Queens Zoo celebrates bison

Two friends stood side by side, their faces painted like tigers - though the animal they had come to see was the main attraction of this summer’s Bison Bonanza at the Queens Zoo.
“They have brown fur, two horns, and they’re resting,” said John Clark Jarbi, who visits the zoo with his family on a near-weekly basis.
“I saw a skeleton of their head - I touched it!” Jarbi enthused. “It felt really real.”
The Jarbis moved from Soho to Jackson Heights recently and John’s pal, Ren/ Benjamin, visiting from the old neighborhood, said that the bison was his favorite animal.
Summer is mating season for bison, which, according to a sign near the field where they graze, can be seen “fighting, bellowing, and running every which way.” However, Jarbi was right - the bison looked content to rest on this sunny Sunday afternoon.
The weekend of June 21-22 saw the zoo busy with special events, including face painting, concerts, story time and arts and crafts.
“Bison Biofacts is one of the special events we do,” said Stacy Carman, Teaching Fellow. “We try to highlight all the animals of the zoo, the prairie, some of the North American animals,” she said.
At the Bison Biofacts cart, volunteer Matthew Weiner was giving an inspired lecture to a family visiting the zoo, showing off the bison hides and skulls that visitors can actually touch.
Education is an important part of any Queens Zoo event, said Carman. “We try to bring in a conservation message: bison were historically very plentiful, and then, for a while, they weren’t. Through different means, the bison population was brought back up.”
She added that bison and buffalo are not quite the same. Bison are from North America, while Buffalo are from Africa and Asia.
“In my opinion, living in the city, a lot of kids don’t get to see wild animals. That’s why we continue to reinforce the message of conservation within the greater world,” Carman explained.
“The pronghorn antelope and the bison would naturally be together, so it is a nice way to show that within the zoo population, this is what it would be like out on the prairie,” she continued.
The zoo also holds a meaningful lesson about diversity. “Here we have two different animals, and they can get along. Just like we’re all different, and we all get along,” said Carman.
The Wild Room was a busy place over the weekend, with an Arts and Crafts session where kids customized colorful cut-out zoo animals, followed by Native American Storytelling with Teaching Fellow Dana Henry, who also read from the book “Buffalo.”
Face painting was located near the Wild Room in the Concessions area, where kids transformed into tigers, birds and even reptiles while taking a break from the exciting Bison Bonanza itinerary.
Another big fan of the Wild Room was Sam Gelberg, who won a prize after completing the scavenger hunt - which is both a tour of the zoo and a test of knowledge.
“The bison had puffs of fur sticking off of them because they were molting,” Gelberg informed his mother.
After the scavenger hunt, children enjoyed singing and dancing under the tent in the domestic area at John Farrell’s three concerts. Farrell’s son signed the lyrics to a song about sign language, supporting the Queens Zoo’s educational mission.
Visitors to the Bison Bonanza will also pass the pair of North American eagles named after former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and her husband Mel.
For more information on the Queens Zoo, call 718-271-1500.