Keeper Connection: Opportunities, Barriers, and Suggestions for Orangutan Rehabilitation and Re-Introduction Centers in Indonesia.

In the fall of 2017 I visited Indonesia to expand on my Masters of Science theses titled Implementing Best Practice Guidelines: Opportunities, Barriers, and Suggestions for Orangutan Rehabilitation and Re-Introduction Centers in Indonesia.

While in Indonesia I visited three primate rehabilitation and re-introduction centers: The Aspinall Foundation in Java, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program in Sumatra, and International Animal Rescue in Kalimantan, Borneo. 
The Aspinall Foundation rehabilitates and re-introduces Javan gibbons to the wild, langurs and various other primate species that may be surrendered or rescued. International Animal Rescue focuses mainly on Bornean Orangutan re-habilitation and re-introduction into the wild. The primate species within these centers are victims of mass habitat deforestation for agriculture or the wild primate pet trade. 
My main focus was to determine whether the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Best Practice Guidelines for the Re-Introduction of Great Apes was in need of an updated version since it was first published in 2007. Orangutan and other Indonesian primate rehabilitation centers have seen a dramatic increase in number of orangutans in need due to the continued deforestation of their habitats in order to grow palm oil. Because of the increase of individuals and the decrease of wild habitat to re-introduce them into, the practices that were once standard in the past have now changed.

My project aims were based on a theme:

1. To determine the applicability of the IUCN Best Practice Guidelines for the Re-Introduction of Great  Apes to orangutan rehabilitation and re-introduction practitioners;

2. To determine the major difficulties practitioners face in implementing the IUCN guidelines; and

3. To determine the potential need for an updated best practice guideline containing in-depth orangutan-specific rehabilitation and re-introduction practices. 

I obtained my data from interviews with practitioners and questionnaires handed out to those willing to participate. The questions asked pertained to the project aims.
The quantitative results from the questionnaire determined that the majority of practitioners felt that the IUCN guidelines for great ape re-introduction lack orangutan-specific information with a need to update sections regarding policies and protocol for guideline compliance and post-release monitoring. 

– Zoo Keeper Clare Beldin-Walker


Resources for orangutan conservation:

Custom Events and Experiences Manager

African Elephant Lilac Turns 45 – Learn How She is Helping Advance Science for Her Species

May 1, 2023

This year, African elephant Lilac turns 45 years old. At this age, female African elephants are considered geriatric. She is in the middle of Seneca Park Zoo’s other elephants, Genny C (45) and Moki (40). Lilac participates in daily training sessions and daily bath sessions—plus she’s always eager to test out new enrichment items. Lilac has a lively personality!

Over her lifetime, Lilac has learned and maintained more than 50 different behaviors. Many of these behaviors allow Lilac to voluntarily participate in her own health care, such as presenting her feet for radiographs, allowing keepers to file her toenails, and opening her mouth for inspection of her teeth. Every time she chooses to participate, she gets tasty treats for reinforcement! All three of our elephants, including Lilac, are trained to participate in voluntary blood draws, where keepers are able to draw blood from behind the ear. These have always given us valuable information about the elephants’ health, but this year, Lilac’s blood is contributing to a global cause.


Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is a naturally occurring virus in elephants, both in their natural range and in zoos. EEHV usually remains latent, but when EEHV becomes active, it can cause hemorrhagic disease in susceptible elephants. Many elephants are able to fight the virus on their own, but calves are the most susceptible to EEHV after they have been weaned, since they are not being protected by their mother’s antibodies.

There is currently no known cure, but knowledge from ongoing research has evolved and improved the treatment of EEHV. Currently, elephants can potentially recover if diagnosed and treated early. Our elephants here at Seneca Park Zoo are at low risk due to their age, but our Zoo is still able to contribute to the cause. Seneca Park Zoo collects elephant plasma to contribute to an “elephant blood bank” that is maintained by an alliance of zoos housing elephants that are able to collect plasma. There is currently no known cure for EEHV, but donated plasma can be used for research or to treat this virus in other elephants. This year, Lilac became a first-time plasma donor, and she did a great job!

She was patient with her keepers and veterinary staff, and she appeared to enjoy all the attention and variety of food treats. Because Lilac has a strong foundation with her voluntary medical behaviors, she is able to help other elephants around the world.

– Zoo Keeper Morgan Saidian

Lilac's "Birthday Cake" Enrichment

Ring-neck Parakeet

Ring-neck Parakeet

(Psittacula krameri)

Seneca Park Zoo is the home to one female ring-neck parakeet named Stella. Her habitat is inside the annex as part of the program animal collection.

Animal Facts


Ring-neck parakeets  are herbivorous, feeding on buds, seeds, grains, fruits, vegetation, and nuts.

Status in The Wild

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status

Ring-neck parakeets range widely throughout Central Africa, India, and neighboring countries.

This parrot is not very picky when it comes to its habitat, inhabiting light secondary forest, riparian woodland, mangroves, savanna grasslands, and deserts. They are often found on farms, in urban and suburban environments, and in parks and gardens.

Bearded Dragon

Bearded Dragon

(Pogona vitticeps)

The Zoo is home to one bearded dragon as part of our ambassador animal program (habitat not on public display). 

Animal Facts


Omnivorous. Plant matter, insects, and occasionally small rodents or lizards.

Status in The Wild

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status

The bearded dragon is native to the deserts, dry forests, and scrublands of Australia. They prefer semi-arid forests.

They are found in eastern and central Australia from eastern half of southern Australia to the southeastern Northern Territory.  

Birthday Party Host – Part time

Reproductive Evaluations & Research with Lions in Our Care

Zuri is trained to allow us to collect vaginal swabs for reproductive evaluations and research. This process is not painful and only takes a few seconds. Zuri is allowed to leave if she chooses, but she often stays put even after we are done! The swabs are then rolled on glass slides to transfer any cells onto the slide. 

These are used for cytology – evaluation of the cells under a microscope. The slides are sent to the Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW). This organization performs important research regarding the protection and conservation of endangered species. They also have educational programs to help spread knowledge and engage the public to help save endangered species.

This research is important for many of the species that we work with in zoos because many wild populations are faced with the threat of extinction. Lions are listed as a vulnerable species by IUCN, which is one-step below endangered, meaning that wild populations are declining and they are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. 

Knowing more about their reproductive physiology helps to increase success of breeding in zoos, which helps zoos to maintain healthy and genetically diverse populations. 

Reproductive research also helps us to understand how animals reproduce in the wild and what factors could disrupt or help to increase reproductive success. This knowledge is an important component of conservation strategies.

– Dr. Chris McKinney (DVM / Zoo Veterinarian)

Masai Giraffe Kipenzi Turns 6!

Kipenzi is currently the oldest giraffe in our care at Seneca Park Zoo, and turns 6 this year!

Originally born at the Toledo Zoo on April 3rd 2017, she made her SPZ debut in August of 2018 and was the first member of our giraffe herd. She quickly won the hearts of her keepers and earned herself several nicknames, including Kippy, Kip, and Kip Kip Hooray!

Soon after her arrival she was joined by herdmates Iggy and Parker, creating SPZ’s first official tower (giraffe herd). Kippy is the friendliest of our giraffes and likes people watching almost as much as she loves smelling her keepers’ pants and shoes. She can often be seen at the feed deck during the summer months participating in our giraffe feed experience, and likes to keep the exhibit looking nice by eating leaves off the ground in her spare time.

She has also been a wonderful aunt to our baby Olmsted, and assists Iggy in checking up on him to make sure he is behaving.

Kippy also enjoys her training sessions, she has been taught to stand on our scale so we can check her weight (over 1,400 lbs.!) and she has learned to voluntarily put her foot up on cue so a blood sample can be taken to ensure she is in good health.

Of course, training a giraffe is no easy task, but Kippy is usually willing to try her best in exchange for some tasty carrot sticks. Kipenzi has been an amazing addition to SPZ and we are hopeful she will be with us for many years to come.

She can be easily identified by her ossicones (similar to horns), which curve in towards each other, creating a heart shape in-between. Her spots are also a bit darker in color than Iggy’s. 

We hope you take a minute to stop by and say hello to Kippy on your next visit  to the Zoo and wish her a happy birthday!
– Zoo Keeper Maggie Kinsella 

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Zoos Support Polar Bear Conservation Research in the Wild – Guest Blog

This guest essay contributed by Dr. Thea Bechshoft, Conservation Programs Associate and Staff Scientist Polar Bears International, first appeared in our January 2023 edition of ZooNooz

It’s a little known fact that zoos can play an essential role in conducting research that helps polar bears in the wild. Many of the zoos and aquariums taking part in such efforts, including Seneca Park Zoo, are part of Polar Bears International’s Arctic Ambassador Center network. They work with us collaboratively on research, education, and advocacy programs that address the challenges polar bears face in a warming Arctic.



Studying polar bears in the high Arctic can be logistically demanding and even dangerous. And some essential research would be impossible to conduct with polar bears in the wild. Also, it’s extremely rare for field researchers to handle the same wild bear multiple times during any given year, meaning that field data often gives us a precious but single snapshot in time of what is happening with an individual bear.

Modern zoos and aquariums present a unique ability to help fill such knowledge gaps by having their bears take part in studies that can only be conducted in zoo settings. These studies are made possible partly because the highly skilled caretakers and vets at these institutions have the ability to train the animals to allow the collection of voluntary samples, but also because the animals in their care can be accessed multiple times over a longer duration. Both of these factors are immensely helpful, especially in studies that aim to enhance our understanding of polar bear physiology and behavior, and in developing and calibrating new research methods and technologies before they are deployed in the field.

KT Miller / Polar Bears International

Several such studies are underway as we speak. For example, voluntary blood samples are being used to study how the bear’s reproductive hormones fluctuate across the entire calendar year. In addition, polar bears in zoos are helping us develop pregnancy tests, and voluntary hair samples are helping researchers understand the timing of hair growth on different body parts of the animal, which can provide insights into their diet and health. And recently, zoo bears have been helping us develop and test new attachment techniques for small tracking devices that will help us understand the movement patterns of polar bears in the wild. Earlier studies provided insights into the energy requirements of polar bears when swimming or walking and also helped solve the puzzle of how polar bears find mates on the vastness of the sea ice.

But how do zoos and aquariums prioritize research on polar bears and forge collaborations with field biologists? In 2018, Polar Bears International supported the efforts of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in forming the Polar Bear Research Council (PBRC). Composed of zoo professionals and polar bear researchers, the council helps ensure zoo projects answer key scientific questions related to polar bears in the wild. The projects fall within four main areas – Field Techniques, Health and Welfare, Physiology and Behavioral Ecology, and Reproductive Physiology – and members can find them in the PBRC Research Masterplan, a living document that is revised regularly. (The latest version, released in January 2022, can be found on the Polar Bears International website).

BJ Kirschhoffer / Polar Bears International
KT Miller / Polar Bears International


Polar bear fieldwork is often a financially challenging undertaking, even though most researchers are willing to live on a stone if that’s what it takes to be able to afford Arctic conservation projects. However, the unavoidable cost of transporting people and equipment in these remote regions can quickly max out any budget – especially when it comes to helicopters, which are essential to many projects. The high costs are true for any in-field polar bear researcher, including those working at and with Polar Bears International on our many projects around the circumpolar Arctic. Outside funding is essential to our ability to collect the data on wild polar bears that allows managers and policy makers to make science-based decisions on how to best protect these amazing animals.

Seneca Park Zoo has supported Polar Bears International’s maternal den study in Svalbard over multiple years as one of our generous sponsors. This study uses solar-powered trail cams to study polar bear moms and cubs non-invasively during this sensitive time in their life cycle. Our team arrives in late winter to set up the cameras on snowy mountain slopes in Svalbard, just ahead of the emergence of moms and cubs. The findings will help managers and policymakers establish the best possible guidelines to protect denning families. It will also help scientists understand the impact of climate warming on the survival rates of denning cubs and provide insights into the den-selection process.

“Zoo bears are perfect candidates to help with polar bear research because they already participate in many health-care behaviors voluntarily and seem to find those experiences enriching,” says Amy Cutting, Vice President of Conservation at Polar Bears International. “In addition to inspiring guests to take action on behalf of polar bears, zoos are helping conservationists find ways to save a species facing very serious threats to its survival. I am really proud of how the zoo community has come together over the last decade to make significant contributions to polar bear conservation science – and the Seneca Park Zoo has played an important role in that effort.”

Ways you can help polar bears:

  • Use educated consumerism – buy local products, follow the Seafood Watch Guide.
  • Turn off lights when not in use. Replace old light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.
  • Use proper trash receptacles for things that can’t be recycled. Don’t litter!
  • Eliminate Styrofoam – it doesn’t decompose!6. Walk, cycle, carpool, or take public transportation.
  • Save water by turning off taps when not in use and take shorter showers.
  • Unplug appliances (toaster, hair dryer, laptop, etc.) when not in use.
  • Turn off vehicles while waiting rather than idling.
  • Turn your thermostat two degrees down in the winter and two degrees up in the summer.
  • Avoid the dryer and hang your clothes to dry.
  • Donate to the Zoo’s conservation partner, Polar Bears International.
  • Assist in a community recycling event.
  • Avoid single-use plastics such as straws, grocery bags, utensils, water bottles, and to-go drink lids.
  • Plant a tree or garden. Your participation helps save polar bears!
  • Come out to Polar Bear Awareness Weekend at the Zoo (Feb. 25 & 26) and/or Defend the Ice Night at the Rochester Amerks!