Wild Lights Returns to Elmwood Park Zoo

Elmwood Park Zoo is pleased to announce the scheduled return of its popular holiday lights event, Wild Lights. First debuting in 2018, Wild Lights transforms the zoo into a bright winter wonderland, with over a million lights adorning the trees, exhibits and buildings throughout its 16 acres. Tickets are on sale now at epzwildlights.com.

In addition to all-new light installations and a few returning favorites from last year, each night of Wild Lights will feature additional entertainment and attractions, such as unique animal greetings, performances, character appearances, holiday music, photos with Santa, carousel rides and more.

The evening events are scheduled for 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm on select dates, beginning November 22, and running through January 5. Prices range from $14 for adults to $9 for children. Yearly zoo members can purchase Wild Lights tickets for $12 for adults and $7 for children. Children ages 0 to 2 years old are free. 

Wild Lights is generously sponsored by Taphouse 23. Located in Bridgeport, PA, Taphouse 23 serves gourmet food and the finest locally-sourced craft brews. Additional support for Wild Lights is provided by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 98, the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board, and 1SEO.com. 

Eco-Friendly Halloween

Most people think that the scariest things about Halloween are the ghouls, goblins, zombies, vampires, and giant spiders that come out of hiding. What’s our biggest fear during this eerie holiday? An eco-UN-friendly Halloween! Sometimes decorations and celebratory choices can unknowingly be harmful to the planet and our animal friends. Below are some tips on how to celebrate Halloween in the most ecofriendly way!

Ecofriendly Halloween tips

(here's what to do)

Compostable items

Decorations like pumpkins and gourds are perfect for Halloween. They transition into November well — hello Thanksgiving, we see you! Once you’re done using them, they can be composted. Bonus points, pumpkin seeds can easily be roasted in the oven for a delicious snack.

Paper decorations 

One way to get the kids excited for Halloween is by giving them some of the responsibility of decorating! Paper decorations are generally easier on the wallet, allow for some creative exploration, and are recyclable! You can come see our black paper bats at our own Halloween event, Boo at the Zoo! We also love these cereal box tombstones.

Recyclable candy packaging 

You may not think that your choice of candy could be environmentally friendly, but it can be! Next time you’re in the candy aisle pay attention to how much plastic is used for your Halloween candy choices.  Lots of candies are individually wrapped with plastic. Other candies are individually wrapped with material like cardboard that can decompose easier than plastic. Some earth friendlier options are Nerds, Dots, Junior Mints, and Milk Duds.

LED and solar powered lights

Lights are incredibly important when we are all tiptoeing around in the dark. Opt for LED and/or solar power when purchasing flashlights and decorative lights. They even come in a variety of colors and designs! These options are energy efficient, have a longer lifespan, and can save you money on your electric bill.


Most Halloween costumes are usually worn once. We don’t want to dress up as the same thing we were last year either, but someone else could want the costume. Host a costume swap party to help cut down on the wastefulness of a one-night outfit. You can even put out some craft supplies & show off your DIY skills. Perhaps last year’s Cinderella costume could transform into this year’s witch costume.



Fake spider webs & other decorations made with entangling fibers

If you like to use these as decorations, keep them inside your home. Wild animals can get stuck in them and as they try to free themselves they become more tangled. It is like a human size spider web that catches birds & bats, rather than bugs.

Decorations with loops or closed circles

Animals are curious and might get their heads stuck!

Decorations with tiny, dangling, edible-looking parts

Birds, squirrels, and other creatures spend a large portion of their day scavenging for food. We don’t want wildlife confusing Halloween decorations with a yummy snack.

Hanging string lights or other rope-like decorations near paths where deer may cross

Deer antlers are larger than you might think! They can get tangled in the string lights and ropes.

Leaving candy outside & and its wrapper

For houses that leave a bowl of candy out for Trick-or-Treaters, be cautious of how long candy is left out. You may have more than people visiting your porch. Unattended candy can be a hazard to hungry critters.

Animal crossing

We know drivers are already on extra alert for children on Halloween night, but don’t forget about those animals that may be spooked out of hiding due to all of the unusual nighttime activity.

Plastic trick-or-treat containers

Here’s an opportunity to reduce, reuse, recycle, and perhaps even get a little crafty! Decorate a pillowcase or tote bag. Perhaps you can use that old basket that collects unread magazines in the bathroom. You can even dig out an old oversized purse! Many items that you already own will hold candy. Save money and the planet by refraining from plastic usage.

Written by Christa Fryling

Bats Aren’t Actually Spooky

When you think of Halloween you may think all things spooky. Your spooky list may contain things like ghosts, witches, vampires, and even bats, but bats aren’t really scary at all! They are actually a great asset to our ecosystem. Did you know that they are more closely related to primates than they are rodents?

Surprisingly, not all bats live in creepy caves like you may imagine. They often live in trees, under bridges, and in abandoned buildings. It is likely that some of them are even living right in your backyard! Unfortunately, habitat loss is a major threat to bats. If you feel inclined to provide bats with some safe places to live consider making bat boxes. Bat boxes provide homes for bats in areas that may lack natural habitat. They are designed to mimic tight, dark spaces which is what bats look for in a home.

It is important to replenish bat’s habitat because they provide us with a number of benefits. According to Bat Conservation International, one little brown bat can eat 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in one hour! Bats tend to eat their weight in bugs in just one night. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, bats provide about $3.7 billion to $53 billion in pest-control every year. They are also great flower pollinators and fruit-eating bats aid in seed dispersal. Even those blood sucking vampire bats are beneficial creatures. The enzyme they produce to prevent blood clotting is being studied by scientists with the hopes of it being used in an anticoagulant medication. The name of this potential drug? Draculin, of course!

Bats are so important to our ecosystem that they have been deemed a keystone species. Keystone species are animals that other species in an ecosystem depend on to live.

Bat Boxes

Drastic changes would occur if bats were removed from our ecosystem. For example, a lack of seed dispersal from bats would cause a decrease in fruit-bearing trees. Those trees would likely be a critical food source to other species. Keystone species are the first step in the domino effect of an ecosystem.

Now that you’ve learned how wonderful bats are consider coming to visit ours! Our African straw-colored fruit bats would love to see you this October in the Wildlife Lodge.


Written by Christa Fryling

How You Can Help Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies are perhaps the most recognizable butterfly in the nation. They are indicators of a healthy environment and a healthy ecosystem. Each year they prove their remarkable resilience with a migration of 2,500 miles. However, their numbers are dwindling. Habitat loss, fragmentation, and the increase use of pesticides threaten Monarch butterflies. There may be hope with your help! Below are steps you can take to help the species thrive once again.

Plant milkweed 

Milkweed plants provide Monarch caterpillars with the vital nutrients they need to go through metamorphosis. In fact, Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Yet this crucial plant is disappearing because it is considered a weed. You can help by planting milkweed that is native to your area. If you find you have a green thumb and really enjoy gardening, feel free to add in other native plants. Native plant gardens are critical in sustaining a balanced ecosystem. They tend to be heartier, require less maintenance, and are a valuable source of energy for native insects and birds. If you don’t have enough space for a garden, put out a couple pots with milkweed in them.

Help scientists track Monarchs

Another way you can support Monarch butterflies is by helping scientists track them.

Photo by J. Miner

Tracking Monarchs allows researchers to study their migration patterns, timing, and habitat use. You can help track Monarchs right here at the zoo! On Saturday, September 28 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm you can join educators for an important citizen science program called Monarch Watch. Tag butterflies and get a firsthand look at their different life stages. The tags and tagging process do not harm butterflies and the information recorded from them is incredibly valuable in helping their conservation. 

Help create rights-of-way

It is important to create rights-of-way for Monarch butterflies. Rights-of-way are channels that connect habitats. They include roadsides, distribution lines, railroad corridors, etc. Rights-of-way are like the roads we use to connect us to cities and towns, without them we would have a lot of trouble getting around. You and your community can plant milkweed, and other native flowering plants, along these passages to encourage the migration of Monarchs. Monarchs often do not have enough food along rights-of-way to make it through their entire migration. Cultivating healthy rights-of-way will help make sure no butterflies go hungry during their infamous trek. You can also reach out to your local municipalities to voice your concerns over a lack of healthy rights-of-way. Together, communities can help change the landscape for Monarch butterflies.


Written by Christa Fryling

Leave the Leaves?

Fall is just around the corner. Get out your scarves, your pumpkin spice lattes, and your Halloween decorations! Dust off that rake and get ready to jump in a pile of leaves to hear that oh so satisfying CRUNCHHHH. Wait, what are we really supposed to do with all those leaves anyway?

     Fallen leaves can actually pose an environmental threat if they are not dealt with properly. Leaving a blanket of leaves on your lawn will not only make your grass look unhealthy come spring, but it might kill it. Your grass needs sunlight even in the fall and winter. In fact, grass stores energy from the sun in its roots to use throughout winter. Leaving leaves on your lawn prevents the grass from getting that much needed energy.
     Did you know that decaying leaves can also harbor disease? The diseases are host specific, meaning the disease only targets one species. For instance, if unattended fallen leaves harbor a disease that affects pine trees, deciduous trees may not be affected. However, the pine trees could become ill. By raking your leaves in the fall you can minimize the amount of disease you may encounter in the spring and summer.

     In addition, leaves that are swept into the street often find their way into waterways. Too many leaves in waterways causes an increase in nitrogen and phosphorus, which are chemicals that are released upon decomposition. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorous can cause algae growth and depletes the water of oxygen. This can negatively impact fish and other aquatic life.  

     Now you’re probably wondering what you should do with all those pesky leaves that are so important to rake. Besides making a leaf pile and jumping in it (obviously), it is crucial to dispose of them properly. Some townships will collect leaves, so reach out to your local municipality to find out if they will pick up yours. We recommend using compostable bags to contain the leaves. The best way to handle raked leaves is to compost them in a home compost pile. If you don’t have a home compost pile, reach out to neighbors who might. For all of our gardening aficionados, if you shred your leaves with your mulching lawn mower the shredded leaves can be used as mulch around perennials over the winter.


Written by Christa Fryling


Elmwood Park Zoo has received a
generous grant from the TD Charitable Foundation that will directly support the
creation and operation of its new Connection Corner. Connection Corner is a
dedicated space in the zoo that will feature daily presentations highlighting
individual members of the animal ambassador collection.

Before the creation of the Connection
Corner, the animal ambassadors would typically only be seen outside of the zoo,
taking part in Zoo-On-Wheels programs that visit schools and public events. The
Connection Corner not only provides these animals with a new dedicated space to
appear, but it also provides the zoo’s education staff with space to exercise
the animals while interacting with guests.

TD Charitable Foundation’s $35,000
grant provides for the Connection Corner’s daily operation, as well as other
educational programs that the zoo uses to support its mission of promoting
wildlife and environmental conservation.    

The Connection Corner is open daily,
weather permitting, and is located across from the zoo’s playground. Appearance
times vary throughout the day; for more information, guests are encouraged to
check the zoo’s website at elmwoodparkzoo.org, or download the Elmwood Park Zoo
mobile app, available for iOS and Android devices.

About TD Charitable Foundation

The TD Charitable Foundation is
the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, one of
the 10 largest commercial banking organizations in the United States. Since its
inception in 2002, the Foundation has distributed over $222 million through
nearly 21,000 grants through donations to local nonprofits from Maine to
Florida. More information on the TD Charitable Foundation, including the online
grant application, is available at

About Elmwood Park Zoo

Established in 1924, Elmwood Park
Zoo in Norristown is home to dozens of wild and endangered species. As a nonprofit
organization accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, its mission
is to foster an appreciation for wildlife and the environment that will inspire
active participation in conservation.


Elmwood Park Zoo is excited to announce it has received a $2 million donation from J. P. Mascaro & Sons Foundations for the design and construction of a brand new Amur tiger exhibit. It will be the first time in the zoo’s 95-year history that tigers will be a part of its collection. The exhibit is slated to open in 2022.

Amur (also known as Siberian) tigers are the largest cats in the world. It is a highly threatened species, but wild populations can still be found throughout the forests of eastern Russia, as well as some areas in China and possibly North Korea. The tigers will be joining the zoo’s collection of “big” cats on exhibit, which currently includes jaguars and cougars.

“J. P. Mascaro & Sons Foundations has provided a tremendous amount of support to the community for many, many years. It’s truly inspiring,” said Al Zone, Elmwood Park Zoo Executive Director and CEO. “They’ve also funded several of the zoo’s programs and services, which has benefited thousands of our guests and the people we meet in our community outreach. J. P. Mascaro & Sons Foundations has helped the zoo to grow and succeed, and their gift of a new tiger exhibit promises to take us to a whole new level.”

The J. P. Mascaro & Sons Foundations donation is being made in memory of Francesco A. Mascaro and Rosemarie Mascaro Venditti, both of whom are siblings of Mascaro company owners, Pat, Joseph, Michael and Louis Mascaro.

“The Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown is a quality operation that is enjoyed by local area residents. Our family has its roots in the Norristown area, and we are happy to be able to make the zoo’s new tiger exhibit a reality,” said Joseph P. Mascaro, Jr., the oldest of the Mascaro brothers. “My brother Frank always had a soft spot in his heart for the zoo, and no one loved animals more than my sister, Rosie. Our company is pleased to make this tiger exhibit donation to the zoo in their memory.”

Mascaro company President, Pat Mascaro, said, “Donations like this to the zoo in memory of my brother Frank and my sister, Rosie, and donations that our company is able to make to other deserving community programs, groups and organizations, are only possible because of the thousands of customers who do business with J. P. Mascaro & Sons, and because of our dedicated company employees who serve those customers. I want to give a special thank you to those customers and employees.”

The “Buzz” on Education Animals: Who are they, really?

At the Elmwood Park Zoo, our feathered, furry, and scaly friends engage and educate the public with the help of trained zoo educators! 

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) issues guidelines to make sure animals and their educators have only positive interactions with the public. 

A live mascot is an animal that attends events with and represents a team, company, or university. Stella the great horned owl represents Temple University as their live mascot, and attends several of the university’s home football and basketball games throughout the year. 

An educational animal attends events on zoo grounds and in the community to educate the public about topics like animal behavior, native species, conservation, and the role of zoos. These animals help represent the educational mission of the Elmwood Park Zoo.

When there is an opportunity and a right fit, educators may consider an education animal for a mascot role. Stella was a part of the education collection before becoming Temple’s live mascot. 

Initially, educators look for an easy-going animal that won’t get startled in front of loud crowds that may move a lot during a program. 

Potential animal ambassadors will first begin training to get accustomed to animal educators. After they begin to build these relationships, educators familiarize the animals with the crates that will be used for travel. Once they master this, the animals adjust to riding in a moving vehicle. Then these animals move on to their next challenge: meeting new people at crowded events. The length and intensity of the initial training is very dependent on the specific animal. 

“Sometimes animals are not a right fit for the job,” said Laura Houston, Director of Education at Elmwood Park Zoo. “In that case, there might be a possibility for an animal to join the exhibit collection. We never force an animal to train.” 

Similarly, animals are gradually “retired” if they experience health or age-related issues. Educators will begin to slowly cut back the animal’s training and appearances at events, and turn their focus to on-site care and enrichment.

The decision to include a specific animal at an educational event is based on a variety of factors: theme, audience, location, and driving distance. 

Ambassador animals may be picked for a certain educational program because of the event’s location (indoor, outdoor, onsite, etc.). For example, education staff knows that Sherlock the great horned owl does better in small group situations, so he primarily participates in on-site events at the zoo, rather than at large auditoriums.  

Similarly, animal ambassadors are restricted by the number of hours they can work in a day and the number of consecutive days they can work. The maximum amount of time an animal is allowed to attend an event is six hours, but it is rare that an animal would attend for that long. Most Zoo-on-Wheels events are four hours total. 

There is a set 90 minute limit for Zoo-on-Wheels and other education programs. The only exemptions are Zoo Day in Harrisburg and the AZA Congressional Reception in Washington, D.C. In addition to time restrictions, there are also temperature guidelines to keep animals safe on the road. 

Even seasoned animals can get overwhelmed on the job. While working, educators pay attention to an animal’s body language cues — like puffed up feathers or spread wings — to see if an animal may be experiencing stress. 

Educators attempt to eliminate any and all sources of stress, like strobe lights, loud music, or other animals. If an animal shows signs of stress during a program, they are immediately given a break, and returned to their holding area. 

Elmwood Park Zoo has been able to work closely with Temple University to provide the best situation for the animals visiting the university. 

Stella, the live great horned owl mascot for Temple University, is a great example of flexibility during an event. She goes on the field at Temple games next to the band and cheerleaders, and educators know she is rock-solid with those events, because of her past appearance successes. 

“We always send out guidelines to our clients in advance and rarely have issues with our animal ambassadors because the goal of our events is education, not entertainment.” Houston said. 

The zoo’s education programs continue to be successful, as the zoo strives to bring educational components to the local community, and beyond!

Written by Paige Miller

Dinosaurs to Make Debut at Elmwood Park Zoo

Elmwood Park Zoo is set to unveil a
large addition to its exhibit collection when they debut Dwayne “The Brach”
Johnson, a 65 foot long, 35 foot tall Brachiosaurus. Dwayne will be officially
available to greet the public on Friday, July 19, beginning at 10:00 am.

The lifelike robot is the creation of
Dino Don, Inc., a Media, PA-based firm responsible for state of the art dinosaur
exhibits that are on display throughout the world. The Brachiosaurus that
they’ve installed in the zoo’s former capybara pond swings his neck and moves
his head while emitting a roar that is similar to the ones heard from the dinos
running amok in the Jurassic Park films.

The zoo held a contest to name the
dinosaur, with people asked to vote on their favorite name from a list that
included “Zacheosaurus,” and “Bracha Lee.” Dwayne “The Brach” Johnson ran away
with the vote, garnering nearly 30% of all 1,300 online respondents.

In addition to Dwayne, guests will see
a smaller Velociraptor robot positioned on the banks of the pond that also
moves and makes noise. The zoo has also created a dig pit for children to
uncover bones and artifacts like their favorite paleontologists, and a giant
Tyrannosaurus Rex head will be on hand for unique photo ops.

Elmwood Park Zoo’s dinosaur exhibit
will be on display through Labor Day. The exhibit is free to view with paid zoo
admission. A 50% off admission discount and other savings are available between
2 and 5 pm on weekdays only. More information is available at elmwoodparkzoo.org.

How seasons affect zoo animal behavior

Many of the Elmwood Park Zoo animals, from the mightiest cougar to the stealthiest alligator, experience seasonal changes, just like people do!

“There is no universal answer for changes in different animal species when the temperature dips, or seasons change,” said Marina Haynes, General Curator at the Elmwood Park Zoo. “Every animal is an individual but sometimes we can detect patterns of change in their behavior.” 

Whenever animal care staff notices changes in an animal’s behavior, they analyze what is happening to see if they can figure out the cause and if there needs to be concern or changes in the animal’s husbandry, said Haynes.

A Temperamental species

Penny, the Elmwood Park Zoo’s own American Alligator, is one animal in the zoo that splits her time between indoor and outdoor exhibits. Many ectotherms (cold-blooded animals), like Penny, have to move indoors because they cannot survive winter temperatures.

Even though Penny was living in an indoor exhibit with steady temperatures, once outdoor temperatures started to climb, her behavior changed. Her activity level increased dramatically because she sensed that it was getting warmer out. Animal care staff knew right away that Penny was saying she wanted to go back outside, though it was a bit too early to be safe.

Zookeepers wait until the final frost date of the season to move Penny, so she can stay outside without fear of the cold. If it is too cold, ectotherms can have trouble moving, and their bodily systems, such as digestion, slow down. This could cause food to decompose inside of the alligator’s digestive tract.

“Climate change is affecting when animals want to be moved,” said Haynes.  “It used to be more predictable when seasons would change and temperatures would be within certain ranges but now we can have 80 degrees day in March and 50 degree days in June. This makes it challenging to know when it is safe for animals to be outside.”

Similarly, when the temperature dips, animals are moved to their indoor enclosures for the colder months. Zoos across the world have developed charts to understand when animals can access indoor and outdoor enclosures to best keep them safe.

A moody mammal

Sometimes an animal can get stressed when something changes in their environment. Animal care staff will monitor an animal with extra caution if they begin to lose weight, lose their appetite, or change their behavior from what they normally do. Sometimes the portions or contents of their meals will be evaluated and a health assessment will be conducted by the veterinary team to make sure there is not an underlying illness.

The Elmwood Park Zoo cougars have exhibited nervous behavior because they are not as acclimated to the presence of humans. This behavior makes sense since these cougars were wild orphans. Their mother was killed by a rancher so they have the natural wariness of humans that wild animals naturally possess.

Because of this, the cougars hide when school groups visit the zoo or when the zoo is very crowded. The excited screams and loud noises that larger crowds make startles them. The cougars are much less nervous in the winter months, when crowds are smaller and quieter.

With lots of time building relationships with animal care staff, the cougars have gotten calmer and more likely to make themselves seen, especially in the late afternoon when it is quieter. If you’re lucky, a cougar may lock eyes with you during your next Elmwood Park Zoo visit!

Written by Paige Miller

Zoo to host school students for “Elementary Education Takeover”

Elmwood Park Zoo is excited to unveil a brand new educational initiative to benefit local school students. Entitled “Elementary Education Takeovers,” the program invites area schools to visit the zoo, free of charge, for a whole day full of experiential learning activities.

The first Elementary Education Takeover is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7, from 10 am to 2 pm. Every first grade student from the Norristown School District, estimated to be over 650 children, will be attending. The students will be treated to a number of special interpretive education stations and a zoo-wide scavenger hunt. 

“Our community is incredibly important to the Elmwood Park Zoo, especially the children. We wanted to create an opportunity that ensured every child in the Norristown school district is able to visit the Zoo at least once so that they can know the wonder of animals,” said Laura Houston, Elmwood Park Zoo’s Director of Education. “We hope that this is an introductory step that will allow students to know the Zoo is a welcoming and valuable resource right in their own backyard.”

The Elementary Education Takeover is made possible by a $12,235.50 grant from the Montgomery County Foundation Inc.’s 2018 Drew Lewis Donor Advised Fund, as well as a $12,000 grant from the Quest for the Best Foundation. Their generous contributions will finance the busing, admission, programs and animal feedings for every student. Elmwood Park Zoo is also providing lunch to every Takeover attendee, free of charge. 

“We are truly fortunate to partner with the Elmwood Park Zoo on this first of its kind ‘Education Takeover’ day,” said Christopher Dormer, Superintendent of Schools. “Their commitment to our students by providing this opportunity for experiential learning will truly benefit and enrich the life and learning of each and every first grade student participating.  We cannot thank them enough for their generosity to host such an event.  We look forward to expanding opportunities for EPZ and NASD to work together to strengthen and enrich the community.”

Employee Fitness Challenge Raises Money for Conservation

Elmwood Park Zoo has begun a new program intended to promote physical fitness among its employees, with the added goal of raising money for wildlife conservation. Entitled “Conservation Migration,” the program proposes that if the zoo’s employees were to walk to 95 fellow AZA-accredited zoos across the country, the roundtrip would total over 10,100 miles. The goal is for the zoo’s employees to collectively walk that distance in under 7 weeks.
In order to log the miles needed for the program’s goal, the zoo provided each of its full time employees with a new Fitbit Charge 3 activity tracker. The employees were then split into 6 teams; these teams will compete against each other for the highest number of steps/miles. The team members will be seeking donations and sponsors for their efforts, and the team that raises the most money will get to give all of the collected donations to their selected cause. Elmwood Park Zoo will be matching the donation up to $5,000.
“The health and well-being of our employees is just as important as it is for the animals in our care,” said Al Zone, Elmwood Park Zoo’s Executive Director and CEO. “With our ‘Conservation Migration’ program, we’ve created a fun and exciting way for our staff to be active while also supporting the zoo’s mission.”
The zoo will announce the results of its “Conservation Migration” program at its Party for the Planet event on April 27. Party for the Planet is Elmwood Park Zoo’s Earth Day celebration that features “green” and eco-minded vendors on display throughout the day. For more information, click here.

Elmwood Park Zoo Celebrates 95th Anniversary

Elmwood Park Zoo is observing an exciting milestone in 2019, as the nonprofit organization and Norristown, PA landmark celebrates 95 years of supporting and promoting wildlife conservation.

Elmwood Park Zoo first opened to the public on July 4th, 1924, with 6 white tailed deer headlining its meager collection. Today the zoo is home to dozens of species from all over the globe, including giraffes, jaguars, and zebras. It is one of the oldest zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). In 2018 the zoo welcomed over 600,000 guests, and it saw the number of annual members grow to over 13,000.

“We are proud and excited to be observing such a distinctive occasion,” said Al Zone, Elmwood Park Zoo’s Executive Director and CEO. “It’s humbling to be part of such a long running and beloved institution, and to know that you had a hand in its success.”

In addition to introducing a new 95th Anniversary version of its logo, the zoo plans on commemorating its anniversary throughout the year with various promotions and special events:

Additional promotions and events will be introduced throughout the year. Information on the festivities can be found by visiting epz95.com or elmwoodparkzoo.org, or by calling 610.277.3825 x 222.

Elmwood Park Zoo Receives $20,000 Grant from SEI Cares Fund

Elmwood Park Zoo is pleased to announce it has received a $20,000 grant from the SEI Cares Fund, a charitable donor-advised fund of SEI Investments Co. The grant will be used to continue the zoo’s “Touch Tours” program, which provides tactile and sensory-driven experiences for blind and auditory-impaired children.

“SEI Cares has sustained the ‘Touch Tours’ program for a number of years, and for that, I am extremely grateful,” said Jennifer Conti, Elmwood Park Zoo’s Development Director. “With their support, the zoo can offer more than just a visual experience. Now, students with diverse needs can experience the zoo in a manner that is native to their learning styles; they can feel the soft pelt of a chinchilla, smell the sweet grain of our barn feed, and hear the calls from the Connelly Foundation Birds of Paradise exhibit. It is truly a unique program, and one that we are proud to offer.”

The grant also provides for zoo staff to attend continuing-education classes with teachers from the Overbrook School for the Blind. These classes help the zoo to improve their programs and become a more inclusive facility.

Guests can learn more about Elmwood Park Zoo’s accessibility services and amenities by visiting elmwoodparkzoo.org/visit/accessibility-amenities.

Read Across America Features Author Jerry Spinelli

Author Jerry Spinelli and a host of other special guests will help Elmwood Park Zoo celebrate their annual Read Across America event on Saturday, March 2, from 11 AM to 2 PM. Read Across America is an event organized by the National Education Association. It celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Seuss by encouraging children and young adults to read.

The zoo’s celebration features Mr. Spinelli, a Norristown native and acclaimed author of “Maniac Magee” and “Stargirl.” He will be greeting guests and signing books in the zoo’s Canopy Gardens Hall.

Additional special guests will include members of RSVP, a King of Prussia-based organization that supports communities through volunteerism. They will be reading popular English and Spanish language children’s stories.

Popular PBS Kids character Super Why will be greeting guests, courtesy of his friends from the WHYY Kids Club.

In addition to the special guest appearances, Read Across America will also feature a book fair, live animal greets, and a used book drive that benefits RSVP. Read Across America is a free to attend event after purchasing regular zoo admission.

Owl you need is love: Stella and Sherlock’s wedding

Source: Temple University Temple Now

Written by Samantha Krotzer

For Temple’s live mascot Stella and her longtime partner Sherlock, it was love at first flight. Now, they’re officially married.

Sometimes, all it takes to spark real, lasting love is a single, shared moment. Getting caught in the rain. Catching each other’s eye from across the room. Finding you both love soaking up the morning sunshine that hits your perch at the Elmwood Park Zoo, which is exactly what sparked love for two owls.

Two, very real, very live owls.

“One of my first memories of Stella and Sherlock is from when they would sit on their perch. It was very cute to see them next to each other,” said Rebecca Oulton, an educator at Elmwood Park Zoo.

And now, five years after they met, Stella and Sherlock are starting the next chapter of their love story—they’ve said “I do.”

But how exactly did their love story start? And, we have to ask, does everyone know who Stella and Sherlock are? If you don’t know Stella, don’t worry, you’re not alone. If you don’t know Sherlock, well, no one really does. Or did, until now.

Both great horned owls are education ambassadors at the Elmwood Park Zoo and help teach the public about their species and wildlife conservation. Originally from Washington State, Stella came to Elmwood Park Zoo in 2011 and began her career as Temple’s live mascot in 2013.  

Sherlock, proving that opposites really do attract, is more of a homebody. He came to the Elmwood Park Zoo in 2012 under unfortunate circumstances. When he lived in the wild, he was struck by a car and severely injured. As he recovered at the zoo, he found love with Stella. Now he spends his days teaching zoo visitors about the natural behaviors and characteristics of great horned owls while Stella goes out to Temple athletic events or other special programs.

“The public doesn’t get to see these animals in the wild, so here at the zoo they get to see what they look like, what they sound like, how big they really are,” said Timothy Stephenson, an educator at Elmwood Park Zoo.

The two love birds are united by their service, and, of course, their affinity for their sunny perch.

“Valentine’s Day is a perfect date for the two of them because they get all of the limelight and the fanfare that goes along with the holiday,” said Oulton. “And I know Stella definitely likes to be in the spotlight so it was a wonderful choice for the two.”

Though Stella has been described as a diva, the ceremony was an intimate event with just a few close friends. Oulton was Stella’s maid of honor and Stephenson was Sherlock’s best man. Noah, a bald eagle and the official live mascot for the Philadelphia Eagles, officiated their union.

Eastern screech owls Munchkin and Zeppelin tossed cherry rose petals—the couple’s favorite color—to mark the occasion. And with another simple, shared moment, Stella and Sherlock tied the knot.

“Weddings play an important role in uniting communities and helping them to generate a sense of solidarity,” said Associate Professor of Sociology Dustin Kidd. “The marriage of Stella and Sherlock is also an affirmation of the important relationship between the university and the community, as represented in the partnership with Elmwood Park Zoo. We hope it inspires Temple students to forge a lifelong partnership with learning.”

Follow Stella and Sherlock’s love story on social media and share your own with #OwlentinesDay.

As education ambassadors, Stella and Sherlock are not part of an exhibit at the Elmwood Park Zoo. They may only be seen by participating in programs at the zoo or outreach programs at other locations. Learn more about how to see the owls and explore the Elmwood Park Zoo’s educational offerings.

Happy Owlentine’s Day: Temple University’s live mascot great horned owl, Stella, says ‘I do’ at the Elmwood Park Zoo.

Original source: Philly.com

Written by Grace Dickinson

For two lovebirds, this Valentine’s Day week held a rather extra-special occasion.

On Wednesday morning, Temple University’s live mascot, Stella, said “I do” to her longtime sweetheart, the big-eyed Sherlock, whom she’s lived alongside for the last seven years at the Elmwood Park Zoo.

The two great horned owls hosted a casual backyard wedding at their Norristown home, officiated by longtime pal Noah, the bald eagle mascot of the Eagles.

“She was very demanding, and luckily everything turned out great, and it was all up to par for Stella’s tastes,” says maid of honor and Elmwood Park Zoo educator Rebecca Oulton, who refers to Stella as a “big diva” in a video capturing the special day.

Little Munchkin, an eastern screech owl who also lives at the zoo, served as flower girl, while fellow eastern screech owl Zeppelin played the role of a flower boy.

Stella and Sherlock are rescued birds that were rehabilitated and cannot be released back into the wild.

“They now each serve as ambassadors of their species and help to educate kids about the natural world,” says Laura Houston, director of education at Elmwood Park Zoo.

Houston notes that the two both have bold personalities, and while you’ll never find them cuddling, once nighttime falls, Stella and Sherlock spend much of their time hooting back and forth at one another.

Temple has officially declared their lifelong anniversary date as Owlentines Day.

[Cover photo taken by Betsy Manning/Temple University Photography]

Treat Yo’ Jaguars

Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but there’s still an perfect opportunity to give a gift to our beloved cats! Here at the zoo, we have some very lovable jaguars that would love to receive special gifts during the month of February. Show Inka, Luna, and Zean some love, and check out their wishlist of items below:

jaguar toy wish list:

Items can be delivered directly to the Elmwood Park Zoo to the attention of “Animal Care”.

The zoo’s address is 1661 Harding Blvd., Norristown, PA 19401. 

10 Questions with a Keeper

Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a zookeeper? Keeper Kelsey gives us the scoop! 

Working in an animal care profession is no easy task! It requires years of schooling, training, hands-on experience, and a deep love for animals. Zookeepers work day in and day out, even when it’s 110° or -20°, to take care of the animals under their care.

EPZ Keeper Kelsey gives us the inside scoop on the ins-and-outs of keeper life:

1. What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

My daily responsibilities include cleaning all animal areas, medicating animals as directed, feeding animals as directed, observing animals for any health/behavioral issues/changes, diet preparation as needed, providing animals with species appropriate enrichment, record keeping, and operant conditioning with your assigned animals.

2. What's your favorite part about working at your job?

I don’t really have a favorite! I love so many aspects of my job, cleaning, seeing my animals everyday, watching any babies we’ve had grow up, animal training, giving keeper talks.

3. What's your least favorite part about working at your job?

Probably having to wake up so early in the morning!

4. What do you see as the most challenging aspect of your job?

Sometimes interacting with guests can be the most challenging aspect of the job! Most are wonderful and enjoy learning something new, but occasionally you get people who don’t agree with zoos and are looking for someone to argue or fight with. Remaining cool, calm, and collected can be a challenge!

5. What achievement are you most proud about in your job?

For me, I am most proud of one of my training projects: Mateo the Ocelot. He was always difficult to shift out and get him to happily stay out on exhibit. Over the last two years I’ve worked with him and done some troubleshooting with the exhibit, and now he happily goes out onto exhibit everyday and comfortably stays out there! I’ve also worked on other behaviors with him and now he will even take vaccinations through the fence for us!

6. What are the important skills needed for this job?

You have to be observant, hard-working, work well both alone and in a team, patient, compassionate, resilient, it also certainly helps to be good at reading animal body language and to be physically strong enough to lift and move 50+lbs regularly, but those are also things you can grow as you develop your career.

7. Can you tell us about a difficult situation you were in, and how you resolved it?

Helping to come to the decision to humanely euthanize our male bison, Tatonka, last year. Its always tough to make this call for any animal but its super important to be able to step back and look at your animals and make a decision without letting your emotions get in the way. We love each and every one of our animals and don’t want them to suffer in any way. When we think its getting close to that time we have discussions with the keeper staff, management, and vet staff. We create quality of life assessment forms so we can accurately track how our animals are doing and notice quickly if their quality of life appears to be degrading and make a decision from there.

8. What made you want to work at the zoo?

At first I was interested due the large variety of species housed at the zoo and by the small size of the zoo itself. After my interview with the other keepers I really also wanted to work with them as well, they’re like a second family and super fun to work with!

9. What does your work schedule look like?

I work four ten-hour days a week. I work every weekend, both Saturdays and Sundays. I’m typically at work from 6:50am until 6:15pm. We also all split up the holidays, so that we all work a few of them.

10. What kind of schooling/training did you do before getting this job?

I took a lot of science and biology courses in high school. I went to Unity College in Maine where I got a Bachelors of Science in Captive Wildlife Care and Education. I volunteered at a nature center for 7 years, I volunteered and worked with horses for over 10 years, I’ve also had a few internships at zoos to gain more practical experience. I have some firearms training, operant conditioning training, some limited training on how to give injections, and I like to try and keep myself up to date on new animal information and conservation topics.

Why Should We Count Birds?

As we grow closer to February’s “Great Backyard Bird Count,” it’s easy to wonder about the importance of counting birds. How can something so simple really make a difference for the habitats and livelihood of birds? Can an individual really help out thousands of birds colonies around the country? Short answer: YES! 

How can counting birds make a difference?

Scientists, conservationists, and bird enthusiasts can all gain a lot from the data reflected in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Especially given the fact that they are a flighted animal, numbers on bird populations are always changing. There’s little chance that one small group of scientists could accurately keep track of all of the changing bird patterns throughout a year. That’s where the citizen-scientists come in! The more data that comes in, the easier it is for scientists to track patterns and similarities across the board for these bird species. This data helps them answer important questions on a variety of subjects, including the ones below:

  • Climate change and how it affects populations
  • Habitat locations
  • Migration patterns
  • Bird diseases
  • Bird diversity in rural, suburban, and urban areas

What is the Great Backyard Bird Count?

According to the official website: “Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time. Now, more than 160,000 people of all ages and walks of life worldwide join the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.”

Great Backyard Bird Count at EPZ

Register for a free and interactive bird-counting session at the zoo with our education department! Learn more here! 

Written by: Ali Chiavetta

Source: GBBC website

Living Green in 2019

Make your New Years resolution one that benefits the planet!

Five resolutions for more sustainable living

Click each drop-down below to learn more about ways to make 2019 your greenest year yet!

Every household has an individual carbon footprint. This term typically refers to the amount of greenhouse gases produced by members in the household, through a variety of activities. A carbon audit calculates the amount of resources used, specifically in the areas of home energy, transportation and waste. Conducting a carbon audit for your household helps you and your family stay in the know, and make smart cost-effective choices to lessen your impact. Use this as a starting point for 2019! 

Food waste is an enormous issue across the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, roughly 1/3 of the food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or is wasted. That’s 1.3 billion tons!

How can you help combat that number? Prepare your grocery lists ahead of time. While it may be tempting to stop and shop on your way home, you’re more likely to pick up items you don’t need or won’t use on an impulse trip. Look at your week ahead, and plan your shopping list plan accordingly! This will not only help you cut down on unnecessary food waste, but will help you save money too!

While minimalism became trendy throughout much of 2018,  some found it difficult to embark on such a limited lifestyle. Similar to food waste, however, many people purchase on a regular basis that get little to no use, and are either thrown away, or stored for long periods of time. To avoid this practice, approach purchasing your goods in a similar way to purchasing your food: plan ahead of time. This simple step helps cut down on impulse buys that will save you money and space, and won’t end up in a landfill. 

When purchasing items like clothing, furniture, housewares, etc., consider purchasing secondhand from individual sellers, consignment shops, or donation stores. When purchasing secondhand, you’re giving new life to a previously used item, rather than using the resources it takes to create a new one. Again, this is typically easier on your wallet, and saves these gently used items from sitting in a landfill. 

Single-use items like plastic silverware, plastic bags, coffee cups, straws, paper napkins, and plastic water bottles can all be easily replaced by reusable substitutes. Though their cost may be higher upfront, using reusable items will actually save you money in the long run, and will make a huge difference in the amount of trash produced by your household each year.

In 2019, try plastic-free reusable alternatives like stainless steel, glass, bamboo, cloth, etc.! 

When it comes to the environment, ignorance is not bliss. It’s important to stay up on critical environmental issues, especially as that continues to be a “hot topic” in today’s society. You can make a positive difference in your community by staying informed, and being vocal with lawmakers about the issues that are important to you and the earth! 

Written by Ali Chiavetta

Pets and Zoos

That might seem like a strange headline but this topic is a surprisingly big part of my job at the zoo. Multiple times a week, I receive calls from people asking me to take their pets, both exotic and domestic animals. Usually it is because they are no longer able to care for their pet and are hoping that we can take it and give it a home. Unfortunately, space and resources are always consideration so in the majority of cases, we are not be able to provide a home for your pet. At the end of this blog, there are some suggestions on how to find a home for your pet if you find yourself in this situation.

That’s why I wanted to share with everyone how important it is to do your research before deciding to add an animal friend to your family. By knowing what you are getting into in advance, you can make sure that you will be able to provide for your animal companion for its entire life. Domestic animals are usually the best suited as companions but exotic species can also make for good additions to the family if you know how to provide for their needs. Even with domestic animals, people are sometimes surprised by the level of commitment required to take good care of their pet and then feel bad if they cannot fulfill those requirements. The key is to be prepared before you even add the companion animal to your family. This way you do not end up trying to find a home for it if you realize that you cannot meet the needs of the animal.

Some important factors to consider:

How long is the animal expected to live?

If well taken care of, species like turtles and parrots can live for many decades, sometimes a long as 60 or 70 years! Your pet might outlive you so are you prepared to find another home if that happens? Do you want a pet that is a lifetime commitment?

What special foods will it need?

Many reptiles suffer from metabolic bone disease because they do not get adequately balanced diets. They require specific ratios of calcium and phosphorus and should be fed diets that are carefully balanced. Parrots should not be fed seed-based diets for a similar reason. Seed diets are not balanced nutritionally and allow the bird to pick its favorite seeds which is a little like letting a child pick out all their food. I want ice cream instead of my vegetables too, but I know that is not good for me! Specially formulated pellets for parrots get around that problem by providing balanced nutrition in every bite.

Species such as snakes will need whole mice or rats to eat. Are you comfortable handling dead mice to feed your pet?

Feeding predators live prey presents an ethical dilemma – what about the welfare of the mouse? Most snakes will readily feed on dead thawed mice, which is considered more humane than putting a live mouse in with a snake where it would have no opportunity to escape as it would in the wild.

Does it need special housing?

Many people purchase cute little baby turtles like red eared sliders without realizing the commitment needed for aquatic turtles. These turtles need a terrarium with water and land, and are very messy, so they require lots of cleaning to maintain. Adding to that, is that they can easily live for 30 years. Do you want to have a high maintenance pet for that long? Other species require special things like UV light and heat supplementation if they are housed indoors. Reptiles are the best example of this requirement but there is emerging evidence that other species like birds need to have UV exposure as well to maintain health and good feather condition.

How big will it get?

It is NOT true that fish or reptiles will only grow as large as the enclosure they are kept in. Both fish and reptiles continue to grow for their whole life, and if they are not growing, they are stunted because of improper care, not the size of the enclosure they are kept in. That tiny little iguana you might see will end up topping off at over 6 feet in length and will require a room sized enclosure. Be sure to plan for the full adult size of your pet, not what you have available now. If you don’t want to give a room of your house to an iguana, consider a species like a bearded dragon which will top off at 12-14” in size.

Ethical and conservation considerations

Some species are collected illegally from the wild. Be extra careful that you are not supporting the worldwide trade in animals. The sales of millions of animals every year is driven by the desire for exotic pets. Unfortunately, many of these animals are kept in horrendous conditions after they are captured, and a majority die before they even made it to sale. Much of this demand is for the desire for novelty as a pet. This is simply not worth the suffering to all of these animals and drives some species even closer to extinction. Many animals being sold online are marketed as captive-bred but this is not always accurate. The best way to make sure that you are getting a captive-bred animal is to contact hobbyists for breeder recommendations, and to research potential breeders to make sure they operate responsibly and humanely. One easy way to avoid this problem is to stick with domestic animals – dogs and cats are not endangered and so many are in need of good homes! Even exotic pets need to be adopted, though, so contact rescues or look on Petfinder.com rather than purchasing an animal that feeds the pet trade.

Avoid impulse purchases of a pet

The cute chick or baby rabbit you see around Easter is going to grow up quick and live a long time. A chicken can live 4-8 years and is a much different animal than that fuzzy little chick. A rabbit can live 8-12 years and requires exercise and attention to be happy and healthy. Similarly, do not participate in activities that give out animals as prizes. This continues to perpetuate the idea of animals as disposable pets. Social media also has a hand in driving the desire for exotic pets. Remember to keep in mind all of the important aspects of being a responsible pet owner, and do not let that adorable picture of a famous person cuddling override logic in deciding on a companion animal.

Species we most frequently get calls about re-homing:

Keep in mind that a lot of the knowledge on how to care for exotic animals is not easily available and that professional zoo staff spend their entire career continually learning and improving care for the species they work with. You will have to do a lot of research to make sure that you have the best, most accurate, and latest knowledge if you want to keep an exotic animal as a pet. It is not impossible but it is a commitment you accept when you decide you want an exotic animal as a pet.

What to do if you already have a pet you need to re-home?

If you find yourself in this situation, remember that most zoos are not likely to be able to take your pet. You can inquire, but do not be surprised if you do not get a response or receive a no as answer simply because of the volume of these requests. Responsible zoos follow what is called a collection plan where the research has been done to plan the spaces available in the zoo. This means that most of the spaces, even when temporarily empty, have plans for what will be filling them to meet guest experience, conservation and educational goals. Unless your pet fits into those plans, a zoo will not likely be interested in taking your pet.

A more fruitful approach would be to search for specific species rescues. There are a number of privately operated rescues that help with placement of unwanted pets. For example, there are bird and reptile rescues all over the country. These are often good places to start with requesting help in placing your pet. Internet searches with terms such as “rescue Pennsylvania” will give you lots of options to explore. Searching for clubs is another angle to explore. For example, there are bird clubs in Pennsylvania such as the Chester County Bird Club that have enthusiasts that could provide you with advice in finding a home for your bird.

Keep in mind that many rescues are labors of love and so people do this on a voluntary basis. They are sometimes not able to take animals directly but instead work with networks of others that help foster or provide homes for animals in need. Red eared sliders are among the hardest to place species at this time as they are easy to breed, cheap to buy and start off small so people do not realize what they are getting into. There is a glut of sliders that need homes already in rescue which makes placement of this species particularly challenging.

Another option would be to post your animal on a service like Petfinder. This will help get people in contact with you who might be looking for a pet. Remember to always verify any potential homes for your pet and make sure new owners understand the commitment they are taking on, otherwise we just continue to perpetuate the problem!

Written by: EPZ General Curator Marina Haynes

Female Red Panda Amaya Humanely Euthanized

Elmwood Park Zoo is so very sad to announce the passing of our female red panda, Amaya. Amaya lived on exhibit across from the barn with Slash, our male red panda.

Amaya was 10.5 years old and has been at EPZ since last March. She sustained an injury to her tail, and developed a life threatening infection from the injury that couldn’t be treated despite aggressive therapy. She was humanely euthanized in the early morning hours of Friday, December 14, as her situation was severely declining. Her injury was not caused by Slash, who is housed with Amaya.

EPZ veterinary staff is conducting an extensive post mortem exam today to gain more information about the situation.   

Our red pandas have always been a crowd favorite, and Amaya’s passing is a difficult loss. She will be very missed by our staff and by guests. 

Amaya on exhibit at Elmwood Park Zoo

Choosing LEDs for your Holiday Lights

From our holiday Wild Lights displays, to the lights you decorate your home with, to the strands that circle your tree, the holiday season is filled with LIGHTS! While these are often a festive indicator of the excitement to come, the large amount of lights being used can take a toll on your energy bill, and the environment at large. Fortunately for businesses and consumers, LEDs are readily available, and are growing in popularity. 

What's the deal with LEDs?

LED lights use “light-emitting diodes” instead of filament to create their light. LEDs don’t burn out like traditional bulbs, and don’t get hot to the touch- making them a safer choice inside and outside the home! Though they may cost a bit more up front, their value lasts for years, as they are known to be more durable than traditional lights.

Do they really save more energy?

Absolutely! According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LEDs use 75% less energy than traditional bulbs! While other bulbs can use produce up to 90% of their energy as wasted heat, LEDs don’t get hot to the touch! Aside from saving so much energy, LEDs can last 25x as long as standard bulbs! That’s a win-win!

Untitled design-2

LED lights have come a long way in recent years. What once were piercing blue-toned lights that were not pleasing to the eye, now exist in a variety of styles and colors! While you may pay a bit more for them initially, LED lights help cut down on environmental impact during the holidays because of the energy they save. Your wallet will thank you when your winter energy bill comes!

Source: The Spruce

Written by Ali Chiavetta

How to Become a Vet Tech

Vet Tech Kourtney doing an annual bat exam

One question I get asked often is:  “How do I become a zoo vet tech?”  I wish I could tell you that there is a college program called “Zoological Veterinary Technology” and once you graduate, you pick the zoo you want to work at and voila!   Unfortunately… it’s not quite that simple. A big part of getting into the zoo field is being in the right place at the right time. But don’t worry- what I can tell you is the steps to take if you think being a zoo vet tech is the right career path for you.  Your first step is enroll at a college with a Veterinary Technology program. You can find a list of AVMA accreditted schools here.

Depending on whether you get an Associate of Applied Science degree or a Bachelor of Science degree, vet tech school will take you somewhere between 2 and 4 years to complete.  Once you graduate from school, you will have to take the national board exam in order to become licensed. Now, this is where most people want to start their career at a zoo. However, you probably won’t be quite ready yet!  While you do get the chance to learn about a lot of different species of animals in school, there aren’t programs specifically for zoo medicine. Chances are, you will have 3 or 4 classes that pertain to birds, reptiles and small mammals.  The best advice I can give you is to get started at a dog and cat hospital. You can work at a general practice, a specialty or referral hospital or even in shelter medicine. The point is, you need to put all that schooling to the test and learn how to apply what you learned in school to real life practice! You will want to become familiar with different diseases, diagnostic testing and treatment options. There is an abundant amount of information available on cats and dogs, so you want to soak up all the knowledge you can working with them.

 A veterinary hospital is also a great place to practice your clinical skills. Trust me, you’ll want to feel comfortable drawing blood from a dog before you try to draw blood from a Golden Lion Tamarin! You will have many more opportunities for skills like placing intravenous catheters, monitoring anesthesia and assisting in surgery at a busy small animal hospital. You won’t get the opportunity to “practice” these skills at a zoo; if you are working on a North American River Otter and need an IV catheter, you had better know how to place one!

The hardest part is getting your foot in the door at a zoo.  Take any opportunity you can! I started as a volunteer before I got hired as an educator at a zoo.  Neither of these has much to do with veterinary medicine, but I did learn how to take care of different animals and how zoos operate.  Experience is invaluable. I would also recommend you join the Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians (AZVT) and check out their website. There, you can find zoos that offer zoo vet tech internships, (but be prepared that most of these internships are unpaid) and you will also find information on AZVT’s annual conference.  If you can, attend the conference and talk to zoo vet techs from all over the country. Get to know them and ask them about their internship programs. You are much more likely to be chosen for an intern spot if they have met you in person.  Plus, the conference is a lot of fun! A different zoo hosts it each year and part of the conference is a day at the host zoo. All of the lectures and discussions are also about zoo medicine, and some of them are really interesting. One of the lectures from this year talked about how to manage pain with opioid patches on snakes!  

The most important thing to remember when wanting to join this veterinary niche is patience.  It takes patience and perseverance to break into zoo medicine, but it is an incredibly rewarding career.  I love working with animals that some people have only ever seen on television, or read about in books. I feel like the work I do is important.  I am able to use the information I gain by taking care of the animals at Elmwood Park Zoo, to help their wild counterparts around the world, and that’s pretty incredible.

Written by Vet Tech Kourtney Conti

Green Your Halloween

As we count down the days to Halloween, many people enjoy the decorations and costumes that come along the way! Holidays don’t have to hurt the planet (or your wallet)… take a look at the following ways to “green” your Halloween this year! 

Green Tips:

  • Make decorations from recycled materials like toilet paper tubes, tin cans, newspaper, and glass jars!
  • Give out locally sourced treats from farmers markets or make your own treats
  • DIY your costume using materials you already own, or from purchased items at a secondhand shop
  • If giving out candy, be sure it's free of palm oil! Irresponsible harvesting of this harmful ingredient causes deforestation and habitat loss in the rainforest!
  • Use a reusable item to collect candy while trick-or-treating! Pillowcases, drawstring bags, and reusable shopping bags are great resources!
  • If carving pumpkins, save the seeds to roast as a healthy snack, and compost the "guts"!
  • Don't throw those decorations away! Save them to reuse year after year.
  • If it's safe to do so, walk from house to house while trick-or-treating instead of driving! This cuts down on harmful vehicle emissions.

additional resources:

Written by Ali Chiavetta

Palm Oil-free Halloween candy

You can do your part to help by only supporting companies that make sustainable, palm-oil free candies this Halloween.

Go the extra mile and help write letters to ask large companies to stop using unsustainably-sourced palm oil! 

Our friends at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo made this helpful PDF to use as a template when writing your letter! 

You can also download their sustainable palm oil shopping app to help you make easier decisions when you’re in the grocery store! 

Learn more about what’s being done around the world through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil HERE.

Horticulture Tips: Autumn Edition

After nearly a year of planning, the zoo’s horticulture team is ready to transform the zoo’s grounds for autumn! It’s important for us to plan ahead and coordinate with our plant providers well in advance to make sure that we’re able to get the variety and quantity of plants that we select. We source our plants from three outstanding local nurseries: Genuardi Gardens & Greenhouses in Norristown, The Rhoads Garden in North Wales, and Behmerwald Nursery in Schwenksville. Those plants will live both in containers and in the ground throughout the zoo this fall.

Pansies are a cool-weather flower and do a great job of filling in for our spent marigolds and petunias (They’re also edible! Add some flowers to your salad for a healthy dose of rutin, which strengthens capillary walls and helps prevent varicose veins). We’ve had three growing seasons to test and refine our pansy selection since the horticulture department’s inception in 2015. Certain cultivars thrive in the zoo’s environment more than others (your mileage may vary!). We’ve found that the solid yellow and orange varieties tend to fade quickly, while the Delta and Matrix have shown greater longevity. These are patented varieties of pansy that have been bred for large blooms, heat tolerance, a branching growth habit, and reliable color throughout the late summer and autumn. We’re especially fond of the Matrix Yellow Blotch because – appropriately enough – it resembles a jaguar’s spots. Our team is looking forward to trying the Matrix Raspberry Sundae Mixture for the first time this year. Regular deadheading will keep these plants looking tidy and promote blooming throughout the entire growing season. Just a few minutes a day is all you need to sustain happy, vibrant flowers. Pansies are capable of overwintering in the ground nicely. We’ve observed that more than 50% of the zoo’s pansies planted in the fall return the following spring, which saves us both time and money. For the best chance of survival, beds should be covered before storms to protect from heavy ice and snow. Regular mulch will do the job or, if you’re feeling festive, you can give your Christmas tree a second life: save its branches and keep them on hand for when you see a storm in the forecast.

Chrysanthemums, or mums, have plentiful long-lasting blooms and are perfect for providing color and drama to your garden through the late fall. They’re a major component of the zoo’s seasonal displays. Although they can be perennial in our hardiness zone if planted correctly (in the spring and in well-drained soil), we have no expectations for them to return next year. Many of the mums you may see in stores now have been indoors for their entire lives and are forced to bloom early. Therefore, they don’t have enough energy left over to grow roots and establish themselves before going dormant. Without a strong root system, plants cannot withstand the winter’s brutal freeze-thaw cycles and will be pushed out of the soil. This is called frost heaving and you can clearly see its effects on our pitiful Pennsylvania roads. 

For our photo ops, we’ll include corn stalks donated by the Norristown Farm Park, hay bales, and purple millet grass. These will help fill in the displays and make the bright colors of the pumpkins and mums pop. 

Our team is excited to create a brand new pollinator garden behind the scenes this fall. The zoo currently maintains two beehives which are not yet on exhibit, but their resident honey bees could frequently be found on our main path collecting nectar and pollen during the summer. Although they’re capable of traveling miles away from their hives, we’re happy to provide a reliable food source in their direct vicinity. Any well-planned garden will offer year-round visual interest. Similarly, an effective pollinator garden incorporates plants with staggered bloom times to ensure a steady supply of nectar and pollen throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Coral bells, coneflowers, goldenrod, and asters will help the bees to do their job of preparing honey to sustain the hive through the winter.

Written by Lindsay Friedenberg, EPZ horticulture staff

Diego’s big move

Diego the jaguar goes on a big move from Norristown to Memphis, Tennessee! 

Planning stages...

As the cubs got older, we as an animal care staff knew that it was only a matter of time before Inka would not tolerate their presence anymore. For humans, it might sound surprising not to want your kids around anymore, but for a solitary jaguar, it is a normal part of the maturation process. In the wild, parents will drive their offspring away once they are old enough to survive on their own. Inka was showing less and less patience with her cubs as they grew to be more than half her size, so we started practicing separation in order to get the cubs used to being alone for increasing lengths of time. 

While we were working on that, I contacted the Species Survival Plan (SSP) coordinator to let him know that we would soon need to find another zoo for Diego since Zean would not be tolerant of another adult male close by. Luna gets more leeway as a female cub! The coordinator worked on some population planning, and found that Memphis Zoo could take Diego and another young female, (Filomena) so we started working on plans for that move.

The first step was getting Diego used to the travel crate. Crates for big cat species are extremely durable as cats are very strong! We had to bring the crate up to Trail of the Jaguar and set it up in the night housing area. It is strapped to a special door that is used for crating and transfer. Once that was in place, keeper staff began training Diego to enter the crate voluntarily for treats. We even practiced opening and shutting the crate door with him inside, and making some banging noises on it so he would be used to those sounds. As expected, he picked up really quickly as he is very motivated to train, so before we knew it, we were making the final plans to move him to Memphis! We decided to transport him by vehicle rather than air shipment, so keeper Mel and I got ready for a road trip to Memphis!

On the day of the move...

Late in the afternoon, we made sure to keep everything normal on routine and asked Diego to crate. This time, we kept the door shut instead of opening it. It stayed shut,and a crew of staff picked up the crate and carried it out to our transport vehicle (one of our Zoo-on-Wheels vehicles). With a wave goodbye from staff, we hit the road for an overnight trip. Diego traveled better than we could have hoped for! He was calm and looking around, (even peeking out the back window of the van like a dog for portions of the trip) and even settled down for a nap a few times. He actually slept more than we did on that journey!

Once we arrived in Memphis the next morning, the keeper staff at Diego’s new home greeted us and we quickly got his travel crate mounted to the quarantine enclosure at Memphis and opened the door. When Filomena (his new female companion) arrived at Memphis, she took two hours to come out of her crate but I had a feeling that Diego would be bolder! He was… and came out of his crate after only a couple of minutes of peeking around, and then got busy smelling and exploring his new space. Since we needed to let Diego settle in, we spent some time walking around Memphis Zoo and snapped a picture of his new habitat at Memphis. Mel got to visit with some staff she used to work with since she used to be a keeper there in the cat exhibit, so she knew he would be going to good hands.

Of course, we will miss him but we are excited to have Diego get paired up with Filomena and hope to hear about his cubs in the not too distant future! 

Written by Marina Haynes, General Curator 

SAFE Update: Invest in the Nest- One Year Later

Last year, Elmwood Park Zoo played a role in helping to promote the Kickstarter campaign, and to encourage our guests, volunteers, and staff to actively participate in the SAFE program for African penguins.

Excerpt taken from the September 2018 issue of “Connect” magazine:

African penguin populations have declined from more than one million to just 25,000 breeding pairs over the last century, due largely to human activity. The birds naturally nest in guano, but over-harvesting of guano for fertilizer has resulted in only about 27 natural nests being left. A lack of nests means a lack of protection for eggs, which are vulnerable to overheating on bare rock in the hot sun and increased predation. The SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction African penguin program is working to address this threat and help save wild African penguins. Exactly one year ago, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the SAFE African penguin program launched an “Invest in the Nest” Kickstarter campaign to raise $150,000 in just 30 days to fund the creation and installation of artificial nests for penguin colonies in South Africa and Namibia. With the help of the zoo and aquarium community and thousands of generous Kickstarter backers from around the world, we surpassed our goal and our stretch goal, enabling AZA members to invest in more than 2,000 artificial nests. 

Now, some of those nests are home to African penguins in the wild. This past fall, our team of scientists from Dallas Zoo and partners constructed the first 200 artificial nests for wild colony and durability testing. The artificial nests were specifically designed for temperature control and predator protection, and crafted individually by hand to give the penguins a home in which to raise their young. These nests, inanition to monitoring and security equipment, have been installed at two penguin colonies so far. Already, we’re seeing results. Just two weeks after the nests were installed, researchers shared that penguins at Bird Island had laid eggs in 65 percent of the nests in the Dyer Island colony also had eggs. The usage rate of the nests continues to climb as the breeding season progresses. Almost all of the nests (96%) have been occupied at some point following their installation. 

What’s next? The SAFE African penguin program and partners will continue to collect and analyze the environmental data, and use these findings to further improve nest designs. We plan to build hundreds more nests, and in the long-term, have at least 6,000 artificial nests in penguin colonies to support the next generation of African penguins. But African penguins face multiple threats, all of which still need to be addressed. Through SAFE, AZA and partners are collaborating on additional research projects, including individual identification, health monitoring, disaster response, public engagement, and the African Penguin Species Survival Plan program. 

Last year, Elmwood Park Zoo played a role in helping to promote the Kickstarter campaign, and to encourage our guests, volunteers, and staff to actively participate in the SAFE program for African penguins.

Elmwood Park Zoo joins with outside forces for jaguar surgery

Elmwood Park Zoo’s adult female jaguar, Inka, recently underwent dental surgery to help remove a badly damaged canine tooth. Elmwood Park Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Michele Goodman recruited the help of veterinary dental specialist Dr. John Lewis of NorthStar Vets, veterinary anesthesiologist Dr. Andrea Caniglia of Veterinary Dental Specialists, and Brandywine Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Erica Miller to help with Inka’s procedure. The zoo was also fortunate to have the support of Jeff Scharff, District Sales Manager of Planmed, Inc., who provided the Verity® Cone Beam Computed Tomography Scanner to evaluate Inka’s teeth, and Dr. Elizabeth McMurtrie of Spring House Animal Hospital, who loaned the zoo a portable blood analyzer so that Inka could be carefully monitored while under anesthesia.

Inka's surgery team post-procedure

Thanks to training administered by Elmwood Park Zoo Animal Keeper Kate Olsen and Assistant Curator Laura Fournier, Inka voluntarily received an injection of sedative.  Within 10 minutes of the injection, Inka was ready for her procedure. Her head was placed inside the scanner and images were obtained of her skull and mouth. After reviewing the scans, the veterinary team confirmed that Inka’s upper right canine tooth was beyond repair and needed to be removed to protect her health.

With the scans complete, general anesthesia was induced. Inka was intubated and hooked up to monitoring equipment. In addition to routine monitoring equipment, Dr. Caniglia placed an arterial catheter to continuously monitor Inka’s blood pressure. Inka also received intravenous fluids and supplemental medications throughout the procedure. Spring House Animal Hospital used their portable blood analyzer to sample Inka’s electrolyte and blood gas levels every 30 minutes to ensure that the big cat was doing well under anesthesia. While assisting with anesthetic monitoring, Elmwood Park Zoo Veterinary Technicians Holly Brown and Kourtney Conti collected blood samples for routine evaluation of liver, kidney and heart function.

Dental extractions are no easy feat; they require doctors to employ both skill and patience to preserve the tissues and structures around the extracted tooth. Elmwood Park Zoo recently obtained a state-of-the-art dental machine that Dr. Lewis used for the procedure. Following the successful extraction of the damaged canine tooth, Dr. Lewis sutured the soft tissues over the extraction site. Another essential part of dental extractions is managing the patient’s pain. Dr. Lewis used a series of nerve blocks to alleviate pain at the extraction site and he placed Inka on two pain medications to maintain her comfort following surgery. 

Overall Inka’s exam and dental surgery took just under five hours. Thanks to the diligent patient care and monitoring that Inka received by the talented group of experts who assembled for her procedure, she is doing extremely well. The surgical site is expected to heal over the next two to three weeks, after which Inka will be able to return to her normal diet.

Who’s Who at the Zoo: Painter Dave

The zoo has kept painter and artist David Michener very busy over the last few years. From his naturalistic vistas in select animal exhibits to the massive animal mural that over looks the extended parking lot, David has been positively transforming Elmwood Park Zoo, one brush stroke at a time.

“I always had it in me,” David says when describing his artistic ability. He recalls the lessons his grandmother, herself an established artist, would give him as a young boy. He put his developing talent to use early on, selling sketches of Batman for a penny each to his fellow schoolmates at lunch.   

David describes the creative ideas he often receives as “flashes” in his head. He says he was overjoyed to be able to apply his creativity to his work at the zoo, which began four years ago with a mural he painted for the interior of the squirrel monkey exhibit. 

Since then, David has painted murals for the other primate exhibits, as well as the gorgeous sunset that adorns the walls of the African straw-colored fruit bat enclosure. He also is responsible for the cougar exhibit and the vibrant artwork inside the zoo’s administrative conference room. 

David Michener in action

He admits that his most challenging work to this point has been the rock walls in the red panda enclosure. David mixed over one ton of concrete and sand and then painstakingly laid it over wire mesh to create the facade that resembles the rocky Himalayan landscape of the panda’s natural habitat.

We couldn’t help but ask what he’s got in mind for the zoo next. “I’m very excited for the future,” is all he’ll say. As the zoo continues to grow and develop, you can expect to see more of David Michener’s art beautifying spaces and adding dimension to exhibits. 

Written by Shaun Rogers

Plant Tips for Fall from a Horticulturalist

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” (origin unknown).

Labor Day and the beginning of the school year are bittersweet signs that summer is coming to an end, but the arrival of fall brings the opportunity to make big moves and get some quality time in the garden. In a series of upcoming posts, we’ll explore the horticultural team’s fall plans as well as growing winter vegetables, spring bulbs, shrubs & trees, and turf and cover crops during the months ahead. Autumn leaves are falling, and they lend the perfect backdrop and ambiance to your time spent in the garden.

We understand how tempting it is to add some life and color to your landscape as soon as the weather warms up in the spring, but unfortunately, gardening prematurely in wet conditions can lead to major setbacks. To understand why, we’ll need to zoom in and take a look at the soil. It may not appear too exciting on the surface, but there is an entire universe hidden beneath our feet. Soil is an incredibly lively and productive ecosystem with countless bacteria, fungi, and fauna forming a life-supporting structure capable of decomposing organic matter, releasing nutrients, and maintaining the ground’s structural integrity. For our purposes, that means a robust medium with plenty of available nutrients and oxygen for our plants. Wet soil becomes compacted when it’s stepped on or worked with, which squashes those important air pockets and makes it more difficult for roots to grow. Plants in compacted soil are trying harder to survive and have less energy to create flowers and bountiful foliage.

Many diseases need moisture to spread, so it’s wise to avoid working with even well-established plants while they’re wet. As a rule, we only deadhead at the zoo when the garden beds are dry in order to avoid inadvertently transmitting pathogens from one plant to another with our gloves or tools. This is also a good reason to avoid watering your plants at night, when they are unable to dry quickly under the sun.

The cool and comfortable weather of fall is a relief for us humans working outside, and the plants enjoy it too! There is still a fair amount of rain, but it isn’t excessive enough to waterlog the gardens. Cooler temperatures help to mitigate transplant shock. Plants purchased this time of year are bigger and stronger than spring seedlings (plus they’re usually sold at a discount so that nurseries don’t have to protect them over the winter). New fall plants still have several months to grow in the ground before they go dormant, and by the time the next spring arrives, they will have adapted to their new surroundings. Their roots are ready to absorb those persistent spring showers, which promotes vigorous growth and the ability to handle scorching summer heat with aplomb. Overall, the survival rate for big plants established in the fall is higher than those installed in the spring.

The upcoming months are full of opportunities to do amazing things with your landscape. You’ll be able to appreciate the immediate benefits of gardening, such as exercise and stress relief, while setting yourself up for success in the spring. Stay tuned for more information and tips for how to make the most of this enchanting time of year!

Written by Lindsay Friedenberg



Horticulture – The science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants.

Cover crop – a crop planted primarily to manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife.

Fauna – Animal life.

Deadhead – To remove a faded blossom on a flowering plant.

Pathogens – A specific causative agent (such as a bacterium or virus) of disease.

Transplant shock – The stress or damage received in the process of moving a plant from one location to another.

Seedling – A young plant grown from seed; a nursery plant not yet transplanted.

Dormant – Not actively growing but protected from the environment.

Leading the charge against deforestation

Technology from solar-powered recycled cell phones is making a positive difference in the fight against deforestation. 

Ever thought an old cell phone could help change the world?

It’s no secret that deforestation is destroying the rainforest. Deforestation, in its simplest definition, is the clearing of a wide area of trees. The deforestation that takes place in the rainforest is far more sinister, however, as it clears wide areas of land used as habitats and resources for native species, plants, and peoples. On average, an estimated 18 million acres of forest are lost each year, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, and 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions are a result of rainforest deforestation, according to WWF

How can we combat this?

Rainforest Connection Founder Topher White had the same question. A San Francisco-based engineer, White piloted a phone-based technology that’s changing the face of deforestation reversal. His solution was simple: Use recycled cell phones to listen closely to the rainforests for the sounds of destruction.

How is this possible?

Though it sounds simple, the process is actually quite complex. According to the organization’s website, Rainforest Connection (RFCx) creates acoustic monitoring systems for those who wish to end illegal deforestation in real-time. They do this by using solar power as a means of energy, hooking up an extra microphone, and listening closely. Because of the symphony of sounds happening naturally throughout the forest, abnormal sounds are difficult to pick out from the rest. The RFCx technology can distinguish the frequency of a chain saw, for example, and send an alert to authorities in order to determine whether the logging is legal or not. According to White, 50-90% of the logging done in the rainforest is unauthorized. This technology also works to detect the sounds of vehicles in the surrounding area that may be used for poaching activity.

So far, Rainforest Connection has monitored over 26,000 hectares of rainforest, which is approximately the equivalent of 26,000 football fields. To hear what they hear, download the app and listen to rainforests in real time! To support them further, consider making a financial donation to further their efforts of protecting tropical rainforests!

Living a Bird-Friendly Life

We see probably an average of 100 birds throughout our day, but how many of us truly take notice to these fantastic feathered friends? Birds play a crucial role in our ecosystem, so protecting them is important! While we may not all be natural born birdwatchers, there are easy steps we can take in everyday life in order to better protect our flying friends! 

Check out these three tips on how to live a more bird-friendly life:

keep your cats indoors

This is a big one, and one that many cat owners may not even think about. When cats are let outdoors, they become a non-native and invasive species, threatening birds and other wildlife, disrupting the natural ecosystem, and even potentially spreading disease. It is estimated that cats kill 2.4 million birds every year. Though it may seem harmless to let your cat outside for a bit of fresh air, such a simple choice can have a list of negative consequences. To keep both your cat and wild birds safer, opt for an enclosed outdoor space (often referred to as a “catio”), a harness for your cat, or increased indoor enrichment to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.

For more safe solutions for pet cats, check out the American Bird Conservancy’s page

Stop birds from hitting windows

Up to 1 billion birds die each year from hitting windows, and other glass reflective surfaces. That number is huge, and severely impactful on bird populations, but fortunately, this is one of the easiest problems to solve! By investing in products that break up the blank space of your window, you can greatly reduce the chances that a confused bird will fly into it! 

The American Bird Conservancy has tested a variety of bird-friendly window products so you don’t have to! Check out their full list here


purchase bird-friendly coffee

If you’re addicted to coffee, you’re not alone. Americans drink 1/3 of the world’s supply of coffee. While your morning cup of joe may be a necessity for you, choosing the right kind of coffee is a necessity for bird populations. Next time you’re in the supermarket shopping for coffee, look for certain kinds marked “shade-grown”. Traditional “sun coffee” might be a bit cheaper to buy, but this inexpensive variety takes a large toll on rainforest biodiversity (not to mention the rural families and small local businesses the industry bulldozes). Shade-grown coffee is not only a much healthier option for the birds, but  it also tastes much richer in your mug!

To learn more about the beneficial impacts of shade-grown coffee, please click here.

Info source: American Bird Conservancy

Written by Ali Chiavetta

Giraffes: A Species in Crisis

Take a drive along Harding Boulevard and you’re bound to see one or two inquisitive heads peering over the fence to inspect passers by. Elmwood Park Zoo’s giraffes, standing at over 15 feet tall, are some of the most recognizable animals in residence at Elmwood Park Zoo. Their iconic stature, friendly demeanors, and magnificent presence help solidify their status as a guest and staff favorite.

Now, Norristown’s most famous residents can be seen almost year round thanks to a brand new barn facility completed two summers ago.  But their counterparts in the wild aren’t always so well accommodated.

Once a species deemed of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), giraffe are now reclassified as one that is Vulnerable to extinction. Population surveys indicate that the giraffe population has decreased by almost 40 percent in the last 30 years. According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), it’s estimated that there are less than 100,000 giraffe remaining in the wild.

Why is this decline happening? The combined impacts of habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation, poaching, disease, war, and civil unrest are threatening the remaining giraffe numbers and their distribution throughout Africa. 

While conservation efforts are targeted internationally, U.S. zoos play an important role in the survival of the species. Together, the Ugandan Wildlife Authority and the GCF created Operation Twiga, a conservation project to help protect Uganda’s Rothschild giraffe. Operation Twiga’s aim was to relocate 20 Rothschild giraffes to the southern bank of the Nile River to populate a new area within Murchison Falls National Park. The cost of the endeavor was estimated at $100,000. 

To fund the project, zoos across the country, including Elmwood Park Zoo, celebrated World Giraffe Day with events and fundraisers that encouraged donations to the GCF.  These fundraising efforts provided much needed financial support for Operation Twiga, which was conducted successfully in January 2016. 

“We are very happy to report that the giraffe on the southern side of the Nile River are doing well and we are planning to supplement the population later this year,” according to an update from the GCF. Since the success of Operation Twiga, GCF has developed a ‘road map’ to guide conservation activities throughout Africa with the hope to create a sustainable future for all giraffe populations. But those activities can come with a hefty price tag. The good news is that there are plenty of people to help foot the bill – about 700 million, to be exact.

According to the World Association for Zoos and Aquariums, about 1/10th of the world population visits zoos every year. Attendance at zoos across the country provides more than just a day of family fun. Funds accumulated from concessions, animal feedings, and admission help zoos like Elmwood Park Zoo give back to organizations that seek to conserve wildlife and its inhabitants, such as the GCF.

You don’t have to travel to East Africa to make a difference. When you stop by the zoo, and other AZA-accredited facilities, your membership or admission fees contribute to more than just an institution’s operating costs. You may think you’re just feeding a giraffe some lettuce. But you’re really supporting conservation and education efforts that have an impact long after your trip to the zoo is over.

So, will you stick your neck out for giraffe? To learn more about how you can get involved, or to donate directly to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, visit www.giraffeconservation.org.

Written by Kathryn Saulinas

Giraffes 750x300

At-risk teens get zoo day thanks to CEO who was once in their shoes

Story and photo courtesy of John McDevitt/KYW News Radio 1060

It was a day of fun, education and inspiration for a group of court-adjudicated teenagers who spent the day at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown.

A group of about 20 students from Glen Mills Schools — a residential facility for court-adjudicated youth between 12 and 18 — got off the bus and spent the day exploring what the zoo has to offer.

Many of them have never been to a zoo before — let alone one that offers zip lining.

Successful business owner Lance Bachmann, president and CEO of tech firm 1SEO.com, sponsored the day because he was once in these teens’ shoes.

“I spent two years at Glen Mills — most people don’t know that,” he admitted. “So people are ashamed of that growing up as a kid. I always tell people I’m not ashamed of that at all. I had no control. I’m one of 14 children, grew up poor, single mother, abusive father — just not a good environment, and Glen Mills helped save my life.”

Bachmann told the kids to never let your past dictate your future — and he made his words a reality for one young student.

“One of you young students in this room are going to go to college for free next year,” he said to a surprised group. “I’m going to pay for the whole entire tuition.”

“Sometimes I feel that people can’t relate to what I’ve been through or going through right now,” said 17-year-old Corde Fitzhugh, “so it’s refreshing and heartfelt that someone who was actually in the shoes that I was in. And he is doing great and is giving me the hope that I can do the same thing — or even better.”

Fellow 17-year-old Semaj Richards was blown away by Bachmann’s generosity.

“I want to be that next man that actually do something for the youth that is actually going through what we went through,” he hoped.

Five Tips to Plan an Eco-Friendly Trip

The summer is winding down, but plenty of people still look to travel into the fall, especially for larger holidays like Labor Day weekend. While getting away from your day-to-day life can be fun, it’s important to remember how your plans will affect your planet! This is by no means a comprehensive list, but we’ve compiled five tips to plan a trip with less of a negative environmental impact. Check them out, and let us know if you have any tips you swear by when planning getaways! 

1. Location, location, location

The most exciting part of planning a trip is deciding where you’re going! When selecting a destination, take into consideration how far of a trip it will be, and what method of transportation you’ll need to get there. Look into the possibility of participating in eco-tourism for a more sustainable way of traveling! Companies like these offer trips to destinations around the world that prioritize sustainability in each of their trips. 

2. Getting from point A to point B

Once you decide on your destination, the logical next step is deciding how to get there! Is it possible to take a car or train, or is it necessary to use air travel? While convenient, flying isn’t the most eco-friendly method of transportation. A round-trip flight between New York and California can generate about 20% of the greenhouse gases that your car emits over the course of an entire year. If it’s necessary to fly, try booking nonstop flights, and look for more energy efficient airlines. 

3. New digs

The thing that can make or break your trip: your accommodations. Do your research before leaving to identify more sustainable hotels or housing. If possible, look for hotels and houses that are energy efficient, have proper waste management systems, recycle, and use alternate forms of energy (solar, hydroelectric, etc.). Bonus points if the home stay helps benefit the economy of the local community, especially on an eco-tour!  

4. Green guests

While on your trip, be a responsible guest! If you live an eco-friendly life at home, take that lifestyle on the road with you! No matter what the destination, be sure to respect the local environment. Leave nothing but footprints! Do your best to recycle, conserve water and energy resources, and look for activities that don’t have a heavy environmental impact.

5. Wish you were here

On your way out, you may be tempted to get souvenirs for your friends and family. Especially when traveling overseas, be sure that no mementos from your trip involve any endangered species (i.e.: animal hides, body parts, tortoise-shell, ivory, coral, etc.) These gifts are not only illegal, but also extremely damaging industries to support monetarily. Sometimes it’s best to just send a postcard! 

Sources: WWF, NY Times , Million Mile Secrets

Written by Ali Chiavetta

Elmwood Park Zoo Unveils New Website

Elmwood Park Zoo took the wrap off of their newly designed website today, revealing a fresh and modern design that is packed with new features and is responsive to mobile devices. Almost a year in the making, the new site was developed in conjunction with 1SEO.com, based in Philadelphia, PA. 

Elmwood Park Zoo also officially unveiled its new logo today. The icon of the jaguar surrounded by palm leaves is a modern take on the zoo’s old logo which was in use for several decades. The new logo was designed by The Archer Group, based in Wilmington, DE.

One of the most exciting features on the zoo’s new website is a web cam that offers visitors a live look at our giraffe and zebra exhibits. Sponsored by Xfinity, the camera gives website visitors a direct look at the zoo’s most popular residents, with the ability to control the camera positions and take snapshots that will save to their computers. The camera is one of several that the zoo hopes to add in the next few years. 

“Comcast is proud to sponsor the new web cam feature so that animal lovers around the world can check in on the giraffe and zebras at the Elmwood Park Zoo,” said Carolyne Hannan, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Comcast Freedom Region. “So many of our Xfinity Home customers enjoy using the service to see what their pets are up to while they’re not home –  we’re excited to provide a similar experience for fans of the Zoo.”

“We are extremely excited to share this new site with our guests,” said Al Zone, Elmwood Park Zoo’s Executive Director and CEO. “We are always looking to improve on our guest experience. When they visit our new website, we set the expectation for the quality and convenience that they can expect even before they set foot through our gates. And then once they are here, the site further enriches their experience with its functionality and ease-of-use.”

About 1SEO I.T. Support & Digital Marketing

1SEO I.T. Support & Digital Marketing is a Philadelphia, PA-based digital marketing firm and managed I.T. service provider offering end-to-end solutions for their clientele, which is comprised of hundreds of businesses in countless industries that operate in several sectors, from the niche to the mainstream. With a full range of services, including social media optimization, content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), web development, pay per click (PPC), proactive I.T. support, and managed I.T. services, 1SEO I.T. Support & Digital Marketing helps their clients win online and maximizes the efficiency and security of their I.T. infrastructure.

About The Archer Group

The Archer Group is the largest independently-owned digital agency in the Philadelphia region, serving a diverse client roster that runs the gamut from Fortune 500 corporations to local brands. Founded in 2003, it is home to the area’s brightest digital thinkers in a comprehensive range of disciplines spanning Brand and Creative Strategy, User Experience Design, Content, Technical Development, Digital Media, Analytics, and Social. For more information about Archer, visit archer-group.com.

About Elmwood Park Zoo

Established in 1924, the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown is home to dozens of wild and endangered species. As a non-profit organization, the Zoo’s mission is to foster an appreciation for wildlife and the environment that will inspire active participation in conservation.