This blog was written by Michele Schepisi-Ritchie. While she is not a zoo keeper at the Seneca Park Zoo, she is an employee here and we felt this blog should appear here:
There are few among Zoo staff that would be able to tell you what the Zoo was like before Zia. At 28 years old, this gentle soul had been a mainstay in the Zoo’s Main Building. Zia arrived at the Seneca Park Zoo in 1992 and raised three babies. When I learned that Zia’s quality of life had degraded to the point where humane euthanasia would be necessary, my first thought was for her keepers. Our keeper staff, specifically those handling primates in the Main Building, doted on Zia and truly loved her. They derived unique ways to enrich her life as she aged in an exhibit between more active primates. Visitors are always drawn to the adorable antics of the orangutans, or the acrobatic games of the spider monkeys, but few could appreciate the calm docility of our beautiful Zia.
One of my favorite Keeper Blog entries is one written by Zoologist Linda Velazquez, Zia’s primary keeper. It detailed how Zia was treated to spa-like enrichment sessions where keepers and volunteers would groom Zia and interact with her. The keepers also made special adjustments for Zia to enable her to come and go more easily, both indoors and outdoors. And then, there are some memories of Zia that are just mine. My favorite is from last summer. It was a hot, busy day at the Zoo and I was standing outside talking to Zia when the Summer Stage Show began. Zia immediately perked up when the sun conures began to do their thing. She took great interest in Lady, the Harris’ hawk swooping down over the crowd. But when the education interpreter brought out Colossus, the boa constrictor, Zia pointedly turned her back. I had to laugh as I wondered if Zia thought the boa constrictor couldn’t see her because she couldn’t see him. It reminded me of a conversation I had with Assistant Curator John Adamski where he told me, “Primates, as a rule, don’t like snakes.” I guess we can assume that Zia didn’t like snakes.
Farewell dear Zia. I’ll miss watching you share your lunch with the birds, and seeing you lounge in the sun on summer days. You lived a wonderful life at Seneca Park Zoo and you will be missed by so many of us. If you have a special memory of Zia or a note for our keeper staff, I invite you to share it here, or on the Zoo’s Facebook page.
– Michele Schepisi-Ritchie, Office Assistant