Archive for July, 2013

The Fastest Animal in the Rain Forest

Tree Shrew Featured

Which zoo animals can leap across their exhibit, grab a cricket, and eat it, all in a few seconds?  The zoo’s pair of northern tree shrews!

“They rarely sit still,” says Zoo Keeper Dave Messmann of these Southeast Asian forest-dwellers.  “They are always moving.”

These tiny acrobatic critters look like miniature squirrels but are closely related to monkeys and apes.  “Kids say that they look like Scrat, the character from the Ice Age movies,” Messmann says.

Belange, our one-year-old female and Tup, a five-year-old male, are still getting to know each other, so they take turns in the exhibit in Dr. Diversity’s Rain Forest Research Station in the Indonesian Rain Forest.   Messmann lures them on and off exhibit with tasty crickets.  “They really live their lives at top speed,” Messmann says, noting that tree shrews are sexually mature at 60 days and may live only about eight years.  Aside from crickets, they dine on chopped fruits, veggies, insects, and a pelleted diet.

On a recent visit, Messmann gave Belange a shed snake skin as an enrichment activity.  The tree shrew darted about and rubbed her chest on the shed skin, probably to scent mark the new item.  At one point, Belange poked her head through the shed skin and wore it like a scarf for a few minutes, until her constant motion caused it to fall off.  

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Posted in: Zoo News

Perfect Plumage for a Penguin

penguin

If you’re a penguin, your feathers are super-important:  they keep you warm in chilly waters, they keep your skin dry, and provide you with a snappy tuxedo-like outfit. 

But once a year, it all falls apart – literally.  During a one-to two-week period each year, all of a penguin’s feathers fall out.  This process is called molting, and it causes dramatic changes in the zoo’s African black-footed penguin flock.

“Each of our 17 penguins molts on a different schedule,” says zoo keeper Kasey DeLucenay.  “There is almost always someone in the process.”

Molting begins with each penguin increasing its weight by about 50% in just a few weeks.  “A bird that weighs five pounds might gain more than two pounds,” DeLucenay says.  The weight gain helps a penguin get through the molt – a time when it can’t swim and hunt for fish – without eating. 

During the molt, the penguins look scruffy, with patches of fluffy feathers popping up in random spots.  “The molt seems to start at the tail and work its way up the body,” DeLucenay says.

Eventually, the old plumage is replaced by a sleek new set of feather.  In juveniles, the brown feathers are replaced by the black-and-white plumage of the adults.  As a finishing touch, the penguins preen each feather by rubbing it with waterproofing oil, which is taken from a gland at the base of the tail.

Read more about penguins here.

You can help feed the penguins at a VIP Experience.

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Posted in: African Animals, Birds, Penguins

How to Make a Lion Eat His Dinner

Africa Lion Featured Image

Bill the lion needs no introduction.  His laid-back attitude and stunning physique make him a crowd favorite.  Thanks to his penchant for resting on the exhibit window, he’s in thousands of family photos.  Could he be any more of a superstar?

“I think Bill just enjoys being awesome,” says zoo keeper Jennifer McDermott. 

Bill was only two years old with a scruffy little mane when he debuted at the African Journey’s grand opening in 2009.  As he prepares to celebrate his 7th birthday on July 22, he has matured into a beautiful 435-pound adult male lion.

But amid all the hype, Bill has a few bad habits.  According to McDermott, “Bill is the pickiest eater I’ve ever seen.”

Because lions eat only one thing – meat – this can be a problem.  The zoo buys a frozen prepared meat diet (similar to a tube of ground beef) by the ton.  When a new batch of meat arrives, keepers know that Bill will snub his finicky nose at it, at least for the first few days.

“He makes what I call a ‘yuck’ face, like a little kid,” says McDermott.  “He’ll scrunch up his eyes, stick out his tongue, and walk away from his food.”  In lion-speak, this apparently means “I don’t wanna eat this, and you can’t make me!”

McDermott doesn’t worry about Bill’s diva-like attitude regarding his dinner.  “He eventually eats it,” she says. 

Unlike Bill, Ina the lioness is very interested in her food.  When McDermott calls the cats to dinner at the end of the day, Ina makes a beeline for the meat placed in their night quarters.  Bill, on the other hand, takes his sweet time.  “We just wait him out,” says McDermott.  When he does decide to come inside, “He walks very slowly,” she says. 

Bad habits aside, McDermott is in awe of Bill.  “I love looking into his eyes,” she says.  “He’s just beautiful.”

Read more about lions here.

You can help feed the lions at a VIP Experience.

Click the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: African Animals, Lions

Meet Kaasidy, Our Little Daredevil

baby colobus monkey

How many ways can a 9-month-old monkey worry her keepers?  Kaasidy the baby colobus monkey is trying to find out.

“She’s quite the daredevil ,” said African Journey Area Manger Amber Eagleson of Kaasidy.  Eagelson describes Kaasidy’s first day in the new colobus monkey exhibit, when the little monkey climbed to the top of the exhibit, let go, and dropped ten feet to a low branch.  “My heart stopped for just a second,” says Eagleson.  But Kaasidy had no worries – she climbed to the top and did it all over again.

One of Kaasidy’s favorite antics is to hang from the long bushy tails of her mother, Jibini, and Wamblenica, another female.  “They don’t seem to mind at all,” said Eagleson.  But dad’s tail is off-limits.  “We never see her hanging from Finnigan’s tail – he’s not as tolerant as the females.”

Kaasidy was born on September 25, so she was on exhibit for only a few days before the zoo closed for the season.  The colobus family moved back outdoors after their exhibit in the African Journey was completely rebuilt and enlarged this spring.  Colobus monkeys are native to the forests of central and eastern Africa. 

Eagleson encourages you to spend time at the colobus exhibit and watch Kaasidy at play.  “She only rests for a few minutes,” Eagleson said.  “Then she’s back at it again.”

Read more about colobus monkeys.

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Posted in: African Animals, Baby Animals, Monkeys

Introducing Tara the Orangutan

Tara the orangutan

Tengku and Melati, the zoo’s Sumatran orangutans, are about to make a new friend:  Tara, a female orangutan, is the newest member of the orangutan family.

“Tara is full of personality,” says zoo keeper Angie Selzer, who cares for the orangutans.  “We’re thrilled to have her in Fort Wayne.”

Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in April, and, after completing a routine 30-day quarantine period, is getting to know male orangutan Tengku, who turns 27 on July 3, and female Melati, age 28.  Introductions are taking place behind the scenes.  “We first allow the orangutans to see each other through mesh doors,” explains Selzer.  “Only after we are comfortable with their interactions will we let them meet face to face.” 

The introduction process could take a few months, Selzer says, so it could be awhile before zoo guests see Tara in the Orangutan Valley exhibit.  During the introduction period, Tengku and Melati will be allowed to move back and forth between the exhibit and the behind-the-scenes areas where Tara lives, so there could be times when no orangutans are in the exhibit.

Born at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tara is 18 years old, which is middle aged for an orangutan (the median life expectancy for female Sumatran orangutans is 32 years).  She moved to the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo in 2002. Both Tengku and Melati have lived in Fort Wayne since Orangutan Valley opened in 1995 in the Indonesian Rain Forest exhibit.

“Tara is an awesome orangutan,” says Selzer.  “The staff at the Columbus Zoo took excellent care of her.”  Selzer notes that Tara is already trained on several medical behaviors, such as presenting her arm for a blood draw, which make her daily management much more efficient.   

Tara can be distinguished from the other orangutans by her petite build and darker fur on her face, hands, and feet.

Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species and are managed in zoos by a Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population.  These rare apes are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where their future is threatened by persistent habitat destruction as forests are converted to palm oil plantations, timber concessions, and mining operations.  Zoos could prove to be the last stronghold for this species, which some experts predict could become functionally extinct in the wild within 10 to 20 years.

Learn how you can help orangutans by making wise purchases of everyday items made with palm oil.

Learn more about Sumatran orangutans.

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Posted in: Conservation, Orangutans, Zoo News