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Vol. 52, No. 4, Winter 2014/2015

Directors Den Estate Planning Safari Passionate about the Zoo?
Member Price Increase Animal Chatter Celebrating the Older Residents

Keeper Corner


 Ask the Vet

Calendar of Events


Directors Den

Dr. Adrian Fowler, BVSc, MRSCVThe holidays are that time of year when we focus our thoughts on friends and family; valuing those who surround us and remembering those no longer with us. The same applies with our Zoo family and this year has certainly been an exceptional one, with the loss of Mary Healy and Murray E. Fowler and the arrival of many new faces across the Zoo. This year has taught us to celebrate life and the Zoo’s animal collection is no exception. With advancing husbandry and healthcare, animals are living longer lives and babies are more and more likely to survive beyond their wild counterparts. As with our pets, natural selection does not intervene in a Zoo and, as animals live longer, they face the trials of elderly life. A domestic cat technically becomes a geriatric as early as 7 years of age. Given that many will live beyond their late teens, the average cat spends most of its life as a senior citizen of the feline world.

The same can be said for many Zoo animals. Here at the Sacramento Zoo we’ve enjoyed some remarkable longevity records. For those of us responsible for their care, the onus falls upon us to monitor their quality of life. When adjustments need to be made to their routine, they have to be done. When they need more rest away from the public spotlight, we have to be forgiving. And when the time approaches that they no longer maintain a good quality of life, we have to make that difficult decision with euthanasia. But the Zoo’s population is a dynamic life cycle: we may have sad losses, but we also get to witness new animals arriving. New pairings result in new babies that will ultimately move on to new homes. It’s that very circle of life that makes the Zoo a “new” place to visit every season.

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Estate Planning Safari

Friday, January 16
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Kampala Center

This free, informative seminar will navigate through a jungle of estate planning topics presented by local attorney Mark S. Drobny, California State Bar Certified Legal Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law. Mr. Drobny is widely regarded as one of the top experts on estate planning, providing information on a variety of topics in an entertaining manner that will help you design a plan that fits your needs.

Topics will include, but are not limited to:

  • Living Trusts vs. Wills
  • Probate – How Can it be Avoided?
  • Who Needs Durable Powers of Attorney for Financial Management and Advance Health Care Directives?
  • Charitable Gift Annuities

Seating is limited. Please RSVP to Amanda Cable at or 916.808.8815 by January 8 to guarantee your seat.

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Passionate about the Zoo?

Docent teaching a child

Are you interested in raising that passion to the “next level?”  The Zoo Docent Program opens unique opportunities for you to share your knowledge and love of animals with visitors to the Sacramento Zoo.

The Sacramento Zoo offers specialized training to individuals dedicated to supporting the Zoo’s public education programs by serving as Docents. The next ten-week course will begin in January 2015.  If the notion of being one of the legendary “yellow-shirt” Zoo Docents appeals to you, contact the Zoo Education office at 916.808.5889 for details about the upcoming training classes and course requirements. Applications to be admitted to the 2015 Class are available now!





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Important Membership Bulletin: Renew Now and Save!

Effective February 2, 2015:

The price of the Member Family Pack category will increase to $95.

If you choose to renew before February 2nd, you will receive the current rate regardless of when your current membership is due to expire! Don’t wait … renew now!  Call the Membership Office at 916.808.5888 or renew online.

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Animal Chatter

Three lion cubs and a duiker calf have been born. The three lion cubs and their first-time mother are doing amazingly well. The cub’s eyes are fully open and they are already walking. The family group is being monitored by camera so that staff can keep a close eye on them while giving the new family lots of privacy. A female Yellow-backed Duiker calf was born on November 7th. She will most often be found inside the warm and comfortable barn, but can occasionally be seen venturing out into the exhibit with mom and dad. The latest additions to the Small Wonders of Africa exhibit are Fennec Foxes! Zookeepers are slowly introducing these two sisters to the Zoo’s resident Aardvark. The girls are busy exploring the exhibit and getting used to seeing people beyond the glass. Help the new residents settle in by keeping quiet when near their exhibit.

If you are a fan of hornbills, then you’ve come to the right Zoo! For years, we have exhibited Buton (or Sulawesi Red-knobbed) and Great Hornbills. When Small Wonders came to fruition, the tiny Red-billed Hornbills made their debut. Now we also have a young male Rhinoceros Hornbill on exhibit.

The Gila Monster in the Reptile House is now sharing his exhibit with Chuckwalla lizards. The new lizards are still small due to their young age. A fun Chuckwalla fact is that when one senses danger, it scurries between rocks and lodges itself tightly in crevices by inflating itself.

Fennec Fox            Rhinoceros Hornbill
               Fennec Fox                                                           Rhinoceros Hornbill

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Celebrating the Older Residents

Older Residents at the Sacramento Zoo

Age is relative to each species. Different species have different longevities. Due to proactive veterinary care many residents of the Sacramento Zoo have lived to ages that most of their counterparts in the wild would never reach.

at least 51 years old

White-handed Gibbon
White-handed Gibbon
at least 42 years old

Tawny Frogmouth
Tawny Frogmouth
34 years old

Brazilian Rainbow Boa
Brazilian Rainbow Boa
27 years old

American Flamingo American Flamingo
at least 54 years old

Southern Tamandua Southern Tamandua
18 years old

 Great Hornbill
Great Hornbill
at least 50 years old

North American River Otter
 North American River Otter
15 years old

Red Panda Red Panda
19 years old

Green Tree Python Green Tree Python
31 years old

White-faced Saki White-faced Saki
26 years old

Yucatan Club-tailed Iguana
Yucatan Club-tailed Iguana
25 years old

Riparian Brush Rabbit
Riparian Brush Rabbit
at least 7 years old


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Keeper Corner
By: Janine Steele

I have had the great privilege of caring for a number of primates in their golden years. From a 31-year-old White-faced Saki monkey to a 58-year-old Chimpanzee, care for these amazing animals has had its challenges along with great rewards. Challenges include everything from getting them to take their medicine and eating nutritious food, to helping them more easily move around their exhibit.

If you think getting your two-year-old to take medication is difficult, try a 56-year-old Sumatran Orangutan. It’s difficult to explain to an animal why they need to take medicine that may not taste good. The go-to trick for keepers is hiding the medication in food which works great for most animals. Orangutans, however, like to take time eating their food. Chewing, sifting through, and playing with their food often leads to them finding and spitting out any pieces of pills not perfectly ground down in the painstakingly prepared sweet concoction. Sometimes they hide it from the keepers, making you think they ate it, so you won’t keep pestering them with more unsavory medicated treats.

Sometimes older animals need a little extra help and encouragement when it comes to what they eat. We cook veggies or cut them into smaller and more-manageable sized pieces. We also soak primate biscuits in warm water to soften them. Moving around can become more of a challenge for them too. More perches or rope in lower areas, lowering hammocks, and extra cushy bedding in their night quarters are some added comforts for the older residents. Wicky, a 31-year-old saki monkey, decided he didn’t like climbing into his usual crate to sleep anymore. Instead he saw that his sloth roommate’s crate could be entered much more easily. One evening when the sloth left her crate, Wicky took the opportunity to claim it as his. When the sloth returned to the crate in the morning to go to sleep she woke up a very cranky monkey. Needless to say Wicky got a new and improved crate and the sloth got her crate back.

Generally, older animals are set in their ways; they like their routine and feel very uncomfortable with change. Our 51-year-old chimpanzee, Joey, always takes his glucosamine supplement in juice and other medications in yogurt. He has to lay down burlap bedding before eating dinner, and eats in a particular den in the night house. It is very difficult to get him to move out of that den if we need him to and he can easily get quite agitated. Joey knows the order of the daily routine and if keepers deviate from that, he will let you know he’s not pleased by stomping his feet or banging on the door to say “hurry up!” However, with extra treats and a little patience, most animals (even Joey) can be convinced that change isn’t a bad thing.

It’s fair to say that animals slow down with age, but that’s not always the case. Joey is the spokeschimp for “50 is the new 30.” In his hey-day as the dominant male of the chimp group for most of his life, he was always so serious. Keepers and chimps alike feared his wrath. After he passed down his crown in his mid-40’s, he seemed much more relaxed and less stressed about having to be responsible for mediating chimp squabbles. He was even more interactive and playful with keepers. Now in his 50’s, he has been taking a very active roll in the group’s politics while maintaining his goofy side. One minute, he will look at you upside down through his legs wanting his toes tickled, and the next run around the exhibit in a full display that males do to show how strong they are to the rest of the group. It has been amazing to watch Joey get his second wind. I just hope I can keep up with him. 

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Castro, male Sumatran Tiger

Castro the Sumatran Tiger
1998 - 2014

Sacramento Zoo’s male Sumatran Tiger, Castro, was euthanized October 29, 2014 at the age of 16 ½ years. He had been fighting lymphoma, a form of cancer, since February 2013. The decision was made to euthanize Castro when he was no longer able to fight his cancer. Castro exceeded his life expectancy, becoming the longest living large cat diagnosed with lymphoma. He was also the oldest breeding male Sumatran tiger in the United States.

Since his lymphoma diagnosis in February 2013, Castro had been receiving oral chemotherapy every day while being closely monitored by veterinarians and zookeepers. While on treatment, Castro regained the weight he had lost and became more active again. His chemotherapy controlled his cancer and maintained a good quality of life. In October 2013, with a great outpouring of help from the medical community, Castro underwent a minimally-invasive surgery providing relief from a partial obstruction near his kidney, caused by urinary tract stones. In February 2014 Castro received a complete physical and extensive diagnostic testing to evaluate the status of his cancer and renal disease. During the exam a miniature camera was placed in his stomach to look for signs of GI ulceration (a potential complication from the chemotherapy). Test results and Castro’s behavior at that time indicated that his cancer was adequately controlled and his chronic kidney disease was stable. Recently, Castro’s appetite began to decline. Staff worked diligently to maintain his appetite and weight, enticing him to eat with a multitude of extra-special foods and adding medications to stimulate his appetite and minimize his nausea. Sadly, Castro’s condition had deteriorated and the Zoo’s veterinary and animal care team made the difficult decision to euthanize him in late October.

“Castro has always been one of our favorite cats. He’s been challenging and stubborn at times but these are also traits that we’ve loved about him. It often made us laugh when he had to readjust his toys or furniture to just the way he liked it,” said carnivore Zookeeper Amanda Watters. “I am so glad I had the privilege of taking care of him and getting to know him. He was an incredible animal and ambassador for his species that was a favorite of both staff and visitors.”


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Ask the Vet
By: Dr. Ray Wack

Veterinary exam on a chimpanzee

The animal collection at the Sacramento Zoo includes a number of individuals that have lived long lives, often longer than they would naturally live in the wild. Extended lifespans bring some unique challenges and as a result, part of our veterinary practice is geriatric medicine. The animals at the Sacramento Zoo have an excellent health care plan. Several    of the animals at the Zoo experience arthritis as they get older. For some animals, this can be treated with joint protectants such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Many of our older apes are on these. Other animals, such as the giraffe, are very amenable to training. Through the hard work of keepers Lindsey Moseanko and Melissa McCartney, Gudrun, a Reticulated Giraffe, has been trained to allow ice packs and cold laser therapy of her arthritic lower leg. Many times we can alter the homes of animals to make them more comfortable as they age. Similar to ADA accessibility changes in our homes, we can replace steps and areas that require climbing with ramps. These changes are easily seen in our Red Panda exhibit where we have three very elderly animals. In some cases like Castro the tiger, our health screening identifies cancer which we may be able to treat. For 18 months, Castro was receiving regular chemotherapy treatments to keep his lymphoma under control. In other cases we are able to provide specialized nutritional support to slow the progression of chronic diseases such as kidney failure. Similar to humans, many of our older primates receive calcium supplementation to prevent osteoporosis. As our animals at the Zoo age, their tolerance to temperature extremes often decreases. You will often find our older animals have additional soft bedding and special ceramic heaters when the weather turns cold and rainy or blocks of ice on particularly hot days. The Sacramento Zoo cherishes our older animals and works hard to keep them comfortable and healthy.

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