Monday, April 15, 2013

Prezi: Zoo Survey Results

Remember that survey we had a few weeks ago? Well now you can see what everyone thought about zoos and how they should be run. Check out this prezi and comment with feedback.
Once again, thanks to everyone who participated in the survey!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Look at me, I'm the king of New York!

This is Osborn; 12 year old star of the New York Aquarium's Sea Lion Spectacular!
Osborn is obviously in top physical shape, as his job is to perform a variety of high-energy stunts in front of a crowd of children and adults alike.
However, it is not just his muscle that sets Osborn one step above the rest, but also his incredible mental stamina.  Aquarium staff make sure he is well fed and in good health, while his trainers make sure that he stays occupied through use of enrichment. This helps maintain his mental coordination and increase his capacity to learn new behaviors.
At this rate, Osborn will be around to fascinate and entertain many more crowds of people within his lifetime, all thanks to the NY Aquariums spectacular enrichment specialists!  
Photo taken by: Theresa Farrell

If you were in the zoo...

Take a moment to imagine something:
You open your eyes in the morning, stretch and stand up.  You drink in the warm sunshine and the beautiful scenery out your window.  All you want to do is go out and run, but you can't.  There just isn't enough space in your room to move; it's so crowded and messy. 
Everything you need to survive is given to you in that room: your food, your water, even your bathroom is contained within that space.  However, there is nothing to do there. There are no books, no electronics,  no paper or pens, no music, no TV, not even so much as a ball to bounce against the wall.  You remember that you are supposed to act a certain way. You know how to speak English, how to read and write, and how to play baseball, but somehow you've found yourself forgetting.  With no one to talk to, you don't have the need for speech, so you don't talk.  Without space, you never have need to walk, so you either stand or lay on the floor for most of the day.  The only company you have are your thoughts, but even they are diminishing. 
Later in the evening, your mother opens your door, says hello, and hands you a bowl of soup for supper.  Then she leaves, the sun goes down, and you have nothing better to do than go to sleep.

Sound totally bizarre? For humans, it is.  We are not confined 24/7; and even prisoners are allowed the chance to leave their cells for a short time and partake in various activities. However, for animals in many zoos, this insane scenario is a reality.  They are left, day after day, with nothing to do except pace back and forth or lay on the ground. 

So what can we do? Enrichment is the answer! Comment with ideas on how we can keep captive animals stimulated mentally and physically :)
  Photo Credit:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Game Time: Genetics at the Zoo!

Zoos and Aquariums bring together a large gradient of species  to areas that they otherwise would not inhabit. This creates a unique problem as these same species are expected to breed to prolong the establishments population as well as propagate the valuable genetic material they contain. It has been documented that, because of their isolated populations and inability to find an outside source to form mating pairs, inbreeding has had detrimental effects  on certain species captive in zoos (Ralls et al, 1988).  Captive breeding, although useful, isn't always as easy as it seems. Try your hand at breeding the ideal an Tiger population in this fun game from the folks at the Minnisota Zoo!

Zoo Matchmaker:

Easy- Genetic Diversity mode
Hard- Disease Resistance mode

The greater the resistance and lower the inbreeding the better!
Mine is 100% Resistance/ 21% Inbreeding


Ralls, Katherine, Jonathan D. Ballou, and Alan Templeton. "Estimates of lethal equivalents and the cost of inbreeding in mammals." Conservation biology 2.2 (1988): 185-193.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Straight out of Brooklyn!

Our first submissions have arrived! Featured here are (in order) a pair of Emu, unidentified frog, Red Panda taking a snooze, a Pallas's Cat, a bale of turtles and finally a small mob of Meerkat!

Sent to us from Eva G. visiting the Prospect Zoo in Brooklyn, NY

Thanks for your wonderful photos!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Enrichment Programs in American Zoos

One of the most important responsibilities of animal care facilities is to ensure that their residents are not only physically healthy, but mentally stable as well.  This is done through enrichment, in which the animals are given some sort of task to accomplish which exercises their natural abilities which would have been necessary if they were living in the wild.  This occupational therapy keeps them from becoming bored and developing mental illness, which is a common ailment in inadequate zoos. 

Check out this video to hear Director Lee Ehmke talk about Enrichment programs in the Minnesota Zoo: