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!

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 

X-Raying a Rhino

Providing medical care to the animals at the Zoo is of upmost importance. Many animals require their own participation to receive vaccines, or treat a medical issue. It is less stressful to train an animal to participate in their own health care, before an issue arises. This is why we decided to train our resident rhino, Jiwe, for foot x-rays. 

The biggest challenge was creating something that he couldn’t break! At 4,000lbs, and an eagerness to play with anything, our main goal was for him not to mess with the board and potentially break the x-ray plate. Luckily, one of our handy keepers built a very sturdy board that the plate holder fits perfectly into! It is the same x-ray plate holder that we use for the elephants, so we knew it should hold his weight. Jiwe was rewarded for ignoring the board, and stepping on the plate. And our first attempt at a real x-ray was successful! 

This information allows us to compare any future foot issues if they should arise. Not to mention, it’s very rewarding to Jiwe as he receives good treats and brushing time from his keepers and vet staff!

– Zoologist Kat Kleinschmidt 

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

National Veterinary Technician Week – Appreciation Post!

October 21, 2023

This week is National Vet Tech Week so we would like to say a big thank you to our veterinary technicians Robin and Tammy!

The vet techs at the Zoo are vital to the Animal Health Team. They prepare the equipment needed for medical procedures and examinations, and assist the veterinarian with all of the animals at the Zoo from the little rodents, birds, and reptiles to the elephants and giraffes.

Technicians run lab samples for diagnostic testing, monitor the hospital inventory and make sure we have the equipment and medications the animals need, and prepare medications for the animals. They also work with the zoo keepers to train our animals for voluntary procedures that help us monitor their health. The technicians help to collect blood from the elephants to maintain our elephant plasma bank. The stored plasma can be sent out to other zoos to help sick elephants. Anoki the polar bear and many of our big cats allow us to draw blood while they receive treats from a keeper. This way we can collect blood samples to monitor their health on a regular basis without having to sedate them and the animals calmly eat while we perform the blood draw.

Robin, our head vet tech, also keeps all our animal health paperwork in order. Keeping endangered animals and sending them to other zoos or receiving new animals requires health certificates, permits, and other paperwork. Robin helps to make sure that all this paperwork is kept up to date and communicates with state officials to determine what needs to be documented when animals move between zoos. 

– Dr. Chris McKinney DVM / Zoo Veterinarian

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

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