Zoo Happenings

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This weekend: One Cubic Foot Street Team at the Public Market & Park Ave Fest

In August, the Seneca Park Zoo Society is partnering with photographer David Liittschwager and many local and regional organizations to assess the biodiversity and health of the Genesee River through an initiative called One Cubic Foot.

Photo courtesy of David Liittschwager

Photo courtesy of David Liittschwager

Once declared one of the United States’ most polluted rivers, the Genesee is making a comeback. By providing invaluable scientific information and baseline data regarding the plant and animal species now living the in the Genesee, One Cubic Foot heightens awareness of water quality and other environmental issues in the river.

David Liittschwager and his team will photograph every species that enters a one cubic foot frame placed in the river during a 24-hour period, creating individual portraits of the plant life and creatures that inhabit one tiny piece of the world.

Photo courtesy of  David Liittschwager

Photo courtesy of David Liittschwager

The Zoo has gathered a group of energetic volunteers who are eager to spread the word about this important initiative to form a Street Team that informs the public about One Cubic Foot. This weekend, they will be out in full force at two of the Rochester community’s biggest attractions: the Rochester Public Market on Saturday, August 1 and Park Avenue Summer Art Fest Saturday, August 1 and Sunday, August 2.

Photo by Ceci Menchetti

Photo by Ceci Menchetti

The One Cubic Foot Street Team is easy to spot: they’ll be the ones near the giant neon-green cube! Stop by to say hello and learn more about this project and why it is so important to protect the biodiversity of the Genesee River.

And don’t miss all of the One Cubic Foot events happening throughout August as this exciting project gets underway. Join us for David Liittschwager’s lecture at the George Eastman House on August 20 and other engaging programs during open late Tuesdays on August 18 & 25.

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Party Mad preparations: Learning from Rochester native Dr. Patricia Wright

Lemur expert Dr. Patricia Wright has had a strong partnership with Seneca Park Zoo for more than 15 years. The relationship began when she approached the Zoo about making a film about conservation. Dr. Jeff Wyatt, the Zoo’s Director of Animal Health and Conservation, gave her a tour of the Zoo and shortly thereafter, a partnership was formed. Soon, Dr. Wyatt was helping Dr. Wright and hergraduate students capture sifaka lemurs in Madagascar, giving them medical check-ups and identification collars. It wasn’t long after that Dr. Wright began to work with the Zoo Society’s docent volunteers to raise funds for conservation and education in Madagascar. It was through this partnership that Party Madagascar was born. And the rest, they say, is history.

Recently, Dr. Wright talked with us about her passion for lemurs, her respect for the Zoo’s work and what people can do to help for the summer issue of ZooNooz. As Party Madagascar approaches on July 25, we’re sharing the conversation again here.

Courtesy of Dr. Patricia Wright

Q: Proceeds from Party Madagascar fund a number of conservation efforts in Madagascar. How have they been most impactful?
A: The MicroceBUS, a minivan we purchased with Zoo funds, has been a godsend. Not only have we taken kids to the forest in it, we also use it for transporting our staff to distant villages as they work in health, education and reforestation.
Reforestation: 22 schools have tree nurseries. Each child has three trees to care for and measure in the nursery, and at the end of the school year, they plant the endemic species of trees and fruit trees back home where they can take care of them into the future. We have planted more than 20,000 trees to date, and some of the first trees (planted) are fruiting and flowering after 15 years.

This makes a big impact, as the papaya and peach fruit trees are bearing fruits for eating and selling, and the endemic species are attracting native birds and maybe someday even lemurs. Some of these species are good for construction wood and are big enough now to be used in house-building. The idea is to give the Malagasy people trees that are useful so they don’t have to go into the forest to cut trees.

Conservation Clubs and Saturday Classes: Seneca Park Zoo has been funding our 15 conservation clubs, which work with the community to do projects like recycling, mulching, composting and encouraging music and dance by organizing social events with a nature theme.

Radio Nature: Getting the conservation word out to distant communities has always been a challenge, and radio programs with stories and songs about wildlife have been very successful.


Photo by Kelli O’Brien

Q: As a past attendee of Party Madagascar, what would you say makes this party so special? What is your most memorable experience at the event?
A: The docent party brings Madagascar to Rochester. Madagascar is a lively, friendly, amazing place and the party brings that spirit locally. One of my favorite memories is when my close friend from high school showed up at the party, and the next year it was another friend and her daughter. It’s fun to see people from ancient times in my hometown at the party. My favorite veterinarian, Jeff Wyatt, always has special stories from the Zoo, and I catch him up on what is going on in Madagascar.

Q: You didn’t begin your career a primatologist. What attracted you to lemurs?
A: It was a circuitous path that led me to the lemurs. Lemurs are beautiful animals that are like nothing else. Someone once called a ringtailed lemur “a raccoon made in Paris.” The variety of lemurs is so diverse, from the little mouse lemur to the odd and quirky aye-aye to the operatic indri, to the leaping, dancing sifakas. Lemurs only come from Madagascar and there are over 100 kinds. I first learned to love lemurs at the Duke University Primate Center, and I traveled to Madagascar to find a species that we feared was extinct. It wasn’t extinct, thank

Photo by Mai

Photo by Marie Kraus

Q: What would you like people to know about lemurs and their importance in their habitat?
A: I want people to know that many lemurs are close to extinction and highly endangered. We don’t want to lose “our ancient cousins” and I am so grateful for Seneca Park Zoo helping to save them.

Q: If you could tell people one thing about saving species and the importance of conservation what would it be?
A: Each person can make a difference in saving species, but starting today and not waiting until tomorrow is prime.


–Elizabeth Roach, Community Engagement Coordinator

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of ZooNooz, the Zoo’s quarterly newsletter. 

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Welcome the Zoo’s new iguana & baby agouti this weekend; run for lemurs at Jungle Jog on July 19

Seneca Park Zoo’s Jungle Jog 5K, a favorite within the Rochester running community, will be hosted again this year on Sunday, July 19. The race takes runners of all abilities and ages through lower Seneca Park, into the Zoo, past some of our animal residents and back.

In addition to the 5K challenge, the Seneca Park Mile offers runners the opportunity to race around the Trout Pond in lower Seneca Park, while the Kids’ Fun Run gives racers ages 1 to 7 a chance of their own to participate.

New this year, runners and non-runners can start fundraising teams in support of Jungle Jog through the fundraising site Everyday Hero. 50% of all funds raised will support lemurs in Madagascar and 50% will go to support the lemurs here at the Zoo.

Ring-tailed lemurs like those at the Zoo are considered endangered, while many other species of lemur are listed at critically endangered or vulnerable. In fact, recent reports indicate that if the habitat loss lemurs are experiencing continues, they could be extinct within 25 years.

That’s why this cause is more important than ever. Starting a fundraising team comes with perks:

• Raise $50 and your race fee is waived.
• Raise $100 and your race fee is waived and you get a free Dri Tech T-shirt.
• Raise $250 and your race fee is waived, you get a free Dri Tech T-shirt and two tickets to Party Madagascar (for people 21-and-older) OR a lemur plush (for people younger than 21)
• Raise $500 and get everything mentioned above AND a lemur experience at the Zoo!

Participants have raised more than $1,000 so far and more teams are being started every day. You can donate directly to the 2015 Jungle Jog 5K or start a fundraising team here.

Register to run by 5 p.m. on July 6 and get a T-shirt with your registration fee for the 5K and Seneca Park Mile!

And make sure to stop by the South American exhibit in the Main Building if you’re at the Zoo this weekend! There are two new animals to spot.

Our new male iguana, Anzu, and a new baby Brazilian agouti, born last week, are both settling in nicely with the two-toed sloths, pied tamarins and golden lion tamarins.

See if you can find them on your next visit!

Education research at Zoo highlights informal learning

Peter Kalenda, Ed.D. is a researcher and educator who recently completed his dissertation Creating Learning Experiences that Promote Informal Science Education: Designing Conservation Focused Interactive Zoo Exhibits through Action Research.

In this study, Peter asked the overall question: How can interactive exhibits be designed to promote socialization, engagement in science, and real-world conservation-related practices (RCPs) among zoo guests? He found answers through observation and data collection in the Rocky Coasts Gallery as well as direct interviews and follow-up calls with visitors.

The findings of Peter’s study–regarding the importance of signage placement, parental guidance in informal learning, and more–will be incorporated by the Education Department into future exhibit design. We had the chance to ask Peter a few questions to learn more about how he executed the project:

Why did you decide to focus on the Zoo for your dissertation work?

I grew up with a passion for studying animals. As an undergraduate, I majored in Biology with a focus in Zoo Biology and Animal Behavior. This eventually led me to becoming a science educator for the Rochester City School District. I wanted my dissertation research to focus on the informal science education that takes place at zoos and was fortunate that the zoo was looking for an Exhibit Redesign Facilitator at that time.


How can informal learning be just as powerful as formal learning?

Informal learning provides levels of engagement, personal connections and reflection that are often missed in formal learning scenarios. Informal learning approaches, whether in a school classroom or outside of school, provide students with meaningful opportunities to ask questions, explore, investigate and become an expert in an area they are passionate about.

How did you tackle the process of data collection? 

Most of my data collection was completed in the underwater viewing area of the Rocky Coasts. Zoo guests were welcomed to participate in the use of our new prototype exhibit. Nearly all guests who were asked participated! I then interviewed each family who agreed to participate before and after they used the exhibit, and also wrote down their conversations and movements within the exhibit.

Our redesign team analyzed this data using grounded theory qualitative data analysis techniques and collaboratively identified patterns and trends among the data that helped us to continually redesign and improve our prototype exhibit for guests.Picture2What surprised you most about the feedback you received?

I was impressed at how insightful our zoo guests were on exhibit design. Many of our guests made impressive suggestions on how to improve the exhibit, which helped to inspire out exhibit design shifts during each round of redesign.

What do you think was the best improvement that came about from your research?

The best improvement to the prototype exhibit was our shift in signage design for readability, which included improving the use of vocabulary, syntax and white space. As scientists and educators, we often wanted to supply our audience with many facts and images. This study helped to show that both children and adults were not reading signage with excessive images and text. However, once our signage was redesigned with a literacy expert, both adults and children were using our signage regularly. Adults were often scaffolding the learning of their children with these new signs, children were using this signage on their own, and many adult groups enjoyed the signage without children. During these same visits by guests, the other signs in the original exhibit that had colored backgrounds, excessive text, small text, difficult vocabulary and multiple pictures were repeatedly ignored.

These prototype exhibit signs and interactives were all temporary installations to help us collect data and inspire the future redesign of the Rocky Coasts. All of these signs and interactives have been donated to the Zoo Teens program, and they will be utilized by Anneke Nordmark and the Zoo Teen staff starting this summer.


Your research notes that “Most behaviors during engagement were breakthrough.” What is a breakthrough behavior and why is it important for higher-level learning?

The research by Chantel Barriault (1999) identifies three levels of behaviors that guests can display while engaging with an exhibit. Each level of behavior indicates a different “depth of learning.” These include initiation behaviors (using an interactive, watching others do an activity, talking to a docent), transition behaviors (repeating an activity, expressing an emotional response) and breakthrough behaviors (referring to past experiences, seeking out information, sharing information with others or using information from the exhibit). Guests engaging in breakthrough behaviors are the most engaged and leave with the greatest depth of understanding of new concepts. By the third iteration of our exhibit redesign, the majority of behaviors exhibited by guests were breakthrough behaviors. This was a significant shift from our first version of the prototype exhibit which only exhibited initiation behaviors. Reaching this depth of understanding is critical to helping our zoo meet the AZA’s ultimate goal of having zoo guests take conservation action at home and in their communities.


Thank you to Peter for contributing this fascinating research to the Zoo! You can read his full dissertation here.


Photos courtesy of Peter Kalenda

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Zoo to live-stream Times Square #IvoryCrush

Every 15 minutes, an elephant is killed for its ivory. That’s 96 elephants per day. Tomorrow, Friday, June 19, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service along with Wildlife Conservation Society and other partners of the conservation organization 96 Elephants will crush more than one ton of confiscated ivory to raise awareness of this situation and send a message to poachers and traffickers that these illegal acts will not be tolerated.

In support of this initiative, Seneca Park Zoo will host a special viewing of this live-streamed event on grounds at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, June 19, and offer visitors the chance to learn more about elephants from zoo keeper and education staff.

The Zoo has long been a partner of 96 Elephants, working to save endangered elephants from extinction both at the Zoo and in their natural range.

“If they didn’t reside here, the Zoo’s four African elephants, Genny C, Lilac, Moki and Chana would most likely have been killed for their ivory,” says Dr. Jeff Wyatt, the Zoo’s Director of Animal Health and Conservation. “Supporters of this initiative can help to stop that from happening with their relatives still left behind.”

The live stream will play on the Zoo’s outdoor digital display beginning at 10:30 a.m. Zoo keeper staff, elephant handlers and interpreters from the Education Department will be present to answer questions and help visitors understand how they can help. Visitors can explore bio facts, sign a pledge not to buy or sell ivory products and participate in other activities to enhance their experience.

Learn more about the #IvoryCrush, 96 Elephants and watch the event live here.

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Summer kicks off at the Zoo with brews, a tiger birthday party & hourly programs

This summer, Monroe County’s Seneca Park Zoo has expanded its programming to include animal experiences and engaging opportunities to enrich your Zoo visit every hour, every day beginning Saturday, May 23.

Photo by Kelli O'Brien

Photo by Kelli O’Brien

Our popular Summer Programs reflect the role your Zoo plays in conserving wildlife in wild places and will captivate all ages. Visitors can see the alligators eat lunch, learn about the newly expanded elephant herd and hear from zoo keepers about how they care for the Zoo’s most popular animals, from Lou the hyena to to whole African penguin flock. Check out the full schedule of summer programs here.

Saturday will also feature a birthday celebration for our Amur tigers, Anastasia and Katya, from 1 to 3 p.m. After singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ visitors can watch a special enrichment demonstration and learn about how to help save these magnificent animals in their natural range.


Photo by Kelley Parker


Memorial Day Weekend kicks off tonight with the popular 21-and-older happy hour event, ZooBrew. Featuring five bars and three live bands from 5:30 to 9 p.m, this event will take place monthly throughout the summer. Tickets are available online or at the Front Gate.


Photo by Kelli O’Brien


Seneca Park Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. Grounds remain open until 5 p.m. The Zoo opens at 9:30 a.m. for our Zoo members. For more information, visit senecaparkzoo.org.

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Learn about Saving Animals From Extinction on Endangered Species Day

As the world honors Endangered Species Day for the 10th year in a row today, Seneca Park Zoo, along with other accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is celebrating the launch of SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction.

SAFE logo

SAFE combines the power of zoo and aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of AZA institutions, partnering them to save animals from extinction.

SAFE will focus its efforts on 10 species, one of which is the African penguin, an animal Seneca Park Zoo has become a national leader in helping to conserve.

Our Zoo is home to the top breeding colony in the country, with 93 successful hatchlings since 1999. Chicks hatched at Seneca Park Zoo have been sent to 25 accredited zoos and aquariums across North America.

Endangered Species Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate this conservation success story and to learn what still needs to be done to save African penguins from extinction.

Photo by Walter Brooks

Photo by Walter Brooks

So join us at the Zoo today and learn from volunteer educators, enjoy keeper talks and share how you would finish the sentence, Saving animals from extinction is important to me because ____.

All activities take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Penguin Exhibit.

Schedule of activities:

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Talk to docents, the Zoo’s volunteer educators, about African penguins and how the Zoo is helping to build sustainable populations in their natural range.

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors are invited to share your thoughts about saving endangered species on chalkboards.

10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Zoo keepers will give talks about the Zoo’s flock and explain how the birds’ genetics are contributing to the national population of penguins in conservation care.


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