Zoo Happenings

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Zoo springs back into action with record attendance

Nearly 6,000 people visited Seneca Park Zoo on Thursday, shedding their winter coats and looking for some Spring Break excitement as temperatures reached nearly 70 degrees. It was the highest single day attendance the Zoo has seen since 2008. Visitors waited patiently in lines rivaling those at Disney and moved quickly through the admission gate to start their day of fun.

Photo by Ceci Menchetti

Photo by Ceci Menchetti

This is one of the best times of year at the Zoo, when the the community comes out to enjoy the outdoors after a long winter and our grounds are busier than ever. While the Zoo is truly a great place to visit all year round, this is just the start of our most exciting season.


Photo by Ceci Menchetti

With enrichment and training demonstrations happening throughout the day, visitors had the chance to interact with zoo keepers and learn more about the animals they came out to see.

Longtime members, local Rochesterians and people from hours away all made the trip to explore the Zoo’s exhibits, chat with docents, and get up close to animals like sea lions, baboons, penguins and more.

Spring Break programs continue through Sunday, April 5.


We want to thank everyone who made it such a great day for your support and welcome you to plan your visit if it’s been a while. There is so much to see and do here—and now is the perfect time to experience all that the Zoo has to offer.

— Pamela Reed Sanchez, Executive Director, Seneca Park Zoo Society and Larry Sorel, Zoo Director

Photo by Ceci Menchetti

Photo by Ceci Menchetti

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Penguin chicks by the numbers


Photo by Kelli O’Brien

There are currently 43 African penguins in the Zoo’s flock: 21 males, 13 females and nine unknown.

Unknown? Yep.

That’s because the best way to determine the sex of some birds, including penguins, is to look at the animals’ DNA, and we like to wait until the birds are older to take a feather sample. So the gender of some of our younger chicks remains a mystery, for now.

Since 1999, the Zoo has had 93 successful hatchlings. Some of these have been sent to 25 accredited zoos and aquariums across North America, including The Toledo Zoo, the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, the Minnesota Zoo, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Denver Zoo and Georgia Aquarium, in order to save and sustain the species. Imported from South Africa in 1996, the founding penguins of the Zoo’s flock created a strong genetic line that has shaped the wider population in conservation care.


Photo by Kelli O’Brien

The rest make up the 43 penguins in the Zoo’s flock.  The most recent addition came when 6 baby chicks–Gizmo, Blue, Obi, Sky, Marvel and Swoop–hatched in January. Every year for the last 16 years, the Zoo has had more successful hilariously-named hatchlings, starting with Little Ricky in 1999. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 2014 (3): Doni, Cricket, Roman
  • 2013 (11): Bub, Blitzwing, Chuck, Charlie, Avery, Darcy, Pippin, Elrond, Gimli, Smeagol, Jerry
  • 2012 (5): Bamm-Bamm, Shadow, Pebbles, Jazz, Beazle
  • 2011 (6): Mackenzie, Ty, Alex, Sam, Huey, Thumper
  • 2010 (7): Parker, Sparky, Sparkles, Haley, Wesley, Pip, Unknown name
  • 2009 (5): Phoenix, Dassen, Jackie, Robben, Georgia
  • 2008 (7): Geyser, Butters, Lionel, Tazmania, Tweak, Cricket, Sweet Pea
  • 2007 (6): Boulder, Pomona, Sinclair, Wedge, Chicken Hawk, Seneca
  • 2006 (5): Twiggy, Wash, Zoey, Awesomo, Plum Pudding
  • 2005 (9): Tyson, Pickle, Triangle, Ren, Stimpy, Jonny B, Fire Fly, Piccolo, Forest
  • 2004 (9): Terri, Arthur, Wilson, Guiness, Regan, Kyle, Tiny Tim, Goliath, Pearl
  • 2003 (1): Ash
  • 2002 (6): Poopy, Roxy, Teapot, Gia, Eze, PP
  • 2001 (3): Pedro, Pete, Calista
  • 2000 (3): Tonic, Vincent, Little Jim
  • 1999 (1): Little Ricky

African penguins are found in coastal areas and seas off the southern tip of Africa. Once abundant in their natural range, there has been a 60% decline in population in the last 30 years. Numbers have dwindled so quickly that in 2010, African penguins were listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.


Photo by Kevin Blakely

Knowledge gained from the success of breeding programs in zoos is being used to help assist breeding programs in situ, where population decline is due in large part to breeding failure. The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of sea birds, has, for example, established The Chick Bolstering Project. The initiative is a collaborative effort to introduce hand-reared chicks back into their natural range to combat population decline.

Seneca Park Zoo supports organizations such as SANCCOB as they work tirelessly to save this magnificent bird in its natural range.

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Black bears bouncing back!

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, assisted by Seneca Park Zoo veterinary staff, recently completed three days of black bear mother, cub and den assessments in New York State’s Southern Tier.


Tranquilizing team in field on top of the den.


First look at the anesthetized mother bear in her den.

First, the mother black bear was carefully anesthetized inside her den. About twenty minutes after the injection of anesthetic, the mother bear was removed from the den for a physical examination, blood collection and radio-telemetry tracking collar replacement.


The anesthetized, larger than normal (250 pound) mother bear being removed from the den.

Then, three cubs in this den were examined and tagged for follow up tracking.


Robin English L.V.T., a zoo veterinary technician, holds a three-month-old bear cub awaiting its physical examination.

The annual assessments of the Southern Tier black bears indicate that the mother bears are healthier than ever and successfully rearing cubs.  The cubs evaluated by this team over the past decade are thriving and expanding their range closer to Rochester, as evidenced by more recent bear sightings in our area.


Photo courtesy of NYSDEC

All signs are positive for a greening-up of New York State and a healthy and expanding black bear population. The best advice for co-existing with black bears? Never feed them, remove bird feeders April through November and respect all bears from a distance.


Blog and photos (unless otherwise noted) by Dr. Jeff Wyatt DVM, MPH, DACLAM, Director of Wildlife Health & Conservation

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What changes are possible at Seneca Park Zoo?

We want to hear your thoughts!

Seneca Park Zoo’s Master Plan is a massive project that will be enhanced by the community’s thoughtful input. So as plans develop for future improvements to the Zoo, Monroe County will be hosting a public input workshop where the general public can exchange ideas and be a part of the conversation. Make your voice heard.

6 to 8 p.m.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Roger Robach Community Center
Ontario Beach Park in Charlotte
180 Beach Avenue, Rochester NY 14612

Contact mcparks@monroecounty.gov for more information.

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Animals at Seneca Park Zoo inspired others to act in 2014

Seneca Park Zoo’s conservation fundraising reached an all-time high of $57,846 in 2014, thanks to Zoo guests who were inspired to act on their passion for animals and the environment. That amount was up more than 350% from $16,289 in 2013.

“I’m inspired to know the work we do matters to our guests,” said Pamela Reed Sanchez, Executive Director of the Seneca Park Zoo Society, “and I am encouraged to see them act on behalf of the animals in our care.”

In 2014, the Zoo focused its conservation priorities, delivered stronger messages to its guests and provided additional avenues to give. Zoo visitors took full advantage of the opportunity to choose the conservation initiative to which they most connected. Whether by attending an event, rounding up to the next dollar at the ZooShop or adding a dollar or two to a membership purchase, people gave generously.

The three projects that received the majority of funds were:

Photo courtesy of International Animal Rescue

$18,639 to Health in Harmony: This nonprofit organization is committed to saving Borneo’s last wild orangutans. It promotes environmental stewardship and economic alternatives to illegal logging of orangutan habitat in Gunung Palung National Park. The organization reports a 68% decrease in illegal logging.

$12,256 to International Elephant Foundation (IEF): IEF is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that supports a wide variety of elephant conservation and related scientific and educational projects worldwide. Funds given from IEF to Northern Rangelands Trust’s anti-poaching security teams have been influential in helping to reduce elephant poaching surrounding the 22 community conservancies North and South of the Ewaso Nyiro River.

$12,678 to various projects in Madagascar: For more than a decade, the Zoo’s docents (volunteer educators) have raised important funds for projects in Madagascar. Supported projects include: the work of Dr. Patricia Wright’s Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments in Ranomafana National Park; the efforts of the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group based at Parc Ivoloina near Tamatave; and the Duke Lemur Center’s SAVA Conservation Project, headed by Dr. Erik Patel, in northeastern Madagascar.

“Our work is not complete until we inspire others to become stewards of the world in which we live and to act on behalf of wildlife and wild places,” said Dr. Jeff Wyatt, the Zoo’s Director of Animal Health and Conservation. “We are most effective when we reinforce the fact that everything in this world is connected and that actions made locally affect animals across the globe.”

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Back in Borneo: The final chapter

Blog Header - Conservation 2 Deep in the jungles of Borneo in 1971, a 25-year-old anthropologist named Birute Galdikas first began her life-long career studying orangutans in the wild. Birute was one of famed anthropologist, Louis Leakey’s three “angels,” which also included Jane Goodall (studying chimpanzees in Tanzania) and Dian Fossey (studying Mountain gorillas in Rwanda). Birute’s research at Camp Leaky continues today in promoting scientific study and conservation of orangutans in Tanjung Puting National Park. This southern Bornean, peninsular, 125,000 square-mile, peat swamp park with a 100-foot towering tree canopy juts into the Java Sea. In addition to being home to the largest wild population of orangutans (6,000), the forest supports semi-wild, orangutans rescued by Birute from the pet trade and released more than 30 years ago. Many of these rescued and rehabilitated orangutans and their offspring provide park visitors with surprisingly up close, inspiring encounters and incredible photo opportunities, all in a free-range, forested setting. Our visit to Camp Leaky proved a perfect final day for our annual, integrated conservation trip to Borneo, connecting human, livestock, forest and orangutan health!

Blog and photos, unless otherwise noted, by: Dr. Jeff Wyatt D.V.M., M.P.H., Director of Animal Health and Conservation for the Seneca Park Zoo Dr. Andrew Winterborn D.V.M., Seneca Park Zoo and University of Rochester veterinary alumnus; University Veterinarian, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

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Back in Borneo: Chapter 3

Blog Header - Conservation 2

How do healthy goats and cattle save orangutans from extinction? It’s all about deforestation, specifically illegal logging. Health in Harmony, Seneca Park Zoo’s conservation anchor in Borneo, reports a 68% decrease in illegal logging households for more than six years. This impressive accomplishment rings true as we have spent six days meeting Farmers’ and Widows’ groups investing in and relying on revenue generated from healthy cattle and goats. Such revenue includes highly productive organic farming from composted manure as well as meat production.

Highly reproductive goats (especially healthy twin kids) underscore the benefit of enhancing animal health & husbandry. Training has expanded formally with use of the FAMACHA card.  Pinker color to conjunctival mucous membranes under lower eyelid indicates anemia is not a health concern. New training in selectively administering oral de-wormer may decrease parasite loads in overall herd of approximately 250 goats.

As Ibu Setiawati and Jilli implement their new health monitoring and treatment practices, we look forward to returning next year for more good news.  Thank you Seneca Park Zoo donors for supporting Health in Harmony, making a true difference for goats, cattle, villagers and orangutans.

Blog and photos by:

Dr. Jeff Wyatt D.V.M., M.P.H., Director of Animal Health and Conservation for the Seneca Park Zoo

Dr. Andrew Winterborn D.V.M., Seneca Park Zoo and University of Rochester veterinary alumnus; University Veterinarian, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada


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