Author Archives: Chelsey

Dallas Zoo Lights Pro Tips

Don’t miss Dallas Zoo Lights presented by Reliant!

There’s so much to do and see at Dallas Zoo Lights presented by Reliant. Here are a few of the best-kept secrets and spots you absolutely MUST see, straight from the Zoo Lights pros.

Pro tip #1: Cozy up to the fire, and make your own s’mores at the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo.

Pro tip #2: Sip on some hot cocoa from Rudolph’s Sugar Shack. (Pssst…grown-ups, don’t forget to make yours extra special with a shot of Bailey’s and/or Peppermint Schnapps. 😉 )

Pro tip #3: Say hi to Santa! He’s kind of a big deal.

Pro tip #4: Get your craft on at our nature-themed ornament making station.

Pro tip #5: If you get chilly, head inside the Herpetarium or Bug U! to warm up.

Pro tip #6: Get in the holiday spirit with sounds of the season – catch nightly musical performances at Cat Green.

Pro tip #7: Take advantage of the most Instagram-worthy photo op – Rainbow Arch!

Pro tip #8: Stroll through Picnic Ridge and check out our newest light feature – larger-than-life animal-shaped lanterns.

Pro tip #9: Satisfy your sweet tooth – be sure to grab a funnel cake and a specialty donut. (Or two – who’s counting?)

Pro tip #10: Dallas Zoo Members get in FREE! Plus, tons of other perks all year long. Sign up to become a member today, and get 10% any level of membership. Take advantage of that deal HERE.

Did we miss anything? If you’ve been to Dallas Zoo Lights and have some more pro tips to share, let us know in the comments!

Click HERE for the full Dallas Zoo Lights schedule and to get your tickets now.

Categories: Dallas Zoo Lights, Events, Membership | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Recycle your old string lights at the Dallas Zoo, and help protect wildlife this holiday season

Reduce your impact this holiday season by recycling your old string lights!

Collection bin is located at the Zoo’s front entrance throughout Dallas Zoo Lights and will remain until January 13.

Are you tangled up in holiday lights? Don’t know what to do or where to turn? Fear not! Bring us your old string lights, and we’ll keep them out of landfills by recycling them responsibly. Many string lights are made with copper and other precious metals, which are harvested through mining in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo where critically endangered gorillas and okapi live. Recycling these metals reduces the need to mine for new materials, which causes animal habitat destruction and other harmful effects to our environment.

There are so many reasons to recycle, but here are a just few ways that recycling benefits the environment and will help us Create a Better World for Animals:

  • Less waste sent to landfills provides more habitat space for wildlife.
  • Reduces the risk of waste making its way into places it shouldn’t, like the ocean, where animals can accidentally ingest it or become tangled.
  • Allows us to reuse materials without having to harvest new ones, including copper and plastics.
  • It takes less energy to recycle materials than to create new ones.

What do we do with these old lights? They go to our trusted metal recycler where they’re broken down and the parts are recycled individually.

 *Only string lights will be accepted for recycling; please do not bring other items like flood lights, extension cords or light hooks.

Categories: Conservation, Dallas Zoo Lights, Green Team, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond exercise: The adventurous animals in the Lacerte Family Children Zoo go exploring

Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo goats explore the tiger viewing area on a recent adventure!

Animal Care Supervisor Lisa Van Slett Guest Blogs on ZooHoo!

For most people, taking your dog for a walk is a common event. It feels natural to say that your dog (and you) need exercise to stay in shape. Beyond good exercise, these walks are also a way for you to bond with your four-legged best friend.

But what about other animals? While we are limited by species at the Dallas Zoo (I would not recommend walking your giraffe around Oak Cliff), the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo has room to roam. On any given day you may find the keepers walking goats, sheep, pigs, chickens or our longhorn!

Upon first glance walking these animals may seem straight forward, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Our keepers start training the animals with the basics, like getting comfortable with wearing a harness, halter, or collar. Just like people, individual animals have different levels of confidence. Sometimes we get lucky, and a goat is comfortable wearing a collar right away! Other times we have to build up to it, which is when the relationship between animal and keeper is vital. We use positive reinforcement to build those strong relationships and earn the animals’ trust. Once they are dressed and ready to go, we can start exploring the Zoo!

Penny and Oliver say hello to the Komodo dragon in the Herpetarium.

Another less obvious benefit of walking our animals around different parts of the zoo is how enriching it is for everyone involved. The animals get to see and explore something new, and it’s also fun for guests at the Zoo! Although you can go into our contact yard with the animals, there is something very special about bumping into them somewhere unexpected. The keepers get just as excited and request that we call them to tell them when the goats are coming for a visit! We also love seeing the reactions of the other species. The penguins and otters are always curious. Killa, the harpy eagle likes to watch the goats, and the Komodo dragon comes to the glass to see the pigs up close.

Keepers have a lot of factors to consider when deciding which animals to take out and what destination to pick. For instance, our goat herd contains 11 goats! As fun as that would be to walk the whole herd, we mix and match within the group, and only take out two or three at a time. Our Kune Kune pigs, Penny and Oliver, are always a big hit too. They are both halter training and can usually be seen walking within the Children’s Zoo, but occasionally you might find them out in ZooNorth. They have even made appearances in the Herpetarium! The sheep are our most adventurous animals. They have gone through the tunnel to the Wilds of Africa to visit the lions, cheetahs, mandrills, and penguins.  Everyone comes out to take a look!  Bahati the lion took a seat at the window, sitting as close as she could to the sheep. Mshindi the chimp likes to look at the chickens and watch as they walk around.

There are endless possibilities for adventure and exploring with our contact animals.  If you would like to see our animals in action, there are several options. You can come for a visit on Monday, Thursday or Saturday around 10-11 am (weather dependent) when we have our scheduled goat walks.  You may also see the sheep greeting guests as they come into the Zoo during our monthly Dallas Zoo Member Mornings. However, on the nicer days you never know what (or who) you may see around the Zoo during your visit!

Categories: Children's Zoo (Lacerte Family), Uncategorized, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

All About Sebastian

Sebastian meets Sunny the radiated tortoise behind the scenes at Wild Encounters.

Animal Encounter Specialist, Samantha K. guest blogs on ZooHoo!

Like all staff at the Wild Encounters stage, I see many different faces each day. I always find it incredibly special when I start to recognize the faces of members who come to the zoo a few times a week, or those Zoo patrons who stay at the stage for multiple shows in a row. A young man named Sebastian was one of the first special patrons I began to notice time and again at the Wild Encounters stage. He was always so enthusiastic, had the best questions to ask me, and seemed to absorb every word I said. He even requested for me to give a presentation or two before the start of the summer months!

I really did not see much of Sebastian during the hot season and missed his enthusiasm. He and his mother returned to the Zoo about a week ago, much to my delight. During this visit, I was able to find out a little bit more about why they had been gone during the summer.

6-year-old Sebastian has a very rare and severe case of Hirschsprung’s Disease. It affects his pancreas, liver, large and small intestines, causing him to be on many transplant lists. Sebastian is often seen carrying around a backpack that administers his medications, which is one of the reasons I was quickly able to recognize him every time he came to the stage during his visits. When we learned about his condition, we wanted to give him the opportunity to learn even more about the animals he sees when he comes to the stage, and to get up-close and personal.

Sebastian and his mother with Sam K. and Ziggy the eagle owl at the Wild Encounters stage.

Sebastian, along with his mother and grandmother, came back to the Zoo a couple of days later and we were able to treat him to a behind-the-scenes experience in our VIP area. Sporting his awesome cheetah conservation shirt, Sebastian was able to learn all about some of the amazing animals often featured on the Wild Encounters stage. He met Indy the savanna monitor and learned about their amazing tongues, Ziggy the Eurasian eagle Owl and their large size, and one of his personal favorites, Sunny the radiated tortoise. We complimented his choice in attire, and he said that his mom told him he could purchase one thing while visiting the zoo, and he picked the cheetah shirt for conservation!

It was an incredible opportunity to connect with someone and make a difference in their lives by doing what I love to do here at the Dallas Zoo. I learned more about Sebastian that day, and I am happy that he’s not just another face in the crowd. We always hope to impact our visitors every day with how they can create a better world for animals, but they might not realize just how much they impact us, too.

If you want to learn more about Sebastian, his family has an Instagram and Facebook account dedicated to his journey. You can find them here:

Instagram: @aboutsebastian
Facebook: All About Sebastian

Categories: Wild Encounters | Leave a comment

Heeding the call: Earthwatch expedition to save chimpanzees

Cristina P. in Uganda on her Earthwatch expedition to BCFS.

Primate keeper Cristina P. guest blogs on ZooHoo!

In August of 2016 I received an unexpected call from the Dallas Zoo’s HR director. She informed me that I had been selected as one of the finalists for an Earthwatch Fellowship, and 9 months later I was on my way to an adventure I will never forget.

Our group met up at a hotel in Entebbe, a city on the Northern Shores of Lake Victoria, 23 miles from the national capital Kampala, Uganda. We had only 5 participants in our team – 3 from Australia, one from Switzerland, and myself. Being in a small group allowed us to really form personal connections, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet people from around the world, including the great people of Uganda.

Chimps gathered near our cabin in the forest.

We left for the Budongo Conservation Field Station (BCFS), and 6 hours later we arrived to the most remote location I had ever been. The nearest town was 45 minutes away, I was not going to be in communication with anyone via phone or internet for the next 10 days, and primates were my new neighbors. I could not have been more excited.

We were surrounded by groups of blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys (also called guenons), baboons and black and white colobus. We saw many bushbucks (a brownish-red hoofed stock) as well as a few genets and civets at night. We heard the nightly calls of the tree hyrax.  Birds were abundant in the area making it a great spot for bird watchers. The butterflies were the prettiest I had ever seen.

BCFS has been around since 1990, and over the years, researchers have noticed that some of the fruit trees (which provide the chimps’ natural food source) have been producing drastically fewer amounts of fruit. The local villagers also believe that chimps and baboons have been raiding their crops more frequently. Could the decline of fruit availability be causing the increase in crop raiding? Could the fruit decrease be caused by global warming? Is this simply part of a natural cycle of the forest? The area had been exploited for many decades by the British for mahogany, so there’s also a theory that maybe as the forest regenerates and trees get taller, there is less sun getting through to the shorter fruit trees, thus affecting their development.

BCFS tries to look at every piece of the puzzle, so many of the tasks we performed were for the purpose of furthering this research. One day we set up mist nets in the forest to catch birds and catalog them, since they are important in spreading seeds (they were released after we were done with measurements, banding and pictures). BCFS field assistants monitor types of leaves and fruit levels on around 1,400 fruit trees in the area, so we assisted in data collection for that project as well.  But most importantly, we observed 2 troops of chimpanzees, which was an experience like no other.

We observed this chimp enjoying a snack.

Some days, we’d start walking before dawn so we could find the chimps as they were waking up. One of the groups, called Sonso has been studied since the beginning of the project and is fully habituated, which means they see the people as part of their environment and do not mind human presence. The second group, Waibira, has been studied since 2011 and are still in the process of habituation. For the purposes of minimizing disease transmission and our safety we were told to keep a distance of approximately 23 feet to the chimps. The only problem with that was the animals don’t know that rule and at times came pretty close to us. It was fascinating to be so close to an animal that is so strong and powerful, yet they seemed to just go about their day as if we weren’t even there.

A chimp is observed with injuries from being caught in a snare.

We also had the chance to assist the snare removal team. In this particular area, chimps are not hunted for bush meat. Instead the targets are bush pigs, blue and red duikers, and bushbucks. Unfortunately though, chimps inadvertently get caught in those, and about 25% of the animals in this area have a snare-related injury. One particular female had gotten caught by a snare 3 different times! They have even been observed trying to free one another from the snares. It was also noted that there was no difference in how the injured chimps were treated by their troop and they seem to eventually adapt to their new reality of missing fingers, toes, etc. Unfortunately some are not so lucky and do end up dying from their injuries. Occasionally the BCFS veterinary team will sedate an injured chimp and remove a snare if the animal is left behind by its troop.

On one of our last days we visited a nearby village to interview the local farmers and learn about the impact that chimps, baboons, and small monkeys have on their crops. Years ago, BCFS helped them identify what kinds of foods would be least appealing to the animals and provided them with seeds, which were then planted near the forest edge. They do this in the hopes that the animals might keep walking further out to search for foods they like better. The farmers depend on these crops, not only for income, but also to feed their families.

Leaving BCFS was bittersweet. I still miss seeing the chimps and all the people I met! But since I’ve returned from Uganda, I have a renewed hope that there are people out there doing amazing things every day to save these animals from extinction.

Categories: Africa, Chimpanzee, Conservation, Zookeepers | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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