Take a Walk on the Wild Side: A day in the life of a primate keeper
A zoo keeper’s job requires stamina, attention to detail and a love of animals. Of course, a sense of humor is also a plus! The days are filled with cleaning and feeding, rain or shine. The reward is not only the welcome greetings you receive from the primates as they see you approach (they know it’s time to eat!), but a chance to observe and learn first-hand about each animal’s individual characteristics.
7:30am – The workday starts with daily reports for medical issues, diet changes, and behavioral observations.
7:40am – Primate keeper, Janine Steele, helps load up the cart full of produce & supplies for the primates. We split up to check on the animals. The Mongoose and Ring-tailed lemurs make a big show of stretching, the White-faced sakis make little squealing noises, the Two-toed sloth is hiding behind a palm frond, the Coquerel’s sifaka are sitting huddled together in a tree, the Black and white ruffed lemurs come bounding over, the Spot-nosed guenons bounce onto the chain-link, the Golden-bellied mangabey comes running across a log, and the gibbons utter soft “oo oo”s.
8:00am – Inside the ape house, Janine peels, dices, and chops the produce, while I crush vitamins and medications and mix these with yogurt and juice for the orangutans. I say hello to each animal as I give out their doses. The orang exhibit pool starts filling and I do a quick check of the exhibit, then, scatter some treats including leafy browse, large cardboard boxes, fabric, and raisins for enrichment, before I shift them outside.
8:15am – It’s time to feed the gibbons, Ewell and Siidam. Each gibbon pair has a unique territorial “song.” They sing the same song every morning and sometimes I try to sing along, but I can never hit the female’s high notes.
9:00am – I prepare the chimpanzees’ medications and vitamins as Janine finishes the diets. Together we separate the chimps into individual rooms and give them their breakfast and prepare the exhibit similar to the orangutans’. At 11:30 am, they get their second meal of broccoli and sweet potato, and after our lunch break they get another meal of carrots and a bread item. It may seem like they get fed a lot, but in their natural environment they spend a lot of time foraging and we try to mimic that natural behavior.
9:45am – We split up to feed the Sakis, Ring-tailed lemurs, Mongoose lemurs, Sifaka, Ruffed lemurs, Mangabey, and Guenons – which we repeat again around 1:30 pm.
11:30am – It’s time to make the diets for the afternoon. We have diet sheets as references, but we had to learn how to cut up the food specifically for each animal. For example, the sloth’s food needs to be cut into long, spear shapes so she can grip them.
2:00pm – In the afternoon, we usually work on projects for different exhibits and give out extra enrichments.
3:30pm – The chimps are brought inside again for meal number four of oranges, apples, bananas, and biscuits specially formulated for leaf-eating primates. We work with the chimps in the afternoon on behavior training using protected contact, always having caging between us. We ask the chimps to present different body parts like their hand or ear, then they receive a reward of dried fruit or a squirt of juice. Behavior training is important to make it easier for the veterinarians to examine the animals if they have an injury. Our smartest pupil, Josie can present 10 different body parts or 16 if you count each foot, hand, etc.
4:30pm – The orangutans are in their individual bedrooms. As they munch away on their dinners, I fill out the daily report and then say goodnight to all the primates as I head home.
Of course, every day presents different challenges, but what job doesn’t? By far, the biggest reward is the interaction with the animals and the chance to constantly learn about them. Sharing these educational experiences with Zoo visitors is almost always met with a friendly smile and a gibbon-like “oo oo!”
By Jessa Franck, primate keeper
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A Tall Transformation
It is always delightful to walk into the Zoo in the morning and be greeted by the calling of the kookaburras, the gibbons’ whoops of exuberance or the early morning roars of the lions.
But these days, it’s the sound of bulldozers and construction trucks that gets my heart pounding faster. Yes, we are well underway with the construction of our new giraffe habitat, and I couldn’t be happier with all the mess and chaos in that corner of the Zoo. I am very proud and pleased that we were able to stay focused on this critical need for our Zoo amidst a year of financial uncertainty. Many of you stepped up when we asked for your help, and not just once – but often – with several gifts over the three years spent working on this project.
Your endorsement of Tall Wonders not only helps the giraffes, but supports the dedicated keepers who care for these magnificent animals every day of the year, rain or shine, weekday or weekend. The animal care staff was instrumental in the planning and design of the new giraffe barn. One of the keepers, Lindsay Moseanko, has worked with the giraffes in the aging outdated barn for over twenty years. For Lindsay and others, this project has long been just a vision for the future.
Thank you for making dreams come true at the Sacramento Zoo.
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From the Kitchen
Paper Cups Stay Out of the Landfill!
The Sacramento Zoo staff is very green conscious. We’ve considered how we can reduce our paper products used for the animals.
The keepers have trained the chimpanzees and orangutans to take yogurt or juice each morning in a cup. This way, when they need medicine, they are already familiar with the cup. Arthritis medications, vitamins or even antibiotics are crushed or liquid meds mixed into the liquid. On an average day, this required 16 paper cups – 112 cups each week or 5,824 cups every year!
The keepers now use reusable plastic cups with reusable straws (which were surplus from the snack bar, even better) which are washed and stored daily. And because our keepers go all out for the animals, they even built cup holders inside the den to keep the apes from tipping over the cups.
This one small change was very simple and effectively decreased both expense and waste. Look around your house or consider your buying habits at the grocery store – perhaps there is a way you can save money and help the environment all at the same time!
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The new male lion looks very regal sunning on his rock in the exhibit. The newly-introduced pair can be seen playfully romping together and appear to really enjoy each other’s company.
The African spur-thighed tortoises have moved indoors for the winter since they were living at the edge of the “demolition area” of the giraffe renovation construction site.
Big changes in these exhibits! Construction of a home in the Bongo area for the soon-to-arrive Red river hogs has been completed, and the giraffe enclosure has been reduced while the old hippo exhibit and elephant structures are demolished. Groundbreaking began for the new giraffe housing located just south of the veterinary hospital.
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A parent’s guide to Zoo Camp sign-ups
A favorite perk for Sacramento Zoo members is the ability to register early for Summer Camp. Early registration for Zoo Camp, Little Ducklings preschool classes, and Zoo Quest for middle-schoolers will be available on the “Members’ Page” after you log in at saczoo.com on March 31st.
To register and receive the member discount, simply login and create a user account on saczoo.com by March 28th. Within 24 hours, you will have access to the Members’ Page and then the registration link for Summer Camp.
Look for more upgrades to the reservation system explained further on the Summer Camp page of the website.
Not a member yet? Sign up now for discounts year-round.
Summer Camp Members-Only Registration: March 31st
Classes fill up quickly, so prepare early by setting up a user account now.
Non-Member Registration: April 7th
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Ask the Vet
Reading Between the Lines: What Happens at a Routine Vet Exam?
One of the ways that the Veterinary Department at the Sacramento Zoo provides quality health care to the animals is through routine health exams.
Many of these procedures can be viewed by Zoo visitors through the windows in the veterinary hospital. These exams are similar to routine physicals performed by your own primary care physician. A complete physical exam includes body weight, determination of body condition, ophthalmic exam, dental exam and cleaning, checking the transponder microchip, careful palpation of the limbs and abdomen, routine X-rays are taken, and auscultation (listening with a stethoscope) of the heart and lungs.
A blood sample is often collected for a complete blood cell count and serum chemistry panel, as well as banking a sample in our ultra-cold freezer. Any vaccines needed are given at this time. For those animals prone to specific diseases, additional screenings are done to identify these conditions when early treatment can make a difference. For example, heart disease is common in many species of great apes. As a result, more in-depth cardiac exams are performed during the routine examination of our older chimps and orangutans. During these cardiac exams, additional testing such as electrocardiograms (ECG) and echocardiograms are conducted.
Veterinary specialists from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital travel to the Dr. Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital at the Sacramento Zoo to lend their expertise. This strong collaboration with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine enables the Sacramento Zoo to provide a high quality of health care to the resident animals at the Zoo.
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The Sacramento Zoological Society will hold a Town Hall Meeting for members on Tuesday, April 14 at 5:30 pm in the Kampala meeting room.
The Board will discuss topics of interest and give a preview of new activities for 2009.
Please RSVP to 916-808-5888 by Friday, April 10 if you would like to join us.
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Last year the Zoo recycled:
800 cubic feet of Styrofoam
208 cubic yards of cardboard
3120 cubic feet of mixed paper, plastic, glass & tin
350 feet of Fluorescent Bulbs
143 pounds of Batteries
26 pounds of CDs, data disks, VHS tapes
41 Printer Cartridges
3 car loads of ewaste
Recycling is one of the easiest green things you can do. Check out www.sacgreenteam.com for how to recycle almost anything!
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Financial Planning in Troubled Times
Saturday, April 11 - 10:30 am to 12:30 pm
Join us for an informative session on financial planning in uncertain times. Hear from the experts as they help guide you in strategies to secure your family’s future, decrease your taxes and provide for your favorite charity. A special investment professional will give a market update and focus on the challenging year ahead. Seminar is free but seating is limited. Please RSVP by April 8 at (916)-808-3713 to reserve your seat or for more information. All participants will receive a 20% discount for the day on purchases in the Zoo’s gift shop. Sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank.
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