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Vol. 52, No. 2, Summer 2014

Directors Den Succulents at the Zoo Building a Better Zoo
Animal Chatter Flamingo Round-up Estate Planning Safari

Animal Training

 Member Evening

Animal Fact

Calendar of Events    

Directors Den

Zoo Director Mary Healy

As summer approaches I am looking forward to the return of our Twilight Thursdays. Starting on June 19, these weekly concerts through the end of July are the perfect excuse to get the family out of the house and have a dinner together at the Zoo, listening to live music and enjoying the crazy assortment of cars, vans, and funky trailers that show up every week. I love seeing everyone enjoying a picnic and letting the kids get up and dance to the music. As an added bonus, the concerts are on the Reptile House Lawn right next to the playground. Our visitors this summer are going to be able to enjoy a new and improved playground structure thanks to a timely donation from the Sacramento Kings. Late last  year, we were approached by the Kings who said they wanted to include us in their promotion of season tickets sales. Ten local organizations would receive 10% of the season ticket sales over the following ten weeks.Of course, we were delighted to be included and thought we might get a thousand, maybe a few thousand dollars.

When the check arrived for $20K I knew just what I wanted to do with this timely donation. We had been researching options to improve the playground and with an additional $10K from the great attendance we had in 2013, we were able to go forward with the new structure. It has proved very popular and I know it will be a favorite hangout spotduring the concerts. I want to thank Chris Granger, Jeff David and all the leadership of the Sacramento Kings for helping us make this much needed improvement. As a member, admission to the concerts is free, so plan on taking advantage of this great perk and come out and enjoy the music!

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Succulents at the Zoo
By April Mae Johnson

Succulent PlantThe plant life at the Sacramento Zoo offers visitors natural and pleasant scenery to enjoy as they observe animals from around the world. Nestled in historic William Land Park, both native and non-native plant species can be found throughout the Zoo’s 14-acres.  

The horticulture team works together to maintain the grounds and also to grow browse (non-toxic plants) for the animals to eat. Describing how plants add to visitor experience, Horticulturist Michaele Bergera states, “There’s a peaceful 
retreat feeling when you’re here and it adds to the park setting with shade and beautiful things to look at.”

Recently an area in the Zoo needed attention as it has previously had trouble growing due to old irrigation pipes and mature trees. In the midst of California’s drought, Michaele decided to create a drought-tolerant succulent garden. Last November, Gerhard Bock, blogger of Succulents and More, came to the Zoo. “He represented the fall foliage beautifully in his blog, but mentioned he didn’t see any succulents, and this got me thinking.”

After gathering information and requesting recommendations from Gerhard, a succulent garden has been planted. It’s located across from the Snow Leopard exhibit and will serve as an entrance path to the Small Wonders of Africa exhibit, currently under construction for its mid-summer debut. The goal is to xeroscape the garden, a technique where plants receive all of their water from natural moisture without supplemental watering.

Michaele shares, “People can see how our caring for the landscape is a continuation of the care we give the animals.” Grounds maintenance continues to make the most of the available space while conserving water and keeping the animals’ interests first. Next time you visit, take a moment to stop and enjoy the succulents.

Fun Facts*:

  • All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Succulents are plants with cells in parts of their body that retain water.  Some plants have these cells in their roots, others have them in their stems.
  • What defines true cacti are areoles. Areoles are small, fluffy, cotton like lumps on the body of the cactus from where spines, glochids, branches and flowers may sprout. All cacti have them, while all succulents do not.
  • Still, some cacti don’t have spikes or spines while a succulent may. This creates a challenge for people to properly identify the plants. 

          * Information gathered from the

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Building a Better Zoo
By Tonja Candelaria

As an 87-year-old institution, the Sacramento Zoo isArtists rendering of Small Wonders of Africa Exhibit constantly updating older exhibits, building new exhibits and working to improve the experience of guests and residents alike. It takes a lot of work to renovate or build a new exhibit and requires multiple discussions with a variety of professionals. The process determines what should be built, fundraising, permits, building and introducing the animals to the exhibits.

When designing an exhibit, architects and zookeepers work together to create the best environment possible for the intended species. Animal exhibits should be designed with the best interests of the animals, zoo staff and the public taken into account equally.  The animals’ space requirements are also considered for their on-exhibit habitats as well as the areas behind-the-scenes.  In addition to animals’ needs, they must also discuss the necessities for keepers both in the exhibit and in the back areas where they may need to store food, toys, cleaning supplies and care for the animals. The brainstorming process must answer many questions and address the various requirements for an exhibit; some examples are:

Animal Needs
An animal’s health is affected by many different things such as adequate space, proper environmental conditions, places to hide, activities, social behavior, water availability, safety and materials used to build the exhibit.

  • Does the animal live alone or in groups?
  • How many should live in the exhibit?
  • What size should the exhibit be?Should there be plants in the exhibit?
  • What type of habitat does the animal come from?
  • Can I create a similar habitat with non-toxic plants that will grow in this region?
  • What needs to be done to protect plants from the animals?
  • Does the exhibit have different microhabitats that allow the animal to choose the temperature at which it is most comfortable (i.e., cool spots for when it’s too hot, warm spots for when it’s too cold)?What is the main substrate on the exhibit floor?
  • Does this provide for a need of the animal?What types of enrichment (playthings, food items presented in a creative way, training, etc.) will be used in the exhibit to keep the animal mentally stimulated?
  • Does the animal have a place to go for privacy?

Animal Care Staff Needs

  • Is the keeper safe at all times (while feeding, while cleaning, while training, etc.)?
  • Does the exhibit allow for veterinary care if needed?

Other Considerations

  • Does the exhibit allow for an interactive and educational guest experience?
  • Will the exhibit comply with local, state and federal guidelines as well as those set forth by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums?
  • Does the exhibit fit with the Zoo’s mission and support conservation efforts as well as green practices?

Once the brainstorming process is complete and it has been determined what will be built or renovated, the real work begins. Engineers present ideas that conform to the goals of the exhibit as well the restrictions of the area (i.e. where various pipelines or historic trees are and how it will affect surrounding animals etc.). As soon as proposals have been reviewed and one has been selected, the fundraising begins, permits are applied for and the Zoo reaches out to AZA species coordinators to obtain residents for the new digs. 

Even though the process can take a while to complete, it is inspiring to see when the finished product enables a visitor to have a unique experience and make an otherwise unlikely connection with a wild animal. 

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Animal Chatter
 New Faces at the Zoo

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Misha came to the Sacramento Zoo from the Denver Zoo where she was born.

This female Roadrunner was born at the Living Desert Museum in Palm Desert, CA. She can now be seen on exhibit with the Zoo's male Roadrunner and Thick-billed Parrots.  

Tokay Gecko


Tokay Geckos
In the Reptile House you will find a pair of Tokay Geckos. The male and female came to Sacramento from Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX.

Solomon Island Leaf Frogs
You will have to look closely to spot the Zoo's new Solomon Island Lead Frogs in the Reptile House. They moved to Sacramento from Moody Gardens, TX. 

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Flamingo Round-up

On the cold morning of February 27th, staff from the Sacramento Zoo’s Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital, UC Davis Wildlife Health Center and UC Davis Companion Avian pet Exotic Service gathered for the Zoo’s annual Flamingo Round-up. Rain or shine, the Zoo’s 39 American Flamingos receive their annual health exams.

The roundup begins with zookeepers carefully corralling the flamingos into a pen using shade cloth and a carefully choreographed plan of stealth on the part of keepers. Once in the pen, each flamingo is hand caught and carried one-by-one to a veterinary station for a comprehensive physical exam. Due to their sensitivity to anesthesia, the exams are completed while the flamingos are awake, with their bodies being held carefully so as not to cause injury. 

Flamingo receiving a veterinary exam

During the exam the flamingos:

  • Are weighed
  • Have their eyes examined
  • Joints are palpated for signs of arthritis
  • Have an assessment of their body condition and nutritional status
  • Have a blood sample drawn for a complete blood cell count and biochemistry panel
  • Feet are examined
  • Have their bands and microchips checked
  • Are given a West Nile vaccine
  • Are given a drug to treat parasites 

After each exam the bird is released safely back onto the lake where they can join the rest of their flock. 

The Sacramento Zoo’s partnership with UCDavis Wildlife Health Center ensures that all of the animals at the Zoo receive top of the line care while helping train future zoo veterinarians.

To learn more about the annual Flamingo Round-up visit the Sacramento Zoo's blog.

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Estate Planning Safari
Protect Your Nest Egg

Saturday, July 12
10:30 am – Noon
Kampala Conference Room

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. Email Lisa Clement or call 916.808.8815 by July 1, to guarantee your seat.

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Animal Training
By Brooke Coe

Jane trainingAnimal training plays a very important role in the field of zoo keeping today. It is a varied and wide-ranging craft that improves the lives of animals, enhances the safety of the staff, and advances the field of zoo keeping. 

At the Sacramento Zoo, almost every individual animal is part of a training program. The extent to which they are trained varies based on the species, individual’s interest and abilities, and staff needs. All of the behaviors trained  are for husbandry purposes; the behavior learned directly relates to the care and maintenance of that animal. Husbandry behaviors can be as simple as asking the animal to move from one den to the next, and as advanced as voluntary blood draws.

A great example of the advancements in animal training is our success with hand injections for a few of our carnivore and primate species. Recently, the Sacramento Zoo carnivore keepers successfully injected the male lion, Snow Leopard, and otter with an anesthetic before their annual physicals. These behaviors are done through protected contact, meaning that there is always a protective barrier between the keepers and these wild animals. The wonderful part of this behavior is that the keepers are able to administer the injection with a very limited number of people present in the animals’ homes with trainers that the animals trust. The animal’s stress level is significantly lower, and it makes for a much more pleasant experience for animals and staff alike. It is success stories like these that make the frustrations and struggles of animal training worth the time and energy.

The art of animal training has dramatically changed the role of the zookeeper and the overall well-being of the animals for the better. Zoo animals are more enriched, more engaged, and more stimulated. It has also changed the guest experience for the better. Many animal behaviors are trained during scheduled keeper chats and training demonstrations, giving zoo visitors an up-close view of the behavior and a chance to speak with the keeper about the advancements in  animal training. 

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Member Evening
Thursday, June 12, 5:30 - 8:30 pm

Mark your calendars for our FREE Members Only Evening at the Zoo.

  • Meet the Zookeepers
  • Animal Enrichments
  • Stage Show
  • Free Raffle
  • Special discounts at Zoofari Market gift store
  • Discounted rides on the Conservation Carousel and Zoo Train

Call the Member & Visitor Services office at 916.808.5888 for details. 

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Animal Facts
By Meagan Edwards

Jasper the Plain-colored Amazon ParrotAs visitors enjoy the Sacramento Zoo, they are frequently greeted by the voice of the very talkative Plain-colored Amazon Parrot, Jasper. Many children look forward to hearing his familiar voice welcoming them with a “Hello!” or “Here, Kitty, Kitty!” During the winter months, Jasper, and his fellow Plain-colored Amazon Parrot, Heinie, often have plexiglass panels placed around the outside of their adjoining exhibits. The plexiglass is used to shield them from wind and help to keep their exhibits warm.  

Jasper is a Plain-colored Amazon – one of the largest Amazon parrot species. These birds are found in the wild in the Amazon rainforests and foothills of South America as well as parts of Central America and Mexico. Like many parrots, 
they have a very wide variety of vocalizations such as chirps, tweets and squawks as well as the ability to imitate sounds including human speech. Because of their somewhat gentle temperament, Plain-colored Amazons tend to be very social  with birds from other species as well as their own. 

While these birds are not endangered in the wild, they are considered a vulnerable species. Deforestation in the Amazon is causing a rapid decline in suitable habitat and the pet trade, both legal and illegal, has removed many birds from their natural environment. While parrots can make great pets, the Sacramento Zoo recommends that prospective parrot owners make well-informed choices and purchase only captive-bred birds.

Next time you visit the Zoo, be sure to stop by and exchange a friendly “hello” with Jasper and Heine!

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