Lake Superior Zoo, Duluth, Minnesota

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Friday, March 16, 2012

by Marketing Director, Holly Henry
Did you know that on Saturday, March 31 you can do something to change the world? By turning out your lights from 8:30 to 9:30 you will join millions of people across the world in an effort to take a stand against climate change.

In 2011, Earth Hour saw hundreds of millions of people across 135 countries turn off their electricity for an hour. But it also marked the start of something new – going Beyond the Hour to commit to lasting action on climate change. With the power of social networks, organizers hope to build a global community committed to sustainability.

Earth Hour began in 2006, when WWF-Australia inspired Sydney-siders to show their support for climate change action in the first ever Earth Hour event. It was designed to show that everyone, from children to CEOs and politicians, had the power to change the world they live in.

In March 2007 in Sydney, Australia, 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights out for one hour to take a stand against climate change.

In 2008, the plan was to take Earth Hour to the rest of Australia. The city of Toronto, Canada, signed up and soon 35 countries and almost 400 cities and towns were part of the event.

With the invitation to ‘switch off’ extended to everyone, Earth Hour quickly became an annual global event. It’s scheduled on the last Saturday of every March – closely coinciding with the equinox to ensure most cities are in darkness as it rolled out around the Earth.

The Lake Superior Zoo’s Green Team will celebrate Earth Hour 2012 on Sat., March, 31 with a special event from 7 to 9 p.m. The zoo will turn out its lights and have a bonfire, campfire chili and music, along with an educational presentation and lantern-lit walking tour. The Arrowhead Astronomical Society will be on hand with telescopes for viewing of the constellations.

The city of Duluth will join the celebration by turning out the lights on the city’s iconic lift bridge.

posted by Keely Johnson at

Friday, March 9, 2012

by Zookeeper, Lizzy Johnson

Over the last three years as a zookeeper, people who meet me seem to have two different reactions when they hear of my profession. Many people exclaim “How cool! You get to play with animals all day!” all the rest give me a disgusted look and say “So you clean up poop all day?” Although a large portion of a zookeeper’s day is devoted to keeping the animals exhibits clean and enriching their lives, another large portion of being a zookeeper is research and learning.

The Lake Superior Zoo currently houses many different species of animals. Each zookeeper has a particular area and group of species they work with and they are expected to know as much as they can about each one. They are the zoo’s “experts” in their species. The world is far from knowing everything about animals and research is being done all around whether at zoos, schools, or other organizations. One of the great things about working in the animal field is that most everyone’s main priority is the well-being of the animals they work with. This means that as new discoveries are made the researchers are thrilled to share the information they’ve learned with anyone who will listen. The more information is shared, the higher the quality of care that can be given to the animals.

One group of animals that I work closely with are the zoo’s birds. We currently have 15 different species of birds ranging from parrots to raptors to pheasants. To stay up-to-date on all the new ways to give the best care for birds I joined the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators. Recently, I was fortunate enough to represent the Lake Superior Zoo at this organization’s annual conference, which the Minnesota Zoo hosted. Bird enthusiasts from all over the world came together to share their research. One conference presenter, Chad Crittle, came from the Cairns Tropical Zoo in Australia and was more than a little shocked by our Minnesota weather.

During the four-day conference papers were presented on a range of topics that can be useful to anyone working with our avian friends. New enrichment options were discussed, such as a toilet paper perch which serves as a place for the bird to sit and a toy to tear apart (Laura Freeman, The Raptor Center). Michael Billington from The Raptor Center shared with us the newest discoveries in raptor vision; did you know that eagles can see three times better than humans? Even Steve Martin, a bird trainer for more than 30 years, came to share his newest training techniques and to learn from ours.

Being a part of such a knowledgeable community is invaluable. As I mentioned before the zoo has 15 different species of birds and it would be impossible for me to know everything there is to know about each one. By being an active part of this community I am always one phone call away from talking to someone who does know all the answers and is happy to share them with the Lake Superior Zoo!

posted by Keely Johnson at

Friday, March 2, 2012

by Holly Henry, Director of Marketing

We here at the zoo are often reminded of what a privilege it is to work with the animals in our care. No matter what department we work in, we are all given the opportunity to get to know our residents and interact with them. How amazing it is that we can take our lunch break and watch the otters play or the brown bears eat? What an honor it is to watch polar bear training or witness a vet procedure on a snow leopard. How lucky am I to be able to bring Korbel, our double yellow headed parrot, into the marketing office for a chat?

Some of the most fortunate staff members, of course, are our zoo keepers who work with these animals and enrich their lives on a daily basis. All staff hold our keepers in high regard and secretly (or not so secretly) wish we could be just like them!

During our recent snowstorm, we had a brief opportunity to help the keepers and guess what? I quickly decided I didn’t want to be just like them! Those who could make it into the zoo braved 40 to 50 mile-an-hour winds and heavy, wet snow to feed the animals their diets, check on their welfare and shovel snow from the exhibits. When your job is to care for animals, there’s no such thing as a snow day. After all, brown bears and tigers need to eat!

After about 20 minutes of shoveling the barnyard I realized why zoo keepers don’t wear mascara (can you say raccoon face?) and why they dress like Inuits. While many of us imagine their lives to be quite glamorous and exotic, the truth is they work very hard in some pretty tough conditions. Slinging bales of hay, filling icy water bowls and trying to open frozen locks is not for sissies. Remarkably, our keepers carry out these tasks with smiles on their faces and a delightful willingness to help one another.

I can’t tell you how many times during the blizzard I heard cheerful radio chatter from keepers and grounds crew. “I’ll be right there.” “Does anyone need any help?” I was impressed with both their teamwork skills and their hardiness.

Today I am back in my 68-degree office, donning mascara and lipstick, sore from my brief stint of shoveling and armed with even more admiration for our animal care team. While National Zoo Keeper Week takes place in the much balmier month of July (July 19 – 25) it’s worth remembering to thank these dedicated individuals year-round!

posted by Keely Johnson at

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