Rhino Jiwe Turns 7! Learn More About Him & His Care From One of His Keepers

December 4, 2023

Seneca Park Zoo’s southern white rhino ‘Jiwe’ has turned seven! As the second largest land mammal, he has tipped the scale at just over 4,000lbs and is still growing. Once full grown, he could weigh between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds. Their horns grow throughout their whole life, about 7cm per year. They are composed of keratin, the same substance as your fingernails and hair!

Jiwe is great to work with. He engages with any kind of enrichment, and is an active participant in his training, especially when brushing is involved! This allows us to easily provide routine health care such as, administer vaccines, obtain blood samples, and even get foot x-rays! When Jiwe is not interacting with his keepers or enrichment, you will find him eating or sleeping. Rhinos usually sleep in intervals that total up to eight hours per day.

Jiwe is currently living his best bachelor life as male rhinos are solitary. Female white rhinos stay in groups. Fun fact, a group of rhinos is called a “crash” not a herd. There are two subspecies of white rhinos, southern and northern. The southern white rhino population continues to decline and is listed as near threatened. There are only two northern white rhinos left in the world, who are both female. Their largest threat is poaching. 

While many factors are involved with trying to protect rhinos, a visit to see Jiwe is a great start! He is a wonderful ambassador animal that guests can make a personal connection with to be inspired to help save this species. Be sure to check out the savanna or rhino experiences to get a chance to go behind the scenes and learn more about rhinos and their care!

– Zoologist Kat Kleinschmidt 

How Do We Recycle Properly and Why is it Important?

How do we recycle properly and why is it important?

Recycling is an important, and practical step we can do in our day-to-day lives that helps protect our local environment, ecosystems, and promotes sustainability of resources. Here are some tips/information to use in your life:

  • Refuse, reduce, reuse, and then recycle.
    • You should refuse single use items to reduce how much waste you create and try to reuse items as much as possible before recycling or throwing them out.
  • Do not bag recycling!
    • Plastic bags are often non-recyclable. Additionally, they will get caught in the sorting machinery which damages equipment and causes delays.
  • Do not include items you are not sure about! When in doubt throw it out!
    • An entire batch of recycling can be contaminated and will need to be thrown out by mixing in non-recyclable items.
  • Be active in checking your local recycling programs!
    • The specifics of recycling rules will vary depending on your community programs. 
  • Rinse before recycling!
    • A single dirty item can contaminate an entire bin.
    • Cardboard and paper products can’t be recycled once they contact food or liquid.

ECOPARK: For Items you don’t know how to recycle or don’t know if they are able to be recycled check out the ecopark website. On their website you can type in any item and they will tell you how to properly dispose of it.

“The ecopark is a partnership between Monroe County and Waste Management of NY that provides county residents with a “one-stop drop-off” to dispose of or recycle difficult to manage materials. The ecopark accepts items like electronics, scrap metal, clothing, foam packaging, pharmaceuticals, rechargeable batteries, and more. The Monroe County ecopark website will help you find local businesses and services that are available to manage specific items. Whether you choose to use the ecopark itself or any of the listed convenient vendors, you will be helping the environment by keeping these materials from our community’s waters and landfills.” -Waste Management

Community Cleanup - Wayne Smith

The Journey of Seneca Park Zoo’s Panamanian Golden Froglets

Last year our adult Panamanian golden frogs laid a clutch of eggs, which successfully metamorphosed into healthy frogs.  Seneca Park Zoo is proud to share this amazing success, since this species is now extinct in nature.  Our efforts to conserve Panamanian golden frogs include field work in Panama, along with the successful raising of these froglets.  Here was their journey!

By Zoo Keepers Catina Wright & Rhonda McDonald 

April 15th 2022 –  Female Panamanian golden frog laid eggs in strings in the water.  Keepers collected them and placed them in a behind the scenes observation tank for monitoring. Eggs began hatching a week later. 

Female adult Panamanian golden frog
Panamanian golden frog eggs
Panamanian golden frog eggs in water - April 15 2022
Panamanian golden frog eggs

July 14th 2022 –  Tadpoles grew in size and about 3 months later began to sprout hind legs.  Picture shows left tadpole with hind legs starting to grow. They were living fully in water and eating algae wafers, as well as algae off of rocks. (right)

July 31st 2022 –  The tadpoles formed into froglets with all 4 legs and color markings beginning to show. They were living mainly in water, sometimes venturing out on land.  Still eating algae. 

August 6th 2022 –  The froglets completely absorbed their tails, and had full markings.  They were living fully on land and eating very tiny invertebrates called springtails.  As they grew they were able to eat pinhead crickets and eventually move to fruit flies and small crickets. 

August 14th 2023 –  One year after forming into froglets, the young adult frogs are still behind the scenes but are doing great and still growing, at about ¾ the size of an adult. 

This is an important milestone for Seneca Park Zoo, and we are proud to contribute to bolstering the Panamanian golden frog population in AZA zoos.

Why are Snakes Important?

August 20, 2023

Snakes and humans have had a long, troubled relationship. For as many years as I have worked at the Zoo, I hear the same themes repeatedly. Some people are fascinated with snakes, but most are fearful of them or even despise them. This history goes back much farther than a zoo career – even thousands of years. I have been in the “fascination” group since I was a young boy. One thing that I have learned is that the fear is often mutual for snake and human. There have been many negative encounters between both for ages.

Since I have worked at the Zoo, I have spent a lot of time dedicated on education and dispelling myths about snakes. I consider myself lucky to work with snakes and study them in nature. I have increased my knowledge of snake behavior across many species and am often impressed by their inquisitive behavior.

Some of this behavior is likely driven by unique adaptations that snakes possess. Snakes use a different sensory organ to smell. This organ is often called the Jacobson’s organ or vomeronasal organ. In snakes, these are two bulb-like organs on the roof of the mouth. The forked tongue collects odor molecules and distributes them to these organs. There is evidence that the forked tongue and both organs in the mouth help snakes determine where the scent is coming from. Stereo sense of smell!?

Another example of a unique adaptation that might lead to inquisitive behavior would be the heat sensing organs that some snakes possess. It is well known that the pit vipers have highly adapted heat sensing organs, but did you know that many boas and pythons possess these as well? These organs help these snakes hunt for “warm-blooded” prey day or night. New evidence shows that these snakes use these organs as a way to aid in thermoregulation helping them to find warmer or cooler spots to regulate their body temperature.

Snakes are amazing predators! Some use ambush as a hunting technique, while others are active foragers. This makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Snakes rely on the element of surprise as a way to survive. They try very hard to spend their lives to go undetected. Unless you are prey, they just want to be passed by. This is often where the snake and human conflict arises. And it is just as surprising to the snake as it is to the person!

Some species of snakes live very close to places where we live. Often some of the things we like are exactly what snakes need because their preferred prey or habitat reside near. For instance, some of the things in our yards – garden rock borders, firewood piles, garbage cans, and fences attract prey and create an ideal hunting opportunity for snakes. Often, the foundations of our own homes create the same hunting opportunities or even create ideal over-wintering conditions for snakes.

We may not realize it, but these snakes are helping us by keeping our yards and homes free of small mammals too. Most of us don’t relish sharing space with small rodents. They get into pet food or even our own. Their feces can carry disease that can be transmitted to us through infected food. Some of these rodents can carry parasitic insects like ticks or fleas. These insects can also spread diseases like Lyme disease. One study on the feeding preferences of Timber rattlesnakes found that these snakes are estimated to each remove over 2500 ticks from the environment every year!

If you have the opportunity, I would recommend observing snakes from a distance – making sure they are comfortable with your presence. A snake that doesn’t feel threatened will demonstrate the inquisitive behavior that I’ve mentioned. They will slowly move through the habitat, sensing smells with their tongue. They may even come over to check you out. If it’s not scary for them, it won’t be scary for you! At the very least, always make sure to give them safe passage. They do far more good than harm!

– Assistant Curator John Adamski

Is It a Frog or a Toad?

Frogs and toads are often difficult to tell apart. If you aren’t sure what differentiates them, you can easily find out what they are by their names. Right? Wrong! Oftentimes species names do not represent their true classification. For example, Panamanian golden frogs are actually toads, and fire bellied toads are actually frogs! Confused? Here are some basic characteristics to help you out:
Toads tend to have dry and warty skin, while frogs tend to have smooth and slimy skin. However, this isn’t always true, and should not be used as the main way to tell them apart!
Toads lay their eggs in strings along waterways, while frogs lay their eggs in clumps in waterways.
Toads have short hind legs for hopping and walking, while frogs have long hind legs for leaping and swimming.
Toads have eyes that are lower on their face, while frogs have eyes on the tops of their heads in order to see above water while their bodies are submerged.
Toads live on dry land as adults, while frogs tend to live in or by water as adults.

Think you have enough info to figure it out? Next time you’re at the Zoo, check out the amphibians and see if you can spot the differences!

– Zoo Keeper Rhonda McDonald


Amphibians & Reptiles: Similarities & Differences

August 18, 2023

Have you heard of a herp? Herp comes from the Greek “herpeton”, which means creeping animal, and refers to amphibians and reptiles. These two groups of animals were historically categorized together because of their recognized similarities. In some cases, reptile and amphibian species look similar in body structure, but they all emerge from eggs and are ectothermic. 

Often described as “cold-blooded”, ectothermic means that their body temperature is dependent on the environment. While we sweat during the hot summer months to cool ourselves off, a herp needs to move somewhere cooler, such as a shady spot or underground burrow.

Despite these similarities, there are more differences between these two groups of animals. Although they both have eggs, amphibian eggs lack outer shells while reptile eggs have papery or leathery shells. Interestingly, some snakes are ovoviviparous, which means the eggs are held and hatch inside of the mother’s body, so the young appear to be born live.

Their body coverings are another difference. Reptiles have scaly skin, and their scales or scutes are made out of keratin, like human hair and fingernails. Their scales can be bumpy or smooth and although they might appear wet or slimy, the scales are dry. Amphibians, on the other hand, have permeable skin that is kept wet. This allows them to absorb oxygen and water through their skin, but they can also absorb chemicals, including harmful ones, from the environment. Because of this, amphibians are often studied as indicators of their ecosystems’ health.

Perhaps the biggest difference, however, is that amphibians go through metamorphosis as they grow up, changing dramatically from tadpoles to their adult forms. Regardless of these differences, reptiles and amphibians are still collectively referred to as herps, and the scientists who study them are called herpetologists.

– Director of Education and Visitor Studies Kelly Ulrich

Animal Training Workshop Experience With Natural Encounters Inc.

As the way we work with animals in conservation care changes, the use of animal training is becoming more prevalent.  Animals now can participate in their own health care and have their minds and bodies enriched through positive reinforcement training.  However, having a knowledge base and understanding of how to go about training is something one would need in order to make these training sessions successful.  One company that has that knowledge base is Natural Encounters Inc. (NEI)  
Natural Encounters Inc. was established in 1976 by Steve Martin.  He began by creating the first bird show at the San Diego Zoo.  Then went on to provide free-flight bird shows in zoos around the world.  Their mission is to engage, inspire and empower their audiences to engage in conservation.  Additionally, their staff will travel to zoos around the world as animal training consultants to assist animal care professionals with training skills in general or for working with a specific species.  With their extensive knowledge of animal training, they hold various animal training workshops for animal professionals at their home ranch in Central Florida. 

I was lucky enough to attend an animal training workshop hosted by NEI this past January.  NEI is home to over 550 birds of 70 different species at their ranch.  In the workshop we not only received information in a lecture-based setting, but were able to take what we learned and apply it to the birds at their facility.  We were placed into groups with a team lead who has had many years training animals.  We were also assigned a group of macaws and a raven to be able to train with throughout the week. We would spend each morning with a lecture, followed by a training demonstration, then time to train with our birds.  Then we would have a wonderful catered lunch and do the same in the afternoon.  

I went into the workshop with previous education and practice with positive reinforcement training from my time at school.  However, the way that they explained and put techniques and processes into perspective really changed the way I thought of how I was training the animals I work with.  Having the ability to take what we had learned and immediately apply it to the birds we were working with was crucial for everything to click.  The added benefit was having the team lead and your team with you there every step of the way.  Most times you don’t necessarily have the chance to have someone watch and give advice while you are training. This opportunity allowed you to have that immediate feedback, change what you were doing, and see that result of the feedback.  Our whole group joked that we wished we could all go to work with each other to help and give advice during our training sessions!    

Since attending the workshop, I have worked with our African Grey Parrot, Minnow on a nail trim behavior, putting his wings up and beak holds.  The ability to attend this workshop was very beneficial to my own knowledge and changing the way I work with the Zoos ambassador animals.  


– Program Coordinator & Zoo Naturalist Jess Hays


Veterinary Care for the Birds

Working with birds is fun, but does have challenges as well! Here at the Zoo we have many different birds in our care. In our education building, which is not open to the public, we have psittacine birds (parrots). These birds partake in education programs and the Zoomobile. We have raptors (birds of prey), which includes the snowy owls and red-tailed hawk. The Savanna Aviary contains spotted dikkops (a shore bird), sandhill cranes, and multiple species of passerines (perching birds/song birds). Of course, we also have African penguins in the Rocky Coast area too!

Birds have many unique adaptations. They all have feathers which serve as insulation, aid in flight (or swimming for the penguins), and can serve as signals to other birds. Birds go through molt, which is when they lose old feathers and grow new ones. Some birds do this gradually, but some birds molt all their feathers at once. African penguins are a species that molts all at once so you may see some of them looking quite bald like little vultures. These birds are not sick, they are just molting their feathers! When new feathers first grow in, they are connected to blood vessels and are called a “blood feather.” Once the feather is fully grown, it loses the blood supply. However, if a feather breaks while it still has a blood supply it can bleed a large amount. When this occurs, we need to remove the feather to stop the bleeding. This can happen to pet birds too and is one of the most common pet bird emergencies.


Most birds also have hollow bones to reduce their weight for flight. Penguins and other flightless birds are an exception to this and have solid bones like us. Birds do not have a diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest and abdomen in mammals. They do have air sacs which help to increase airflow through the respiratory system and keep a higher oxygen flow into the body.

It is important for our safety and the safety of the birds to be aware of how a bird might act when we handle them for veterinary procedures. For long procedures, we will anesthetize the birds. This reduces the risk of them injuring us and reduces that risk that they injure themselves trying to escape. Most birds first instinct when we restrain them for an exam, nail trim, or to draw blood is to flap their wings to try to get away. This can cause injury to the wings so we cover their wings with a light towel. Parrots might try to bite while raptors will try to use their talons for defense. 

All of the birds that go outside receive a vaccine for West Nile Virus. This virus is spread by mosquitos and can cause neurological disease in many different animal species. Penguins are also prone to another mosquito borne disease called avian malaria. This is a parasite that only infects birds. This disease was very rare in the northern US, but is becoming more common because climate change is leading to longer mosquito seasons and different species of mosquitos moving further north. To protect them, the penguins receive a preventative medication during mosquito season.

The highly efficient respiratory tracts of birds make them prone to respiratory infections. One that has been in the news lately is avian influenza. The Zoo has a plan in place to help protect our birds from this virus. This plan was developed through discussions with veterinary teams at other zoos and the NY state veterinarian. They can also get a fungal infection called Aspergillosis. This is a fungus that exists in the soil and can infect birds when they are stressed or ill with another disease.

Birds hide signs of illness very well because in the wild, if they show signs of weakness, they become a target for predators. Because of this adaptation, we regularly evaluate all of our birds.  They receive an overall annual checkup and the keepers give daily reports on anything abnormal so that we know if a bird needs additional exams or tests such as blood work or x-rays. The bird’s weights are also monitored.  If a bird does need any tests performed, we bring them to the Animal Hospital. X-rays allow us to not only see the bones but also the outline of the heart, liver, and other internal organs. Some diseases will cause enlargement of organs which we can see on the x-rays. The blood allows us to check the red and white blood cells along with enzymes that show liver and kidney health, protein levels, and electrolytes. 

Stop by and visit with the man species of birds in our care this weekend and all throughout the year! 

– Dr. Chris McKinney (DVM / Zoo Veterinarian) 

Keeper Connection: Sea Lion Rehab and the Seneca Park Zoo

Here at Seneca Park Zoo, we are home to four California sea lions. We have three females and one male. Lily, Mary Lou, Daley, and Bob are all special, but Lily has a very interesting story about how she came to live at Seneca Park Zoo. Assistant Curator Kellee Wolowitz shared that story with us below.

Lily was captured on a boat float in Marina Del Rey Harbor, Los Angeles County, on December 4, 2009. She was suffering from emaciation and had an abscess on her front right flipper. While the abscess was treated and did heal, she lost her ability to flex her flipper and walks with a permanent limp. 
Due to this injury, it was determined she could not be released back into nature. Once she was medically cleared, Lily was brought to Seneca Park Zoo from Fort MacArthur Marine Mammal Center in San Pedro, California on January 25, 2011. That might seem like it was a very long trip, but she was flown on a plane and was accompanied by zoo staff that monitored her very closely. 
Since her arrival, she has thrived and has given birth twice. Her son Bob, currently lives here at the Zoo and was born on June 7, 2017. He can often be heard vocalizing throughout the Zoo! 
Lily is a laid back sea lion, and knows many different behaviors. Many of these behaviors allow us to preform medical examinations with little to no stress. Lily receives voluntary hand injections of her vaccines, rolls over so we can look at her belly, and opens her mouth so we can look at her teeth, presents both her flippers, and can lay flat. She even lets us give her eye drops. We also do some fun behaviors that allow her to exhibit natural behaviors and is also enriching for her. 

Unfortunately California sea lions like Lily face many obstacles in nature. Their natural predators are sharks and orcas, or killer whales, but that is not the worst of it. They are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes it illegal to harm them, but they are still killed or injured by fisherman who see them as a threat or competition to their livelihood. 

Entanglement in, and ingestions of, plastics in the ocean, malnutrition due to overfishing, infections, parasites, and harmful algal blooms, are other threats. If you want to help sea lions, you can do so by eating fish recommended by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, reduce toxins you use on your lawn and gardens, reduce trash by avoiding single use plastics, and dispose of fishing lines and lures properly. 

Lily is a success story, thanks to the Marine Mammal Center and Seneca Park Zoo, so let do our part to make sure all California sea lions are able to live in a clean, healthy environment! 


– Assistant Curator Kellee Wolowitz


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: