From the stellar Detroit Zoological Society education team that brought you Virtual Vitamin Z lessons during a pandemic, comes Summer Virtual Ventures, free digital programming that gives you the opportunity to enjoy a camp experience from the comfort of your own home.
Summer Virtual Ventures includes exciting animal-related content, expert interviews, hands-on activities and much more.
New virtual camps will be posted weekly through the end of August 2020.
Check out a few of the Summer Virtual Ventures below:
PENGUIN CONSERVATION CHALLENGES In this icy adventure, learners will take on the role of conservation field workers researching penguins in Antarctica and the Falkland Islands. You’ll work to find creative solutions to the many challenges that accompany fieldwork. Shadow animal care staff and get an exclusive look at what it is like to care for the penguins at the Detroit Zoo.
AMAZON RAINFOREST CONSERVATION Wildlife conservationists and scientists need your help! Working in the Amazon rainforest comes with many challenges. Try to solve them while learning more about the animals who live in the rainforest.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for five months (and during a pandemic).
That’s how long the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) animal care staff hand-reared a male chimpanzee born in early January before they successfully transitioned his care to an adoptive chimpanzee mom in June.
“It’s a story of great dedication,” said Scott Carter, chief life sciences officer for the Detroit Zoological Society. “Nights, weekends and through a pandemic — Detroit Zoo primate staff cared for the baby chimpanzee around the clock. And now it’s a very heartwarming story of a baby who has found a devoted, adoptive chimp mom and family.”
Zane was born on January 7, 2020, to Chiana, 26, who is also the mother of 6-year-old Zuhura. But soon after Zane’s birth, Chiana became very ill and was unable to care for her newborn. Chiana was treated by veterinarians and recovered, but after she recovered, she showed no interest in caring for her little son. The Detroit Zoo’s primate care staff stepped in to give Zane 24-hour care, which included carrying him constantly, as a mother chimp would, and teaching him to take milk from a bottle.
Over the five months, Zane lived in the Great Apes of Harambee building instead of a nursery so he could be around the other chimpanzees. During this time, the chimpanzees could see him up close through the mesh of their enclosure.
“Every day, the other chimpanzees could see us caring for him,” said Carter. “He was always near the other chimps even though they physically could not be together.”
To prepare Zane for life with the other chimpanzees, the Detroit Zoological Society consulted with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan and other zoos that have integrated rejected infants into social groups. The carefully planned process began with observing potential surrogate moms in the Detroit Zoo’s 11-member chimpanzee troop and their responses to Zane. Mother-daughter duo Trixi, 50, and Tanya, 29, both adult females in the troop, showed interest almost immediately.
“Trixi is a confident and high-ranking matriarch,” said Carter. “She was a wonderful mother to her daughter Tanya, and when we were considering who could be the best new mother for Zane, she stood out. She was very interested in being near him whenever she could and seemed quite taken with him.”
From their first physical interaction, it was clear that 5-month-old Zane had found his new adoptive family.
“Zane approached and hugged Trixi and Tanya the minute he had the chance,” said Carter. “Trixi is Zane’s primary caregiver, while Tanya, who has never had a baby of her own, loves playing with Zane, napping with him, and carrying him for short periods.”
Carter added, “We’re incredibly proud of our devoted primate staff for doing such an amazing job of caring for Zane and preparing him and his new adoptive family to thrive together.”
Baby Zane is now living with the troop at the Great Apes of Harambee at the Detroit Zoo. The chimpanzees who live at the Detroit Zoo have a fission-fusion dynamic, which means they have the freedom to choose who they want to spend their time with at any given moment. As with all animals at the Detroit Zoo, they also have the choice to go where they please in the habitat, so Zane might not always be visible. The multi-acre indoor-outdoor Great Apes of Harambee habitat is home to 12 chimpanzees.
Zane’s birth is the result of a recommendation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, a cooperative population management and conservation program that helps ensure the sustainability of healthy, genetically diverse and demographically strong captive animal populations. Chimpanzees are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to habitat loss, fragmented populations and illegal wildlife trafficking.
When we made the decision to temporarily close the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew we had to find a way to stay connected with our wonderful community. The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) education team took on the challenge, pivoting to deliver virtual programs.
Since mid-March, our team has produced more than 150 free virtual learning programs to help students, families and lifelong learners continue to explore wildlife conservation, animal welfare, environmental sustainability and humane education.
While we continue to hold lessons on Facebook Live, you can also find the videos on our Virtual Vitamin Z Youtube channel. We also have a new online tool that allows you to search for lessons, including activities, based on grade levels and subjects.
Even though we have since reopened the Detroit Zoo to visitors by reservation, we are still working to reach more of our community through digital means. The DZS education team is also working on Summer Virtual Ventures and producing longer lesson plans for people throughout Michigan.
Check out a sample of some of the team’s virtual learning programs below:
Thank you for all of your support and encouragement. We hope to continue to provide enriching lessons for our community and beyond.
There’s nothing quite like taking a leisurely walk around the Detroit Zoo to admire the gardens, the sunshine and the incredible animals who live here.
But now the experience is better — because the experience has you.
The Detroit Zoological Society team has been working around the clock to make sure all of our guests have a safe and enjoyable visit. After all, you deserve a little relaxation, a chance to explore and reconnect with loved ones.
In addition to adding new time and date slots for members each day, we have now opened up reservations on our website to the general public for visits starting Friday. Check back often, as new slots will open up regularly!
As we monitor the first few days of our reopening, we are also reviewing our guidelines. We will continue to revise our safety guidelines as warranted. You can visit detroitzoo.org/health to learn more before planning your visit.
Of course, spring is always an exciting time to introduce you to new arrivals at the Detroit Zoo. We are thrilled to share the news of the birth of a Japanese macaque. The baby was born on June 3 to parents Carmen and Haru. As you can see, big sister Hana seems very interested in her new sibling.
We are also happy to see the arrival of new prairie dog pups, and they are quite an adorable sight as they scurry in and out of their underground tunnels.
Also of note is the successful breeding of more than 170 dusky gopher frogs at the Zoo’s National Amphibian Conservation Center. In an effort to help restore this critically endangered amphibian, the frogs will be released into the wild in Mississippi this week.
We (and our reservations system) have been overwhelmed by your support, and we remain grateful for all of your thoughtful feedback and engagement.
Welcome back to your Zoo.
I hope to see you during your next visit,
Executive Director and CEO
Detroit Zoological Society
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) is ready for you to rediscover the peaceful, safe and special Zoo you love, potentially as early as Monday, June 8.
While we’re still awaiting clarification on whether the Detroit Zoo is permitted to reopen on that day, we want you to know that your Zoo experience will be a little different from how it was pre-COVID-19. What isn’t these days?! But that just means we’re doing our job well to keep you safe. Initially, we will be limiting the capacity of guests within the Detroit Zoo. You might be pleased to know that members will have the first few days of reopening to themselves.
Masks are in this year, so wear yours. Every person who enters our grounds will be expected to accept and support the shared responsibility of keeping themselves, our guests, and staff (and the animals who live here, too!) safe. We all have a very important part to play.
The DZS team is doing daily walkthroughs of the grounds, making sure nothing is missed in our new safety protocols. Expect a detailed step-by-step guide on the new Detroit Zoo experience in the days ahead. There are some fun new twists!
As mentioned in a previous message, the DZS has extended all existing memberships by two months. The members’ annual meeting has been postponed. We don’t yet have a new date, but we plan to relay that information soon. Importantly, if you’d like to help support the DZS, please consider renewing your membership here or giving a gift to help with Zoo operations as we’ve lost millions in revenue over the past two months. Many of you have sent support over the past weeks. We are so appreciative!
In an effort to reduce possible risks to children in our community and because we cannot afford to properly staff due to millions in lost revenue, the Detroit Zoological Society has had to cancel this year’s in-person Safari Camps. The DZS education department will continue to provide enriching virtual content to help children continue to learn and grow this summer. If you’ve already signed your child up to participate in this year’s Safari Camps, you can choose to move your reservation to next year, donate your reservation to the DZS or get a full refund. Contact Customer Care at email@example.com for more information. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to welcoming kids back to camp soon!
In the meantime, if you are looking to bring a slice of the Zoo to you, the Zoofari Market has gone digital! Explore our online shop to find a great selection of eco-friendly products, stylish apparel, unique souvenir keepsakes and new animal-inspired face masks.
I know we’re all craving to reconnect, both with each other and with nature, and the Detroit Zoological Society is looking forward to providing the community with an outdoor reprieve from the stress of the past few months.
See you soon,
Executive Director and CEO
Detroit Zoological Society
We know you miss visiting nature’s wonders at the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center, and we miss hosting you as you explore, enjoy and learn. Looking to the future, the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) is planning for a reopening as soon as it’s legal and safe to welcome you back.
The DZS continues to monitor scientific data, consult experts about both human and wildlife health issues, and listen to you and your suggestions about safety measures for our eventual reopening. If you’d like to add your voice to our survey, we’d greatly appreciate your input.
Social distancing, limited and timed entry, and strict, constant cleaning protocols are just a sample of what you can expect when you return. For us, it will be and has always been, safety before revenue. Limiting capacity will further hurt our revenue stream at the height of the summer season, but it is paramount that we do everything we can to keep our guests and animals safe. We will adhere to clear, sensible policies and count on you to accept shared responsibility so we can keep each other, and the animals who live here, safe.
We have received questions about membership extensions, Zoo Camps and other events. We can say that original programs and events pre-COVID-19 will not be the same. The DZS is working hard to develop alternate and engaging solutions for events and camp experiences, and we will share more details soon on all fronts. The DZS has automatically extended existing memberships for two months.
No words can adequately express our sincere gratitude to the community during this time. The thoughtful letters, calls, posts and donations are very much appreciated. Thank you. We hope you are healthy and able to get out and enjoy nature on those beautiful, warm days (between the fleeting snowflakes) that our Michigan spring allows.
Executive Director and CEO
Detroit Zoological Society
As all of us continue to figure out how to navigate our daily lives during the coronavirus pandemic, people are reaching out to make sure their friends and families are doing OK and not feeling too isolated or overwhelmed. I’ve had a number of people ask about how the animals at the Detroit Zoo are faring, particularly given the news from the Bronx Zoo about the big cats who tested positive for COVID-19.
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) animal care and veterinary teams continue to ensure that the animals at the Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center are well cared for and healthy. We’ve made a lot of changes in our procedures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus among people and animals. Before the first human case was confirmed in Michigan, the DZS was already using masks and gloves and keeping our distance when caring for the animals we considered most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection: the monkeys, lemurs and great apes. When it was determined that tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo had shown symptoms of COVID-19, we immediately expanded our preventive strategies to include a number of carnivore species.
So far, none of the animals at the Detroit Zoo have shown symptoms to indicate a possible COVID-19 infection. We are also very happy to hear that the animals at the Bronx Zoo are improving and expected to fully recover. The DZS stays in touch with zoo and wildlife colleagues across the country and overseas. We are also connected with our One Health partners in Michigan, modifying our animal care protocols as soon as new information becomes available to keep the animals who live here healthy. Meanwhile, our staff is grateful to be healthy and able to do the important work of caring for these beautiful creatures. We are monitoring animals carefully, continuing to provide preventative veterinary care such as giving vaccinations, treating to prevent heartworm, and providing care for animals with critical health problems if needed.
As the signs of spring emerge at the Zoo, it’s hard not feel sad that we can’t share the beauty of the daffodils and budding trees with guests.
When the time is right, we very much look forward to seeing all of you at the Detroit Zoo once again.
In the meantime, be well.
– Dr. Ann Duncan is the director of animal health for the Detroit Zoological Society and oversees the Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex.
The devastating COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us greatly. At such a somber time, it can be really hard to navigate our new (temporary) normal, let alone remember special days. But, today is important; today is Earth Day.
While most of us are missing friends and family and much of our regular daily life, some have found a new friend in nature. Others have always remained aware and in love with Mother Nature. This current isolation has allowed many of us time to reflect on things that might have otherwise been taken for granted and gone unnoticed: a squirrel nesting in a tree (isn’t it strange how most people hate rats, but think squirrels are adorable?!), a ray of sunshine between snowflakes (we live in Michigan, after all), or an early spring flower blossoming. Earth has always been a source of wonder and joy for humans. Now we have the time to really pay attention to it.
This Earth Day, we celebrate the planet that we’re fortunate to call home. Even through the turmoil of a pandemic, the Earth is what unites us and grounds us. It’s the ultimate, and literal, common ground.
Through the work of the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS), we encourage people to be mindful of their impact on others, human and non-human alike. At our core, we believe that we have both a responsibility and a great opportunity to be helpful, bringing both awareness and solutions to environmental issues. Many of these issues, human and non-human generated, inevitably result in consequences that harm both the natural world and the human experience.
At DZS, we love the natural world. We study it, we save it and we celebrate it. While the pandemic is everyone’s number one fight right now, as it should be, once we are through this battle, we must not lose sight of the need to fight for our planet. Since the beginning, we humans have pushed forward, sometimes pursuing our desires and needs without always fully considering the consequences and problems that could follow. We have dramatically changed — and in some places destroyed — landscapes, released chemicals into our air and water, left plastic to wrap the planet and too often treated animals and nature as disposable. It’s as if we think Earth is bestowed with infinitely replenishable “assets.”
We have the chance to correct the course if we act. With less of us driving cars and with the recent dramatic reduction in factory emissions, we have seen significantly cleaner air over many cities. What a difference. This is a vivid illustration of how important renewable energy is to our health and to the planet’s health.
So when you’re outside, find time to connect with nature. Look and listen; soak it in. And when the world moves out of this public health crisis, I hope we will all remember that our safe place is nature. We should do everything possible to make it healthy.
Ron Kagan Executive Director and CEO Detroit Zoological Society
Spring is finally here — and so is World Frog Day! The weather is gradually warming up and plants are bursting through the soil, preparing to dazzle us with their blooms. Spring also brings the beautiful sounds of frogs and toads calling to each other. In honor of World Frog Day, we are sharing frog-themed activities that can be done at home with minimal supplies.
Frogs live on six of the Earth’s seven continents, all of them except Antarctica. They are all different colors and sizes. The largest species of frog, the goliath frog, measures 8” to 12” in length. That is about the size of a piece of copy paper! The smallest known frog, one of the microhylid frogs, measures less than half an inch, about the width of a regular size paperclip. If you have children at home, pull out a paper clip and a piece of copy paper. Have them compare the items to objects around the house to see what is larger than the world’s largest frog and what is smaller than the world’s smallest frog. Comparing sizes of different things helps people build number sense, or an intuitive understanding of numbers, an important skill for all of us to master, especially young children.
Michigan is home to 13 species of frogs and toads. It is usually easier to hear them calling or singing to each other, than it is to actually see them. That is because they are well camouflaged, meaning they blend in with their surroundings. It is important to know which species of frogs and toads live in certain areas. They are considered bioindicators, which means they are species of animals who are greatly impacted by the health of the environment. If the water, wetlands and other places they live are polluted or contaminated, they cannot survive. If their habitat is clean and healthy, many species or individuals will be living there, all calling out to each other in a beautiful chorus.
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) leads a FrogWatch Chapter (aza.org/frogwatch and detroitzoo.org/animals/frogwatch/) to train people, like you, to recognize and record frog calls around Michigan. The data that people submit helps DZS staff and researchers to analyze and better understand frog populations throughout our area and across the country.
This spring, consider spending time outside in the evening to listen for frogs and toads. You can practice being a frog and toad researcher, or a citizen scientist, by learning the calls and recording information like date, temperature, weather conditions, the time you start and stop listening, and the species you hear. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has short recordings of each species on their website to help you learn them. Practicing recording data is an important skill, especially for kids. Send your data to Rebecca Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mike Reed (email@example.com). Next year, you can join us for training to become a certified FrogWatch participant. The earliest calling frogs will be starting soon, the wood frogs and spring peepers, so pick a night where the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and head outside to listen!
A trip to a zoo, nature center or other cultural institution is often planned as a recreational or primarily social event. The reality is these visits are critical learning experiences for youth and adults alike. School-age children spend considerably more time out of school than they do at school. Between evenings, weekends and breaks, in the United States, school accounts for about 6.7 hours a day for 180 days, or roughly 25% of a child’s time spent awake each year. The opportunities youth have in their out-of-school time can make a significant difference in their future school, career and life trajectories.
Cultural institutions are favorite places to visit for a variety of reasons: many people feel safe visiting their local and regional institutions, and they find the exhibits and experiences relevant and meaningful. The institutions are rich in learning opportunities and removed from that typical school-day feeling. They are fun, engaging and memorable. Many institutions are free to visit or offer memberships that make frequent visits affordable.
The Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center are top informal learning institutions in the community, combining opportunities to observe animals in naturalistic habitats with stories of individual animals. Many animals are part of critical, global conservation initiatives; others have been rescued from unfortunate circumstances and have inspiring stories about second chances and new beginnings. These stories are shared through signage, in-person by staff and volunteers, and by digital media available to guests. In addition, guests often have the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities that focus on science concepts while engaging with experts in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers during their visit. Perhaps most importantly, visitors build their understanding of animals’ adaptations, physical appearances, behaviors and individual personalities through their observations. This information creates an awareness about the natural world and how human and non-human animals share the same spaces and interact.
Young children, from birth to kindergarten age, are creating their understanding of the world, they’re building their vocabulary and figuring out how things work with an insatiable, natural curiosity. Exposure to places like the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center are critical to developing their future skills and interests. The Belle Isle Nature Center has indoor and outdoor play areas designed specifically for young children. Both areas have natural items like tree cross sections, natural building blocks, rocks and seasonal items like acorns and pinecones for visitors to discover. Adults are essential mentors as they encourage youth to manipulate objects, provide correct vocabulary to identify items, and prompt early learners with questions so they can investigate together. These actions explore cause and effect, help draw parallels between what children know and are learning, and aid in the development of scientific thinking skills.
As a whole, these experiences build visitors’ understanding of the natural world and systems within it. During a visit, guests have opportunities to explore their impact, both direct and indirect, on those systems and how they can make informed decisions that ultimately benefit themselves, wildlife and wild places. Guests who regularly visit informal learning institutions with children are predisposing them to be interested in STEM-related fields and equipping them with the essential skills needed to pursue those careers, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and planning and conducting investigations. So the next time you think: “we should do something fun today, like visit the Detroit Zoo,” know that you’re not only going to enjoy your visit, but, if you bring children, you just may be helping to shape their future.
– Claire Lannoye-Hall is a curator of education for the Detroit Zoological Society.