Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Conservation Station at Disney's Animal Kingdom

The Conservation Station is a walkthrough attraction located in the Africa section in Disney's Animal Kingdom. Conservation Station is part of Rafiki's Planet Watch, an area dedicated to the preservation and conservation of animals.The attraction has an outdoor animal area and an enclosed structure called the Hall of Animals. The Hall of Animals includes a variety of interactive screen projections, wildlife monitors, and special effects. Here is an overhead layout diagram of the conservation station.

You can access Conservation Station by taking the Wildlife Express Train directly from Harambe.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bonniebeth's Playmobil Zoo Model

I recently stumbled across this YouTube video of a gigantic Playmobil zoo model. The video, entitled Bonniebeth's Playmobil Zoo Diorama, is embedded above. The miniature zoo has a variety of exhibits and animals which must have taken a lot of time and effort to stitch together. I wanted to know more so I contacted the creator and was able to gain some additional information about the passions behind this magnificent creation.

Bonniebeth: "...my biggest passion, besides Playmobil, is zoos! I visit zoos everywhere I go... so far I have been to nine different ones, with many more on my list that I'd like to see. I just love seeing how different zoos are laid out, what kinds of exhibits they build, and what types of animal enrichment they provide. Besides giving me inspiration for my Playmobil zoo, it gives me a chance to get some exercise and fresh air, spend some time with my husband who also loves zoos, and take lots of pictures of the animals. I just absolutely love zoos."

ZT: I couldn't agree with you more there! What inspired you to create this model zoo?

Bonniebeth: "So I guess you could my inspiration was just that... the various zoos I have visited, and my passion for animals and admiration of the conservation efforts that zoos take part in. It took me about four days to set all this up, but I had been planning it for a couple of years, planning different exhibits and acquiring the pieces I needed for it. A lot of the playmobil sets I used belonged to other themes, but I utilized pieces of them make creative exhibits, such as jungle ruins in the jaguar exhibit, a tree house for an orangutan exhibit, and a sun room for a tropical bird house. Also, some of the sets I needed for my ideas were older retired sets, so I had to turn to eBay to find what I needed. I actually got my very first playmobil zoo set almost 20 years ago, as a child, but I started back to collecting as an adult about four years ago, and now have an entire closet full of playmobil from not only the zoo theme (my favorite, of course), but many others as well."

ZT: Very interesting. Sounds like this has been in the works for quite some time. Where can people go to see more pictures of your model zoo?

Bonniebeth: "Here is a link to a playmobil forum, which I moderate on, where you can see lots of pictures. There's another round of pictures on page six of that thread."

ZT: I must say I love the attention to detail you're created. Thanks again for taking the time and showing us around your personal zoo diorama!

Check out our other zoo model posts.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Aerial Antics: San Diego Zoo

Aerial Pictures of the San Diego Zoo 
Welcome to the first addition of our new Zoo Tails feature in 2012 which we’re calling "Aerial Antics." I love to look at zoo maps but even better than hand drawn maps is to look at overhead pictures. Using satellite images from Google Earth and Bing Maps we're going to be taking a birds eye look at some the of the best zoos around the country. I'll also be sharing some fun zoo facts along the way. To get started, let's take a look from the air at one of the most famous and renown zoos in the world – the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California.
In this view, we are looking down at the Polar Bear Plunge exhibit., which opened in 1996 and was recently renovated in March 2010. Next to the polar bears is the West Station of the Skyfari aerial tram ride, built in 1969.  Click on the picture for a larger image.

Moving north from the polar bears we see the new Elephant Odyssey area.  The renovated area, once known as Hoof and Horn Mesa, reopened on May 26, 2009. 
One of the neat things about the San Diego Zoo is that it is only one of the nation's major zoos that have almost all of its major exhibits out in the open-air. The only major indoor exhibition building on grounds that I can see is the Reptile House, shown in the bottom right-hand corner of this image.

In this view, we can see some of the huge aviaries located in the center of the zoo. Part of the Monkey Trails and Forest Tales section, the Scripps Aviary is home to many colorful birds such as the amethyst starling, tinkerbirds, and the sociable weaver

I hope you enjoyed looking at these aerial pictures from the San Diego Zoo. Stay tuned for our next addition of aerial antics and be sure to follow us on Facebook for the latest zoo news.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Video - June 2011

Are you looking to see some exotic animals? Check out our video taken at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in June, 2011. A trip to the zoo is not complete without seeing the Cleveland rain forest and all the exciting rainforest animals and plants. One of five major Ohio zoos (not including the Wilds), the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo offers a wide variety of wild animals. Can you name all of the animals in this video clip? File this one under funny and amazing zoo videos. One of the many fun things to do in Cleveland, Ohio!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Animal Care Center Opens at Busch Gardens Tampa

The new state-of-the-art facility educates guests and offers one-of-a-kind access to the park’s world class animal hospitality. Busch Gardens welcomes guests to closely observe and even take part in the animal care experience when the Tampa park opens its new Animal Care Center on Jan. 23, 2012. From nutrition to treatments, X-rays to surgeries, much of Busch Gardens’ animal care will be conducted in guest view in this new state-of-the-art facility. According to park officials, "the major guest components of the new facility include a nutrition center, treatment rooms, a clinical lab and an interactive diagnostic activity

The treatment center will allow guests to watch as Busch Gardens’ skilled vets do preventative checkups, treatments and surgeries on animals. Guests will be able to see into the rooms through glass walls, and audio capabilities will allow guests to talk to vets working behind the glass." Guests can also participate in a diagnostic exercise by scanning an interactive activity card at several stations as they follow an animal from diagnosis to treatment to blood and lab work to a final outcome. Sounds like an amazing experience!

 Sounds like a much better version of the Columbus Zoo's Animal Care Center wild encounters tour. Maybe they should sit up and take notice.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Zoo America's Animal of the Month - The Bobcat

Hershey's Zoo America has put together a series of informative videos about a different North American animal for every month of the year. The latest installment features the mighty bobcat which takes its name from its short "bobbed" tail. Visit Zoo America's website for more information.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Zoo Volunteer Interview: Bruce shares his zoo tails

Welcome to Zoo Tails first official interview feature! We recently had the opportunity to talk to Bruce Lane, an experienced zoo volunteer. Thanks to Bruce for answering our questions and sharing some of his zoo tails with us!

ZT: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from and what do you do?

Bruce: Born and raised in Berkeley, CA, moved to Washington state in 1993 with my then-girlfriend, now-wife (of 18 years). By trade and training, I'm an electronics engineering technician, specializing in radio and telecommunications. I currently work for the state of Washington, civil service, state highway patrol.

This may seem an odd contrast, given my interest in animals, but think about it: What better way to offset a fairly 'sterile' field of work? ;-)

ZT: What zoo do you consider your "home" zoo?

Bruce: I'm fortunate to have two which are local: Pt. Defiance, in Tacoma, and Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle.

ZT: Where did your love of zoos or animals originate?

Bruce: I don't know whether I can point to any single event which sparked it. I grew up with pets, of course, mostly dogs or cats, but at one point I was fortunate enough to have a hybrid owl (part screech, part great-horned) as a companion. Unfortunately, we had to hand him off to a local wildlife center in the early 70's. He was healthy enough, and we got along great, but he would attack my father on sight. Even if they had gotten along, the laws concerning keeping captive raptors had changed in a way which would have precluded my keeping him.

    Ever since, my interest in animals, particularly exotics and birds, has done nothing but grow. When I reached adulthood, I finally had the curiosity and means to indulge this interest by traveling to zoos and oceanariums all over the country, including several in Mexico and the Caribbean. My primary critters-of-interest now are birds, particularly raptors, dolphins, and anything small and furry which enjoys being held. ;-)

ZT: How did you get involved in volunteering?

Bruce: A friend of mine was in the Navy at the same time my early interest in dolphins was peaking. He phoned me one evening while he was on leave, raving about how he'd found this fantastic spot where the trainer had not only taken him in as a volunteer, but was letting him swim with the dolphins almost on a daily basis.

    Naturally, I was excited about it, but I had other commitments at the time. Finally, after the third or fourth call like this, I got jealous and made travel plans. The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, I've volunteered on and off at various places, including the Oklahoma City Zoo and Magic Mountain in California (back when they had a contract dolphin show). Most recently, my wife and I have found a friend in Joanne Bentley, of 'thefalconlady.com,' and she's been coaching us in how to work with raptors. And, in 2010, I took a four-day captive raptor care workshop at the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center. First time I've had a bald eagle on my glove. Gorgeous bird, but heavy!

    We've also been fortunate to have numerous interactive experiences, both paid for and freebies, with tiger cubs, a Canadian lynx, and more birds than I can count.

ZT: That sounds amazing! What did you take away from your volunteering experience?

Bruce: I've taken away, lots! Just as one example, I've come to realize the general public has not the slightest idea how much HARD work goes into being a zookeeper, a marine animal trainer, or even a volunteer. This is probably because the public tends not to see anything but the end result -- the handler with a magnificent hawk on their glove, calmly answering questions and basking in the attention. The dolphin or whale trainer, giving a near-invisible hand signal to their charges, who then display amazing acrobatics. The cat handler, calmly walking five hundred pounds of Bengal Tiger through a crowded cafeteria without a care in the world.

    They have NO IDEA what it takes to even get close to such things! I do. I've done everything from shovel poop to answering questions after a show.

    If I had to point to ONE thing I've learned, and one thing only, it would be: ANYone who does any serious work with animals, no matter if it's in a zoo, aviary, oceanarium or wildlife preserve, deserves a lot of respect. It is truly a labor of love!

ZT: Couldn't agree with you more! Of course I have to ask, what is your favorite zoo that you've been to?

Bruce: Can't point to any single place. I've got multiple favorites, depending on the context.

    For forward-thinking and sheer we-can-do-it guts: The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Rarely have I seen a healthier collection of critters, a more caring staff, or a better assortment of interactive and educational opportunities.

    For aviaries: So far, it's a toss-up between SeaWorld Orlando's Discovery Cove (outstanding interactive opportunities, with everything from sparrows to turacos), and the huge walk-through aviary at the San Diego Zoo.

    For overall photo opportunities: The Minnesota Zoo has some of the most photographer-friendly exhibits I've ever seen. Woodland Park is a close second, but they could learn quite a bit from Minnesota.

    For dolphin-interactive opportunities: Xel Ha, south of Cancun, Mexico, is my current favorite.

    For land animal interaction, I have to point to the West Coast Game Park, Bandon, Oregon.

ZT: I haven't experienced many zoos on the west side of the country so it's great to learn more about them. Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions!

We're always looking for individuals to interview and share their stories with us so please feel free to comment below with any suggestions!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wild Encounters Animal Health Center Tour Review

Wild Encounters Health Care Center tour at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Have you ever wondered what it's like behind the scenes at a major zoo? How do they take care of all of the animals? The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (in Columbus, Ohio) recently started offering two behind the scenes tours. One tour takes you backstage of the coral reef and the other walks you through the Dr. C. Joseph Cross Animal Health Center where the nine thousand plus animals are taken care of, which is the one that I did a few weeks ago. Yes, the surviving animals that escaped from the farm in Zanesville are being taken care of there but no, you will not see them.

If you're familiar with the Columbus Zoo, one of the first questions you may ask is "where is the animal health care center located?" The animal hospital and other backstage areas are located north of the old Powell Road, behind Asia Quest and North America. If you're in the zoo look for the water tower. Here is an aerial picture taken from Google maps. 

Close up of the animal hospital.

We met our tour guide by the stone entrance to Asia Quest. From there, we proceeded past the lion enclosure and through a gate to a backstage access way. We walked up old Powell Road, past an office and storage buildings, and arrived at the entrance to the animal care center. 

So what did I think of the actual tour? The tour costs $15 per person for zoo members ($20 for non-members, I think) and if I wasn't a member I probably wouldn't have paid for it. It is a working hospital so one of the major concerns is keeping tourists out of the way of any emergencies. Regardless, I was disappointed that we didn’t see any animals while inside the hospital.  Our tour guide was very good and  knowledgeable but I guess I was hoping for a little more excitement.

Also, be aware that the tour guide is the only one allowed to take pictures inside the facility. As an extra little perk every guest on the tour received a key chain with an inspirational message about conservation which was neat. If you're interested in becoming a vet or want to work at a zoo then I highly recommend this tour. If you are hoping to see animals up close and intimate then this tour is not for you. 

Tours are offered daily from November 21-March 30 and must be purchased two weeks in advance. Click here for more information.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New 2012 Features: Looking for Interviewees

Our New Years resolution here at Zoo Tails is to make the site even better than ever. I'm looking to put together a couple of interview features for this blog. Specifically, I'd really like to interview a zoo exhibit designer or developer. I'd also love to interview anyone involved with a zoo in any form, whether it's a professional or volunteer experience.  Can anyone help me out? Please leave a comment below. I would really appreciate it. Thanks!