the Zoo, but in a national park in South Africa.
  • Each day Sue and the three other keepers come feed the elephants their breakfast which consists of elephant chow, which is a round pellet, as well as fruits and vegetables.
  • After Genny C. and Lilac are done, the keepers take them out on a morning walk around the A Step Into Africa section of the Zoo from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.
  • Later in the day, the elephants get their bath, then lunch and finally dinner. Sue also mentioned that they include various enrichment activities for Genny C. and Lilac. For example, the keepers give them boughs (tree branches) — maple and willow are their favorite. Keepers also cut up treats and stick them into toys and place them around the enclosure for the elephants to find.
  • The personalities of Lilac and Genny C. are very different. Lilac is sensitive and needs more reassurance. Genny C. is more food-oriented and always wants to know when her next meal is. She is also the dominant elephant.

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ZooTeen update: Marine litter project

The ZooTeen Leaders program is a year-long opportunity for teens to learn at the Zoo through activities focusing on conservation issues, local and global environmental issues, communication skills and career development.

Olivia Thimm, a ZooTeen Leader participant, reports on a recent meeting below:

DSC_2694Hello reader! My name is Olivia and I am a ZooTeen Leader.

One topic we study is recycling and water. Yes, I know what might be thinking: “Ew, she is gonna talk about how we need to go into our garbage and pick out the plastics, paper, glass, etc.” Well that is not what I am going to say but it is very helpful to recycle for the planet and even to help reduce marine litter. The little extra time you spend making sure that the recyclable plastic, paper or glass is out of the trash and in their special bins could save an animal’s life. That is right my audience, just by putting a plastic water bottle in the recycling bin, you could increase the chance of an animal’s survival! It is amazing how just a simple task could help the environment.

There is a major issue at hand, marine litter – pieces of trash in gigantic piles just floating on top of the ocean. Did you know that 80% of marine litter is from the land only? It enters the water via marines, ports, rivers, harbors, docks and even storm drains. 20% of the marine litter is put directly by people into the sea. It enters the water via fishing vessels, stationary platforms and cargo ships. All of this trash can majorly effect our lovable wildlife. Dolphins will mistake a plastic bag as a jellyfish so they will try to eat the plastic bag, which causes major problems for the dolphin. Another example of how dangerous marine litter is to the wildlife is those plastic rings you see on soda cans. They can get around an animal’s neck and make it very difficult for them to breath and cause deformities. This is why recycling is so important.

Some other facts you should be informed about is it takes about 450 years to have a disposable diaper to decompose! Those plastic bags the cute dolphins think are jellyfish take 10-20 years to decompose and the plastic can rings take 400 years to decompose! Now that is crazy. Something that is even more crazy is there is still no determination on how long it takes for glass bottles and Styrofoam cups to decompose!

There are things you can do to help. You can reduce plastic consumption, reduce littering, have beach and shoreline cleanups and remove plastics directly from the water. We built mini models with household objects to make a creation that could be used to remove floating ocean litter – watch a video clip of our findings here. But in the end we learned that the number one way to reduce marine litter was to reduce littering.

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Want to observe a python feeding time?

Perhaps that’s a bit much for you, but how about watching a polar bear bob for frozen apples – does that sounds better?

Photo by Marie Kraus

Photo by Marie Kraus

What about experiencing a baby orangutan swinging at the top her enclosure enjoying a giant frozen Popsicle? Maybe that’s more your speed.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter what you prefer, because you’re sure to find it here this summer. Every day through Labor Day we present summer interpretive programs at the Zoo and these unique demonstrations allow you to experience the animals like never before.

So what exactly are these summer interpretive programs I’ve been rattling on about? Summer Programs are feedings, training sessions or enrichment demonstrations. These programs are your chance to watch the animals explore their exhibits while members of our Education staff explain what you’re seeing.

During the program, you’ll learn the names and personalities of the specific animals we have here, how their distant cousins live in the wild and about what you can do to assist with the species’ conservation needs.

You can even play the part of a detective at the Zoo! Come and use your best sleuthing skills to help our Education staff crack a mysterious case at The Animal Stage Show this summer. Perhaps you’re more interested in what happens behind the scenes. If so, we offer a program for that too! Every Tuesday evening during Open Late Tuesdays, we present a different Keeper Talk. Zoo keepers are so busy each day we rarely have a chance to hear from them. Keeper Talks offer you the perfect opportunity to speak with the zoo keepers who interact with the animals on a daily basis.

Now you may be asking yourself, what do I have to do to catch a glimpse of one of these programs? Lucky for you, it’s easy. Just come to the Zoo! Our Summer Program schedule can be found here.

All you have to do is show up at the exhibit at the scheduled time and an educator will be there eagerly waiting to guide you through the animal experience. All you have to do it sit back and enjoy. From our Tortoise Feeding to our Elephant Experience, there is something for everyone! You may come just to watch your favorites but I’ll bet you an ice cream sandwich you’ll leave discovering far more favorites along the way.

- Angela Prodrick, Lead Interpreter

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Head to Pet Supplies Plus this Saturday!

Photo by Kelli O'Brien

Photo by Kelli O’Brien

From 1 to 3 p.m. this Saturday (July 19) the ZooMobile will visit Pet Supplies Plus in Fairport as a way to celebrate a partnership to help our Education Animal Collection. Pet Supplies Plus generously donated four domestic rats and a new enclosure to the Education Animal Collection. The rats named Lily, Aster, Rose, and Tulip can be seen all summer long in the Zoo’s Stage Show.

The Zoo offered to send a ZooMobile as a thank you, and in response, Pet Supplies Plus offered to run a donation event for the Zoo! For the entire month of July, you can make a donation at their checkout. All the money goes to purchase items for our Education Animal Collection.

So come on out and meet some of our animals, see all the goodies Pet Supplies Plus can provide for your pets and also help the Education Animal Collection.

Pet Supplies Plus is located at 585 Moseley Road in Fairport. We hope to see you there!

- Kenny Nelson, Interpretation Coordinator


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