Zoobillee

Community

Wildlife Safari was full of ZOOmbies last month as the park celebrated Halloween! Each year Safari’s Zoobillee event is packed with fun activities, stalls and delicious Halloween themed food and this year was certainly no exception.

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The Haunted Hay ride took guests through the story of a witch who, with the help of her animal friends, grew and carved an incredible pumpkin. Throughout the ride, zoo zombies (ZOOmbies) wandered around in search of adventure.

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Face painting booths transformed visitors and staff from plain old humans to all sorts of animals, ghouls and goblins!

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With fresh face paint to liven up their costumes, and yummy treats in their bellies, guests settled down to watch the production of Dr Frankenstein and the Super Species Serum performed both by staff and animals!

Winter Camp crafts

For the Love of Learning!

Behind the Scenes, Community, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized

Nestled in behind Safari Village is the Wildlife Safari Education building. Home to snakes, birds, cavies and many more, the Education building is always a hive of activity. The Education department hosts tours, day camps, overnight adventures, and zookeepers-in-training. Since teaching people about animals and the environment is a vital part of conservation, the Education team have an important role.

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Education Lead, Julianne with Ponderosa the Red Tail Boa

Everyday involves a mix of animal husbandry and working with people of all ages. “We provide a lot of really hands on encounters with the animals, which is very rewarding for us, as well as for the public – to have those intimate interactions with the animals,” says Kendra Hodgson, Summer Camp Coordinator “It’s cool how much our senses are involved in education with the things that we do, many people need to touch and create, and see things close up – it really builds those connections.”

As well as the hands on animal work that they do, Education staff love sharing their passion for conservation and their interest in animals. It’s a unique joy to see people connecting with the animals and the smiles as they understand the amazing ways animals are built and behave. Harleena Franklin, who is interning with the department says that her favorite part of the job is interacting with people and watching them learn. “It’s instant gratification to see someone understand something,” she says.

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Julianne with Western Screech owl, Kotori

Although they work with people of all ages, with camps and school outreaches, the Education team has a big focus working with kids. While this often makes work more fun and games than “work” it definitely poses it’s challenges. “Kids are in need of a lot more stimuli than adults, so it can be a lot more fun, but a lot more challenging than working with adults,” says Hodgson. Having kids around can also take your day in some unexpected directions. Caitlin Huff, Junior Zookeeper Coordinator, says that last year she became safe-keeper of a tooth that had fallen out. A very important job for sure, but not quite what she had expected earlier in the day. (Update: the tooth made it safely to the tooth fairy.)

Arctic Adventure winter camp crafts

Arctic Adventure winter camp crafts

Painting, making crafts, showing kids how to move like animals, the list goes on – this team definitely has its share of fun and games, but that’s only part of the reward staff get from being involved. The kids bring a special attitude and enthusiasm that the Education team loves to see. “Kids always have very unique ideas and approaches, they’re a lot easier to get engaged and caring about things,” says Huff.

“Kids ask a ton of questions, so it can be a lot of fun to be around a group of really engaging kids that want to learn things, says Mack Stamper, an intern in the education department. “They’re very receptive to answers – they are genuinely curious.”

Another unique and rewarding program is the partnership Wildlife Safari has with the Dillard Alternative High School. In this program, students spend 4 days a week at Safari and are able to complete their high school credits in a non-traditional way. They are taught High School English, Science and Math, while interacting with the animals and completing special animal projects. “This program is important to high school students who are unable to learn in a formal classroom setting,” explains Leila Goulet, Director of Education. “These classes allow students to learn in a hands-on way and use various forms of assessment to evaluate the students rather than traditional testing. This program has been highly successful and is even gaining tread with other schools!”

Staff, adults and kids all have tons of fun with our education programs, so keep an eye out on the Wildlife Safari website for chances to come join in!

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Aviary Adventures

Community, Uncategorized

Wildlife Safari is home to lots of birds, of all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. The ones that can happily and safely live together (I.e. NOT the birds of prey) hang out in the aviary.

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Wildlife Safari’s Aviary – photo courtesy of Caitlin Holler

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Curious faces – photo courtesy of Caitlin Holler

Visitors can actually go inside with these guys and even give them snacks! It’s a bird lover’s dream, surrounded by all sorts of small, feathered friends.

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Birds preening in the aviary – photo courtesy of Caitlin Holler

Between 11:30am and 2:30pm anyone is welcome to go visit the aviary, and bird snack sticks are available there for only a dollar!

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Snacking on a feed stick – photo courtesy of Caitlin Holler

Lions enjoying the birthday celebrations - photo courtesy of Jordan Bednarz

Lion Cubs First Birthday Party

Carnivores, Community, Uncategorized

Last week Wildlife Safari celebrated Arnold and Sharptooth’s birthday! The first lion cubs to be born at Wildlife Safari in 23 years, these two are very special and this year has flown by!

Two of our 6 lion cubs - Arnold and Sharptooth

Two of our 6 lion cubs – Arnold and Sharptooth

The cubs had a party complete with snack filled presents and a pinata shaped like a water buffalo. More than 65 guests came to see them for the occasion, and while Arnold was a little wary of his presents, his smaller cousins had a blast!

Lions enjoying the birthday celebrations - photo courtesy of Jordan Bednarz

Lions enjoying the birthday celebrations – photo courtesy of Jordan Bednarz


In true lion style, each one claimed their own present - photo courtesy of Jordan Bednarz

In true lion style, each one claimed their own present – photo courtesy of Jordan Bednarz


The adult females particularly enjoyed the paper mache water buffalo - photo courtesy of Jordan Bednarz

The adult females particularly enjoyed the paper mache water buffalo – photo courtesy of Jordan Bednarz

Arctic Adventure Camps

Community, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized

At Wildlife Safari, we’re still excited about animals no matter the weather, and we know kids are too! We run camps for children between the ages of 4 and 12 several times a year, spring, summer and winter. This year’s winter camp is arctic themed! Kids at camp learned all about animals that live in cold environments, and how different animals act in the colder seasons.

They learned about narwhals and wales, and how animals keep warm, such as blubber or feathers. Snowy owls are also arctic dwelling animals, so campers discussed their adaptations, including fluffy feathers and coloration.

Aviary winter camp

Getting to know our birds in the aviary

“They had so much fun,”says Lead Educator Julianne Rose. “We had super inquisitive kids.”

Rose has been with Education at Safari for several years, and has seen many seasons of campers come through. “It reminds me how kids get excited about everything!” she says.”They’re so excited to be here and to be around animals. Its really enjoyable to see them making those nature connections and learning all about things they didn’t know before.”

Crafts on Arctic Adventure Camp

Crafts on Arctic Adventure Camp

 

Camp is a great way for the educators at the park to share their love of animals and conservation. It’s a unique way of showing the kids from a young age that the world around them is exciting and full of wonderful and weird animals. Rose thinks it is an important way to teach kids about animals and the environment. “Especially with younger ones, a lot of how they learn is hands on, active, and through play,” she says. “We can let them connect literally with the animals we have here at wildlife safari. The fact they get to be hands on with the animals, that really helps what we’re teaching them hit home. These are things that are going to stick with them.”

Campers also got up close to our sleepy, hibernating bears as they learned about animals that stay tucked in bed through the winter.

Kids on hibernating bear encounters for winter camp

Kids on hibernating bear encounters for winter camp

Most of the time when people think of cold weather animals they think of polar bears and penguins, but there are a number of other animals that live in the cold too! Some birds have specially adapted feathers to keep them warm in the colder months.

Of course, no camp is complete without some creative activities! “One of their favorite crafts, and mine as well, is turning their footprint into a narwhal,” says Rose. “There was much creative license, lots of crazy colors and designs!”

Arctic Adventure winter camp crafts

Arctic Adventure winter camp crafts

Camps are held every season, with fun new themes each time. Kids of all ages can come and have fun, and learn while they do it. Now that’s vacation time well spent!

Khayam and Mchumba

International Cheetah Day

Cheetahs, Community, Creature Feature, Uncategorized

This week we celebrate International Cheetah Day! The 4th of December marks the day to celebrate cheetahs for being the incredible creatures they are! These speedy runners are wonderfully unique, and have a wealth of adaptations to help them specialize in what they are known for – speed!

The date is close to our hearts here at Wildlife Safari, as it is the birth date of Khayam, our first ambassador cheetah.

Khayam

Cheetahs (scientific name Acinonyx jubatus) are listed as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The majority of the global population lives in South and East Africa, but a small population (50-70) of Asiatic cheetahs still exists in Iran.

The fastest land animal, they can run up to 70 miles per hour.

They are diurnal, and their prey includes animals such as impalas, gazelle, and hares, which they hunt at dusk or dawn and catch them by tripping them with a razor sharp dew claw.

On average females weigh between 80lbs – 100lbs while males are slightly larger at around 100lbs – 120lbs (weights vary from captivity to wild populations). In the wild these cats will rarely live beyond 10 years of age, but in captivity they can live up to 15-18 years. Unfortunately, due to drastic bottlenecking seen in the wild populations, all cheetahs are thought to share 95%-98% of their genetics, species-wide, which could spell disaster for the future of this magnificent hunter.

Cheetahs have slender bodies designed to run, with enlarged nasal cavities to take in more air when they are reaching top speeds. They also have ‘semi-retractable’ claws, which means they don’t pull back when not in use like most cats’ claws do, rather they stay out all the time, functioning as traction (just like soccer cleats) so they won’t slip when running. As you can imagine, slipping when you’re moving at 70 mile per hour is not going to feel very good and is best avoided.

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The IUCN estimated population sits at 7,000-10,000 and these numbers are declining. Current threats come from farmers trapping, shooting and poisoning cheetahs due to mistaken predator identification, land encroachment, interspecies competition, starvation, and fear-based killings. Despite their striking and unique appearance, cheetahs don’t face significant danger from poaching. They do not typically groom themselves, so their coats are quite coarse.

Conservation efforts include the Livestock Guard Dog Program (LSGD), which gives farmers in areas with resident cheetahs a dog to keep the predators away, which keeps the cheetahs safe and the farmers happy! More conservation efforts include community education and outreach in Africa, which are being led by groups like Cheetah Botswana and the Cheetah Conservation Fund; and domestic zoo-based conservation is led by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) Captive Breeding Program and it’s participating facilities. Wildlife Safari is one of these participating facilities, as one of the most successful breeding centers worldwide.

Since Wildlife Safari opened in 1972 we have had 187 cheetah cubs born at the park.

One of the cheetah cubs born at Wildlife Safari

One of the cheetah cubs born at Wildlife Safari

Our youngest cheetah is Pancake, our 9 month old cub. Unfortunately, Pancake’s mother could not produce milk for her, so her keepers have had to raise her instead. Pancake is also our youngest ambassador at the park. She goes out to community events and schools, along with her puppy companion, Dayo, and meets people to teach them about cheetahs, their amazing design, and the difficulties they face.

 

Pancake and Dayo, Wildlife Safari's ambassador pair

Pancake and Dayo, Wildlife Safari’s ambassador pair

Zoobilee

Zoobilee

Community

Wildlife Safari got into the spooky spirit this season with Zoobilee! Halloween Safari-style featured an animal show, face painting, crafts, delicious treats, and a haunted hay ride.

Zoobilee Lights

The Haunted Hay ride was a great hit for all ages, as guests took a ride around our cheetah drive-through section, past lit scenes of animal holiday preparation, following the story of a witch who has lost her cat. Complete with zombies in search of pumpkin guts, the ride was a great family event, and a great chance for our STEP Crew (a volunteer program for people with disabilities) to be involved with the event as our volunteer zombies!

Zoobillee costumes