Zoo’s Master Plan Improves Animal Welfare

May 13, 2019

Seneca Park Zoo is undergoing a transformation, and we’ve highlighted the ways our Master Plan improves the guest experience through amenities like the tram, a new café, and the ability to get closer than ever to animals at the Zoo. The overarching goal of the Zoo’s Master Plan, though, is improving the welfare of the animals.The Cold Asia habitats that opened last spring provided a new home for our snow leopards and allowed for the addition of red pandas. In contrast to the previous snow leopard habitat, the new habitat has varied substrates and levels, with high perches that allow the cats to engage in species-typical behaviors like climbing and jumping. A variety of doors and chutes inside allow the cats more opportunity to choose different spaces to occupy, and a built-in scale in one of the chutes makes it easier than ever for the cats to participate in their own health care. As the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP) has recommended Kaba and Timila breed, these improvements well position us to hopefully welcome snow leopard cubs to the Zoo this spring for the first time in 25 years.  Custom-made nest boxes in the red panda habitat give the female a choice for cubbing, when she becomes pregnant. The indoor areas of both habitats are equipped with air conditioning to make the animals more comfortable when the weather outdoors is not ideal for them.The Animals of the Savanna expansion, which opened last fall, more than tripled the size of our southern white rhinoceros habitat. The spacious indoor savanna barn provides supplemental heating from above and below to ensure our African animals are comfortable all winter long. Both the giraffe and rhino sides of the barn have a built-in floor scale, which allows us to easily track body weight as an indicator of overall health. The barn also has chutes with removable panels to allow safe access to different body parts for health check-ups. Additionally, the barn doors were configured to make training the animals easier. Elevated feeding platforms throughout the giraffe indoor and outdoor yards promote the giraffes’ natural feeding behaviors.With County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo’s support, we’ve also leveraged other Monroe County resources to promote animal welfare. For example, after an exhaustive search benchmarking with zoos literally around the world, we decided mulch was the best substrate for our giraffes. The County Parks Horticulture Department provided the Zoo with the 600 yards of mulch required – this was the only way to obtain that quantity and to be certain no toxic trees or chemicals were used. And as with all new construction, we continue to improve the habitats as we identify opportunities to promote animal welfare. Just this week, the County Parks Facilities team built and installed the Panda Pagoda in the red panda habitat to provide them with additional climbing and shade opportunities, which we hope will make the red pandas more visible to guests this summer.Most dramatically, we demolished the antiquated Main Zoo Building, a menagerie-style remnant of the Zoo’s yesterday, inconsistent with current zoological practice. This year, we will design a new Tropics Complex, with an anticipated opening in 2022.  With this modern facility, we’ll be able to bring orangutans and lemurs back, as well as introduce gorillas to our Zoo for the first time. We’ve already decided upon our overarching goal for the new habitats: provide as large and complex an environment for the animals as possible to promote their natural behaviors. For instance, since orangutan means “person of the forest,” the orangutan habitat will feature tall climbing structures to allow the animals to engage in species-typical climbing and swinging. We will have features like large indoor habitats as nice as the outdoor ones, as well as behind-the-scenes amenities similar to the ones that I’ve already mentioned, which improve our ability to provide excellent care to each animal.

To sum it up, the Master Plan is about providing the very best welfare possible for the animals who live at the Zoo, in addition to enhancing the experience for guests who visit. Plan your next visit to Seneca Park Zoo today and be a part of the transformation!

– Dr. Louis DiVincenti, Assistant Zoo Director – Animal Care & Conservation

Third zebra arrives at the Zoo

November 28, 2018

Last week, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and Seneca Park Zoo officials announced that a third zebra, a five-year-old female named Lydia from Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, has arrived at the Zoo. Lydia was born September 18, 2013 and has lived at Columbus Zoo since she was a month old. She joins two other female zebras, Liberty and Dottie.

In a related move, female ostrich, Echo, moved to Columbus Zoo to join their flock. Lydia’s arrival in Rochester created the perfect opportunity to place Echo with other ostriches. We will miss Echo, but we know this is in the best interest of her overall welfare.

Featured image from L-R: Lydia, Liberty, and Dottie.

Read the Official Press ReleaseCheck out the local news coverage below.

WHAM: New zebra arrives, ostrich leaves Seneca Park Zoo

WHAM1180: Five-Year-Old Zebra Coming to Seneca Park Zoo

WROC: New zebra arrives at Seneca Park Zoo

Democrat & Chronicle: Remaining ostrich departs zoo; zebra arrives

Rochester Business Journal: Zoo welcomes a new zebra

Demolition of Antiquated Main Building Begins

November 5, 2018

This morning, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo joined Seneca Park Zoo officials to kick-off demolition of the antiquated Main Zoo Building. This demolition marks culmination of the County’s first phase of Master Plan improvements at the Zoo, which included the new Cold Asia habitats, Animals of the Savanna expansion, and Zoo Tram.

The building was decommissioned over the summer with all resident Zoo animals being relocated to other areas of Seneca Park Zoo or to other zoos around the country. Removal of the outdated 1931 structure makes way for a second phase of Master Plan improvements, to include a new Tropics Complex featuring animals from the ecosystems of Borneo, Congo, and Madagascar.

Demolition of the Main Building is expected to wrap-up before the end of this year. Upon its conclusion, the footprint it once occupied will graded and planted with grass, for the time being. Planning and design of the new Tropics Complex and entryway improvements will begin in 2019, with construction commencing in 2020 and an anticipated opening date of 2022.

Check out the local news coverage below!

WHAM: Demolition of main building underway at Seneca Park Zoo

WHAM 1180: Demolition Underway at Seneca Park Zoo’s Former Main Building

WROC: Seneca Park Zoo begins demolition of main building to make way for new exhibit

Rochester Business Journal: Demolition at zoo prepares for new Tropics ComplexRead the Official Press Release

Animals of the Savanna Now Open!

September 13, 2018

Today, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and Zoo officials cut the ribbon on the new Animals of the Savanna expansion. The five-acre area features habitats for two female Masai giraffes, Iggy and Kipenzi, two plains zebra, two ostriches, and the Zoo’s resident white rhino, Bill. The Animals of the Savanna building includes indoor habitats for those species as well as homes for many smaller species native to the African savanna, like naked mole rats.

The expansion also includes a Zoo tram that will take guests from the front of the Zoo to the new area beyond the elephant barn, and the Savanna Outpost, a brand-new concessions and retail area.

Check out the local news coverage below!

WHAM: Seneca Park Zoo opens expanded Animals of the Savanna exhibit

WROC: New exhibit, featuring giraffes, now open at Seneca Park Zoo

WXXI: New exhibit marks the end of first phase of zoo improvements

Rochester Business Journal: Zoo’s Animals of the Savanna expansion opens

WETMNew exhibit, featuring giraffes, now open at Seneca Park ZooRead the Official Press ReleasePlan Your Next Visit

Second giraffe arrives at Seneca Park Zoo

August 20, 2018

On Friday, August 17, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo announced that a second Masai giraffe, a one-year-old female named Iggy from the Virginia Zoo, arrived at the Seneca Park Zoo as a part of the Animals of the Savanna expansion. The new Animals of the Savanna area is set to open to the public on Thursday, September 13, 2018.

Check out the local coverage below!

WHAM: Second giraffe arrives at Seneca Park Zoo

WHEC: Seneca Park Zoo welcomes new giraffe

WROC: New giraffe arrives at Seneca Park Zoo

D&C: A second giraffe arrives at Seneca Park ZooRead the Official Press Release

Animals of the Savanna Expansion to open September 13

On Thursday, August 16, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo joined officials from the Seneca Park Zoo to announce that the new Animals of the Savanna expansion project will officially open to the public on Thursday, September 13, 2018. This is the second major project in Phase I of Seneca Park Zoo’s Master Plan Expansion Project.

The expansion is a new five-acre area of the Zoo featuring animals from the African Savanna, including Masai giraffes, plains zebra, ostriches, a southern white rhino, naked mole rats and over a dozen other species. In addition to the new habitats and animals, the expansion includes a tram that will take guests from the front of the Zoo to the new area beyond the elephant barn. Additionally, the Savanna Outpost is a new concessions area, and will include an opportunity for guests to feed giraffes in the future.

Check out the local coverage below!

WROC: New exhibit, featuring giraffes and zebras, to open next month at Seneca Park Zoo

Spectrum: Seneca Park Zoo finishing up touches on African Savanna exhibit

WHAM: Opening date announced for new expansion at Seneca Park Zoo

D&C: Giraffe getting settled at Seneca Park Zoo

Click here to watch video from the announcement.Read the Official Press Release

Red pandas highlight Seneca Park Zoo expansion

The morning of Thursday, July 26, Ashley Doerzbacher of 13WHAM / Fox Rochester stopped by Seneca Park Zoo to check out the new Cold Asia area, as well as the 4.5-acre Africa expansion – slated to open later this summer. Check out her coverage below!

Rochester, N.Y. — The first steps in a major expansion at Seneca Park Zoo are now complete.

New habitats for the red pandas and snow leopards at the zoo opened last month, and there are more additions coming soon.

Ashley Doerzbacher took us inside the new Cold Asia area this morning, and also showed us a sneak peek at the expansion of the A Step Into Africa area, which is opening soon.


Get to know the Zoo’s two red pandas, Blaze and Starlight

July 11, 2018

This spring, we welcomed red pandas to Seneca Park Zoo with the opening of the new Cold Asia area. Red pandas are small mammals with thick, reddish fur and long, bushy dark-ringed tails. Previously classified into the raccoon family, Procyonidae, red pandas are now in their own family, Ailuridae. They’re found in the very high altitudes of the Himalaya Mountains where the climate is temperate and cool. Their main diet consists primarily of bamboo leaves and shoots. The average life span of the red panda is 8-10 years in nature, compared to 10-12 years in human care. One of their most unique adaptations is a modified wrist bone that allows them to grasp food and climb down trees head first.Red pandas are the original pandas and were discovered long before giant pandas were. They share the same name because panda translates to the Nepali word for ‘bamboo eater’, which is the primary food source for both species.

Giant pandas are part of the bear family, are much larger in size, and are more dangerous than red pandas. With red pandas, zoo keepers can generally share the same space with them, while taking care to keep us both safe. Keeper staff is trained to read their behavior, and how to move around them in a safe manner.Seneca Park Zoo is home to two red pandas, a four-year-old male named Blaze and a one-year-old female named Starlight. Blaze was born on July 19, 2013 and Starlight was born on June 17, 2017. Blaze is lighter and more orange in color, and has longer whiskers and ear fur. Starlight on the other hand is darker and redder in color, and has shorter whiskers and ear fur. Blaze is shyer and tends to keep to himself, while Starlight is young, bold, and unusually curious.

Blaze’s favorite thing to do is take a long nap in a nice, quiet place way up high. Starlight moves about more, and is fascinated with her keepers’ shoes. Their favorite enrichment includes sod and new logs, while their preferred treats are all kinds of grapes, apples, pears, and blueberries.Red pandas are very elusive creatures that are extremely difficult to spot in their natural range. While it’s much easier to see them at zoos, it’s not without some inherent challenges. Red pandas are adapted to living in very cold climates, so the best season to see them outside will be in the winter, which is also when they’ll be the most active. In the meantime, the best days to visit the red pandas at the Zoo are when it’s cool and cloudy. Red pandas are most active at dawn and dusk, so planning your trip for before 11 a.m. or after 3 p.m. will give you the best chances of seeing them exploring their outdoor area.

Midday is nap time, at which point Blaze and Starlight take turns at going in and out. We encourage you to stop by their habitat a few times during your visit or hang out by their area for a bit longer than normal to increase your chances of seeing them. When the red pandas are visible, the best way to keep them that way is to quietly observe and admire them. They are very sensitive to quick movements and loud noises. This will help them adjust to their new surroundings a lot quicker. Although they are getting more and more comfortable with their environment each day, this is the first time they’re living in an open-air habitat. We thank you for your support, and we hope you enjoy them as much as we do!– Heidi Beifus, Zoo Keeper

(Featured image: L-R; Blaze and Starlight)

Seneca Park Zoo opens new Cold Asia habitats for red pandas and snow leopards

June 6, 2018

On Friday, June 1, 2018, Seneca Park Zoo officials joined Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, members of the Monroe County Parks Department, and members of the public to cut the ribbon on the new Cold Asia area. Cold Asia features a habitat for the Zoo’s newest members, two red pandas named Blaze and Starlight, as well as a brand-new home for the existing snow leopards, Kaba and Tamila.

Read the official press release here.Check out local coverage of the event:

D&C: You won’t see anything cuter all day: Red Pandas join Seneca Park Zoo

WROC: Seneca Park Zoo opens red panda exhibit

WHAM: Red panda, snow leopard habitats open at Seneca Park Zoo

WHEC: Seneca Park Zoo welcomes new red pandas

RBJ: Red pandas, snow leopards make home at zoo’s new Cold Asia Exhibit

Fit for Travel

March 18, 2018

With old habitats closing and new habitats opening, quite a few of our animals are traveling this spring! There is a lot of preparation involved in sending an animal from one zoo to another. The whole process usually starts with a recommendation by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a collaborative effort among accredited zoos to maintain the genetic diversity of species in conservation care consistent with the needs of each zoo. When we receive a recommendation to move an animal, Garrett Caulkins, Zoo Registrar, contacts the other zoo to share important information about that animal, like diet and medical history.Their veterinarian and I discuss the animal’s health and determine what we need to do to make sure that animal is healthy enough to travel. We also want to ensure that the animal has no diseases or parasites that might be spread to the other animals at the Zoo. Usually, what we call a pre-shipment examination is performed – it’s just a fancy way of saying the veterinarian does a good check-up on the animal before the shipment. This way, the health of each animal coming into the Zoo is well-characterized before it arrives, so we don’t have to address it immediately. This allows time for the animal to acclimate to its new home. During the pre-shipment exam, we listen to the animal’s heart and lungs, obtain fecal and blood samples, take radiographs, update vaccinations, and perform any other screening tests specific to the species. For example, for primates, we might do a tuberculous test under the skin just like a person might have done. Once all the test results are available and the animal is fit for travel, moving arrangements are made.Many times, a familiar keeper will travel with the animal to its new home to make sure the journey is safe and to help make the transition smoother. After arrival, depending on the animal, it may be housed in the Zoo hospital for quarantine or in its habitat if the animal has special needs. For example, our new giraffe will be quarantined once they arrive in their new habitat in A Step into Africa. We are very sensitive to animal welfare, so our goal is to get any new animals into their new home and comfortable living with any new companions as quickly as possible. For the first month or so, we monitor the animal closely every day to make sure that they are eating normally and integrating into their habitat, social group, and routine. Our keepers, curators, and vet staff all work together through issues like introducing the animal to the existing group or letting it into a new habitat space for the first time. As a result of our thorough planning, preventive health program, and concern for animal welfare, most animals make the transition really well!– Dr. Louis DiVincenti, Director of Animal Health and Conservation