Sept. 20 is going to be elephantastic

Photo by Christine Quinn

Photo by Christine Quinn

This Saturday is an exciting day! It is Elephant Awareness Day at the Zoo. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn why elephants are important, what the Zoo is doing to help elephants and what you can to help elephants. Check out a short video to see what’s in store.

There are a number of different programs and activities happening all day long. ZooTeens will offer face painting, watch a variety of demonstrations with our elephants, bid in a Silent Auction for an original elephant painting created that day, an Elephant Painting Experience at a date to be determined or a morning spent with an elephant keeper.

Some lucky young visitors may even get a chance to participate in a watermelon eating contest with our elephants.

So what is the Seneca Park Zoo doing to help? The first is supporting the International Elephant Foundation, an organization that works to protect elephants in their natural ranges. The Zoo is also a member of the Elephant Managers Association. This organization works to champion the care of elephants in zoos and move forward the conservation of elephants in their natural ranges.

Come out on this Saturday. Hope to see you here!

- Kenny Nelson, Interpretation Coordinator

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Back-to-School time at the Zoo

It is starting to get cooler and leaves and starting to fall! Many are often surprised that the Zoo is open year round and that even when summer camps, our stage show, and summer demonstrations are over for the season, the Education Department still stays busy.

Photo by Kelli O'Brien

Photo by Kelli O’Brien

It is back-to-school time and we are working closely with teachers to develop programs uniquely designed for their classes needs. We have been working on some really exciting programs this week! From a Zoo Careers program for an AP biology class to a Frog Expedition for third graders, we can help build programs for any age group and focus on a wide range of topics. Our programs meet learning standards and many support Common Core modules. You can come to the Zoo to go on an Expedition and learn more about the animals and conservation issues in Africa and the Rocky Coast exhibits. Or you could bring your class for an Animal Presentation to meet some animals up close and personal to help focus your field trip. If you can’t bring your class to the Zoo, consider a ZooMobile program that can brings animals to you! If you are feeling extra adventurous, consider an Overnight event for your class. It is a wildly good time!

Cover for WebIf you are a teacher, administrator or a parent, and are interested in learning more about how the Zoo can fit into your classroom, please check out our 2014 Teachers Guide and give us a call! We are always ready and willing to meet with you to talk about your curriculum and how the Zoo can be a good fit! We hope everyone has a great start to their school year and we look forward to talk with you!

- Emily Coon-Frisch, Manager of Program Development

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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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