Volunteering – A Richly Rewarding Experience!

Syracuse Zoo RGZ Volunteers
Janet Agostini Friends of the Zoo President & CEO

Did you know that many of the people you see helping to staff zoo events and education programs are volunteers? In fact, if it weren’t for our dedicated corps of volunteers, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo might not be able to offer some of our most popular events – like Zoo Boo, Brew at the Zoo, Breakfast with Santa and Asian Elephant Extravaganza, to name a few.

If you are looking to use your time and talents to make a difference, the zoo is the perfect place for you! We are always seeking dedicated, talented, reliable, energetic and enthusiastic volunteers to help with special events, assist in education programs, help maintain and beautify zoo grounds, and interpret zoo exhibits for visitors.

Here are ways you can volunteer at the zoo:

  • Zoo Events – Help the zoo host fun, educational events by greeting guests, staffing special event stations, assisting with arts, crafts, games and face-painting, help stage and decorate event spaces and more!
  • Be a Zoo Mascot – Represent the zoo at community events and onsite zoo activities as our elephant or penguin mascot! We’re seeking outgoing, entertaining people to don an animal costume and interact with the public just as a sports team mascot does.
  • Conservation Education – Assist our zoo education team with programs that promote public awareness of wildlife and nature conservation. Opportunities include assisting instructors of classroom education programs and staffing animal artifact and information stations.
  • Green Grounds and Gardens – Help us improve and maintain our beautiful zoo grounds through on-site projects that involve a team effort.

Zoo volunteer activities offer great experience for youth, college students, teachers, professionals, retirees, corporate groups and alumni associations, among many others. There are so many ways you can share your skills and give back to your community by helping the zoo with projects, programs, events and causes while getting involved in CNY’s premiere wildlife conservation center.

I invite you to consider joining our zoo family and to apply to be a zoo volunteer. To learn more, sign up for a Volunteer Information Night at syracusezooevents.org/volunteer or email volunteer services at volunteer@rosamondgiffordzoo.org.

My best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

Thrilled to be welcoming a new baby to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Asian Elephant Mom and Baby Syracuse Zoo RGZ 2019
Janet Agostini Friends of the Zoo President & CEO

On January 15, our Asian elephant herd grew from 7 to 8 with the birth of a bouncing baby boy to elephant parents Mali and Doc.

I am always excited at the sight of any of our elephants, but being able to see a newborn elephant taking some of his first steps is a privilege that really does amount to the best day ever.

Since our County Executive Ryan McMahon announced the birth publicly on January 24, the new baby has been featured in publications and news sites across our state and beyond. It makes us proud to see our zoo recognized as one of only 11 zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) that breeds this critically endangered species under the Species Survival Plan for Asian elephants.

As the leader of a non-profit whose mission is to support the zoo, I spend a lot of my time designing capital campaigns to fund zoo projects, educating people about the important conservation work taking place here and securing financial support for everything from an X-ray machine to the 50,000-gallon watering hole at Asian Elephant Preserve.

It is so nice to see the elephant barn sheltering a wonderful multi-generational herd as we envisioned. Your past and ongoing support helped to make this happen – thank you!

I would like to extend the Friends of the Zoo’s congratulations to the entire zoo staff, especially the elephant care team and our veterinary team from Cornell University, on this wonderful occasion – and to re-pledge our support for the amazing work that you do on behalf of the animals at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.

My best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

Syracuse zoo’s Snow Leopard Soirée: Monte Carlo to be held Feb. 8

2018 Snow Leopard Soirée: Under the Sea Syracuse Zoo RGZ
Janet Agostini Friends of the Zoo President & CEO

The high-stakes, high-society elegance of Monte Carlo is this year’s theme for the Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s annual Snow Leopard Soirée on Friday, February 8, a black-tie gala to benefit zoo education programs.

This year’s gala honors Al Gough, Partner & CFO of Brine Wells Companies, LLC, and Friends of the Zoo board member. Gough, a longtime zoo supporter, contributed to the Friends capital campaigns for the Penguin Coast and Primate Park exhibits at the zoo.

Snow Leopard Soirée has all the fun, food and fanciful decor of a charity ball, plus interactions with zoo animals and zookeepers and chances to bid on animal art and behind-the-scenes zoo experiences. Some of the more “zoo-nique” items include a painting created by siamang apes Abe and Fatima and art by Bactrian camels Patrick and George, as well as a behind-the-scenes sloth encounter.

The annual Soirée helps fund zoo education programs that reach some 150,000 people each year. Conservation education is key part of the zoo’s mission as an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), said Friends of the Zoo President Janet Agostini.

“AZA facilities are required to ensure that our guests come away with a greater understanding of the animal kingdom and wildlife conservation,” Agostini said.

“If your child has participated in a school field trip to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo or attended Zoo Camp, if you have come to a zoo event or have interacted with our teen Zoo Guides who work at the zoo each summer, you have been touched by a zoo education program.”

Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s education programs include:

  • Zoo to You, a mobile education program that brings zoo educators and ambassador animals – birds, lizards, snakes, even a porcupine – to schools, libraries, community centers and hospitals.
  • Zoo Camp – weeklong summer camps or day-long seasonal camps that include zoo tours, hands-on activities, games, crafts and interaction with animals and animal care staff on topics such as animal adaptations, habitats, enrichment and saving species.
  • Zoo Guides, a program that trains about 20 city high school students each year to work at the zoo helping to educate the public with animal biofact stations and other activities.

Soirée is an annual tradition that some couples and groups of friends plan for each year. The evening starts at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception and silent auction. At 8 p.m., guests fill the zoo’s banquet room for a gourmet dinner and a live auction. A dessert spread, music and dancing follow.

The silent auction will feature Mobile Bidding by GiveSmart, which allows attendees to bid via their smart phones while enjoying the food and festivities.
To Register Click Here

If You Go
What:
Snow Leopard Soirée 2019: Monte Carlo.
When: Friday, February 8, 6:30 to 11 p.m.
Where: Rosamond Gifford Zoo, 1 Conservation Place, Syracuse, NY 13204.
Why: Gala fundraiser to benefit the zoo’s education programs.
Cost: $220 per person; $1,750/per table of eight; reservations required.
Reservations: Reserve Now or call 315-435-8511 x8518.

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

Couple’s Choice: Catering at the Zoo

Syracuse Zoo RGZ CATZ Wedding Banner

Our Catering at the Zoo team recently received a 2019 Couple’s Choice 5-star rating from wedding website WeddingWire, Inc. — thanks to rave reviews from couples who said “I do” at the zoo.

Catering at the Zoo was started by the Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo 15 years ago as a way to fulfill the many requests to hold weddings, social events and corporate gatherings in the zoo’s unique setting. It has grown into a premiere catering service and event venue that now hosts about 35 weddings a year.

Besides offering gourmet food in an elegant setting, Catering at the Zoo allows you to include an animal ambassador to greet your guests and even rent the indoor or outdoor zoo for friends and family to enjoy as part of the festivities. Most importantly, Catering at the Zoo helps support animal care at the zoo and wildlife conservation projects around the world.

“The Zoo was amazing,” one 2018 bride wrote on WeddingWire. “The food was excellent, the environment was perfect. The staff worked really hard to make our vision of the room a reality. (Events Manager) Brittany was great to work with. And we came in under budget! I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

I invite interested couples who would like a tour of our facilities to contact our events team at (315) 435-8511 x8543 or x8577 or visit our website at cateringatthezoo.org

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

PROUD RECIPIENT OF THE
2019 WEDDINGWIRE COUPLES’ CHOICE AWARD

Wedding Wire Couples Choice Award Syracuse Zoo CATZ RGZ

A Season of Giving: Emma and Raeny

In this season of giving, I would like to give a shout out to two of our younger supporters for their generous efforts earlier this year on behalf of the zoo.

Emma Baker, 11, and Raeny Thompson, 12, are friends and students at Cazenovia Middle School. Every summer, these amazing girls hold a bake sale for charity – and this year they decided to support the zoo.

The girls made cookies, brownies, sea salt caramel cupcakes and chocolate mousse cups, among other goodies, and sold them in the Village of Cazenovia. They raised $200 for animal care and conservation at the zoo!

Emma and Raeny Bake Sale in CazenoviaThey said they chose the zoo because they both love to visit here. Most recently, they enjoyed seeing the snow leopard cubs and the red panda cubs born at the zoo this year.

We are truly grateful to Emma and Raeny for this generous gift. We are so fortunate to have a wonderful zoo family that supports our animals all year round.

My heartfelt thanks go out to Raeny, Emma and all of our zoo supporters.

Happy Holidays from your zoo!

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

Abe and Fatima: a Love Story

Syracuse Zoo RGZ Siamang Apes Abe and Fatima

Please allow me to share with you a love story that has unfolded at your zoo over the past year — the story of Abe and Fatima.

Abe, our male siamang ape, is a longtime zoo resident who turns 40 on February 12. He was in need of a companion after his mate of 10 years passed away.

If we were to write an online dating profile for Abe, it would read something like:
Ruggedly handsome, distinguished male siamang, 39, seeks female counterpart to share Primate Park. Active, extroverted, engaging. Likes babies, rope swings, sun-bathing, painting, eating oranges, singing duets. Dislikes difficult puzzles, wet feet. Prefers outgoing, playful type for friendship, grooming, camaraderie.

In his 32 years in Syracuse, Abe fathered and raised four babies and outlived two mates. He has won thousands of hearts with his spirited personality, great love for babies – human and siamang – and boisterous vocalizations that bring zoo-goers running toward Primate Park to see him put on a show.

But in recent years, Abe found himself single – not a natural condition for siamangs. The largest of the lesser apes, siamangs are social animals that mate for life. If one of a pair dies, the survivor will seek another love interest. That’s why our animal care staff were on a mission to find a match for Abe.

As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), our zoo participates in Species Survival Plans for many endangered species – including siamangs. We asked the siamang SSP to find a female for Abe.

If we imagined his perfect match, her profile might read:
Petite, attractive female siamang seeks mature male companion to share golden years. Laid-back, easygoing, great hair. Enjoys climbing, grooming, hugs, dried fruit, toys, singing duets. Dislikes puddles, wet feet. Prefers affectionate, fun-loving type for company, perhaps romance?

Fatima, 34, fit this description exactly, but she lived 2,000 miles away at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. Luckily, the SSP located her in their database and recommended pairing her with Abe.

After Fatima arrived in late 2017, our staff started introductions. At first, Abe tried to get a reaction by beating against the mesh barrier between them – but she was unfazed. By Day 2, they clearly wanted to meet. Soon they were grooming each other through the mesh. I am happy to say they have been a couple ever since. Now they are never more than a few yards apart.

I see their story as one example of many such love stories at the zoo, stories that show how invested our staff is in the health, welfare and, yes, happiness of every single animal in our care.

Your contributions enable us to treat each animal here as an individual personality, a life, a soul. If you would like to support our efforts, you can do so HERE.

My Best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

There’s always a lot to see at the zoo – but there’s also a lot to learn!

Edventure Academy Wild Beginnings

The wildlife education programs that AZA-accredited institutions offer ensure we are going beyond introducing people to different species of animals by also providing important information about their habits and habitats, their status in the wild and the ways people can contribute to saving endangered species from extinction.

I am pleased to announce that we have just introduced two brand new programs – Wild Beginnings for our youngest visitors and Meet a Keeper Mornings for the 21-and-over set.

Wild Beginnings is a program of 45-minute classes tailored just for little ones aged 12 months to 3 years accompanied by an adult. Each themed class includes animal biofacts, nature-themed sensory play, a story and an opportunity to see an animal up close. Young ones will explore with their senses and develop language and motor skills in this early learning adventure.

Meet a Keeper Mornings are a morning version of our evening Adult Twilight programs. This 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. education series offers a unique opportunity for adults over 21 to learn all about our animals in a relaxed setting. Enjoy light refreshments, specialty coffees and mimosas while participating in a class with up-close animal encounters and special keeper chat. Upcoming classes feature our Heritage Breeds of domestic livestock, the reptiles and amphibians in our USS Antiquities cave, birds of prey and our Asian elephant herd.

You can find information about these and many other zoo education programs at http://syracusezooevents.org/education. I hope you will take full advantage of these wonderful opportunities for lifelong learning that also support wildlife conservation at your zoo!

My Best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

Elephant Preserve Expansion and New Public Walkway Underway

2018 Syracuse Zoo RGZ Walkway Project

Our giant animatronic dinosaurs made their exit at summer’s end – but they’ve been replaced by roaring, moving bulldozers, excavators and backhoes as we embark on an exciting new project. The heavy equipment and construction workers are expanding our Asian Elephant Preserve and replacing the old boardwalk with a new walkway that will be more accessible and offer better views of our elephants, white-lipped deer and red wolves.

Funded by the county with support from the Friends of the Zoo, the project may take several months, during which the Wildlife Trail will be a horseshoe rather than a loop. Once it is completed in the spring, this amazing remodel will transform your experience of that area of the zoo. The new walkway will greatly improve the views of animals and scenery, create more public space all while providing more enriching habitats for our animals.

2018 Syracuse Zoo RGZ Walkway Project Plans

The project, true to our Strategic and Master Plan, includes:

  • A wider, flatter public walkway with ground-level views of animals, including closer observation of our elephant matriarch, Siri, and an Elephant Crossing that will allow visitors and elephants to see each other eye-to-eye.
  • Asian Elephant Preserve will grow from 4.5 to over 6 acres, giving our beloved elephants even more room to roam
  • A larger public gathering space overlooking the elephant preserve and four new viewing areas for elephants, white-lipped deer and red wolves
  • Added features such as a tunnel where elephants can walk under the main gathering area, a mud wallow for white-lipped deer near their viewing area, and a better perspective for viewing our red wolves.

While we improve your zoo, we hope our young construction fans enjoy the sight of so much heavy equipment and the capable crew operating it. As for the animals, our zookeepers ensure us that none of our creatures seems concerned by the activity – and that it actually can be enriching to have a little commotion in their day.

My Best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

We are AZA-accredited –again!

In case you haven’t heard the big news, your zoo has once again been accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums! This is a very important achievement, as it means that we remain one of only 232 facilities to be approved as a top-tier institution by AZA.

This seal of approval lets our guests, members and donors know that they are directly supporting a zoo that provides the highest standards of animal care and is actively engaged in wildlife conservation, both locally and globally.

As AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe put it, AZA accreditation is “the gold standard within the zoological profession.”

“By achieving accreditation, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo demonstrates a commitment to protecting animals around the world and inspiring their guests to do the same,” Dan said.

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo has been continuously accredited since 1987 through a rigorous process that we go through every five years. This year’s cycle began over 8 months ago, when we submitted records to AZA on everything from animal care and welfare; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; and visitor services.

Then we underwent a three-day inspection by a team of AZA professionals who examined our facility from top to bottom. We also attended an in-person hearing at the recent AZA National Conference in Seattle, where we learned that we are once again accredited through 2023.

I’d like to thank you for your support in making this happen. Every visit you make to the zoo, every purchase from the gift shop or café, every donation you make to one of our fundraisers directly supports wildlife conservation. I’m thrilled to say “We are AZA,” and we couldn’t have done it without you!

My Best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums

Get ready for Halloween fun in the daytime sun!

We had a fun-filled summer with our Dinosaur Invasion!, and now we’re planning fall fun with Zoo Boo!

This popular zoo event offers a Halloween party atmosphere on the two weekends before the holiday, with treat stations throughout the zoo, animal demonstrations and encounters with some of our creepier creatures, as well as ghostly games and other “kooky-not-spooky” activities in the spirit of the season.

Zoo Boo takes place Saturdays and Sundays, October 20, 21, 27 and 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine. The cost is $8 per child in addition to zoo admission (which is free to zoo members). Our Zoo Boo sponsor this year is Dr. Margaret Madonian Children’s Dentistry – thank you Dr. Madonian!

Wear your costumes and bring your treat bags or buy a reusable dinosaur treat bag for $1. Make the rounds to treat stations for goodies including candy – but only brands that use sustainable palm oil so as not to harm any rainforests – or alternative “treats” such as Halloween toys, rubber duckies, tattoos, stickers, vampire teeth and even some dinosaur-themed toys left by our dinos.

We also have some great entertainment, with Bubble Man Doug Rougeux roving the zoo the first weekend and the American Chemical Society mixing magic potions the second weekend. Plus, the Crunchman will pay us a visit on Saturday mornings!

Rosamond Gifford Zoo members may buy advance-sale tickets for Zoo Boo good for any of the four days at Zoo Boo here. The general public can buy tickets at the door the day of Zoo Boo events.

One note: Our Wildlife Trail will be a horseshoe instead of a loop for the fall and winter while we build a new public walkway and expand our elephant preserve. It will give Zoo Boo visitors some views of heavy equipment at work, and we’ll be adding some special Halloween exhibits along the way.

My Best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo