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We Love our Volunteers

Clara Madge Thane

Clara Madge Thane

This year marks the 40th anniversary of National Volunteer Week and is also the 40th year that two dedicated ladies by the names of Madge Van Buskirk and Clara Dantic have volunteered at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.  Volunteers are an essential part of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden team and these two ladies demonstrate the enduring importance of recognizing our volunteers for their vital contributions.

Madge with gorilla baby 70's

Madge with gorilla baby 70′s

Madge and Clara were fundamental in establishing the Zoo Volunteer Observer (ZVO’s) program that is still in existence at the Zoo today.  They coordinate a team of 50 individuals to conduct birth and behavioral watches as needed for animals in our collection. They have been busy lately scheduling ZVO’s for the giraffe birth watch and polar bear reproductive behavior watch.  The inception of this program began in 1974 to help ensure the safety of gorilla moms and babies.  The fruits of their labor can be seen today in the many offspring that have been successfully born at our Zoo- including a bonobo named ‘Clara’ who still resides at our Zoo and a gorilla named ‘Madge’ who now is living at the Dallas Zoo.

If you don’t find Madge and Clara at the Zoo, you will be sure to find at the ball park- they attend every home game for the Cincinnati Reds!

To all our Zoo volunteers, a big THANK YOU for everything you do to help make us successful!

April 10, 2014   2 Comments

New Family Fun at Jungle Trails

Have you been to Jungle Trails lately?  If not, make plans to visit this exhibit on your next Zoo trip! We have recently installed some new family-oriented interactive elements that are sure to add more fun, laughter and learning to your day. Find out what it would be like if your family lived in the forest as you take on group challenges that our non-human primate relatives face every day.

Begin by working together like others primates do to explore their surroundings. As a family, seek out hidden plant and animal sculptures throughout the trail.

Look! I found the rock gecko.

Look! I found the rock gecko.

Next, try your hand at swinging like a gibbon. A double set of “gibbon bars” at different heights invite children and adults to swing from one end to the other. Who can swing the fastest in your family? Can you get your whole troop across without touching the ground? Listen closely and you may be able to hear the gibbons cheering you on along the way!

Swing like gibbon! Woop woop, you can do it!

Swing like gibbon! Woop woop, you can do it!

Orangutans create a mental map to remember where to find ripening fruit. If you were an orangutan, could you remember where to find the right fruit? At the outdoor orangutan exhibit, find out which of your family members has the best memory by playing a fruit matching memory game.

I found a match!

I found a match!

Now, get ready to balance like a lemur. Can you walk across a rope without falling off? Use the hanging ropes to help you balance.  Have a race – kids versus grown-ups! Who can make it across first? Can your whole group make it across without falling off?

Balancing like a lemur isn't as easy as it sounds!

Balancing like a lemur isn’t as easy as it sounds!

We primates have opposable thumbs that help us hold and use things with our hands. If you didn’t have opposable thumbs, how would you tie your shoes? Find out just how hard it is to tie your shoes (or Velcro them for young ones) without using your thumbs at this next interactive. We have three different-sized shoes for all ages to try at the same time and see who can do it first.

Thumbs Up for Thumbs

Thumbs Up for Thumbs

Bonobos communicate with each other by drumming a group rhythm on the buttress roots of trees. Create your own troop rhythm on the large hollow buttress root near the outdoor bonobo exhibit. Take turns banging out a rhythm and mimicking what you hear.

Bang out a rhythm here.

Bang out a rhythm here.

Now it’s time to put all the brains of your troop together to solve the “Big Brains at Work” maze outside the Africa building.  Primates are very smart and working together is essential for survival. Work together with your troop to push a stone through the maze with sticks.

It takes teamwork to solve this puzzle.

It takes teamwork to solve this puzzle.

We’ve even created new interactive signage using iPads at the indoor orangutan, gibbon and bonobo exhibits. Learn the names and personalities of the animals. Watch videos of our keepers hard at work to keep the animals happy and healthy. Learn what you can do to help save these endangered primates. Build your own Super Primate through an interactive game. The choice is up to you!

Learning about bonobos on the iPad.

Learning about bonobos on the iPad.

By the time you reach the end of the trail, your family of primates will know what it’s like to be a primate living in the forest. So come  swing, balance and discover with your troop at Jungle Trails today!

 

The Jungle Trails project was made possible with funding from a Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to re-interpret the exhibit with a focus on family learning through a two-year process of research, development and design, and prototyping and evaluation.

July 22, 2013   1 Comment

Advanced Inquiry Program: Not Your Ordinary Graduate School

Guest blogger:

How many people can say they have to walk through a rainforest to get to their grad school classes?  Imagine starting your day with the sounds of gibbons greeting you, followed by a variety of birds, elephants and possibly even the beautiful display of a peacock.  This is all right before you pass the striking blue and gold macaw and sloth – and you didn’t even get to class yet.  This is how my Master of Arts in Zoology started as part of the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) through Miami University’s Project Dragonfly at the Cincinnati Zoo.

My name is Crissi Lanier, and I am set to graduate in December. By day, I am currently the Assistant Coordinator and Toddler Teacher at the Children’s Center at the College of Mount St. Joseph.  This degree was perfect because it has taught me new topics to focus on and projects for work, as well as how to educate the families I work with about our world.  The kids and parents all get very excited and love to be part of new things and it’s very rewarding to be part of that experience. The toddlers also get very excited to visit the Zoo to see their animal “friends” that we talk about and show photos of in class.

My classmates and I (that's me in the bottom row wearing a white and green shirt) meeting the elephants

My classmates and I (that’s me in the bottom row wearing a white and green shirt) meeting the elephants

AIP is incredibly unique, focusing on the use of inquiry in learning and educating others about conservation and social change.  The 2 ½ year program combines online classes with on-site classes at one of the seven participating zoos across the country.  There’s even an option to take an Earth Expeditions class out of the country in places like Kenya or Borneo.  The program begins with a full week of classes in June to introduce the program, class and zoo campus. It includes meeting new people and animals, taking zoo tours and doing fun inquiry work with classmates.

This program is for anyone in any profession.  The classes focus on a variety of topics such as the carbon footprint, primate conservation, biodiversity and human-wildlife conflict.  What the program does even more is educate the students about the world in which they live in order to educate those around them, whether it is in a formal setting like a kindergarten classroom or informally writing children’s books.Through this program, I have met an elephant and a potto in person, learned the difference between a bonobo and chimpanzee, spoke with the woman who led the reintroduction of blue and gold macaws into their native Trinidad, been a student leader of an online class, learned the history of the Cincinnati Zoo and many other varied lessons.  The classes and instructors expect high levels of quality work. My eyes have been opened to the world I’ve spent the past 32 years living in.

Internships are part of the program and this summer I have the incredible opportunity to intern at the Zoo with Shasta Bray.  She is the Interpretive Media Manager and focuses on various interpretive aspects of the Zoo from signage at exhibits to website pages on the animals that call the Zoo home.  My focus throughout the program has been the use of imagery to help people connect with animals, so I’m very excited about this opportunity.  A summer internship at the Zoo is something I only dreamed about before, but with this program, it’s become a reality.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the staff at the Cincinnati Zoo, it’s that they all truly love their jobs and the animals they care for.  This is evident in everything they do and every conversation I’ve had with anyone.  One important part of AIP at the Cincinnati Zoo is Cory Christopher.  Amongst other titles he holds, Cory runs the graduate program.  He is a leader, advisor, tour guide, instructor, plant genius and supporter.  Cory sees the bigger picture and challenges his students to pursue the bigger picture, whether it is creating nature programs for the elderly, composting in local schools or producing radio shows discussing evolution.  He is a walking example of inquiry, asking us to observe, question and look further beyond what is in front of us.

Over the last two years, I’ve been inspired, encouraged, challenged, continuously educated and motivated to act and not sit passively on the sidelines.  There’s never been a day I didn’t want to attend class or been excited to share what I had learned.  To say the least, this program has changed my life.  If you’re inspired or interested in learning more about the AIP program, I encourage you check it out. You won’t regret it!

June 13, 2013   3 Comments