A Night at the Zoo

Lions, tigers, and children - oh my! Last week, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland (BGCP) seized the opportunity to attend the ZooSnooze, a special overnighter at the Oregon Zoo. The ZooSnooze is a unique wildlife experience where youth who would not normally have the opportunity to visit the zoo are able to spend the night and experience an exclusive, behind-the-scenes evening around inhabitants of the zoo. We were able to rally up 42 enthusiastic and inquisitive members to attend this outing as well as 11 supportive adults, including Kirsten and myself!

The evening started out by splitting up into small groups, each led by an Oregon Zoo tour guide. The group Kirsten and I assisted immediately took off towards the reptiles. We learned about different reptilian species and had the chance to meet and pet a corn snake and an incredibly sociable turtle.

 Members learn how to properly pet different reptiles.

Members learn how to properly pet different reptiles.

 In the veterinary medical lab, we hear about the zoo's care practices.

In the veterinary medical lab, we hear about the zoo's care practices.

After the session with reptiles, we toured several facilities that are usually restricted to certain zoo staff. One of these areas was the kitchen where animal foods are stored and prepared. The guide led us through industrial freezer rooms ranging from 31 to 0.3 degrees fahrenheit to show us the varying diets of the zoo inhabitants. Another behind-the-scenes section we had the chance to explore was the animal hospital. Though the animals were tucked away in private recovery areas, members were able to get a glimpse of the medical lab and view any x-rays currently on display. Our tour guide showed us a few special scientific preservations, including a monkey brain and the eye of a rhinosaurus!

Next, we were off to explore the creatures of the night! Some of the bigger cats were snoozing, while others prowled in the shadows, just barely visible to squealing members. We made our way through the crisp zoo air - exploring the science of bats, the stillness of a condor bird, and an arena where the lions are trained and rewarded.

 Cheetahs receive breakfast through enriching food challenge.

Cheetahs receive breakfast through enriching food challenge.

With hot cocoa and snacks, the evening wrapped up by viewing a motion picture of enrichment efforts in the Oregon Zoo, or activities used to stimulate the mind and body of each unique animal. These enrichment activities followed into the next morning, as we woke to witness two slender cheetahs receive their breakfast through a series of challenges!

We made our rounds to another medical facility at the zoo, a heated incubation room, where we were able visit newborn turtles barely the size of a pinky finger.

 BGCP fellow, Kayla, and Executive Director of FLIA, Kirsten, at the condor exhibit.

BGCP fellow, Kayla, and Executive Director of FLIA, Kirsten, at the condor exhibit.

Throughout the event, members absorbed their surroundings and marveled at new information and discoveries. They posed challenging questions about the animals and held meaningful discussions with staff and one another. The ZooSnooze was a blast of an enriching scientific experience for members and as a wrap up to my fellowship.