New Year, New Animals at the Junior Museum & Zoo!

January 17, 2023

Hello Friends,

I hope your 2023 is off to a happy and healthy start. We kick off the new year with a look at some wonderful new animals at the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, including a Virginia opossum, Western pond turtle, barn owls, hedgehog, and bearded dragon. These animals join 61 other animal species at the zoo, providing visitors with an opportunity to learn about and see these animals up close during the JMZ’s various talks.

With the new year, Super Family Sundays are back! For more than 10 years, the Friends have funded these special events at the JMZ for families who have children with disabilities. There are several events scheduled for this year, with the first two taking place on January 22 and February 26 from 5:30 - 7 p.m. To sign up or to see the full event schedule, go to the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo's webpage on accessibility


I hope to see you at the JMZ soon, and look forward to an exciting year ahead.

Lauren Angelo

President, Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo

Young children meet the JMZ's newest bearded dragon, Mad Maxine. Animal care staff shared that Mad Maxine is a very calm, easy-to-handle reptile. Photo courtesy of David Liittschwager.

Meet the JMZ's Newest Arrivals

The Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo is home to animals from diverse habitats and homes. In fact, many of the animals at the JMZ are rescues! All three new arrivals featured below are either rescues or animals that were surrendered to the JMZ. Animal care staff are passionate about providing the top care to these arrivals.

Virginia Opossum – Ms. O

Meet Ms. O! Ms. O is a nine-month-old Virginia opossum. As a joey—the term for opossum babies-– she was taken in as a pet by a loving family. However, as it is illegal to keep native wildlife as pets in California, Cal Fish and Wildlife relocated Ms. O to the JMZ.

The Virginia opossum is the only living marsupial in North America. For the first two months of their life, young opossums live in their mother’s pouch. Ms. O still likes to be carried in a fabric pouch. Members of the animal care staff will wear this pouch over the shoulder, which allows her to be comfortable. She has hammocks, dens, and cavities in her enclosure to climb into.

Extremely adaptable creatures, the opossum’s range stretches across much of the continent with the exception of some states in the center of the United States. Much like raccoons, opossums often live in close proximity to humans. Ms. O is an example of an animal people may encounter in their backyards, which makes her all the more important to understand. Opossums have fifty teeth, the highest number of teeth found in any land animal. These marsupials provide great benefits to neighborhoods by eating cockroaches and ticks, which reduces the spread of Lyme disease. Contrary to popular belief, opossums are also extremely unlikely to contract rabies. 

You can see Ms. O when it is warm in the zoo accompanied by a member of the animal care staff!

Ms. O is introduced to a group of visitors. Photo courtesy of David Liittschwager.

Western Pond Turtle 

The Western pond turtle is the West Coast’s only native freshwater turtle and a protected species. A local family kept our new Western pond turtle as a pet, but could no longer care for her. She was given to the Peninsula Humane Society and then brought to the JMZ. Turtles that live in captivity cannot be released back into the wild. This ensures that wild ponds turtles do not catch diseases from turtles that have been in close contact with people. Western pond turtles can live up to 80 years in captivity, which makes caring for them a long-term commitment.

Western pond turtles live in calm streams, ponds, lakes, and marshes. When these bodies of water dry up during summer months, Western pond turtles dig into mud and draw in oxygen through their skin. This helps them survive throughout dry months when water sources are not as easy to find.

The population of Western pond turtles is on a steep decline in the wild. These turtles are an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) species. Participating zoos continue to work together to create conservation action plans to protect Western pond turtles from disease, habitat loss, and predation.

The Western pond turtle will be featured in JMZ zookeeper reptile talks once the weather warms.

Snapping Turtles

The newest stars of reptile talks, these six snapping turtles were illegally imported into California by someone intending to sell them. In the long-run, the JMZ cannot care for all six, so staff are working to find homes for them in permitted facilities where they will receive the best care.

The common snapping turtle prefers to live in shallow, slow-moving bodies of water with muddy bottoms, so that they can hide. Like their name suggests, snapping turtles have powerful jaws that allow them to snap and catch food. During reptile talks, members of the JMZ’s animal care team are able to feed these turtles and show off how they consume food. These amazing creatures can live up to 47 years in captivity.

One of the Barn Owls says hello to a young visitor. Photo courtesy of David Liittschwager.

More New Arrivals

Ms. O, the Western pond turtle, and snapping turtles are not the only animals who are new to the zoo. Other arrivals include Bramble the hedgehog who along with Ms. O the opossum will be seen during mammal talks at the zoo and can visit classrooms at local schools. The JMZ’s new bearded dragon, Mad Maxine, will also be a reptile talk guest when weather permits. Two new barn owls can be seen in the zoo’s wildlife circle. Members of the animal care team are training these owls to fly in classrooms, so that they can be brought to schools and engage young learners. Another blue-tongued skink, a giant gecko, a veiled chameleon, leopard gecko, and fainting beetles have all joined the JMZ as animal ambassadors. 

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo

info@friendsjmz.org | www.friendsjmz.org


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