Archive for May, 2013
Bugs for Breakfast
Do you ever wonder what’s in your food? At the zoo, we need to know exactly what’s in the animals’ food. In fact, we analyze everything that our animals eat – including mealworms.
Mealworms are eaten by many animals including mongooses, bat-eared foxes, and Australian birds. It’s not the mealworms themselves, but what the mealworms have eaten that determines their nutritional value. “What the mealworms eat has a direct effect on animals that consume the mealworms,” says Brooke Stowell, zoo commissary supervisor.
Mealworms are a good source of protein, and are kept alive in the commissary until they are fed to animals. But mealworms don’t come with a nutrition label, so Stowell is varying the mealworms’ diet and testing their nutritional value. “We are testing the mealworms because we want them to be as nutritious as possible,” says Stowell.
Do the animals notice the difference? “Probably not,” says Stowell. “They just enjoy eating the mealworms!”
Testing mealworms may seem like an extreme measure, but it’s all part of our commitment to excellent animal health. Says Stowell, “We do this so our animals eat the very best food that will promote the very best health.”
Read about animal diets on our Animal Information Pages.
Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Posted in: Birds, Zoo News
Hoppy…er, Happy Birthday, Kangaroo!
Mako the kangaroo got extra attention on his 12th birthday last week, and none of the 23 other eastern grey kangaroos in the mob were complaining. “He was more than willing to share his birthday treat,” said zoo keeper Marian Powers.
Mako got special treatment because he IS special: he’s the only adult male in the mob and has fathered 12 joeys here (with more possibly on the way). His birthday “cake” was a tasty combination of willow and ash branches, sprinkled with cottonwood and grape leaves.
“When we delivered the cake, Mako actually shied away from it,” says zoo keeper Kierra Klein. “We think he prefers to stay out of the spotlight.”
As dozens of zoo guests gathered to watch the birthday festivities, Mako stretched out and gave himself a good belly scratch while the female ‘roos and their joeys investigated – then devoured – the leafy cake.
“Overall, Mako’s birthday celebration was pretty low-key, which fits with his relaxed personality,” says Powers. Perhaps more of us should follow Mako’s example of how to spend the perfect birthday: After nibbling on his cake, he lounged by the pool (actually the small pond in the Kangaroo Walkabout) for the rest of the day. Hoppy Birthday, Mako!
Extreme Makeover: Sheep Edition
The sheep got serious “haircuts” last week on the Indiana Family Farm, with each sheep shedding about ten pounds of wool!
Roxy, an 8-year-old female, and Jerry, her 7-year-old son, got their semi-annual shearing at the hands of zoo keeper Sarah Sloan. Wielding heavy-duty electric clippers, Sloan carefully trimmed every inch of each sheep, creating mounds of wool on the barn floor. The wool is donated to local artisans, who spin it into yarn for knitting.
“Shearing helps keep the sheep comfortable now that the weather is warmer,” Sloan said. “If we didn’t shear them, their wool would continue to grow and become matted.”
The sheep were surprisingly calm during the procedure. Zoo keeper Heather Schuh held each sheep’s head while Sloan did the shearing. Sloan stopped occasionally to check the temperature of the shearing blade, making sure it wasn’t getting too hot. “The blade gets caked with lanolin from the wool,” she explained. “We replace it after each shearing session.” Lanolin is a waxy substance that naturally occurs in sheep’s wool and allows the wool to easily shed water. Lanolin is used in lotions, ointments, and many industrial products.
After their extreme makeovers, Roxy and Jerry appeared unfazed by their now-slim silhouettes. “After shearing, we can get a good look at their body condition, and they’ll be a lot more comfortable in the hot weather,” said Sloan. The sheep already have their next “haircut” appointment booked for August.
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Posted in: Farm Animals, Zoo News
Healthy Hearts for Orangutans
Keeping animals healthy is a zoo keeper’s number one goal. But because some health problems can remain unseen until it’s too late, zoos keepers turn to diagnostic tools for help.
Heart problems are a leading cause of death for both zoo-managed and wild orangutans and gorillas, so zoos have banded together to develop the Great Ape Heart Project, based at Zoo Atlanta. The project is collecting data on orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas that will advance understanding of ape heart conditions.
“This effort will help us understand what healthy ape hearts look like,” said Zoo Veterinarian Joe Smith, DVM, who serves as the veterinary advisor for the Orangutan Species Survival Plan and a member of the Great Ape Heart Project Executive Steering Committee.
At the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, keepers conduct weekly ultrasounds on our two orangutans, Tengku (male) and Melati (female), assisted by ultrasound technicians Sue Hansen and Kathy Rutschilling. Ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure where a probe is held against the body, and sound waves emitted from the probe generate an image of structures within the body. The ultrasound machine was donated by Lutheran Hospital.
Keeper Angie Selzer explains that getting ultrasound images of orangutan hearts took months of training. “First, we had to get the orangutans used to the big ultrasound machine,” she said. The orangutans were already trained to present their chest to the keepers, so the next step was introducing the ultrasound probe and holding it against the chest. “We started with a piece of PVC pipe with a cap on the end, then we switched to using the real probe,” Selzer said.
All procedures are conducted through heavy wire mesh to protect keepers from the orangutans, who are far stronger than humans of equal size.
The orangutans are now comfortable with the routine procedure except for one aspect: the clear gel applied on the end of the ultrasound probe. “Tengku does not like the ultrasound gel at all,” Selzer said. “He keeps a blanket nearby to wipe off his chest after each session.”
After Dr. Dave Kaminskas, a local cardiologist, reads the ultrasounds, then the data is sent to the Great Ape Heart Project’s database, where it will help build a healthy future for apes – both in the wild and in zoos.Orangutans
Rare Javan Gibbon Born at Zoo
A very rare baby – one of only two born in the United States in the last 12 months – has arrived at the zoo. A male Javan gibbon was born on April 16 in the Indonesian Rain Forest.
“We are thrilled with the birth,” says Animal Curator Mark Weldon. “Dieng is being a good mother and the baby appears healthy.”
On a visit to the gibbons’ indoor quarters, Dieng, the mother, held her new baby tightly to her chest as she swung gracefully from branch to branch. The baby had no choice but to hang on tight to Dieng’s furry belly or risk falling to the ground. But luckily, nature has equipped baby gibbons with a strong grip!
Lionel, the baby’s father, and big brother Jaka, who was born here in March 2011, were more focused on the treats being offered by zoo keeper Kristen Sliger than on the new baby. “Jaka is curious about his new sibling, but Dieng is also very protective,” she said. The new arrival does not yet have a name.
For now, the gibbons’ access to the outdoors will be limited to time periods when the temperature is above 60 degrees. The apes will only be allowed to venture into the overhead chute that connects their indoor quarters to the outdoor exhibit. “We just want to play it safe and make sure the baby is ready to move into the big exhibit before we give them complete access,” Sliger said.
Javan gibbons are rare in zoos and in the wild. Fewer than 4,000 of these gibbons remain on the island of Java, where they are under intense pressure from the island’s burgeoning human population. Read more about Javan gibbons here.
Click on the photos below to enlarge.