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

NEWS FLASH! Dinosaur Invasion! Extended through September 16

We have exciting news — the colossal animatronic dinosaurs that invaded our zoo for the summer are staying longer than expected!

We thought we’d be saying goodbye to our prehistoric pals on Labor Day; however as we listened to visitor comments, we were inspired to extend the Dinosaur Invasion! through September 16.

We are thrilled to be able to give our members and guests additional time to enjoy the dinos before they depart. In that spirit, we’ve added a special event on Sunday, September 9 – a Donuts with Dinos Farewell Celebration! Please join us at 8:30 a.m. on Grandparents Day for a special early-morning party with our dino-mite ambassadors of extinction featuring an raffle for an awesome gift basket that includes a genuine dinosaur tooth! Click HERE for tickets and information on this event.

Meanwhile, we hope you’re as glad as we are to have the dinos extend their stay at your zoo!

My Best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

How to BEAT THE HEAT at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Syracuse Zoo Beat the Heat

CNY has been experiencing a heat wave during the zoo’s Dinosaur Invasion! exhibit — and since our huge prehistoric beasts are all outdoors, we want make sure visitors know how and where to cool off on zoo grounds. Here are some tips for staying cool at the zoo:

Misting stations – The zoo has installed extra misting stations around its Wildlife Trail due to the heat advisory. Tip: Take the left fork of the trail from the courtyard to encounter the first misting station. To conserve energy, walk the trail in the direction of Penguin Coast. That way, you complete the trail on the downslope as you head to the main building.

Water-spraying dino – The fan favorite of all the dinosaurs in Dinosaur Invasion! is Dilophosaurus, which roars and sprays water in the spirit of its venom-spitting Jurassic World counterpart. Find it on the Wildlife Trail for a thrilling way to cool off.

Made in the shade – The zoo many shady areas with benches around the grounds, especially at the Wildlife Trail dinosaur exhibits. The Wildlife Trail concession stand also will be open for refreshments next to the shaded shelter at Amur tiger.

Stay hydrated – Support the zoo’s conservation mission by bringing refillable water bottles, and drink water frequently through the day. Water bottle refill stations are located at the drinking fountain next to the Jungle Café and outside the restrooms at Andean Bear. Bottled water is available for sale at all food locations and at vending machines. The Courtyard Café also makes an amazingly refreshing lemonade slushie.

Soak up some A/C – The Jungle Café and its indoor seating area are always open and always air-conditioned throughout the summer. The café also sells Dippin’ Dots, ice cream treats and slushies as a sweet way to cool down. Continue to support the zoo’s conservation mission by shopping at the (nice cool) Curious Cub Gift Shop on your way out.

Mine some gems – The zoo plans to have its EarthWorks! Mining sluice open – and nearby mister operating – for the weekend, depending on the heat index for staff. The zoo has decided not to open the Octomaze bounce house this weekend due to the high temperatures.

Be prepared – Dress for the heat in lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing and consider bringing cooling wipes to wipe sweat away while leaving cooling moisture behind. Portable shade and a breeze – in the form of umbrellas and mini-fans – also are available for purchase at The Curious Cub gift shop.

Consider the animals — Don’t be disappointed if some of the animals are less active in the heat, or if they are inside cooling off in their indoor housing. For their health, some animals may not be on exhibit — but all the dinosaurs will be!

For more information on Dinosaur Invasion!, please visit syracusezooevents.org. The exhibit is open during zoo hours, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and is free to zoo members or with paid zoo admission.

The Dinosaurs Have Come Alive!

Our exciting summer-long exhibit, Dinosaur Invasion! has come alive!

This display of more than a dozen life-like animatronic dinosaurs will inhabit zoo grounds from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day at no extra cost to zoo members or with paid zoo admission. A special Palio Pass will be available for purchase that allows junior paleontologists to participate in dinosaur-related activities – look for this starting in June.

We hope you enjoy seeing lifelike, moving, roaring dinosaurs, including a huge T. Rex and Edmontonia at the Northwestern Mutual Amphitheater, a fish-eating Baryonyx in the swan pond and a long-necked Brachiosaurus towering in the trees over the Wildlife Trail. We also see this exhibit as a reminder that extinction is forever, and we hope to reinforce our conservation mission of saving endangered species with our guests throughout the summer.

We hope to see you return to the zoo often as we add events including a weekend with paleontologist “Dr. Dino” June 30 and July 1, and other fun family activities with a dinosaur theme.

Stay tuned to this website and our social media for updates on these and other summer events!

My Best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

Get ready for a Dinosaur Invasion!

The Friends of the Zoo spent the past few months immersed in all things Dinosaur as we mobilized to bring a Dinosaur Invasion! to the zoo. We’ve added this attraction to your zoo for the summer as a special treat for the public AND a wonderful way to add value to your zoo membership.

This display of 12 life-size animatronic dinosaurs will inhabit zoo grounds from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day at no extra cost to zoo members or with paid zoo admission.

As you walk the familiar Wildlife Trail, prepare to encounter a huge T. Rex looming around a bend, or coming upon a dinosaur nest complete with newly hatched babies. I know I won’t get tired of seeing a long-necked Brachiosaurus towering over the zoo!

In putting this exhibit together, the Friends learned that many other zoos that host similar displays pay for them by charging an added fee. We wanted our visitors to be able to experience our Dinosaur Invasion at no added cost – and for our members to enjoy it free of charge. So we moved quickly to make this happen in hopes of giving you the “Best Day Ever,” dinosaur-style, all summer long.

We hope to see you return to the zoo often as we add prehistoric parties, educational offerings, a visit from paleontologist “Dr. Dino” and other fun family activities with a dinosaur theme.

Stay tuned to this website and our social media for updates on these and other summer events.

My Best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo