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Points of ‘PAWS'itivity at the Micke Grove Zoo
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Points of ‘PAWS'itivity at the Micke Grove Zoo

The Education Department at the Micke Grove Zoo was just granted $92,000 from the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors of one-time funding in support of its education programs. These funds will enhance the education department’s efforts to provide low and no-cost animal conservation education to the surrounding communities. Part of the granted funds will be used to extend the education department’s scholarship programs for the 2016-2017 year that provide N.G.S.S. and S.T.E.M. based science lessons for area school children. The education department looks to renew the award each year as part of their ongoing and long-term partnership with the zoo.

The education department is a part of the non-profit Micke Grove Zoological Society that works to assist the county-run zoo. The education department arm of the MGZS provides on and off-site education programs for elementary classrooms, senior care facilities and community groups. They offer zoo camps throughout the year along with birthday parties, tours, after-hours animal encounters and manage a strong volunteer program. They facilitate part of the zoo’s social media, grant writing, donor cultivation and fund-raising as well as coordinate the staff and volunteer base for the zoo’s community and special events.

The education department is part of the team of devoted professionals at the Micke Grove Zoo who endeavor to provide the citizens of San Joaquin County and beyond with a quality, modern zoo. Today’s zoos hold dearly to a purpose beyond the animals on display in cages from days past. The purpose of a quality zoo today is to educate. The Micke Grove Zoo teaches conservation through education, research and responsible recreation. The zoo animals are “ambassadors” who draw in visitors with their animal allure and are the most effective and memorable teachers of why people should care. The dedicated and passionate zookeepers and education staff enhance and interpret the animals’ magic through their knowledge of wildlife and stories of the animals’ antics. Lead zookeepers work directly with the animals in training programs intended to facilitate easier and less stressful health exams and enclosure maintenance. For example, it is easier for the Spider Monkeys when they are trained to present their tail through the fence for a vitamin injection than it is to sedate, remove, treat, return and recover without training in place.

Where do these animals come from and who regulates it all? Zoos are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) who set the highest standards for zoo animal care. They also organize the Species Survival Plans (SSPs) that rigorously regulate breeding programs for rare, threatened, or endangered animals through professional committees and coordinators for each species. SSPs aim for self-sustaining populations that can be returned to their native habitats. By combining county funding and much needed private donations and pro-bono work, the Micke Grove Zoo is working towards re-accreditation by targeting the many work projects still needed at the zoo.

Micke Grove Zoo contributes to conservation efforts by participating in SSPs; four species of which are part of breeding SSP programs in hopes of bringing them back from the brink. The Northern Bald Ibis, Golden Lion Tamarin, Southern Pudu and Western Pond Turtle range from a status of “vulnerable” to “critically endangered” and are one to three steps away from extinction. In the past few years, the Prevost’s Squirrel, Marbled Teal and Snow Leopard species have also benefitted from the targeted breeding effort expertise of the Micke Grove Zoo staff. “We house a diverse collection of wildlife in our zoo. Some of these animals are very rare and housed by very few zoos in North America,” contributes Colleen Mullikin, Animal Care Specialist.

Gone are the days of captive breeding of just the “popular” animals for zoo exhibits. The animal ambassadors at the Micke Grove zoo come from two sources: zoo born through an SSP or they are a rescue animal that can no longer survive on their own in the wild. The zoo houses several animals that have lost their ability to fly, hunt effectively or survive on their own due to human involvement (bullet wounds, windmills, hit by a vehicle, etc.) In honor of their time at the zoo, the animals and their enclosures are cared for daily where their diet, health and behaviors are managed and monitored for the animals’ optimum comfort. The animals’ natural interests and preferences are taken into account for exhibit design and continual adjustment. In addition to strict, healthful diets and weekly veterinary care, the animals enjoy the daily doses of “enrichment” that they receive. Enrichment is all of the toys, treats, games, puzzles and interesting items, scents and sights that stimulate their days. It makes everyday a new exploration for them and is a core part of a modern zoo’s efforts to pay tribute to its greatest teachers of conservation. After all, "In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” Baba Dioum (Senegalese forestry engineer and conservationist)

More good news! The Micke Grove Zoo is delighted to announce its newest animal ambassador, a Ringtail. This charming fluff ball cousin to the raccoon is native to the southern half of North America. Normally nocturnal, a Ringtail can effortlessly scale trees and rocky cliffs in habitats that stretch from forests to chaparral shrub land and rocky deserts. This opportunistic omnivore who enjoys eating berries and nuts in addition to small birds, mice and lizards, chooses to spend most of its life alone except for brief periods during mating season. Even though this little girl can be quite shy, her curious nature has been luring her out into view and she has been sleeping on display during the day. “It is always exciting to bring in a new species to the zoo, especially when they are as cute as this little girl is!” says Carrie Guerrero, Animal Care Specialist responsible for the care of the new ringtail.

Micke Grove Zoo is located inside Micke Grove Regional Park at 11793 N. Micke Grove Road in Lodi, CA. It is open every day of the year except Christmas from 10AM to 5PM; the admission gate closes at 4:30PM. Tickets are $5 for guests 14+, $3 for children 3-13, and free for children 2 and under as well as for members of the MGZS. For Membership or more information regarding the zoo, visit MGZOO.COM. For parking information, please visit SJPARKS.COM.

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