Sunday, June 17, 2012

San Francisco Zoo Docents Don't Know Jack!

Good grief, where do I begin.  

I honestly hate even writing these words because I'm pretty sensitive about "health" things and don't like to even talk about them, but the nonsense that keeps coming out of the Zoo is too much.  Will it ever stop?  Sadly, I think the answer is no, because its run by people who obviously don't know what they are doing on all different levels.   

I have recently posted about animal welfare (Rhino's dryness), dangerous construction in an animal exhibit (Snow Leopards), curious signage (Big Cats), and awful comment made by the Zoo Director (Great Horned Owl passing).  Check "recently" is the operative word.  The list is never ending. 

Zoo Docents not having the accurate information on the Animals that live there is a constant.  Its not all of them, but honestly, its the majority.  BUT Why?  My main guess is the Zoo just doesn't care, partnered with the fact that not even the Zoo's own PR Dept knows which Animal is which (Rhino Gene's passing).  Additional notable guesses include, the Zoo passing on the wrong information, Docents not caring enough to really learn anything, or Docents just not being on the smart side of the slim human spectrum.   Who is in charge of teaching these people, who I might add are representatives of the Zoo?  Is there updated information shared with them?   Are they required to learn about these Animals, by way of talking to Keepers when given the opportunity?   Honestly all I ever see is Docents wandering around in a cloud of blankness.  It is very rare that there is one who will approach and offer any information, whether right or wrong.  Often I see the same three walking together and not engaging Visitors.  I recently heard a Docent at Cats answer a Visitor who asked what the Tigers eat, "All the Animals get chow".   Are you sure about that?  This gal must have confused a Tiger with a house Cat.  FYI Tigers don't eat kibble.

So, what sparked this post.  Yesterday my heart was hurt by something I heard.  Here-say carries no real weight, but still it presents a bad vibe.   I was visiting with my friend Goober, the Bairds Tapir.   Two gals walk up and they see the sign at his exhibit that explains "he has had oral surgery recently,....".  This sign was put there over a year ago because he has medical issues with his mouth, that sometimes cause bleeding and so not to alarm the public (ME originally) its remained there.  Only regular Visitors would probably notice that.   One of the gal's said, "That signs been here for a year, someone here is dropping the ball'.   Yes, while the ball is dropped many times at the Zoo, this is not one of those times.   They were muttering to eachother, when I said, "They have that sign there because,...".   One of the gals was like, "No this is a different Tapir, the other one passed two years ago,..."  I said, "No, this is the same one and he is doing very well".  They both looked at me like I didn't know what I was talking about.  I then asked them where they had heard this.  They said, "A Docent told us".   I again told them that was not correct information.  They walked away thinking what they had been told was true. My heart broke, as Goober is doing remarkably and this kind of lie shouldn't even be in the air.  

I also heard a Staff Member from Education, telling a small child, he's old and sick.   For one, a seventeen year old Tapir isn't old.  So, not only is a Staffer spreading doom, one who is in Education doesn't even know the lifespan of a Tapir.  

Yes, I'm over sensitive when it comes to Goober, who I love and adore :)  but come on, this truly is another BIG FAIL by the Zoo.

Note to San Francisco Zoo, please send out a memo on the Animals with correct information.   You can start by updating your official Animal list which I know hasn't been done since 2009.

FYI you can view new Zoo Friend pix, photo site updated :)


  1. Good grief, I was there, heard the lady tell you the incorrect Goober info. Even though you corrected her, she clearly went away NOT believing you and felt that the docent was correct because she had a damn vest on!!! I hear that ignorant stuff all the time. It put bad vibes out and its lazy to tell an untrue story to visiors because you don't have the knowledge and feel that making up something, the visitors won't question your ineptness. Don't be a representative of the zoo if you don't want to learn or are too lazy to laarn about the animals. This one really bothered me because I could really tell this lady felt the docent was correct. It was probably the same one that tells everyone the animals all get chow. Or.... it was the one that told a group of people in the Lion House that Leanne was a male Bengal!!! just disgusting!!!

  2. @Lee- It was awful. I wanted to cover Goob's ears! Thankfully he had his head underwater and could careless! He is blessed and that's what matters. STILL the Zoo needs to do a better job of making sure that their own representatives have correct information about the Animals. You were a Docent so you know how Docents should be. Not what we are seeing these days. With all the misinformation that comes out of that place, I even wonder if some of the stuff I was told early on is true or made up! Will never know. ... LOL! Oh yea that male Bengal comment was so stupid it was comical. Leanne probably would say, "Come alittle closer, I got your male Bengal right here!" LOL!

  3. Whoo hoo, I got in this time and can post!

    What I was saying earlier was that when I went to the San Francisco Zoo, I was aware of the state of disrepair in some of the buildings especially the old elephant building. I just chalked most of this up to a lack of funds. I have had the good fortune to be near some very well funded zoos so I use them as a gauge for comparison. I did not meet any docents when I was there and indeed was mistaken for a docent at one point but it makes me sad that the education portion of the zoo might be lacking. The role of the zoo has changed drastically, taking on more of a educational role, or at least it should be. The zoos I have been are funded by philanthropist families and aircraft industries and are doing research into conservation and preservation of species so for there to be a lack of education, how else can we preserve other species whom we depend on to survive? Zoos are no longer the places for "stupid pet tricks" and due to our species overcrowding, are the last hope for some species. Education is a must for how else are we to save what we love?

  4. @Bill- Thank you for you comment. I don't know what the Education Dept does on a whole but I can offer three things. One I do at times read about the Zoo's "convservation" efforts of sorts. While I do believe in outside efforts, I also believe that efforts start at home. People coming to (for the matter, working at) the SFZoo should be learning about the Animals that live there. I have also been to a Member's Morning where the Staff from Education has literally ignored Members and not taken a "host" role and provided information on the Animals highlighted. I have also seen Staff from the Education Dept out with Zoo Campers and the kids misbehaving, so I have to wonder if within Education, Zoo Camp and the mobile Zoo that goes out to schools, do they even teach the bare minimum, which to me would be respect for fellow beings (animals)? To me respect for animals, is a key part to perserving them. Last night I read a tweet from someone who appears to be one of this Summer's Zoo Camp Leaders, I quote "Spent all day at the San Francisco Zoo with the campers. I really don't like animals". This made me sick.

  5. Hey, I just wanted to add in, in the case of the tigers and the girls: when they are in training, the docents are told that the tigers and other big cats are given a commercial diet (kibble) along with red meat (which is horse) and beef bones. While they still sound arrogant and just plain silly, I wouldn't be too hard on them for repeating what they are told. You don't want to look too pushy when seeking answers from your higher ups (ex: the keepers) because a lot of them not only get attached to the animals, but may not know what's really going on. They can't always get a vet to look at that animal right away, or if it's sick or anemic, chances are they have to wait until the animal is back up to decent health to anesthetize it for procedures. And when it's a genetic issue, it can get really hard to deal with, because the animal will appear to be in decent health, but has seizures or occasional hard breathing. You can check it out- and nothing shows up! SO they clear them for health and next week- right back to where they were. It's exceptionally frustrating.

    Cool blog though.


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