In addition to the normal cleaning equipment, cleaning up in one yard containing a pair of Cereopsis geese required one extra item: a rubber garbage can. The geese were so aggressive the only way keepers could get any work done in the yard was to cover the geese with an upside down garbage can.
A keeper was preparing a bucket of fish to feed the California sea lions. Part of this preparation involved inserting vitamin tablets into a few of the fish. This ensured that each individual would receive the proper dietary supplement.
As a few visitors watched, the keeper placed the first two tabs into the mouths of the fishes. The next one he placed into the fish’s rectum. The visitors were properly shocked.
Because all of the regular cages were filled, a young orangutan in the animal hospital was being housed temporarily in a free-standing cage in the hallway, He seemed to enjoy that location from which he could keep an eye on all of the activity going on around him. His cage was across the hall from the entrance to the cage area, so everyone coming and going had to pass right by his cage.
Whenever keepers entered the cage area they would stop to put on one of the sets of yellow overalls that were hanging next to the door. The orang seemed to find this particularly interesting.
One day keepers attempting to enter the cage area found the door blocked from the inside. They forced the door open far enough to squeeze through and found the orang cage wedged into the corner behind the door.
By rocking back and forth the ape had managed to move the cage completely across the hall. Keepers were puzzled, however, as to why he would want to do such a thing. Puzzled, that is, until they looked inside the cage. There sat the orang, perfectly contented, wearing a pair of yellow overalls.
A keeper entering a small, outdoor cage housing an old, solitary European wildcat opened the door a little too wide and the cat darted out. The cat raced across the open mall at full speed and took refuge in the doorway of another exhibit building several hundred yards away.
The frantic keeper quickly rounded up some nets and several other keepers. They raced across the mall and surrounded the doorway. Nets at the ready they advanced slowly, expecting the cornered cat to burst out of its hiding spot at any moment.
They needn’t have bothered. The cat was sprawled in the corner — completely exhausted from his sprint across the mall. He didn’t move a muscle as the keepers simply walked up and put the net over him.
One hot summer day a gorilla keeper came across two macho bodybuilders, stripped to the waist, flexing and displaying to the male gorilla.
The gorilla, apparently was not impressed. The two men, on the other hand, were rather embarrassed to have been spotted.
A female red-crested poachard, had been missing from the waterfowl pond for several days. The bird was pinioned so there was no way it could fly even a short distance. Keepers surmised that the bird had fallen victim to a raccoon or coyote.
Several days later, however, the bird was seen at a small pond about a half mile from the zoo. To reach this pond, the pinioned bird had climbed a snow fence and short chain-link fence surrounding the waterfowl pond, surmounted the zoo’s perimeter fence, crossed a busy four-lane highway, and navigated half a mile of woods and suburbs.
She stayed on that pond for several days but disappeared before she could be recaptured. Three weeks later she was spotted, and miraculously recaptured, on a large reservoir behind the zoo grounds. To reach the reservoir she would have had to retrace her steps through the woods, cross the highway again, and scale the fence a second time.
Apparently this adventure was enough for the little duck, for after her return she settled in on the pond and laid several clutches of eggs.
One young elephant in the children’s zoo was infamous for one very nasty habit. Whenever a new handler was working in the stall she would slowly maneuver around until she managed to pin the person into a corner with her back end. She never pushed hard enough to hurt anyone, just hard enough to keep them trapped.
Then, once she had her victim pinned helplessly, she would raise her tail and let loose with a barrage of elephant farts.
Quite understandably, no one ever fell for this trick more than once. And, of course, human nature being what it is, no one ever warned new keepers beforehand.
A keeper hand-raising an infant gibbon was in the habit of transporting it inside her shirt to keep it warm and contented.
One day while driving home the keeper was stopped at a stoplight and became aware that someone in another car was looking at her. (Apparently she was used to people noticing the zoo patch on the shoulder of her uniform.) Just as she turned to look, she felt a small, furry arm reach out of her shirt and touch her gently on the chin. The man’s expression, as she pulled away, was priceless.
A young girl and her mother asked if they could stay after closing to watch keepers feed the mountain lions on a day when the animals received freshly-killed rats in addition to their normal diet. The girl was considering a career as a veterinarian and they felt that this might be an educational experience for her.
After explaining to the visitors what they could expect, the keepers presented the mountain lions with their meals. The cats ignored the feline diet and went directly for the rats. The mother and daughter, fascinated, looked on. The larger of the two cats quickly scooped a rat into his mouth and crunched down on it. He gave the mangled body a vigorous shake, flinging the entrails through the cage front and into the public area, missing the young girl’s face by a matter of inches. She let out a startled squeal and turned a little pale, but she didn’t lose her nerve. She stuck it out until the mountain lions finished.
To this day those keepers wonder if that plucky little girl ever became a veterinarian.
An adult male gorilla, who had been kept alone for many years after some excessively aggressive mating encounters, was in a cage next to two newly-arrived females. Keepers and the curator, seeing signs of interest on both sides, decided to risk a potentially dangerous introduction.
Apparently the risk was well taken for the introduction went very well and the animals almost immediately began copulating. (Over the years the reported number of copulations has ranged from simply amazing all the way up to astronomical.)
At the conclusion of all of this frantic activity the male took a few steps away from the females and collapsed face down in the water trough. The startled keepers rushed into the cage, ignoring the presence of the females, and pulled his face out of the water. They were too late. He was quite dead.
A necropsy showed that the gorilla had died of a massive heart attack and had probably been dead before he hit the floor.
Several versions of this story have made the rounds over the years. This one is the most graphic. A more likely true version relates that the gorilla was simply found dead in his cage some time later. Whichever it was, it should be mentioned that at least one of the females became pregnant as a result.