Gunnison’s Travels: An update on our visiting sea lion

by Zoo Keeper Sue Rea


Bob and Gunni, Kellee Wolowitz 📸

Gunni, short for Gunnison, arrived to Seneca Park Zoo last August. Gunni is staying with us while his home zoo, Denver Zoo, builds a new sea lion habitat.  Gunni has acclimated well to his temporary home here and spends his days swimming with the other sea lions, Bob, Mary Lou, Lily and Daley. He usually spends his nights snuggled up inside with the others, usually right next to Mary Lou. Gunni currently weighs in at 292 pounds and enjoys participating in his training sessions.



Training Exercises with Gunni, 📸 Kellee Wolowitz

He eats about 18 pounds of fish a day! His diet of fish includes capelin, herring, mackerel and squid. He loves fish-filled ice blocks and playing with his feeder toys. Gunni is very smart and eager to please his trainers and his sweet temperament has won everyone over!

African Elephant Genny C Turns 46

There is much to celebrate this fall with ambassador African Elephant, Genny C turning 46 years old. She is currently in the Top 5 for being one of the oldest female African Elephants in conservation care. This is quite the accomplishment as female African Elephants have a median life expectancy of 38.5 years old. Being a local resident of the Seneca Park Zoo since 1979, it can be assumed that her extraordinary care throughout the years has contributed to her aging gracefully.

Being a geriatric animal does however come with some old age ailments. Genny C is treated by veterinary staff regularly to support the arthritis in her front legs. She has actively participated in many forms of supportive care such as acupuncture, laser therapy, and medical grade CO2 therapy. All of these therapies are designed to help reduce inflammation of the joints and increase blood flow to the sites to promote healing. Genny loves to participate in these activities as it gives her time to be spoiled by her keepers, and just stand and eat!

Also, as we all know, as we age it is so important to keep moving! We work daily on behaviors with each of the elephants to ensure that they can and will voluntarily participate in their own health care. This helps us keep them in the best shape possible both mentally and physically all while being proactive about any old age ailments that may arise. As part of this, we pay close attention to their mobility. During training sessions, Genny can be asked to perform leg lifts, stretches and balance behaviors. Genny C also loves to pick up and pull logs around her exhibit to give her some strength exercise as well!

Genny C, Lilac & Moki would love for you to join us at the zoo on November 1st at 11:00 to help celebrate Genny. The support and love that the community has for this special elephant is apparent every day as visitors come by and tell stories about how they were around when she was named or how she was the little elephant they saw as a child. She has grown up with this community and is a true testament that you are only as old as you feel!

– Zoo Keeper Jenna Lynch

Celebrate Olive Baboon Pimento Turning 30 and Learn About Her & Laser Therapy Treatment

October 1, 2023

Join us in celebrating Pimento’s 30th birthday! Born October 1st 1993, Pimento is the oldest of our Olive Baboon troop and has called Seneca Park Zoo her home since she and the rest of the troop arrived in the spring of 2008. Over the past 15 years Pimento has been a staple in the troop and is the mother of Jefferson. As she has gotten older, she has spent more time enjoying her retirement and relaxing in the sun. 


She enjoys all sorts of treats, such as pasta, birdseed, lentils, etc, but grapes are usually a favorite of hers! Pimento is a very food motivated and curious baboon who loves to spend much of her time searching through the straw and dirt for any snacks the other baboons may have missed. She likes playing with various forms of enrichment, such as balls and paper bags, and loves to eat different types of browse!

She is an expert at sitting on our scale so we can keep track of her weight and is usually happy to try and learn new things as long as she gets plenty of grapes! If you want to come visit Pimento and wish her a happy birthday, she is easily identifiable. Pimento is the smallest of our baboons, enjoys laying in the sunshine, and almost always has her tongue sticking out!

– Zoo Keeper Maggie Kinsella  

Laser Therapy with Pimento

Pimiento has arthritis just like many people will develop as they age. One way we can help reduce inflammation and pain from arthritis in her arm is with laser therapy. The technical term for this is photobiomodulation. Therapeutic lasers are set to a wavelength that is absorbed by cells and causes a release of natural anti-inflammatory cytokines (chemicals released by cells), increases blood flow, and stimulates cell growth, which can help to strengthen the cartilage in arthritic joints. This allows us to minimize the use of medications to control her arthritis and keep her comfortable!

Laser Therapy with Pimento

Seneca Park Zoo to Care for Denver Zoo Sea Lion ‘Gunni’ While Construction On New Habitat Occurs

August 25, 2023

Gunni, short for Gunnison (pronounced Gunny) arrived on Monday at 1:00pm from Denver, Colorado. He was crated and accompanied by three people, one of which was a veterinarian. He was born on 6/11/15 at Denver Zoo. Gunni weighs 260 lbs. 


He will be with us while Denver Zoo builds a new sea lion habitat. Gunni’s keeper flew in to meet him for unloading and stayed another two days to help acclimate him. She also showed staff his many behaviors to ensure his transition was smooth and as stress free as possible. 

He has actively participated in training sessions since arrival and has seen the four sea lions already in our care through mesh. They are all very curious and will introduce Gunni slowly so that Lily, Mary Lou, Daley, and Bob are comfortable with their new habitat mate. 

Below are some videos of him already taking to enrichment and training with our team. Welcome to Seneca Park Zoo Gunni!

– Assistant Curator Kellee Wolowitz

Celebrate African Elephant Moki Turning 41 and Learn About This Amazing Species From Her Keepers!

July 15, 2023

This summer is a little sweeter knowing that Moki is turning 41 years old! She is past the average life expectancy of female African elephants, which is 38.5. Moki is always eager to participate in training sessions, unless she’s sleeping in the sun. 


An elephant’s truck is an amazing adaptation that allows them to do remarkable things. An elephant’s trunk has more muscles in it than an entire human body does. It can function as a hand, nose, an extra foot, a signaling device, tool, siphoning water, digging, dusting, you name it! Moki is a great ambassador animal that is always highlighting this iconic characteristic. 

When Moki swims in the pool, you can see her using her trunk as a snorkel. You also may see her picking up large tree trunks or gently picking blades of grass to eat. An elephant’s trunk can also hold up to 2.5 gallons of water. African elephants have two “fingers” at the end of their trunk while Asian elephants only have one. Even though baby elephants can stand quickly after birth, they have to learn how to use their trunk. 

During your next visit, be sure to wish Moki a very happy birthday. She will be the one reaching the furthest for the food!

– Zoologist Kat Kleinschmidt 

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

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 

African Elephant Genny C Turns 45!

Genny C is one of our many beloved residents here at Seneca Park Zoo. She is the oldest of our three African elephants, just ahead of Lilac (44) and Moki (40).

Elephants are extremely smart and have many unique abilities. Over the course of her lifetime, Genny C has learned more than 50 different behaviors. Many of these behaviors help us with her daily care, such as lifting up each individual foot to file her nails or fanning out her ears for bath time. 

Especially important to maintain are her medical behaviors. These behaviors allow Genny C to voluntarily participate in her own health care. She is trained for a variety of voluntary medical behaviors, such as blood draws, foot radiographs, and opening her mouth for inspection of her teeth. Every time she chooses to participate, she receives many tasty treats as reinforcement. 

Genny C also knows a lot of exercise behaviors, including lying down and sitting. These behaviors help handlers assess how well she’s moving. Genny C has a strong bond with her keepers, and she is always an eager participant during training sessions. 


Elephants have strength to match their size–Genny C can even move logs! It is truly an awe-inspiring experience to watch her move one. Our elephants are routinely provided with fresh logs to move around on their own whenever they please, but every so often one will end up in a spot that is tricky for the keepers to move. That’s when Genny C comes in to help. She can quickly move the log out of the way, and we always have a yummy treat ready for her. It is her choice whether or not to help us move the logs, but she usually seems ready to lend a helping trunk. 

You may be surprised to learn that Genny C is also a very talented kickball player. During your zoo visit, you might be lucky enough to catch Genny C in action. We have a special ball that we can toss for the elephants, and Genny C can “kick” it with her trunk. Sometimes she can really get it to catch some air! Elephant kickball is a unique, mentally stimulating form of enrichment for our elephants. 

Over the years, Genny C has learned so many amazing things. Thanks for letting us share a few highlights! If you are looking for Genny C on exhibit, she is our tallest elephant, and she is very vocal. She can often be heard “purring.” 

– Zoo Keeper Morgan Saidian 

African Elephant Lilac Turned 44 – Happy Birthday!

May 3, 2022

African elephant Lilac celebrated her 44th birthday on Sunday! As many of you know, Lilac came to Seneca Park Zoo in 1979 as an orphan from Kruger National Park in South Africa along with Genny C. Lilac can be identified by her small stature and the hole in her left ear. If you also look very closely you can see that the hair on the top of her head is red!Because of her spunky personality she is typically the elephant playing chase with the other girls or trying to mess with them whereas Moki and Genny C. would much rather be napping in the sun or munching on hay.

Now considered geriatric, she has spent her years here winning over the hearts of many, including her keepers. The bond we each have with Lilac takes years to build as she is not easily swayed by even the best of treats, like bagels. As elephant keepers, we work daily on behaviors with each of the elephants to ensure that they can and will voluntarily participate in their own health care. This helps us keep them in the best shape possible both mentally and physically all while being proactive about any old age ailments that may arise.

Lilac turning 44 is a big deal in the elephant community. Nationwide, Lilac is the 4th oldest female African Elephant in conservation care. Genny C. is number 3! Because of this, we continue to strive to provide the best care possible to let all of these ladies live out their Golden Years in style!

On your next visit the zoo, don’t forget to stop by and wish Lilac a very Happy Birthday!

– Zoo Keeper Jenna Bovee

*Banner photo by Hanna Kaiser 

Aquatic Support Systems: Behind-The-Science with our Aquatic Life Support Operators

Aquatic Life Support Systems support polar bear, sea lion, river otter, and penguin pools, as well as eagle pond, sturgeon, hellbender, cichlid and reef tanks. These habitats require management of more than 250,000 gallons of water daily. Supporting aquatic life is something of a hybrid position, combining both animal care and facilities expertise. It requires chemistry, engineering, plumbing, mechanical and zoology knowledge. Our Zoo staff are also extremely adept problem-solvers, regularly troubleshooting and addressing any issues as they arise.

All AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are required to regularly monitor water quality. High quality of water enhances animal health programs, and tests for pH, chemicals, alkalinity, turbidity (clarity of water), and bacteria are done regularly. Seneca Park Zoo uses zero chemicals to treat water, meaning no halogen, bromine, or chlorine. Instead, we rely on sand filtration, mechanical filtration, and oxidation sterilization protocols. Aquatic animal habitats each require specific water quality measures. Sea lion and polar bear pools filter 1,000 gallons per minute and 700 gallons per minute respectively. The sea lion pool requires higher filtration because there are four animals that live in that habitat, whereas Anoki the polar bear takes a dip several times a day.

The Process
Filtration and sterilization begin with mechanical
filters. These giant inline strainers filter out large
particles, waste, and other debris like leaves and
sticks, that fall into the pools. After the water is
strained, it travels through five large pumps, which
pull the water through the system. All water flowing
through the pumps is measured for flow and volume
using special gauges.

Water is then pumped through horizontal sand
filters. Coarse-grained sand and gravel efficiently
remove suspended solids through straining and
absorption. Layers of graded gravel line the bottom
of the tank over networks of drainage pipes, and
over that, the sand.

After the water exits sand filtration, it is then sterilized with ozone. Seneca Park Zoo does not use chemicals for sterilization, partly because of the threats that traditional chemical treatments pose to ecosystems. Ozone is a superior disinfectant and one of the strongest oxidants, it is often used in drinking water supplies and air purification settings. The Zoo generates and contacts ozone on site, requiring specific knowledge and systems support for these complex processes. 

Once water is contacted with ozone, it is then 
passed through a cyclonic separator that spins the water, followed by a heat source, removing the ozone completely

Polar bear water heads directly to the habitat. However, before making its way back into the sea lion habitat pool, water may be chilled. Sea lions require water temperature below 68 degrees or else it may be harmful to them. While not necessary in cooler months, water must be cooled during summers, and it is passed through a 55-ton chiller. This whole process takes seconds and is supported by hours and hours of hard work by our Aquatic
Life Support team. The next time you’re in Rocky Coast Gallery, know that just under your feet, systems and dedicated staff are working around the clock to ensure the best possible environments for the animals in our care.

Luke Hawley - Supervisor of Life Support Systems/Facilities
Adam Melinis - Assistant Life Support Operator