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A Glimpse into our Green Teens!

By Kaitlin Burt, Sustainability Intern

At the “Greenest Zoo in America”, we are constantly working to make the zoo and the visitors experience as green as possible. An important aspect of doing this is getting the word out and educating our visitors. This summer we are lucky to have a great group of teens that are doing just that. These teens are known as the Green Teens and this is the Zoo’s third summer having them volunteer with us. The Green Teens rotate their time between multiple stations such as the Go Green Garden, the Aquaponics Greenhouse, the Base Camp Café, and teaching about Vermicomposting at Insect World. With the help of these Green Teens, we are able to educate and answer any questions the visitors might have on what the Zoo is doing to go green, as well as help make our guests have a positive visitor experience to the Zoo.

Many of our teens have volunteered with us for multiple summers, and we are so grateful to have them! Below is an interview done with three of our current Green Teens, all returning Green Teens and are very knowledgeable about the Zoo’s green efforts. Candice is a junior at Oak Hills High School, Christine is a sophomore at Ursula High School, and Hailey is a freshman at Campbell County High School.

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Candice, Christine, and Hailey

Interview:

1.    What is your favorite green initiative the Zoo has implemented?
a.    Candice: Aquaponics
b.    Christine: Solar Canopy
c.    Hailey: Solar Canopy

2.    What is the most interesting thing you have learned about while being a Green Teen?
a.    Candice: That 80% of waste can be diverted from landfills by composting and recycling
b.    Christine: That food utensils can be made to be compostable
c.    Hailey: Learning about the Aquaponics system and how you can make your own no waste habitat

3.    What is your favorite Green Teen station (The Aquaponics Greenhouse, The Go Green Garden, or Vermicomposting at Insect World) to volunteer with?
a.    Candice: Go Green Garden
b.    Christine: Go Green Garden
c.    Hailey: Vermicomposting at Insect World

4.    Why did you come back to be a Green Teen this year?
a.    Candice: Because I had so much fun last year
b.    Christine: I enjoy volunteering at the zoo and being around other green teens
c.    Hailey: Because I always have a lot of fun here and I like being near animals

5.    What is your favorite memory/story from working at the Zoo this summer?
a.    Candice: While transporting the worm bin back and forth between Insect World, giving brief synopsis on vermicomposting to everyone who is interested, and reaching people who might not normally be interested in composting.
b.    Christine: Helping a family learn how to start vermicomposting at their own house
c.    Hailey: At Insect World, getting little kids excited about the worms and interested in composting

6.    What is your favorite exhibit or animal at the zoo?
a.    Candice: Manatees and CREW
b.    Christine: Manatee Springs
c.    Hailey: Wolves and Painted Dogs

7.    What is one skill you will take away from this experience?
a.    Candice: Public Speaking
b.    Christine: Keeping calm with large groups of people
c.    Hailey: Public Speaking, and learning to shorten my stories

8.    What are your future Career Plans? What do you hope to study in college?
a.    Candice: Wants to major in biology and maybe work with CREW one day
b.    Christine: Wants to major in biology in college so she can be a zoologist for National Geographic
c.    Hailey: Wants to be an exhibit interpreter or run her own animal training business

9.    If you could have everyone perform one conservation action, what would it be?

a.    Candice: Stop mining all together
b.    Christine: For everyone to recycle
c.    Hailey: For everyone to compost and recycle and reduce what goes to the landfill

10.    What advice would you give future Green Teens?
a.    Candice: Read the info packet, practice speaking, and have fun!
b.    Christine: Keep up to date on what’s going on at the zoo
c.    Hailey: Get to know your audience

These young ladies, along with 17 other teens, have increased their public speaking skills, customer service skills, and knowledge about sustainability. With these young men and women, the Zoo is able to continue to share its story about being the “Greenest Zoo in America.”

The Zoo’s VolunTeen program is open to teens ages 13-17 with opportunities such as the Green Teens as well as opportunities in Horticulture, Education, and with T.R.I.B.E. For more information, visit http://cincinnatizoo.org/support/volunteer/ and click on the VolunTeens Tab.

August 6, 2014   No Comments

A Roaring Success!

International Tiger Day was a roaring success! Thousands of guests came out to the Zoo on Tuesday, July 29, and those who visited Cat Canyon joined us in honoring our Malayan tiger brothers, Taj and Who-Dey, and their counterparts in the wild.

From 10:00 to 3:00, Zoo staff and volunteers were on hand to talk to guests about tigers and conservation. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

From 10:00 to 3:00, Zoo staff and volunteers were on hand to talk to guests about tigers and conservation. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Guests could compare a cast of a tiger's paw to their own hand. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Guests could compare a cast of a tiger’s paw to their own hand and check out a cardboard “deer” that will soon become a toy for the tigers. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Here I am showing a young guests one of the tigers' favorite enrichment toys - a huge hard plastic ball. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Here I am showing a young guest one of the tigers’ favorite enrichment toys – a huge hard plastic ball. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

We painted tiger whiskers on hundreds of guests... (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

We painted tiger whiskers on hundreds of guests… (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

and asked them to give us their best tiger roar! (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

and asked them to give us their best tiger roar! (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Even Taj and Who-Dey showed off their stripes. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Even Taj and Who-Dey showed up to show off their stripes. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Check out more fantastic Tiger Day photos on our Flickr site! Our own Pat Story created a fun video of the event. And Channel 9 featured it on their news as well.

Thanks for coming out and making our first International Tiger Day event a blast and be sure to add July 29 to your calendar for next year!

 

August 1, 2014   No Comments

Asha the Gorilla’s Expected “Little” Bundle of Joy is “Big” Part of a Much Larger Picture.

The Cincinnati Zoo Primate Department provides excellent care for our extended family of about 25 primate species, which includes approximately 70 individuals. A lot of effort goes into their care and proper management. In addition to the basic nutritionally balanced diet, exemplary husbandry, and dynamic environmental enrichment, a comprehensive operant conditioning (OC) program has been in place for more than ten years.  Operant conditioning with positive reinforcement refers to a method of training that incorporates building a trusting relationship with the animals along with a systemic communication technique that allows keepers to cooperatively shape desired behaviors needed from them to make the animals’ lives better.

Primate Department keepers, Stephanie Sauer, Benny Smith and Grace Meloy watch on as keeper/ trainer Ashley Ashcraft places an ultrasound wand to Asha’s abdomen while reinforcing her with grapes.  Reproductive Physiologist, Dr. Erin Curry, monitors the images.

Primate Department keepers, Stephanie Sauer, Benny Smith and Grace Meloy watch on as keeper/ trainer Ashley Ashcraft places an ultrasound wand to Asha’s abdomen while reinforcing her with grapes. Reproductive Physiologist, Dr. Erin Curry, monitors the images.

For instance through OC training, the Zoo’s Western-lowland gorillas have numerous behaviors that they will offer to aid in evaluating health.  The gorillas will present their hands, feet, ears, bellies, backs, knees, shoulders, open their mouths, and stick out their tongues, all on cue followed by a positive reinforcement, which is usually a favorite food item like grapes.  OC is engaging and mentally stimulating for the gorillas and allows keepers and vets the opportunity to do some important work with them.  The Zoo’s gorillas will also allow cardiac ultrasound imaging work to be done, all voluntarily, while awake, through a protective mesh safely separating the keepers and gorillas. Training techniques are also used to encourage natural behaviors and help form a cohesive social dynamic within the family group.

Primate Keeper, Grace Meloy, and Reproductive Physiologist, Dr. Erin Curry, discuss fetal ultrasound images from Asha the gorilla.

Primate Keeper, Grace Meloy, and Reproductive Physiologist, Dr. Erin Curry, discuss fetal ultrasound images from Asha the gorilla.

Recently, we initiated some maternal management behavior training with an expecting gorilla named “Asha”.  One of our primary goals was to do regular fetal ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy.  Early on in the pregnancy, primate keeper Ashley Ashcraft  worked as the primary trainer for this.  As with most of the OC work, the zoo’s wonderful vet techs, Jenny Kroll and Amy Long, were also included to assist with the monitoring, along with additional help from the Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) scientists. Throughout Asha’s gestation we have been able to follow along with fetal development and are still doing ultrasounds once or twice a week as we come down to parturition.  At this point, the fetus is a little too big to see fully on ultrasound but we clearly see a good heartbeat and movement.  Asha, understandably, rests a lot and eats like a horse.  She is still well within the predicted birth period so all is looking good. Gorillas have a gestation period of 250 to 280 days.

Asha will be a first-time mom but has great history with younger siblings, from growing up in Brownsville, Texas.  She has also had the chance to watch little Gladys, with her surrogate mother “Mlinzi”, for additional lessons. The Zoo’s team of volunteer observers are also watching Asha overnight, by remote monitor, just to be extra safe.  The family group Asha currently lives with is very cohesive and lead by the great silverback, named “Jomo,” who is also very good with little ones.

Jomo (formally of the Toronto Zoo) and Asha, along with approximately 360 other gorillas in about 50 zoos, are managed cooperatively through something called a Species Survival Plan(SSP) under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).   The SSP carefully tracks the genetics of each gorilla, gorilla personalities and facilities, and with critical input from each zoo, develops a comprehensive Masterplan every two years that outlines recommended transfers for breeding, or to help social situations.  Zoos are very altruistic in how they view gorillas and work hard together for the betterment of the overall big picture management.

So, thanks to great team work on the national level, as well as right here at the Cincinnati Zoo, we are prepared and patiently awaiting the birth of Asha’s baby.  Everyone is excited and very hopeful all will continue to go smoothly as we come down to the end.  Stay tuned……

July 31, 2014   1 Comment