ZoosFlash May 2020

BEAUTIFUL SPRING DAYS

The staff at the Jackson Zoo are making the most of the extended spring season as they work inside and outside exhibits. The animals seem to be enjoying the milder-than-normal temperatures, as well.

There is still much to do before we can invite the USDA for an inspection, but zoo staff and crews with the City of Jackson keep moving forward, especially as all businesses try to work safely around the coronavirus pandemic.

FRESH FACES

Discovery Keepers have counted at least three new additions to the Prairie Dog Town in the past week. Since the keepers do not interrupt or interfere in the exhibit unless there is an emergency, we often don’t know about pups until they emerge. Young often spend their first four to six weeks exclusively underground.

One of the projects in progress is the cleaning, repainting, and repairing of the Prairie Dog exhibit barrier so that visitors will be able to safely view the animals when we re-open.

ZOO ENRICHMENT FOR HUMANS

Modern zookeepers are very aware of the need for daily exercise of the body and brain, which is why ENRICHMENT is so important in daily animal care schedules. JZ Keepers keep the zoo animals engaged every day – often several times a day – with treats, activities, and scents. Of course, humans are animals, so it works on us, too!

We’ve taken a page from our keepers and come up with some ANIMAL CRAFTS AND ACTIVITIES that get everyone engaged both physically and mentally, AND utilize common household items that might otherwise get tossed. You can enrich AND recycle while you’re at home with the family!

(Please feel free to reply to this email with finished crafts or ideas for new ones!)

SUPPORT ANIMAL ENRICHMENT

There are now TWO levels of support for the JZ Staff while the zoo is closed to the public, and both help the keepers and staff with smaller, animal-based projects. All donations go towards additional ENRICHMENT, or towards IMPROVEMENT, which allows us to beautify exhibits and the park in small ways*.

Individuals or groups can join the KEEPER BOOSTER CLUB, at either the Primate Level for $25, or Hoofstock Level for $50, which gets them a digital official certificate, zookeeper and enrichment facts that are easy to print and display.

There is also the Adoption: Keeper level for $75, and Adoption: Guardian level for $100. Each animal sponsorship comes with a certificate, animal facts, conservation notes, keeper facts, enrichment notes, AND either a 6″ zoo plush (Keeper) or a 10″ zoo plush (Guardian).

*Although donations to the zoo are not currently tax deductible, they are much needed and greatly appreciated by staff.

The JZ Keepers thank long-term partners Tyson Foods for their 12-month sponsorship of the American Alligators! They have generously donated the chicken for the weekly feedings for the 2020 season!

Many thanks also to Zoo Area Progressive Partnership for their commitment to us. They are currently giving out these YARD SIGNS to zoo fans in Jackson and the surrounding communities to show support for our animals. If you are interested in getting one, ZAPP is asking $5 per sign to fund the next order. Just reply to this email for details.

We do not currently have a re-open date at this time, but continue to share information as it becomes available to us.

ZoosFlash April 2020

There have been many inquiries to the status of the Jackson Zoo lately, especially with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire staff sympathizes with all our local community partners, as well as our sister zoos and aquariums around the world, that are dealing with the difficult circumstances of sheltering in place.

Special thoughts and prayers to the Bronx Zoo as their animal care staff deals with the illness in both their staff and tigers. That is a constant and deep seated concern for those in animal care, and our hearts go out to them. Wishing a quick recovery for all.

We’ve been closed to the public since September 31st of 2019 for repairs and inspection preparation, so basic operations stay the same. At this time, no keepers or animals have shown any COVID-19 symptoms, but all staff are using all available precautions.

A small staff means that the daily routines have always been pretty solitary, but the coronavirus has forced us to tweak some things. For instance, keepers and staff try to arrange their tasks in a way where they don’t share communal space; most communication between staff is handled via phone or radio; and when interaction cannot be avoided, everyone uses the 6 foot social distancing rule, even if outdoors.

Strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols of both animal and human spaces remain in place, but there is extra focus on human self care, as well. For Keepers, getting sick is scary not only from a personal standpoint, but with such a small staff, it means even more work for coworkers. So everyone is doing their best to stay healthy for the animals and each other.

When it comes to repairs and improvements, the work is still in progress, but it has been slowed. With services and businesses having to close or reduce hours, which is absolutely understandable, the staff does what we can with supplies we already have on hand. We look forward to picking up right where we left off as soon as everyone is back in business.

We still consider ourselves fortunate to be thought of by so many in our community. Several zoo sponsors and patrons have donated to animal enrichment, including Ms. Hope Henry, Zoo Crew member, with some fun enrichment items. Plus US Foods in Flowood, and Salad Days of Flora gave our animals some fresh produce – some of it very different from daily diet requirements – which has been a nice addition for both animal and keeper. (Want to donate to the staff for the animals or repairs? Check out our enrichment page, look into “adopting” an animal, or you can make a monetary donation HERE.)

We want to assure everyone that our plans for completing repairs, undergoing USDA inspection, and reopening to the public have not changed, just the timeline.

ZoosFlash March 2020

Daylight Saving Time Begins

Tomorrow at 2 am (Sunday morning), we will all be SPRINGING FORWARD one hour!

How does it affect the exotic animals in our care? Much like it effects people and companion animals: everything just seems a little “off” for a day or two. The JZ Keepers make little adjustments here and there with schedules and enrichment, just like we do, and things stay right on track.

Tips to survive time change

VOLUNTEER LANDSCAPING 8 am to 11 am Saturday 03/14

Zoo Area Progressive Partnership and Keep Jackson Beautiful will be leading the Jackson Zoo Crew volunteers in planning and planting spring growth this Saturday starting at 8 a.m. The focus will be on the zoo’s Capitol Street entrance, the flower beds around zoo Admissions, and the Livingston Train Station.

We encourage wearing closed toed shoes and gloves, weather appropriate gear, and bringing any tools you can use and then take back home with you. Good to have are loppers, pruners, shears, small shovels and hoes, and we can always use any extra mulch, people with mowers/weedeaters, and pressure washers.

To participate, please RSVP to the left or email Miss Ginger HERE.

Also, since spring weather can be so touch and go, keep an eye on the Volunteer Landscaping FB event for any changes or postponements.

Interested in becoming a Jackson Zoo Keeper? If you love wildlife, have at least a high school diploma, can lift 50 lbs regularly, and like a challenge, you have the beginnings of a life in animal care.

Go to THIS WEB PAGE and start the process today!

ZoosFlash February 2020

We are very impressed with and appreciative of Revitalize Mississippi for their work in the Discovery Zoo demo. 

Although the barns were the basis for MANY memories in the community, it was decided in in the early 2010’s that they were not meeting modern standards for properly caring for or housing our Discovery and Contact Yard animals. The buildings had been quickly built in the 1970’s, given a face lift in the mid 1980’s, but had continued to fall further into disrepair until the animals were moved to more modern quarters on zoo grounds in 2016.

Jim, Andy, and the friendly crew of Revitalize MS came in and cleared the foundations within a week, and at no charge to the Zoo.

Planning for the rebuild started in 2013, and the City of Jackson is currently working with the Jackson Zoo staff to finalize the work and start bringing back the popular Contact Yard as the first phase. Interacting with different types of animals at a young age can create a real appreciation for all the unique and beautiful creatures that share our world.

Since there are several ideas for other fun and educational exhibits in the space, the Discovery Zoo rebuild will probably be an ongoing and expensive project, but well worth the efforts. 

Thank you, Revitalize Mississippi!

Crews from City of Jackson Parks and Recreation have come out to do a different kind of clearing, as well as some patching along the way!

For almost a week, there were trimmers, loppers, blowers, weed eaters, and trucks dragging away debris as they got the zoo flora ready for spring blooming.

They are also doing repair work as they go, fixing a few concerning sinkholes along paths and boundaries.

We not only appreciate the work, but the respect that they showed for the animals that were enriched by all the activity!

Huge Jackson Zoo SALUTE going out to UMMC students who volunteered to help our Keepers during the Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service!

A group of ten or so students came out to power clean and re-perch exhibits (while the animals were in another area, of course – safety first!), which freed up our hardworking JZ Keepers to do more detailed projects for the animals.

Daily cleaning can often take up most of the hours in a shift, so having folks that understand the importance of specific cleaning needs is very helpful. We wish them the best in their studies, and hope to see them again in the future!

Feeling the need to nom?

Remember that JZ members can show their member cards and receive a 15% discount off their entire dine-in order at our Member Partner Restaurants: Iron Horse Grill, Sal & Mookies, Broad Street, Bravo!, Brent’s Drugs, Barellhouse, Fenian’s Pub, Twisted Pretzel, Dippin Dots, and Brick Street Pops! 

zoOceanarium Group and Jackson Zoo Ready for Foundational Phase-October 2019

Since the new zoo operations contract is in its final stages with the City of Jackson, members of zoOceanarium Group (our incoming zoo management team) and the Jackson Zoo staff recently found an opportunity for an informal pre-planning session. Although no official decisions or timeline can be set without a contract in place with the city, everyone agreed that a revitalization project of this size and scope needs all the prep time available. zoOceanarium Group’s Managing Partner Chris Davis and Director of Animal Projects Erin Clark met with Jackson Zoo Interim Director Dave Wetzel and Marketing and Promotions Director EJ Rivers to continue discussing short and long term projects for the one hundred year old park.  This particular “think tank” further defined how to combine the zoo’s current strengths and needs with zoOceanarium Group’s global attraction and guest experience expertise. They discussed that the initial phase of the Jackson Zoo modernization needs be “Foundational,” or focusing on the fundamentals of a successful modern zoo:  enhancing wildlife care and habitats with additional training from zoOceanarium Group’s animal care team; prioritizing and setting timelines for park changes and additions after park re-opening with USDA approval (NOTE: The Jackson Zoological Society’s USDA exhibitor’s license ended on September 30th, 2019, and the zoo temporarily closed to the public. Since then, Jackson Zoo staff, City of Jackson officials, and the zoOceanarium Group have applied for the new USDA license, but are waiting to set an inspection date until the city has completed the repairs to areas of concern); re-establishing stable funding for improvements, animal acquisitions, educational programs, community events, and guest experiences; strengthening and forging new relationships with community leadership, residents, and visitors to help develop a new five year plan;   and creating a better balance between the park and community’s history and the needs of our wildlife, families, and educators. A major point was how the Jackson Zoo can re-open and best meet community needs and expectations during what will be an “invisible” phase: projects that are absolutely crucial for a zoo, yet could be considered “uneventful” to the public eye. Because both zoOceanarium Group and the Jackson Zoo staff share animal care and guest experience as their top priorities, everyone should still be on the lookout for some fun announcements in the coming year. Finally, Davis expressed great admiration for the Jackson Zoo staff and community partners for their hard work and dedication, especially during such an unusual and difficult period. Wetzel assured him that not only do the staff still have more than enough energy for the next phase, they’re ready at the word “Go.”  zoOceanarium hopes to join Mayor Lumumba and members of the Jackson City Council for the official signing of the contract within the coming weeks. Mr. Davis especially looks forward to officially introducing the zoOceanarium team to their newest adopted community and getting projects underway. There was also mention of it being about time for another Stamps burger.