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

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

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

Zoo Keeper Rescues: Animal Care Never Stops!

The other night my wife and I found a week-old kitten in the middle of our yard that had been left by its mother, a local stray. As we dug out the towels, feeding bottle, milk formula, and more, I started to think about how many animals have passed through our lives as well as the lives of our fellow Seneca Park Zoo zookeepers. I decided to do some brief interviews with our animal care staff and asked the question “How many animals in need have you saved, either by finding or giving a home or safe place to or adopting personally from a rescue or shelter?” I told them this applies to any animal, wild or domestic, that they’ve taken on. 

Would you be surprised to find out that just 20 keepers here at Seneca Park Zoo have saved more than 300 animals ranging from bearded dragons to donkeys and everything in between? This number does not include the efforts of our amazing educational staff, volunteers and docents that are cut from a similar cloth. Nor does this consider zookeeper extraordinaire Rhonda McDonald, a certified wildlife rehabilitator for 15 years, who has saved over 700 animals by herself! Much respect, Rhonda.  

The keepers here at Seneca Park Zoo are amazing people who are committed to a life much larger than their own. They open their hearts and homes to animals in need, without hesitation or reluctance. Hoping someone else will step in is not an option. I’m proud to be a part of this family that works together every day to give world-class care to the animals in their charge here at the Zoo, and tirelessly outside of work, in our community.  

– Zoologist Brian Sheets

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