Posts Tagged With: Zookeepers

Deforestation is so last season

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Stacy Lupori is a tiger, otter and primate keeper at the Dallas Zoo. She’s also an Action Team Leader for the Rainforest Action Network, where she helps coordinate campaigns to save Earth’s forests and the animals who call them home.

Cotton-top tamarin, Medusa. Her wild counterparts are critically endangered in Colombia.

Cotton-top tamarin, Medusa. Her wild counterparts are critically endangered in Colombia.

Did you know that some of the most popular clothing brands we wear use fabrics made from tree pulp? It’s an incredibly toxic process that’s destroying forests across the world and leaving the endangered animals that live there homeless.

As a zookeeper who cares for animals that are directly affected by this forest destruction, like Sumatran tigers, Bolivian gray titi monkeys and cotton-top tamarins, I feel it’s my obligation to ensure the survival of their wild counterparts.

The forests these fabrics come from include Indonesia (Borneo and Sumatra), Colombia, Brazil and even Canada. The trees are being clear-cut, processed into pulp, and used to create fabrics that are made into clothing by some of the world’s most popular brands. The incredibly harmful process known as dissolving pulp, creates a fluffy white material that gets spun into threads and woven into cloth.

Bolivian gray titi monkey, Cory.

Bolivian gray titi monkey, Cory.

This holiday season, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is asking consumers to consider not shopping at the stores dubbed as RAN’s “Fashion Fifteen.” These companies are at the forefront of deforestation for clothing. Through consumer pressure, our goal is to have these companies commit to remove forest destruction from their supply chains.

Zookeepers are critical educational and conservational messengers, acting as a voice for the animals they care for. Our animals are ambassadors for their species and they need help from those who want to protect the wild that’s left. Let’s save the remaining forests we have and the animals who live there by pledging to shop deforestation-free. For more information and to see the list of the “Fashion Fifteen,” click HERE.

 

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Education, Mammals, Monkey, Tigers, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweating for the love of tigers

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It’s not every day Malayan tiger Batu searches his one-acre habitat for dozens of hidden meatballs. But when 25 volunteers spend four hours cleaning it, they get the special task of hiding his food and watching from a behind-the-scenes location as he enters to find it.

“Hiding Batu’s food was the best part,” said 16-year-old volunteer Cierra Smith-Vaughn. “The keepers said he can stand nine feet tall, so I tried to hide it as high as I could.”

Our wonderful volunteers put in much appreciated work that would have taken our zookeepers triple the amount of time to complete. Here’s the roundup:

  • Bagged 150+ 60-gallon bags of leaves
  • Filled two trailer loads full of dead bamboo
  • Wheelbarrowed in four tons of river rock to build a dry stream bed to control water erosion from the viewing building
  • Drained and cleaned the tiger pool and outside stream
  • Planted winter grass seeds

“I came because I know the keepers needed help and it’s a beautiful day,” said volunteer Caroline Moore. “I could volunteer anywhere else, but I want to be here. I love the Dallas Zoo.”

And it’s selfless volunteers like neighbors Cierra and Caroline, who drove from Fort Worth to spend their Saturday putting sweat, hard work and a lot of laughter into cleaning our tiger habitat.

The volunteers also received a behind-the-scenes tour of the tiger and otter night quarters, plus a free breakfast. For more information on becoming a Zoo volunteer, click HERE.

Volunteers remove leaves from river stream
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Categories: Enrichment, Mammals, Tigers, Volunteers, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Training inquisitive meerkats

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They’re incredibly cute, vicious at times, very smart, and extremely inquisitive. Meet our five meerkats: Huxley, Twig, Orbee, Widget and Poppet. These small predators recently learned a new behavior that’ll help vets and keepers easily perform health checks and administer annual vaccinations.

Because the speedy meerkats dig and travel in underground tunnels, it’s difficult for keepers to catch them. So for the past few months, keepers have trained the meerkats to station themselves inside a wire box. The lure? Smashed bananas on a spoon. Once the meerkats are inside the box, they can be transported to the veterinary staff at the hospital.

“Once the boxes are brought into the habitat and positioned in a row, they come right over because they know they’re getting a treat,” said mammal supervisor John Fried. “They’ve done really well. Something clicked in their heads, and now they enter no problem.”

They’re only inside for a short amount of time during training sessions. The next step is to latch the doors and see if they’ll eat the spoon full of bananas while closed inside. We’re confident this bonded clan will nail it!

Check out these photos from a recent training session.

The meerkats look on as keeper Sara Squires sets up the wire boxes.
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Categories: Africa, Mammals, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palm oil debate: Saving rainforest homes

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On the other side of the world, orangutans, tigers and many other animals are losing their rainforest homes so we can eat food and use products that contain a special ingredient that grows in their habitats – palm oil.

Palm oil is obtained from the fruit of the African and South American oil palm tree. Today, it’s found in about half the products sold in grocery stores, everything from cookies to toothpaste. Conflict palm oil production is connected to major issues, including habitat loss, climate change and more, as rainforests in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia continue to be wiped out to make room for new palm oil plantations. In fact, palm oil production is now one of the leading causes of rainforest destruction worldwide.

But there’s something we can do. With the help of one of the Dallas Zoo’s own zookeepers, big snack food companies are starting to change how they produce palm oil.

Tiger keeper Stacy Lupori supports the #InYourPalm campaign with Sumatran tiger Melati

Tiger keeper Stacy Lupori supports the #InYourPalm campaign with Sumatran tiger Melati

Tiger, primate, and otter keeper Stacy Lupori is an action team leader for Rainforest Action Network (RAN). Right now, Lupori is helping coordinate a social media campaign called “The Last Stand of the Orangutan.” With only about 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, one of humankind’s closest kin are on the brink of extinction if their homes continue to be destroyed.

“We’re not asking these companies to stop using palm oil – that’s not going to happen. We’re pushing them to be sustainable,” Lupori said. “A lot of companies choose to go in and slash and burn the rainforest and all the animals that live there, but there are much better ways to do it.”

So far, more than 300,000 people from all over the world have flooded the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages of what RAN has dubbed the “Snack Food 20.” These 20 major U.S. companies were selected by RAN for harvesting conflict palm oil. The campaign lets people submit a photo of their hand, labeled with the hashtag #InYourPalm. Through increased consumer pressure, the goal is to get the Snack Food 20 to change how they grow palm oil.

RAN is asking the Snack Food 20 to implement a palm oil procurement policy to ensure that the oil it sources is fully traceable, legally grown and from verified responsible palm oil producers not associated with deforestation.

Some of the companies already have agreed to change their policies to eliminate conflict palm oil. However, those steps won’t be taken until 2015. “We all know just because a company says they are going to do something doesn’t mean they will,” Lupori said. “Until these policies are put into effect and are traceable, we still need help putting the pressure on them.”

RAN’s campaign won’t end until all 20 companies have responsible palm oil polices in effect. For Lupori, it’s a lifelong commitment. “As a zookeeper, it’s not just about taking care of these tigers. It’s mostly about conservation,” she said. “This means nothing if I’m not doing something to preserve them in the wild. I look at them, and it breaks my heart to think that if conflict palm oil doesn’t stop, they may not be around in 10 years. And that’s why I’m not going to stop.”

This Halloween, we ask you to buy sustainably produced candy. And we challenge you to post your #InYourPalm photo to Instagram and Facebook, along with a photo of your conflict-free Halloween candy. Our colleagues at the Woodland Park Zoo have put together a great candy list, and it includes many of the most popular ones: http://www.zoo.org/document.doc?id=1423

Lupori and RAN officials are working to create a “sustainably made” product logo to help consumers detect traceable palm oil products. Until then, Lupori suggests downloading the free Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Palm Oil Shopping Guide App. It’s a great tool to help identify sustainably produced products in the meantime.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is also standing behind efforts toward deforestation-free palm oil production. The AZA encourages guests at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to help break the link between palm oil production and deforestation.

Learn more about the #InYourPalm campaign: http://inyourpalm.org/

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Education, Social Media, Tigers, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Goatscaping: Eating away a poison ivy nuisance

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The guests are gone, the zoo is quiet – now it’s time to get to work. One by one, eight goats make their way into the 19,000-square-foot chimpanzee habitat.

With the chimps safely in their night quarters, the lights are left on for the goats, who’ll work into the morning. Their experimental task: eat all of the poison ivy that’s grown in the chimp and gorilla habitats.

To these nature’s lawnmowers, it’s just another green meal. The plant causes no harm to our primates or the goats, but it makes zookeepers’ jobs increasingly difficult. Preparing the habitats in the morning becomes a game of dodgeball as they try to avoid the toxic plants.

“They’re getting ivy all over their bodies,” said Keith Zdrojewski, mammal curator. “They’re out there wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants to trim the grass in 100-degree weather. It’s pretty cumbersome for everyone.”

The goats mow through the poison ivy with ease. “They’re an incredible species that can survive on a diet that other animals would starve on,” said Dr. Jan Raines, one of the Zoo’s veterinarians. “The compound in ivy that gives people allergic reactions is called urushiol. Goats lack a sensitivity to it. Their gastrointestinal tract is amazingly efficient at pulling every last nutrient out of anything they ingest.”

Zookeeper Ashley Orr’s personal goats are eating up our problem, saving us money by not having to hire a company to kill the ivy. And we’re doing it in an eco-friendly fashion. “This way, we’re eliminating chemicals from entering our animal’s habitats, and they’re leaving behind a clean natural fertilizer for the landscape,” Zdrojewski said.

When the sun rises, they’re back in their holding barn, waiting for the zoo to close again.

The goats enter the chimp habitat with owner and zookeeper, Ashley Orr.
The goats enter the chimp habitat with owner and zookeeper, Ashley Orr.
Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey
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Categories: Chimpanzee, Mammals, Nutrition, Veterinary Care, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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