Author Archives: Hayley Perryman

Animal Adventures outreach programs provide fun for all ages

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flamingos and elderly

Animal Adventures outreach specialist Hayley Perryman guest blogs on ZooHoo!

The Dallas Zoo has an impressive array of ambassador animals from penguins to porcupines, tortoises to tegus, cockroaches to a cheetah, and pretty much everything else in between. These animals travel all over the DFW metroplex, and they have a very important job – inspiring a passion for nature and educating the public about conservation.

However, these creatures have another job, as well. It’s one that we don’t always think of, but it might be the most important job of all – that job is to inspire childlike joy and happiness in every guest they meet. Most people believe that programs like ours are only reserved for children or young adults, but my favorite types of programs are those specifically for retirement homes and the elderly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love spending my time going to pre-schools, middle schools, high schools, and all other schools to teach kids about wildlife, but there is something very special about visiting the elderly.IMG_0595

When we arrive, we often times hear comments like “this is one of the only programs that we can get all our residents out of bed for!” and “I hope it’s okay if my grandkids join us. They were just as excited as we were to hear that the Zoo was coming!”

We get our animals situated and ready to go for our 45-minute presentation and watch as older ladies come walking or wheeling in, sitting together and talking as though they were teenage girls in a high school cafeteria. We’ll giggle as we see someone arguing that this seat is saved for Susan or Tom, and how they’re hoping their kids or grandkids hurry up and get there so they don’t miss the program. Once we have everyone there, we begin.

Our programming, although usually booked for children, does find itself in front of adult audiences from time to time. Oddly enough, the adult groups are often more excited than all of our youth programs put together. I think we tend to forget about the simple things in life every now and then. These are things that, as children, caused our hearts to race, our minds to dream, and our smiles to spread across our faces; things like coming face-to-face with a flamingo, watching an opossum munch happily on a piece of banana, or seeing a tortoise stand up and start to dance from side to side as they get shell scratches from someone in the audience (fun fact – radiated tortoises are known as “rain dancers” because they do this in real life due to the nerve endings found throughout their shells!).

As our program comes to an end, our audience is suddenly transformed into one entirely of children, regardless of actual age. Smiles are seen on every face, laughs are heard throughout the room, and that wonderful look of happiness and joy is found in both young and old alike. That amazement and wonder is something that all of us need more of in our lives, and I find it so incredible that creatures of any kind are able to inspire that in people of all ages.

We visit several different retirement communities throughout the Dallas area, ranging from hospice care to elderly happy hour at a library – and trust me, it is as awesome as it sounds. These types of programming are a testament to the fact that there is no age limit on loving wildlife and wanting to help save the animals that are so important to our ecosystems.

This past year, the Dallas Zoo Animal Adventures team completed 623 outreach programs, reaching more than 86,400 people through educational appearances. We hope to reach even more people, both young and old, in this coming year, and we will continue to strive to make 2017 a year for learning about conservation and making a difference to save the planet.

Categories: Conservation, Education | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Hockaday high school students monkey around with primate enrichment

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Hockaday students present their enrichment devices at the Zoo

Hockaday students present their enrichment devices at the Zoo

For most high school students, the semester is filled with standard classes like calculus, biology, english, and history – but a group of five Hockaday students can proudly add monkeying around with STEM to their academic repertoire.

President and CEO Gregg Hudson congratulates the students on their hard work

President and CEO Gregg Hudson congratulates the students on their hard work

It all began with a unique partnership between the Zoo and the Hockaday School. Several Hockaday students were already involved in our Teen Science Café and Zoo Corps group, so it only seemed natural to find a way to further engage other students, using Zoo related problem solving.

“We value long-term partnerships like this because they can result in a deeper connection with the Zoo’s conservation mission. As the students delve into their projects and learn more about the animals they are helping, they can come away feeling more connected to the animals, which is important since their generation does and will have so many opportunities to make a positive difference for species worldwide,” said Dallas Zoo’s director of Education Marti Copeland.

The Hockaday School had just the person for taking on this wild task. Science teacher Leon de Oliveira began a brand new course for the semester entitled “Community Impact by Design.” The class allowed students to work in small groups while engaging in the design and engineering process in order to solve a problem. This year’s challenge: find a creative way to encourage small primates to use more vertical space in their exhibit.

Keepers put Wendy's and Kate's treat shaker to the test

Keeper Audra C. put Wendy’s and Kate’s treat shaker to the test after filling it with food

How exactly does one prompt a primate to move onwards and upwards? Through enrichment, of course! However, Zoo staff left the designing fully up to the students. The class made multiple trips to the Zoo to observe their subjects while working closely with primate keepers and our education team. After multiple models and prototypes made out of various approved materials, the students were able to turn their ideas into actual enrichment items.

“I have just been blown away by their creativity and perseverance throughout the challenge. To see the whole process starting from their initial cardboard designs to the final product was incredible. What a transformation!” Education supervisor Courtney Jonescu said.

Hockaday seniors Wendy Ho and Kate Keough created a “treat shaker” out of PVC pipe. The capsule shaped item, designed to hang from a tree branch, has maze-like layers of plexiglass on the inside. Primates must shake the apparatus to move food through the levels until it falls out a small hole at the bottom in order to be consumed.

Sophomore Meredith Jones approached the task from a different perspective, developing a “treat tree” with branches for food pieces to hang. Primates must pull levers in order to release the tree, allowing it to sprout out of a PVC pipe and reveal more and more treats depending on which lever is activated.

Spider monkeys eagerly engage with the enrichment device

Spider monkeys eagerly engage with the enrichment device

Junior Annie Allen and senior Audrey Black cleverly worked together to craft a “ball box.” The cube-like structure is made of mesh and houses a second cube within it, filled with whiffle balls, which have perfectly sized holes for primates to reach their fingers into and attempt to work food out.

“You had to really think like a monkey and consider everything that they could do, like their strength,” Allen explained.

And think like a monkey they did! Wendy’s and Kate’s treat shaker was even put to the test on May 11 after the students presented their final enrichment deliverables to Zoo staff and interested onlookers. Keepers hung the device from a branch in the spider monkey habitat, warning that the primates might be somewhat shy to approach it – but the troop proved otherwise.

“The device worked exactly like the students hoped it would, and the spider monkeys were immediately interested in it. They looked down the tube through the plexiglass window, just like the girls imagined they would.  Then they manipulated the tube until yummy treats fell out of the flawlessly cut hole at the bottom. It turned out to be perfect and all of us were thrilled to see that,” said Jonescu.

We think the students deserve an A+ for their hard work, creativity, ingenuity – after all, it’s not every day that one receives the monkey seal of approval.

Categories: Education, Enrichment, Mammals, Monkey | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Teens launch cell phone recycling initiative to save gorillas

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_MG_9731-Hope gorilla w-logo CB

Dallas Zoo’s Zoo Corps youth-led conservation team guest-blogs on ZooHoo! Our group of 14 high school Corps members worked together to select a challenging conservation issue, develop a solution, and put it into action. Here’s their story.

In 2016 alone, nearly 1.5 billion smartphones were purchased around the world. And sadly, the ramifications of producing these small electronic devices is seriously harming wildlife habitat.

Every minute, 150 acres of rain forest is lost to deforestation, depriving animals of their homes and people of crucial resources. One major cause of habitat destruction in central Africa is the mining of the mineral coltan, which is widely used in common compact technology devices, such as cell phones. The plight of critically endangered gorillas, a species already challenged by a variety of issues, is further exacerbated when their habitat is destroyed for unsustainable cell phone production.

The Zoo Corps team is combating this issue by holding a cell phone recycling drive so Dallas Zoo visitors can bring in electronic items to be recycled. By salvaging and reprocessing usable pieces, this drive will play a part in reducing the demand for coltan, which, in turn, will help save gorillas and other forest animals.

Although this issue is daunting, we can help make a difference. During the Zoo’s Endangered Species Weekend, May 20-21, the first 50 Zoo visitors each day will receive a free Texas native tree to plant at home in exchange for an approved recyclable electronic! While supplies last, even those who are unable to bring their used technology may be able receive a tree at no cost by learning about deforestation and answering trivia questions throughout the weekend.

We ask everyone to participate in this exciting event by donating old cell phones and electronics! We’ll work with the conservation-minded company Eco-Cell to make sure your device is recycled.

And if you can’t make it out to Endangered Species Weekend, you can still recycle your small electronics any time you visit the Zoo. In the meantime, consider attending a tree planting session in partnership with the Texas Trees Foundation to help fight deforestation.

Here’s the low-down on how you can recycle your electronics at the Zoo.

What we can accept:Zoo Corps Coltan Infographic-01

  • Cell phones (smart phones and older cell phones)
  • iPods
  • iPads
  • Tablets
  • MP3 players
  • Handheld video games

We do NOT accept:

  • Desktop computers
  • Monitors
  • Laptops
  • Game consoles
  • Calculators

*Note: Apple, Best Buy, Staples, and other retailers will take larger items like these. Call your local store to find out more.

What to do with your device before dropping it off:

  1. Backup your device and save any data you want to keep, such as contacts, photos, or music.
  2. For security purposes, we recommend resetting the device and wiping all data. Specific instructions can be found online for various devices.
  3. Remove the case and/or screen protector.

Where can I drop off my device?

You may drop off your used devices with a staff member at the Membership Services booth, ticket booths, Information Booth. You may also leave them in the drop box at the Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Center at the Dallas Zoo while you’re here visiting our gorillas.

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Education, Events, Gorilla | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy first birthday, Ajabu: Looking back on a year of milestones for our baby elephant

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Ajabu enjoys a mud wallow session./Chandra Brooks

It was 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, 2016 – the Zoo was just waking up and keepers were filing in, when two elephant keepers shook the barn with squeals of joy as they discovered a little grey bouncing baby boy. Just hours before, elephant Mlilo had delivered a 175-pound, 3-foot-tall calf to our somewhat surprise.

The baby, already standing, nursing and totally unfazed, would be the first African elephant calf born in a U.S. AZA-accredited Zoo in more than two years.

The keepers quickly executed their, “Surprise! A baby’s been born!” procedures to ensure the vet and animal care teams were immediately aware of the newborn.

Baby Ajabu at just three days old.

Baby Ajabu at just three days old.

But, the one who knew exactly what she was doing, Mlilo, took it all in stride. She’d been growing this baby for nearly two years, and her maternal instincts were alive and kicked in right on cue. She was born for this.

Two months prior, Mlilo arrived aboard a chartered 747 jet from drought-stricken Swaziland, Africa, as part of an intricate airlift to save her and 16 other elephants from being culled. This, in turn, saved her AND her beautiful baby boy.

Our animal experts suspected Mlilo was pregnant, but all hormone testing came back inconclusive. Regardless, we were very careful with Mlilo’s day-to-day care, and were able to create the positive conditions surrounding Ajabu’s successful birth.

Estimated to be 15 years old, Mlilo arrived here thin and underweight, but better nutrition in just the few weeks leading up to her delivery helped her gain 300 crucial pounds. And over the course of the next five months, we allowed mom and baby much time to bond privately, and grow together, while we worked to “baby-proof” the Giants of the Savanna habitat.

As we celebrate this precious baby’s first birthday, we look back on the moments that truly take our breath away. And if you weren’t a fan already, we’re certain that over the past year, this rambunctious boy has made you fall in love with his vulnerable species.

We insist you binge watch:

  1. Captured on the barn cameras, Ajabu’s birth; mom’s gentle nudge encouraging baby to stand; his first steps; his first time nursing, will forever remain one of those “pinch us, we’re dreaming” moments. (And yes, utter disbelief caused much pinching.)
  2. That time newborn Ajabu wouldn’t let mom sleep, and Mlilo obliged with his antics Every. Single. Time. #MomGoals
  3. When baby Ajabu took his first dip in a kiddie pool and we thought there was nothing cuter. (We were quickly proven wrong. See No. 4.)
  4. Baby boy received his first ball and played so hard that food and water were the only things that could tear him away. Priorities.
  5. Another major first, the day Mlilo and Ajabu explored their “baby-proofed” habitat This was an unforgettable moment.
  6. Then seeing it all come full circle as baby Ajabu and Mlilo ventured into our largest habitat with other herd members.

Hmm, can you still call a 4-foot-tall, 800-pound, one-year-old elephant a “baby”? Actually, don’t answer. He’s our baby and always will be.

Ajabu, whose African name means “wonder,” “amazing” and “extraordinary” is a remarkable ambassador for his troubled species, inspiring guests daily to help find answers to the grave crisis elephants face in Africa. He represents so much.

He’s here because we took a chance, a major one. And the way children light up when they see his tiny trunk, his perfect ears, and hear his little trumpets – it’s unexplainable. Ajabu plays such a key role in inspiring our next generation of wildlife warriors to save species from extinction and ensure we never know a world without the majestic, powerful African elephant.

Happy first birthday to our baby boy Ajabu. You mean more to us than you will ever know.

And a thank you to Mlilo. You’re the kind of protective, playful, and present mother all moms wish they could be. Here’s to a very Happy Mother’s Day, mama Mlilo.

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Elephant, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Fidelity Cares for the Dallas Zoo by the numbers

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Fidelity volunteers from the Westlake campus make magnets

Fidelity volunteers make magnets at their Westlake campus

Most people probably don’t wake up in the morning and drive to work with the intention of cleaning up an

Volunteers gather mulch for the elephant exhibit

Volunteers gather mulch for the elephant exhibit

elephant walkway or making a bridge for barnyard animals, but for nearly 700 employees at the Fidelity campus in Westlake, that’s exactly what how they spent their workday.

It’s Fidelity Cares Day, an annual day of volunteering and giving back to local communities for Fidelity Investments employees around the world. And today we sent eight Dallas Zoo staff members to the campus to lead a series of unique projects that will benefit our animals, conservation partners, and the Dallas community. Plus, about 100 Fidelity volunteers spent the day at the Zoo, working with zookeepers on various projects from landscaping to habitat clean-up.

“This amazing day of service is a great way for volunteers to further the Dallas Zoo’s goals, impact, and mission of engaging people and saving wildlife,” said Nicole Sweeney, Dallas Zoo’s Corporate Giving Manager.

Painted canvases for the 96 elephant mosaic

Painted canvases for the 96 elephant mosaic

Our volunteers kicked off Fidelity Cares Day by making magnets – but these magnets aren’t your average fridge trinket. Each one is made of a piece of canvas painted by an animal at the Dallas Zoo. Fidelity volunteers adhered magnetic strips and labels to the back of approximately 970 of these artistic creations. These masterpieces will be sold at Bishop Arts Districts’ The Local Oak restaurant this Friday-Sunday (May 4-6), and will benefit the Dallas Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK).

Fidelity staff also contributed to Wildlife Conservation Society’s 96 Elephants campaign, which raises awareness about elephant poaching. Fittingly, 96 volunteers painted a canvas to remind Zoo visitors that every day in Africa, 96 elephants are killed for their ivory. The hanging mosaic will be placed in the Simmon’s Base Camp as a symbol of our dedication to elephant conservation.

Keeper Jenn Lim led the goat bridge construction project

Keeper Jenn Lim led the goat bridge project

The next project required a little more elbow grease. Roughly 25 volunteers spent four hours assembling a goat bridge – yep, a bridge for our goats. They sanded, screwed, hammered, and applied stain to a large wood play structure for our goat yard. The structure consists of two sets of stairs and one bridge, which will be used by kids of both the human and goat variety for parallel play in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo. Research shows that parallel play helps many children develop empathy. As children use the bridge alongside animal friends, our hope is that it will strengthen their connection to wildlife.

Throughout the day, multiple seed ball making stations were set up at the Westlake campus for volunteers to walk up and form using a mix of native seeds, compost, and clay. The seed balls will be used to restore prairie habitat at local schools. Once placed in these locations, the seeds will germinate and help reestablish native plants species for local wildlife. Fidelity volunteers created 13,200 seed balls today – whew!

Debarking logs for chimps

Debarking logs for the chimp habitat

We would like to sincerely thank all of the generous Fidelity volunteers who paid it forward with sweat equity and hard work in order to make the Zoo, and our community, a better place. Looking at the numbers alone, it’s amazing what a single group of people accomplished in just one day.

Categories: Enrichment, Volunteers | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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