Wild Connections: December 2013

In this issue: Our partners at Hanauma Bay and Thanksgiving Point, Tulsa Zoo's famous honey, Retail Sustainability, Halloween Fun and more!

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SSA may be known for its expertise in managing  guest operations at zoos, aquariums and museums, but our talented Honolulu Zoo team used their knowledge to launch a successful retail operation at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, one of the most spectacular natural resources in Hawaii.  Hanauma Bay is a tropical paradise, with lush vegetation and a white beach that borders a coral reef teeming with marine life.

Tara Hirohata is the officer in charge of the preserve, which is owned by the City and County of Honolulu.  She shared that SSA has truly been an asset, installing beautifully designed displays and an updated store layout, which all makes it more inviting for visitors.  “They are always making changes to improve the overall look of the gift shop,” Tara added, “and they provide outstanding customer service and always go the extra mile to assist anyone in need.  Their positive attitude and “Aloha” spirit enhance the visitors’ experience.”

Tara Hirohata

Tara Hirohata

In the 18th century, the bay was a favorite fishing spot of the Hawaiian kings. In 1883, Hanauma Bay and the surrounding lands became the possession of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.  In 1928, the City and County of Honolulu bought the land for one dollar from the Hawaiian princess, philanthropist and direct descendant of the royal House of Kamehameha.  Over the years, the City Department of Parks and Recreation managed the area.  In 1967, the State Division of Fish and Game declared the entire bay a Marine Life Conservation District.

Today the natural preserve is strictly managed.  After visitors enter the park and before going down to the magnificent beach, everyone must watch a 10-minute educational film about the bay.  Tara explained that with the support, kindness and generosity of SSA, the Hanauma Bay Education Program has been able to expand their resources and provide additional support to the volunteers and visitors.  “We are truly grateful to have SSA as part of the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve family,” she said.  And we could not be more proud to be their retail partner.


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NOV 2013 - TP logoOn November 1, SSA commenced retail operations at the Thanksgiving Point Institute in Lehi, Utah.  SSA operates the gift shops at the (AAM Accredited) Museum of Ancient Life, Farm Country, the Gardens, and (in Spring 2014) the Museum of Natural Curiosity.  Thanksgiving Point attracts more than 1.9 million guests each year from all 50 states and around the world.

Thanksgiving Point Vice President of Operations Kendall Wimmer predicts that this partnership will be a positive one. “While providing exceptional guest experiences in our venues, we have felt that the gift shops have not been on-par with those experiences. We’re excited to have SSA’s expertise in creating truly remarkable guest experiences,” he said.

SSA Retail GM Deborah Phillips adds that this unique venue provides a great opportunity for the connection of retail merchandise themes to exhibits, and many are responding to the freshness of assortment and visual display.  “Overall, we have received exceptionally positive feedback from Members, Staff and some very excited Volunteers,” she says.  We, too, are excited to be partners with such a unique experience!  It truly is one of those attractions that has no equal.

Founded in 1996, the Thanksgiving Point complex includes 55 acres of manicured gardens with about four miles of winding walking paths. Adjacent to the Gardens is the Children’s Discovery Garden, which offers a maze, a rock climbing area and pools of water and a shooting fountain.  The Farm gives guests the opportunity to pet and feed farm animals as well as learn about being a farmer from several hands-on exhibits.  The Museum of Ancient Life offers 50 interactive, hands-on displays, 60 complete dinosaur skeletons as well as a working paleontology lab.  An adjacent 3D Theatre features a six-story, large-format movie screen. Under construction is a children’s museum, scheduled to open spring 2014. This venue will teach science, art, history and culture through more than 150 interactive exhibits.

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NOV 2013 - Doc K Tulsa Zoo

Dr. K

Dr. Kay Backues, the Senior veterinarian and Director of Animal Health at the Tulsa Zoo & Living Museum who goes by “Dr. K,” describes herself as the ultimate general practitioner, but she does more than just take care of the more than 2,500 animals at the 84-acre zoo.  She is also an apiarist.  That’s a beekeeper to the rest of us!

The zoo has a small apiary (beehive yard).   Each spring, Dr. K then gathers the sweet food made by bees using the nectar they gather from flowers.  Her honeybees travel and visit millions of flowers within two miles of their hives.  She uses a health department-approved kitchen at the zoo to extract and jar the honey for sale.

NOV 2013 - TLZ - zoobee honeyDr. K’s ZOO-BEE Honey is available in the zoo gift shop.  The all-natural product has been sold at the zoo for the past few years, and is a hit with guests, many of whom watch the zoo’s Facebook page for announcements when a new batch is ready.  And it’s not just popular with the public – Dr. K’s honey has won blue ribbons and been named the best overall honey at the Tulsa State Fair!

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NOV 2013 - peru

Brad Smithling and Kim Black visit vendors in Peru

Kibongi Market at the Denver Zoo has always sold handcrafted fair trade items along with plush, t-shirts, toys, books and animal-themed products.  The newest display in the shop features handcrafted items from Panos, Peru.  SSA Director of Retail Purchasing Kim Black recently explained why Peruvian crafts and textiles are being featured, and why it was important to visit Peru. She writes:

Brad Smithling and I went to Peru with the Denver Zoo Conservation team in March of this year.  We went on this trip to learn more about Denver Zoo’s conservation efforts in Peru, specifically with the Lake Titicaca Frog, which is on the endangered species list.  Peruvians believe these frogs can cure certain ailments, so local fisherman capture these frogs from the lake and sell them on the black market.

NOV 2013 - denver zoo peru display

The zoo has been involved in the conservation of this frog since 2007.  Efforts include field research, captive breeding programs and public awareness.   The zoo and SSA also have been working with local artisans in Puno and the region around this area of Lake Titicaca to produce handicrafts, such as scarves, purses, jewelry, and instruments.  The goal is to give families an alternative source of income, so they do not need to capture and sell frogs. 

We met with local artisans, specifically a co-op of women known as Artesanias Monos de Oro, to discuss the types of products we felt would sell at the zoo gift shop.  We placed an order and the women have been producing these goods over the summer.  The product arrived at the zoo in October. We have a section in Kibongi Market showcasing these items, along with the story about how they are directly impacting the Denver Zoo’s conservation efforts in Peru, including the Lake Titicaca Frog.

It is a great opportunity for both SSA and Denver Zoo to make an impact on the survival of the Lake Titicaca frog in Peru.   We are excited to see the guest response to these products, and look forward to the continued partnership with the zoo team to raise conservation awareness and support the zoo’s conservation mission.


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NOV 2013 - palm oil CMZCheyenne Mountain Zoo has developed a shopping guide phone application to help save wild orangutans and other endangered Asian animals affected by the palm oil crisis. Recently launched on Google Play™ and available at the App Store, the free smartphone application provides consumers with more than 5,000 products whose manufacturers are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).  The biggest threat to wild orangutans and other wildlife in Borneo and Sumatra is deforestation due to agriculture – primarily the production of palm oil.  Purchasing products that are manufactured by RSPO member companies is the easiest thing one can do to help endangered wild orangutans.  Palm oil is used in more than 50% of the manufactured items we find in the grocery store every day, such as cookies, crackers, toothpaste, lotion and other food and personal care products.

The SSA team makes purchases in support of the zoo’s efforts.  Other SSA venues can use this app to help make choices, such as which catering ingredients, snack options (like animal crackers) and gift shop items (such as sunscreen) to use/sell.  The zoo also promotes its conservation efforts at the annual AZA conference by manning a booth in the exhibit hall.

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Many of our partners celebrated Halloween with special events, like trick-or-treating, activities and special displays and lights, and SSA teams had fun getting involved.  Here are a couple of examples that happened this past October:

NOV 2013 - cincy zoo halloween costumes

Cincinnati Zoo’s Retail Team dressed for the occasion

The annual Halloween event at the Cincinnati Zoo & BOO-tanical Garden features trick-or-treating as well special animal activities every October weekend, noon – 5 p.m.  The SSA team helped add to the fun by dressing in costumes, and the chefs carved pumpkins for guest picture-taking opportunities.


During the members-only HallZOOween evening event at the Minnesota Zoo, 2,300 members attended and received a $10 off a $50 purchase coupon to be used that night.


At the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, they held a 13-day event that kept concessions and retail teams busy. It’s reported that the Smore’s stand was a guest favorite!

NOV 2013 - biopark pumpkin

The Cookie Monster Pumpkin at Albuquerque’s BioPark

The Albuquerque BioPark hosted a fun pumpkin carving contest in which SSA took first place with its version of a pumpkin cookie monster.  BioPark Director, Rick Janser, joined in the Halloween fun by dressing as a Tasmanian Devil, an animal that will soon be on display at the zoo.  The BioPark will be one of two zoos in the country to have a Tasmanian devil exhibit.

NOV 2013 - FCZ new giraffe

Baba tends to her first offspring

Not to be outdone, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo gave the community a special Halloween Eve gift…. A male reticulated giraffe calf was born at 7 p.m. on October 30.  Now that’s a treat!

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names in the NEWS

NOV 2013 - cn travis

Chef Travis Kight

The Cincinnati Zoo, SSA’s Catering Team and Corporate Executive Chef Travis Kight hosted an intimate Farm to Zoo dinner in the zoo’s Bamboo Forest exhibit.  In partnership with Green B.E.A.N Delivery & Whole Foods, this event almost exclusively utilized food from local farmers as well as organic produce grown in the fields of the zoo farm.  The sold-out event was a hit!


At the Riverbanks Zoo, Amy Farina is a new addition to the Retail Team as Assistant Retail Manager.  Shane Eberhard was recently promoted to Culinary Operations Manager.  In addition, SSA recently started managing the Group Sales Department (group tickets, special event rentals, and consignment tickets). The current group sales staff, Judie Van Patten and Sallie Jean Jackson, joined the SSA team.  In addition, Adam Suggett, the former Event Sales Director at the San Francisco Zoo, joined the SSA team at Riverbanks as the Group Sales Manager.


Chef Jess

Chef Jessie Rattanni

Back by popular demand at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium,  Chef Jessie Rattanni is teaching her two-hour Cupcake Critters class.  She makes holiday-inspired animal cupcakes and shows participants how to make them too!  Cupcakes and lunch are included.

Cupcake Critters

Cupcake Critters










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Partner happenings

NOV 2013 - slsc wager

Staff at the Saint Louis Science Center made a bet on the outcome of the 2013 World Series with the Museum of Science in Boston — if Boston won, the Saint Louis T Rex would wear a Boston jersey, and if Saint Louis had won, Boston’s triceratops, Cliff, would don a Saint Louis Cardinals jersey.  Well, Boston prevailed, and Mr. T. Rex is a man of his word! He made sure to smile big while sporting a Boston Red Sox jersey.


Responding to a challenge by the City and County of Denver, the Denver Zoo has reduced its water consumption by 20% through careful water use, including repairing or removing leaking systems, using water sparingly for cleaning and making smart choices when irrigating and selecting plants for gardens.  The zoo has also maximized the use of reused water for irrigation and cleaning.  Since its focus on water conservation in 1999, it is estimated that the zoo has saved over 226 million gallons of water.


NOV 2013 - cnz best little shopsThe Cincinnati Magazine selected the Cincinnati Zoo Gift Shop as one of its “Best Little Shops.”  Following the announcement, American Registry seconded the honor and added Cincinnati Zoo Gift Shop to the “Registry of Business Excellence™”.  Products include eco-friendly Sprout® watches, hand-painted animal figurines, elephant poo paper products, furry animal slippers and animal-themed ornaments. Founded in 1967, Cincinnati Magazine is the city’s most respected and award-winning monthly magazine, with over 328,000 readers.


After a lengthy permitting process, the first cinereous vulture ever to be exported from Mongolia arrived at the Denver Zoo in July 2012, and was recently was put on exhibit.  The female chick was found by zoo conservation biologists during a project at Mongolia’s Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in 2010. She was discovered with multiple, significant open fractures on her left wing, and it was clear she wouldn’t survive in the wild.   She was given the name “Aztai,” Mongolian for “lucky.”


Last month, the Los Angeles Zoo announced that a male Okapi calf was born last August.  This was the first time an Okapi has been born at the zoo.  The calf spent the last couple of months behind the scenes bonding with his mother and familiarizing himself with his new home. In June 2005, the zoo received the first okapi in their history after trying to attain one for over 20 years.  Jamal, then 10 years old, came to the zoo from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The zoo’s long-term goal of obtaining a pair for breeding was finally met in September 2010 when a female arrived from Denver Zoo.


Brother and sister lion cubs recently born at the Maryland Zoo are gaining weight and showing signs of play.  The duo is being hand-raised after their mother died from birth complications.  Two other cubs did not survive.


Captive-bred black-footed ferrets, which were bred at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, were recently released into the wild in Colorado for the first time in more than 10 years. The release was made possible by new state legislation allowing this endangered species to be reintroduced on private land. The zoo joined the black-footed ferret recovery effort in 1990.  The black-footed ferret was once considered the most endangered mammal in North America, but through captive-breeding efforts by zoos and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the black-footed ferret population has been brought back from brink of extinction. Currently, there are at least 500 in the wild.


NOV 2013 - AUTRY the autry dancers

Dancers at the Autry National Center’s Day of the Dead celebration

The Autry National Center  hosts an annual celebration of the Mexican tradition of El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  This daylong festival of discovery offers families the opportunity to explore ancient Aztec and modern Mexican traditions of honoring the dead and celebrating life in a whimsical way. Activities include displays of family altars, Aztec and folkloric dance groups and a street market featuring Day of the Dead trinkets and treats.



NOV 2013 - fwcz logoThe Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo experienced its second-highest attendance ever in 2013, with a total of 545,900 guests.  The zoo’s attendance record is 614,666, set in 2009 when the African Journey exhibit opened.


NOV 2013 - dlz logoThe Dallas Zoo set its fourth straight yearly attendance record. For the first time, the zoo had more than 900,000 visitors — 915,971, to be exact, and in its 125th birthday year, too.



A new 7,000 square-foot exhibit recently opened at the History Colorado Center.  Called Living West, this exhibit presents three stories of people struggling to live in places, such as the Mesa Verde region 800 years ago, the southeastern Colorado plains of the 1930’s and the Rocky Mountains today. Guests can explore life at Mesa Verde and see History Colorado’s renowned collections of ceramics, weaving, and other archaeological finds. Guests can experience the epic “Black Sunday” dust storm of 1935, as well as learn how to keep the mountain ecosystems healthy by preventing wildfires and measuring our carbon footprint.


The Buffalo Museum of Science recently opened the fourth of eight interactive science studios it plans to open by October 2015. Bug Works is an interactive gallery about the kind of bugs that creep, crawl and fly and their place and purpose in our ecosystem.  The seven interactive displays include opportunities to explore bug sounds, life cycles, survival skills, habitats and why the jobs they do help keep our planet in check.




NOV 2013 - bfz arctic edgeNew York State is providing the final $750,000 to finance the $14 million Arctic Edge habitat at the Buffalo Zoo.  The exhibit is designed to house bald eagles, arctic wolves and lynx along with the main attraction, the polar bears, which include Luna, the zoo’s year-old female, and Kali, a visiting male cub orphaned in the wild last spring. The zoo’s other two polar bears, now being housed in other zoos, will also have a home at Arctic Edge. Renovation of the habitat is part of a larger zoo capital campaign that also included $4 million for a new entrance.


The Fresno Chaffee Zoo will soon add 19 acres to the existing footprint when construction starts on African Adventure. There will be a new, state-of-the-art and naturalistic home for a pride of African lions, a family herd of African elephants, white rhinos, a new giraffe feeding station with 360 degree views of the savanna, a new dine-in restaurant called Kopje Lodge and cheetahs complete with a cheetah run. Construction is expected to begin in December with a completion date in the summer of 2015.  To see an animated video walk-through of this future exhibit, click this link.

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