How Do You Know if There’s a Joey in the Pouch?

Three new joeys live in the kangaroo yard this year and all of them are mature enough to spend time out of the pouch. We can hardly believe they’re all over eight months old! But with all that time spent in the pouch, we wanted to know how early zoo keepers knew the mama kangaroos had joeys…and how they could tell!

Kangaroos are pregnant for only a month before giving birth to their jelly bean-sized baby (yay for ten-day trimesters), and zoo keepers may not even realize that a kangaroo is pregnant. Immediately after birth, the little one climbs all by itself into the pouch. This takes about 10 minutes. Sometimes zoo keepers witness the tiny bab’s ascent, and sometimes they don’t; so they rely on mom’s behaviors to help clue them in on the pregnancy.

Zoo keeper Marian Powers says it’s difficult to tell when a kangaroo is pregnant, so keepers watch for changes in behavior. “We record all observed breeding behavior, so we have some idea of things that may be happening,” says Powers. “We might also notice mom leaning and preparing her pouch. When the pouch is empty, it develops a waxy coating to keep the skin protected. When mom is getting ready to give birth, she sticks her head in her pouch and begins cleaning that wax off.”

Once the baby is in the pouch it latches on to a teat and stays all safe and snuggled inside for the next six months. During this time, the joey grows and begins moving around. Sometimes it’s during this pouch-only phase of growth that zoo keepers can confirm birth. After about six months a little foot or tail finds its way out, and everyone knows there’s a baby on board.

Zoo keepers wait for the opportunity to confirm a new joey, but it can take time. “The first sighting of a toe or the tip of a tail or nose is an exciting moment. Joey watch requires a lot of patience!” says Powers.

Eventually the joey will leave the pouch for short periods of time. As it grows stronger and gains independence it leaves the pouch for longer durations and begins hopping like the adult kangaroos. But for the first half year of life, a joey’s entire world is a safe, snug little nursery attached to mom.

Animal babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

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Zoo Preview 2016

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo opens for the 2016 season on Saturday, April 23 with new exhibits, new animal species, and some adorable zoo babies!

“Our 50th season was a big one,” says Zoo Director Jim Anderson, “and we have even more for our guests to do and see in Season 51!”

Australian Adventure Renovation

Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure renovation opens this season and will feature a complete renovation of The Outback. Animal highlights include a new reptile house featuring knob-tailed geckos and a woma python, three new aviaries featuring galah cockatoos and straw-necked ibises, and the Tasmanian devil exhibit set to open in late summer.

Renovations to The Outback also include the all-new Outback Springs play stream and updates to the Crocodile Creek Adventure Ride. “We think guests will love the new look and feel of the Crocodile Creek Adventure Ride,” says Anderson. “It’s a great time for the whole family.”

Echo the African Penguin Chick…and a Surprise New Chick!

Zoo fans are eagerly awaiting their first chance to see baby Echo, a female penguin chick that hatched at the zoo in November, 2015. Echo’s arrival marked the start of a third penguin generation at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

The zoo’s penguin colony grew by one more (surprise!) when Blue hatched in February. Blue is a male and is the offspring of bonded pair L. Pink and R. Pink, making him Echo’s uncle.

Blue still lives behind-the-scenes and will join the flock on exhibit later this spring.

Anderson says, “African black-footed penguins are endangered and their population in the wild is declining. Every new chick is important to the future of their species.”

Sumatran Orangutan Baby

Asmara the baby Sumatran orangutan is one year old this season and starting to test her independence. Asmara is sure to delight guests as she climbs, explores, and tries to steal mom’s food! Born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo to parents Tara and Tengku, Asmara represents a critically endangered species on the brink of extinction.

“Asmara is a little ambassador for her wild cousins,” says Anderson. “She helps us fulfill our mission of connecting kids with animals and inspiring people to care.”

More Zoo Babies

Guests of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can expect to find many adorable babies during their visit. In addition to a baby Sumatran orangutan and two feathery penguin chicks, guests can visit three new kangaroo joeys, a baby crocodile skink, and a baby swamp monkey.

“Animal babies are always a guest favorite,” says Anderson, “and visiting new babies is a fun way for families to connect.”

Extended Hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day

The zoo will stay open late until 7p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission gates will close at 7p.m., with zoo grounds closing at 8p.m.

“We listened to our guests,” says Anderson, “and what we heard is that they want more time to enjoy the zoo. We are pleased to offer this benefit to zoo guests.”

Extended hours also create an opportunity for guests to enjoy dinner or schedule evening picnics in the Parkview Physicians Group Pavilions. Catered group picnics were previously available during lunch hours and the zoo expects the later time slots to fill quickly.

More of What’s New

Phase 2 of the Australian Adventure renovation is officially complete and includes Stingray Bay (opened September, 2015) and a new Shark Conservation Area in the Australian Adventure Plaza

Exclusive VIP Experiences take guests behind the scenes for close encounters with their favorite animals. This year’s VIP lineup features new experiences including stingray encounters, vulture feeding, and orangutan training. For an additional fee, guests can schedule a VIP Experience and spend quality time with our animals and zoo keepers!

Updates to the Indonesian Rain Forest include a new roof in the tiger viewing area and a renovated exhibit featuring lesser sulphur-crested cockatoos.

Faye the reticulated giraffe arrived from the Cape May County Park & Zoo last winter and is sure to be a new favorite among guests. “Faye is getting along well with the herd, and we expect her to be a regular at the feeding platform,” says Anderson.

Conservation

By participating in cooperative management programs for more than 90 species and taxa, the zoo is helping to preserve genetic diversity in endangered and threatened animals from around the world, including Sumatran orangutans, reticulated giraffes, and African penguins.

Kids4Nature is a kid-friendly conservation program that invites every guest to participate,” says Anderson. Guests receive a recycled metal washer at the ticket booth. Each washer counts as a “vote” toward one of three conservation projects. “Last year, our guests helped direct more than $90,000 of the zoo’s conservation commitment toward conservation projects around the world,” says Anderson.

Plan a visit in 2016 to see what’s new at the zoo!

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zebra moray eel fort wayne zoo

Now You See Him, Now You Don’t

“Yes, he really is in there,” is the answer that aquarist Gary Stoops gives when zoo guests ask, “Are you sure there’s a zebra moray eel?”

Lazarus the zebra moray eel is known for his ability to evade public view, coming out of his hiding places once or twice a day (maybe) for a feeding or brief swim across The Reef aquarium. It’s hard to believe this elusive fish is over three feet long!

His hiding places change all the time. Sometimes a guest will spot Lazarus, but by the time they’ve readied their camera for a photo, the eel has disappeared behind the coral, leaving only an inch or two of his tail visible.  How can you get a look and maybe even snap a photo of an eel known for his hide-and-seek skills?  Stoops offers advice, “Ask an aquarist or a zoo keeper when feeding time is scheduled. We offer him shrimp a few times a week.  Lazarus swims to the top of the tank once or twice during each feeding.  After that he hides again.”

But there is good news—Phase II of the Australian Adventure remodel brought hope for those wanting to catch a glimpse of the black-and-white striped swimmer!

The recent remodel of the 17,000-gallon Reef tank provided Lazarus with a new hiding spot that’s perfect for a stealthy eel.  Near the side viewing window there’s a small cave extending from the coral. If you come on the right day and look carefully inside, you might see a small face looking back at you. That’s Lazarus.

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southern stingray|fort wayne zoo

Stingray Bay Opens at the Zoo

stingray bay|fort wayne zoo

Guests at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can now explore Stingray Bay when they visit the Australian Adventure.

The exhibit, which features a 20,000-gallon saltwater tank depicting a fishing village and Australian mangrove swamp filled with stingrays, opens today, September 3.

“We’re thrilled to introduce our guests to these awesome animals,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson.

Two species of stingray inhabit the tank – southern stingrays and cownose rays – for a total of 20 stingrays in the exhibit. Southern stingrays can grow up to five feet wide from fin to fin. Cownose rays are smaller at 24-30 inches wide.

Guests can view the stingrays through the chest-high, clear acrylic walls of the tank. Or, guests can choose to reach over the walls in hopes of touching a stingray as it swims past.

Stingrays have barbed venomous spines at the bases of their tails, which are used for defense against predators.   At the zoo, these spines have been trimmed and removed, so there is no danger to guests.

Closely related to sharks, stingrays are a type of fish with skeletons made of cartilage rather than bone. They breathe by taking in water and passing it over their gills to extract oxygen. Stingrays’ downward-facing mouths are filled with stubby teeth that crush clam and snail shells. After the flesh is eaten, shell fragments are spit out. At the zoo, keepers feed whole fish to the stingrays by hand. They also scatter food in the tank, allowing the rays to forage.

Stingray Bay occupies the former Nocturnal Building, which once housed bats, echidnas (spiny anteaters), and other creatures active at night.

The new exhibit will emphasize ocean conservation. “We want to empower our guests to make choices that help our oceans,” said Anderson. Staff at Stingray Bay will distribute information to help guests choose sustainable seafood at grocery stores and restaurants.

Stingray Bay is part of a $7 million, three-phase renovation of the Australian Adventure, which was originally built in 1987 at a cost of $2.5 million. All funds for the current project, as well as the 1987 project, were donated by individuals, foundations, and businesses. The zoo is especially grateful to the Gary Probst Family, sponsor of Stingray Bay.

“Stingray Bay was made possible with the generous support of the Gary Probst Family. Mr. Probst also donates his time and talents as a zoo board member. Everything you see at the zoo is built with the support of our community,” Anderson shared.

Phase 1 of the Australian Adventure renovation opened in 2014 and included visitor amenities such as expanded restaurant seating, additional restrooms, and improvements to the train station, which was renamed the Z.O.&O. Railroad.

Phase 2 of the Australian Adventure renovation includes Stingray Bay and The Reef, which opened in May and features a 17,000-gallon tank filled with tropical fish, and a 50,000-gallon tank housing 2,000 schooling fish and five sharks.

The Outback in the Australian Adventure closed on August 11 so construction could begin on Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure. Scheduled to open in 2016, Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure will include a play stream called Crocodile Creek, new bird aviaries, a new reptile exhibit, and renovations to the River Ride, kangaroo yard, and dingo exhibit. The zoo is also scheduled to receive Tasmanian devils from Australia as part of an Australian government program aimed at protecting this species. Wild Tasmanian devils are under severe threat from a deadly transmissible cancer.

Donations to the Australian Adventure Capital Campaign are welcome. For $400, a Recognition Tile can be engraved with the names of individuals, families, and businesses and displayed on a decorative wall at the Australian Adventure entrance.   For donation information, visit kidszoo.org or contact the zoo at 260-427-6800.

Stingray Bay Facts:

  • Tank volume: 20,000 gallons of artificial seawater
  • Species: Southern Stingrays and Cownose Rays
  • Location: Australian Adventure exhibit

Stingray Facts

  • Stingrays are closely related to sharks.
  • Stingrays breathe underwater with gills. Water enters through the spiracles and as it passes over the gills, oxygen seeps through the walls of tiny blood vessels and into the blood. Gills perform the same function as our lungs, except that our lungs remove oxygen from the air.
  • Stingrays have flat bodies, which allow them to lie flat on the sea floor, hidden in the sand. With eyes on top of their heads, they can watch for predators while remaining partially buried.
  • Spines are used for defense. When rays feel threatened, they may raise their powerful tails and slam their barbed spines into attackers.
  • Stingrays’ spines are covered in venomous mucus. When the spines pierce flesh, the venom is released, causing severe pain.
  • Stingrays flap their fins on the sea floor to uncover buried clams, snails, and fish.
  • Stingrays’ downward-facing mouths are filled with stubby teeth that crush clam and snail shells. After the flesh is eaten, shell fragments are spit out.
  • Because stingrays’ eyes are on top of their heads, they can’t see food on the sea floor. Instead, rays find food by smelling, touching, and detecting tiny electrical fields emitted by every animal.

Mangrove Facts

  • Mangrove trees grow where the freshwater of rivers and lagoons meets the saltwater of the ocean. Because of this the salinity of the water in a mangrove ecosystem can vary as the tides go in and out. Branching roots (called “prop roots”) form underwater “forests” that shelter thousands of species, including stingrays, crabs, worms, and mollusks. These areas also serve as breeding grounds for many seagoing fish—the young fish grow up in the shelter of the mangrove roots until they are large enough to survive in the open ocean.
  • Where mangroves are present, shorelines are protected from powerful ocean waves. On riverbanks, mangroves trap sediments before they flow into the ocean.
  • Mangroves shed excess salt through leaves and bark. Special “breathing roots” poke up through the water to take in air.
  • Bats, snakes, lizards, and insects live in mangrove treetops.
  • Australia has the 3rd largest mangrove area of all countries in the world, after Indonesia and Brazil.

 

 

 

Shark School

“They’re not just mindless eating machines.”  That’s what zoo aquarist Gary Stoops hopes guests will learn when they visit the zoo’s five new sharks and observe them swimming alongside the 2,000 pilchards that share their tank.

The Reef in the zoo’s renovated Australian Adventure is now home to four blacktip reef sharks and one zebra shark.  Although sharks are predators, they don’t feed constantly (not even in the wild), and they’re generally disinterested in the pilchards that share their 50,000-gallon saltwater tank.

Pilchards are schooling fish, so to the sharks they appear as one large organism.  While the sharks sometimes swim through the middle of the school, they usually swim around the large mass of pilchards while navigating the tank.

Stoops refers to the balance between sharks and pilchards as “equilibrium,” but states that the sharks may occasionally try to eat the weakest member of the school.  However, aquarists and zoo keepers feed the sharks often, decreasing the likelihood of predatory encounters.

Zoo keeper Kevan Mensch helps feed and train the sharks.  According to Mensch, “We’re using operant conditioning to train the sharks to eat at different ends of the tank, so they won’t compete for food.”  Zoo keepers also measure and record the amount of food sharks eat to ensure that every animal is consuming enough to stay full.

To date, all three species of fish in the shark tank (blacktip reef shark, zebra shark, and pilchard) are coexisting peacefully.  Stop by The Reef in the Australian Adventure to see them up-close!

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Goat close up with watermark|fort wayne children's zoo

9 Tips For Making the Most of Your Zoo Visit (Goats are #7)

No summer vacation is complete without a trip to the zoo!  Here are nine tips for making the most of your zoo visit:

#1 – Catch a FREE sea lion show.  They happen at Sea Lion Beach every day at 11AM and 3PM.

#2 – Buy a ride pass.  You’ll get 12 rides for the price of 10…and don’t worry if you don’t use all 12 in one day.  Ride passes never expire!

#3 – Visit our newest babies.  Asmara the baby Sumatran orangutan lives in the zoo’s Indonesian Rain Forest and there’s a new colobus monkey baby in the African Journey.  Our kangaroo mob has a new joey that just started venturing out of the pouch.

#4 – Feed a giraffe.  You can buy a piece of lettuce at the giraffe platform for 1 token ($1).  One of our friendly giraffes might come up and eat it right out of your hand!

#5 – Turn your zoo trip into a learning experience.  Visit the For Educators page on our website for ideas and resources.

#6 – Chat with a volunteer.  Our amazing volunteers love talking with guests and sharing their passion for animals and education.  Zoo volunteers are easy to spot – they wear bright red shirts with the zoo logo.

#7 – Make a friend at the Indiana Family Farm.  You’re allowed to pet many of the animals in the barn, including goats, sheep, and donkeys.  Ask a zoo keeper or volunteer for help if you’re not sure how to approach an animal.  They’re there to help.

#8 – Try some new fare.  You’ll find lots of new menu items at our remodeled concession stands.

#9 – Share your memories.  Post your pictures to our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feeds.  Your photo could be featured on the front page at kidszoo.org!

The Reef Opens Friday

The Reef Opens Friday

Guests at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can now add a trip to The Reef to their Australian Adventure itinerary.

The exhibit, which features a 17,000-gallon saltwater tank depicting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, will open on Friday, May 22

Originally constructed in 1987, the aquatic exhibit was completely renovated over the winter.  “We drained the tank, rebuilt the artificial coral, and buffed decades of tiny scratches off the 27-foot-long acrylic window,” says Zoo Director Jim Anderson.  “The result is a sparkling showcase of this diverse ecosystem.”

Contractors added finishing touches to the tank on Wednesday, and dozens of fish moved into the exhibit on Thursday.

Two separate 600-gallon tanks display moon jellyfish and a new tank of venomous lionfish.

The Reef’s exhibit gallery has been renovated to resemble an old cannery warehouse in an Australian seaside town.  Formerly carpeted and dimly lit, the gallery now features exposed brick, rustic beams, and colorful signage

The building also includes a 50,000-gallon shark tank, but zoo guests will have to wait a bit longer to see those predators.  “The logistics of moving sharks are complicated,” says Anderson. “We didn’t want to make our guests wait any longer. We’re eager to invite them into The Reef to see what we’ve done so far.”  Black-tip sharks will move into the exhibit with hundreds of small schooling fish called pilchards in July.

The Reef is part of a $7 million, three-phase renovation of the Australian Adventure, which was built in 1987 at a cost of $2.5 million.  All funds for the current project, as well as the 1987 project, were donated by individuals, foundations, and businesses.

Phase 1 of the Australian Adventure renovation opened in 2014 and included visitor amenities such as expanded restaurant seating, additional restrooms, and improvements to the train station, which was renamed the Z.O.&O. Railroad.

Phase 2 of the Australian Adventure renovation includes The Reef and the all-new Stingray Bay, which is currently under construction.  Stingray Bay occupies the former Nocturnal Building, and opening is planned for late July.

In 2016, Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure renovation will completely upgrade the current Outback and include a play stream called Crocodile Creek, new bird aviaries, a new reptile exhibit, and renovations to the River Ride, kangaroo yard, and dingo exhibit.  The zoo is also scheduled to receive Tasmanian devils from Australia in late 2015 as part of an Australian government program aimed at protecting this species.  Wild Tasmanian devils are under severe threat from a deadly transmissible cancer.  Their exhibit will open in 2016 as part of Phase 3.

Donations to the Australian Adventure Capital Campaign are welcome.  For $400, a Recognition Tile can be engraved with the names of individuals, families, and businesses and displayed on a decorative wall at the Australian Adventure entrance.   For donation information, visit kidszoo.org or contact the zoo at 260-427-6800.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

 

joey in kangaroo pouch

Our Hoppy Mob has a New ‘Roo

Our kangaroo mob just got a little bigger.  A new joey was born late last year and began venturing out just in time for the 2015 zoo season.

Kangaroos are marsupials with an average gestation period of only 34 days.  Babies are very small when born (about the size of a jelly bean) and still have a lot of developing to do before they can safely move about on their own.  On their first day of life they crawl across their mother’s fur and into the pouch.  This fragile moment is rarely observed and although the newest joey was born some time last year he hadn’t been observed outside of the pouch until recently.

Joeys often hop into their mothers’ pouches head-first, and may wait awhile before they somersault upright.  Because of this, guests are likely to observe the baby’s feet sticking straight up out of the pouch!

Zoo guests can visit the kangaroo mob in the New Australian Adventure.  Mom and joey are usually out on exhibit and zoo staff and volunteers are often available for question and answer sessions.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

Click on the photos to enlarge.