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

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

From Norristown to Memphis, Diego went on a big journey! 

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

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

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Glosssary

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

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

COFFEE

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

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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

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.