Archive for June, 2013

Zebras with Spots?

zebra face

As she prepares to feed the zebras on the 3-acre African Journey savannah, zoo keeper Lisa Gehlhausen gathers her equipment.  Wheelbarrow:  check.   Zebra treats:  check.  Stick to fend off ostrich:  check. Treats for ostrich:  check.  Wait a minute – are we feeding the ostrich or the zebras?

“You really can’t feed one without the other,” she says.  “The ostrich follow us everywhere.”

Indeed, Kimmy and Penny, the zoo’s two female ostriches, are ever-present as Gehlhausen tosses chunks of carrot and sweet potato to the zebras.  “We use these treats to encourage the zebras to go into the barn at night,” she explains.  “That helps reduce wear and tear on the pasture.”  The zebras also eat hay and grain, and nibble on real grass on the pasture.

A bucket of cracked corn distracts the ostriches while Gehlhausen explains how she tells the zoo’s three female zebras apart.  “Each zebra has different markings,” she says.  “The trick is to look at the things that aren’t stripes.”  Telodi, for example, has one white spot on the left side of her lower neck, while Jasiri has two white spots in the center of her neck, as if she is wearing a necklace.  Okolo has a black spot on her left shoulder.

As herd animals, Telodi, Jasiri, and Okolo are never far from each other.  And if there’s food involved, the ostriches are guaranteed to be in the vicinity.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: African Animals, Zebras, Zoo News

Kroger Donates $67,620 to the Zoo

Kroger logo

Kroger and Scott’s shared the results of their 2013 Zoo Week promotion today by delivering a check for $67,620 to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  

“Kroger and Scott’s are outstanding community partners,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson.  “We are grateful for their longstanding support of the zoo.”

The donation represents 3% of sales on Zoo Day May 15, as well as donations by customers who “voted” among three zoo animals by donating $1 at the checkout May 5-18.

Bugara the tiger, with 6,661 votes, unseated incumbent Jelani the giraffe, who had 5,769 votes. Fishbone the sea lion received 5,168 votes. 

Kroger and Scott’s created Zoo Day in 1993.  To date, the stores have donated $1,530,181 to the zoo.  

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Zoo News

Mr. Happy “Rocks”

Mr. Happy Featured Image

A few weeks ago, our friends at Pokagon State Park called with a problem:  a 22-year-old Blanding’s turtle named Mr. Happy wasn’t looking so happy.  This turtle, named for the perpetual “smile” on his face, lives at Pokagon’s Nature Center and is a staff and visitor favorite.

Blanding’s turtles are endangered in Indiana, so Mr. Happy is an important ambassador for our state’s wildlife.  In May, Mr. Happy stopped eating and became lethargic. Fred Wooley, Pokagon’s longtime naturalist, called on Zoo Veterinarian Joe Smith for help.

“When Mr. Happy arrived at the zoo, he didn’t look well at all,” said Smith, who quickly determined the cause of Mr. Happy’s dire state:  Mr. Happy had swallowed a very large rock.  The rock was lodged in the turtle’s stomach and completely blocked his digestive tract.  He also had pneumonia, because bits of food had made their way into his lungs.

Using an endoscope (a flexible tube which can be inserted down the throat), a steady hand, and much patience, Smith was able to remove the pesky pebble.  “It took two hours to get the rock out,” Smith said. 

With his stomach now freed of the rock, Mr. Happy got right back to business. “He started eating almost immediately after we finished the procedure,” Smith said.

Mr. Happy is back at Pokagon’s Nature Center, basking in the admiration of his many fans.  “People beam when I tell them the story of that turtle,” said Wooley.  “I have to give Dr. Joe and his staff all the credit in the world.”  And the rock?  “We have it pinned above his aquarium,” Wooley said – presumably where the turtle can’t take a bite of it again.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Conservation, Reptiles, Zoo News

Our Growing Gibbon Family

Javon Gibbon Baby Blog Post

The Javan gibbon baby born at the zoo on April 16 is growing more adventuresome by the day, thanks to excellent care by his mother Dieng – and perhaps some encouragement by his rambunctious big brother, two-year-old Jaka.

The male baby, who has not yet been named, spends most of his time clinging to Dieng’s belly, but keepers have noticed more activity lately.  “We’ve seen him reach out to grab a branch once in a while,” said zoo keeper Kristin Sliger.  “But he’s still too little to move around on his own.”

Jaka, on the other hand, is always on the move.  During a recent photo shoot he rarely sat still, preferring to leap and swing among the branches and vines in the tree-filled exhibit in the Indonesian Rain Forest. 

Javan gibbons are rare – so rare that one other United States zoo exhibits this rare species.   When Jaka was born in 2011, he was the first Javan gibbon born in any United States zoo.  Dieng, her mate Lionel, and their two youngsters are the largest group of Javan gibbons in a U.S. zoo.

“We are honored to be one of only two zoos in to exhibit this endangered species,” said Zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon.  “With this species, we can make a significant impact on conservation.”

UPDATE July 1, 2013:  The baby has a name!  It’s Kado, which is an Indonesian word meaning “gift.”

Learn more about Javan gibbons.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Baby Animals, Conservation, Gibbons, Zoo News

Red Panda Update

red panda in log

Updated June 7, 2013:

A red panda born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on Monday, June 3, has died.

“Our staff is truly saddened by this news,” said Animal Curator Mark Weldon.

The male cub was born to female red panda Xiao (pronounced JOW), age 3, and her 4-year-old mate, Junjie. 

“Our daily visual checks did not reveal any problems with the cub,” Weldon said.  The cub was seen curled up in the nest box, which is normal behavior.  The cub was scheduled for a full physical exam today.

This was the second litter of cubs to be born at the zoo since 1997.  Two cubs were born to Xiao in 2012, but neither cub survived. About half of red panda cubs born in zoos die within the first month of life.  In 2012, 30 red panda cubs were born in North American zoos.  Fifteen of those cubs survived.

A necropsy conducted by the zoo’s veterinary staff revealed that the cub had not ingested any milk.  This could mean that the cub did not nurse, or that Xiao did not produce any milk.

“Raising animals in zoos is not an exact science,” said Weldon.  “Our preference is always for animals to raise their own young, rather than hand-rearing them.  Mother-raised babies always become better parents when they have their own young.  It’s a fine line to know when to intervene.” 

Mary Noell of the Cincinnati Zoo serves as North American Regional Studbook Keeper for red pandas and maintains data on all red pandas in United States and Canadian zoos.  “This is not an unusual situation,” she said of the cub’s death.  “Xiao is still a very young panda.”  In general, young mothers are less successful in rearing young.

“There is a genetic line within this subspecies where [the females] do not produce enough milk,” Noell said.  “Unfortunately we don’t know this is a possibility until a cub dies.”

Noell said that Xiao’s future as a breeding red panda will be evaluated.  Recommendations for breeding and transferring animals among zoos are made annually.  Both Noell and Weldon noted that either Xiao or Junjie could be moved to another zoo to find a new mate in the future.

Zoos continually share information on best practices and advances in husbandry for red pandas and all animals.  A new air-conditioned nest box was installed in the red panda exhibit this spring. It includes a side window that allowed keepers to peek into the box once a day and view the cub.  “We tried to disturb mom and the cub as little as possible,” Weldon said.  The zoo pathway leading to the exhibit was closed off when Xiao began nesting on Monday.


Below is the original post, announcing the cub’s arrival
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Zoo keepers were counting the days until Xiao’s due date, but they were prepared when the red panda delivered a single cub on June 3, a few days earlier than expected.  

This is the second litter of cubs to be born at the zoo since 1997.  Two cubs were born to Xiao and her mate Junjie  in 2012, but neither cub survived. 

“The next few weeks are critical to the cub’s survival,” said Central Zoo Area Manager Shelley Scherer. “Xiao is behaving just as we would expect, so we are cautiously optimistic.”

An endangered species, red pandas are difficult to breed and rear in captivity.  About half of all cubs die within 30 days of birth.  Only a few dozen red panda cubs are born in United States zoos each year.

Keepers conducted a brief health check on the cub this morning.  The cub, whose gender is not known, weighed 117 grams and was vocalizing.  Xiao frequently carries her cub among nest boxes in the exhibit, which is normal behavior.  

Keepers will keep a close eye on the cub, but prefer not to intervene in its care unless the cub is in danger.  “It’s always best to allow a mother to rear her babies,” said Zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon.

To give Xiao and her cub complete privacy, the exhibit pathway is closed to guests.

Red panda cubs are born blind and deaf.  The mother spends nearly all her time nursing and grooming her cubs during the first week.  The cubs remain in the nest until they are about three months old.

“If the cub survives, zoo guests are unlikely to see it outside of the nest box until sometime in August or September,” said Scherer.   

 The breeding of red pandas is overseen by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).  The goal of the SSP is to maximize genetic diversity in captive populations of endangered animals. 

Red pandas are native to the forested foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in China and Nepal, where they feed primarily on bamboo.  Though they share a name with the famed black-and-white giant pandas, the two are not closely related.  The name “panda” comes from the Nepalese word ponya, which means “bamboo-eater.”

Learn more about red pandas.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

 

Posted in: Baby Animals, Red Panda, Zoo News