Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Exhibits

Six Ways the Zoo Can Stimulate Your Kids’ Interest in Reading

Guest blogger, Zoo Education Intern, Kristina Meek:

Let’s face it; some kids just don’t love to read. You know how important reading can be to school success and for life in general. Yet you may find yourself pleading just to get your child to read the simplest assignment, never mind perusing books for pleasure.booksIf your child loves the Zoo, it could provide a sneaky way to crack his or her resistance. Read on for six ideas to try.

  1. Prepare for your Zoo visit by browsing the Animals section of our website. Each animal has a short description and list of pertinent facts. Together, you and your child can browse and decide which exhibits to prioritize when you get to the Zoo. Even pre-K children can take part by identifying the first letter in each animal’s name.
  2. Encourage your child to read the signs at Zoo exhibits out loud. When a child is excited about an animal, nudge him or her to learn a few facts about it by reading the sign. The Zoo’s signs tend to be easy to read for upper elementary students, but also use words that are likely new to the child. Reading a short bit of text won’t feel like a chore and can enhance the child’s enjoyment of observing the animal. Some of the signs even rhyme!

    Balance like a Lemur sign

    Jungle Trails is a great exhibit to explore as a family. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

  3. Talk about word origin. Starting around seventh grade, kids learn to identify roots of words, which can help improve their overall vocabulary. For example, the word nocturnal (active at night) comes from the Latin root “noct” or “nox,” which also appears in the word equinox (the time when day and night are equal in length). Or, the scientific name for an Indian Rhinoceros is Rhinoceros unicornis. “Unicornis” comes from “one” and “horn,” because this species sports only one horn instead of the two that other rhinos have.
  4. Make an endangered species sign. In certain exhibits, such as Manatee Springs and Night Hunters, the Zoo offers interactive sign-making stations. Visitors can choose a species and assemble a message from suggested text and then send their creation to a friend. Kids express their creativity and support a cause while reading and learning.

    Visitors create their own sign in Night Hunters (Photo: Shasta Bray)

    Visitors create their own sign in Night Hunters (Photo: Shasta Bray)

  5. Ask your child to read to an animal. Studies have found that reading to dogs builds children’s confidence. Animals never judge, laugh, or correct pronunciation. If you have a dog, you can try this technique at home. But why not bring a book or e-reader to the Zoo and have your child read to an animal? The penguins in the Children’s Zoo tend to hang out and look at visitors as if they’re listening to what you’re saying. Try other calm, quiet animals like a camel or a manatee! Stuffed animals can also do the trick, so visit the Zoo Shop on your way out.

    Read to me, the fennec fox. I'm all ears!

    Read to me, the fennec fox. I’m all ears!

  6. Keep the spirit of your Zoo visit alive. What sparked your child’s interest most? Maybe it was a specific animal or plant, or perhaps it was an idea for a future career in animal care. Search for books, websites, or apps that relate to that interest. Ask your child regularly about what he’s been reading. You’ll help him comprehend and retain what he’s read.

What are you waiting for? Start cultivating those reading skills today and plan your next outing to the Cincinnati Zoo!

March 11, 2016   No Comments

Helping Scientists Assess the Body Condition of Polar Bears in the Wild

As our global climate continues to change, we are already seeing reports and photos of polar bears with decreased body condition. How can scientists track that trend in a consistent manner across the polar bear’s range over the long term? That’s a problem scientists with Polar Bears International (PBI) are working to solve.

A young polar bear male jumping in the pack ice in Norway (Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques)

A young polar bear male jumping in the pack ice in Norway (Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques)

The Body Condition Project is a pilot program to develop tools that non-invasively gather information on the body condition of polar bears. Conceived by PBI’s chief scientist, Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, it is being conducted in cooperation with the University of Wyoming and Purdue University, with support and participation of animal care and research teams at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, North Carolina Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, the Indianapolis Zoo, and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

PBI has developed a Body Condition Index (BCI) card, which provides a standardized way to rate bears in the field through visual observation, and in some cases palpation or touch (if they are safely sedated). Over time, consistent records of body condition across years and regions will help scientists monitor individual condition, as well as how broader populations may be affected by large-scale environmental change, including loss of sea ice due to climate change.

Polar Bear Scorecard

As an Arctic Ambassador with PBI, we often facilitate research projects like the Body Condition Project that help us better understand and conserve polar bears. Last week, Marissa Krouse from PBI came to the Zoo to take 3-D photographic images of our female polar bear, Berit. The images will be compared to physical measurements we take of Berit while she’s under anesthesia in two weeks. This information will be used to improve the ability to assess the body condition of wild bears.

Marissa Krouse shoots photos of Berit

Marissa Krouse shoots photos of Berit

March 9, 2016   No Comments

Sloth News: A Mate for Moe and Sloths on the Go in Costa Rica

A Mate for Moe

If you’re one of Moe’s super fans, you may notice an empty tree in the Zoo’s Discovery Forest where the two-toed sloth would normally be. Where did Moe go? Don’t worry, she’ll be back soon…from her honeymoon!

That’s right! Moe will be off exhibit for a short while, snuggling up with a new mate named Twix. On short-term loan specifically for breeding purposes, Twix came to us from the Racine Zoo and will return once the honeymoon is over. A special off-exhibit honeymoon suite has been outfitted to set the mood, complete with a palm frond canopy and rainforest sounds.

Moe awaits her new mate in the off-exhibit "honeymoon suite"

Moe awaits her new mate in the off-exhibit “honeymoon suite”

Twix awaits his introduction to Moe

Twix awaits his introduction to Moe

While Moe is “on vacation”, her exhibit space is being upgraded and expanded with new trees and vines that will allow her more room to move around and explore once she returns to the Discovery Forest.

If all goes as planned, Moe will give birth to a single 12-ounce newborn 10 months later. With fully formed claws at birth, the youngster will cling to the fur on Moe’s belly for six months or more and remain with her for at least a year as young sloths do in the wild.

Sloths on the Go in Costa Rica

Meanwhile in Costa Rica, several young sloths that have been rescued and rehabilitated by Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR) and The Sloth Institute (TSI) are making their way back into the wild with help from the Cincinnati Zoo. Last September, two of the Zoo’s Interpretive Animal Keepers traveled to Costa Rica to help TSI prepare for the sloth releases. Soon after, TSI initiated the release process for two sloths, Ellen and Kermie.

Ellen and Kermie are both two-toed sloths. Ellen arrived at the KSTR rescue center when she was about three or four months old. She was found on the beach alone with no mother in sight. Kermie was rescued when he was a mere newborn (less than one week old). He was found on the ground with a twin brother that sadly never made it to the rescue center alive. Both Kermie and Ellen have spent almost their entire lives together and they are now almost three years old. They are very bonded and spend most of their time together. They sleep together every day and have even been observed breeding!

Kermie takes it easy (The Sloth Institute)

Kermie takes it easy (The Sloth Institute)

Before venturing straight back out into the wild, the young sloths first spent some time acclimating to the forest in a 20X20X20 ft pre-release enclosure. Here they can climb and explore their new environment while still being provided shelter and food. TSI spent hours every day collecting leaves from the forest for Ellen and Kermie to eat so they could learn what to forage for when they are out on their own.

The next big step was to open the enclosure door, allowing Ellen and Kermie the opportunity to move freely between the pre-release enclosure and the wild as they choose. Over time, the hope is that they become more and more self-reliant and eventually stop returning to the enclosure at all.

Ellen exploring the treetops (The Sloth Institute)

Ellen exploring the treetops (The Sloth Institute)

Both are fitted with VHF tracking collars (funded by the Zoo). This way TSI staff can monitor the sloths around the clock and record their behaviors, postures, tree choices, food choices, and so on. TSI collects similar behavioral data on wild sloths in the area with which they can compare the behavior of the released sloths. This will let them know how the released sloths are faring in the wild and if they are acting like wild sloths.

Wilbur is one of the wild sloths being studied (The Sloth Institute)

Wilbur is one of the wild sloths being studied (The Sloth Institute)

With Ellen and Kermie well on their way back into the wild, the next sloths beginning this transition are two-year old Monster and one-year old Piper. Both three-toed sloths, Monster came to the rescue center as an orphan at just two weeks old; she was found crying and trying to cross the street on her own. Piper was rescued clinging to another young sloth after they had fallen down a rocky cliff onto the beach at high tide. Piper was about four months old when he was rescued. They have been learning the new sights, sounds and smells of the forest in their pre-release enclosure and the door is scheduled to open in about a month. They will be fitted with tracking collars and monitored in the same manner as Ellen and Kermie to assess the success of their release.

Meet Monster. Perhaps she was named for her monster claws? (The Sloth Institute)

Meet Monster. Perhaps she was named for her monster claws? (The Sloth Institute)

Here's Piper! (Photo: The Sloth Institute)

Here’s Piper! (Photo: The Sloth Institute)

Can you find Monster here in her pre-release enclosure? (The Sloth Institute)

Can you find Monster here in her pre-release enclosure? (The Sloth Institute)

This is the first time hand-raised sloths have been released back into the wild. Long-term monitoring is important to determining its success. It will also help us learn more about the natural ecology of sloths and provide insight into how to overcome the challenges they face in the wild.

Stay tuned for more sloth news as we keep our fingers crossed for Moe and Twix here at the Zoo and Ellen, Kermie, Monster and Piper in the wild.

February 22, 2016   3 Comments