Saki monkey female|fort wayne children's zoo

A Curious Little Monkey

“Rain, bugs, birds, even the sight of us raking makes her curious,” says zoo keeper Ashley Hubbard as she talks about Nylon, the zoo’s new white-faced saki monkey.  “She’s especially alert when peacocks walk by.  Her eyes widen and she follows them along the exhibit.”

Hubbard was instrumental in welcoming Nylon to the zoo back in November and helped to acclimate Nylon to her new surroundings.  “Nylon received excellent care at her previous facility, but it was an indoor exhibit, so the outdoor environment is all new to her,” states Hubbard.  Nylon lives with Dudley, the zoo’s resident male saki monkey.

Training is also an important part of Nylon’s life at the zoo.  Behavior management coordinator Holly Walsh advises zoo keepers on positive reinforcement training, which ultimately benefits the animals.

Walsh discusses animal training in greater detail, “With positive reinforcement training, animals are taught to participate in their daily care and, in turn, receive rewards for doing so.  [Nylon] is learning to shift between areas and to hop on a scale for weight monitoring.  Nylon and Dudley are even learning to eat treats side-by-side without stealing from one another.  These are all feats that are taught in a positive, trust-enhancing way by Ashley [Hubbard].”

Hubbard’s appreciation and respect for the sakis is evident as she works near their exhibit.  “We train both Nylon and Dudley to make their care easier and give them choices.  When animals have a choice on whether or not to do a behavior, it’s less stressful for them.  We also provide enrichment to help them keep their wild senses.  We want them using their brains and muscles every day.”

Nylon and Dudley are located in Central Zoo, across from the American alligator exhibit.  White-faced saki monkeys are sexually dimorphic, meaning the females look different than the males.  In the case of white-faced sakis, only the males feature a white face, so it’s easy to figure out which monkey is Nylon and which monkey is Dudley.  Look for the pair on your next zoo visit!

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zoo keeper cleaning|fort wayne children's zoo

Yes, We Do Windows

If you’ve ever been to a sea lion show at the zoo, you know that the zoo’s sea lions are trained to display lots of cool animal behaviors.  They are not, however, trained to wash windows and vacuum the beach.  That’s why zoo keepers Sarah Cox and Chris Woodard donned wetsuits, goggles, and snorkeling gear during a recent day on the job.

The two entered the water and got right to work while guests watched.  Cox brought along a small ladder and window-washing supplies and Woodard used a long vacuum hose.

Fishbone and Grits were in the water with the zoo keepers that day.  The animals swam close Cox and Woodard and even splashed and vocalized, getting the attention of the keepers and the crowd.  Cox describes the experience, “It’s definitely a great experience being in the same medium as the sea lions.  They are great when we are in the water with them, but we always have to be aware of where they are.”  Cox also shared that she enjoys getting some personal time in with the animals.

Though they enjoy the task, cleaning sea lion beach is hard work.  Woodard explains, “We vacuum Sea Lion Beach once a week. We try to vacuum out as much debris as possible.  Sea Lion Beach is quite similar to your local pool. It needs to be cleaned frequently even though we have a very large filtration system attached to the exhibit.  Vacuuming [the beach] is a really exhausting task but it always proves to be a fun chore.”

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prairie dog|fort wayne children's zoo

What’s Up, Little Pup?

The zoo’s prairie dog exhibit has a reason for excitement:  a fluffy, cute new pup surfaced last week!  Zoo keepers first spotted the youngster on June 24, but based on the baby’s size they estimate that he or she was born some time in April.

Zoo keepers suspected that a baby had been born when the town (group of prairie dogs) suddenly became elusive and began spending most of the day underground.  Zoo keeper Helena Lacey has observed the pup above-ground and reported that the little one is taking an interest in solid food.  Lacey stated that zoo keepers have not been able to determine whether the baby is male or female.

Now that the pup has surfaced, zoo staff is hopeful that the town will spend more time above ground.  The new baby is fairly easy to discern from the adults.  He or she is extra-fluffy and still smaller than the others.  Here’s a handy “field guide” for pup identification:

prairie dog pup|fort wayne children's zoo

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Video by zoo keeper Helena Lacey:

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click here to meet more zoo babies!

A Double-Dose of Zoo Baby Cuteness

There’s a double-dose of cuteness at the ring-tailed lemur exhibit – Cushla the lemur had twins!

The babies were born June 10.  Now two weeks old, they’re spending time outside and getting acquainted with their troop in their exhibit.  The twins are still nursing and spend all their time clinging to mom, but they often peek out to get a look at zoo guests.

“They are doing well,” states zoo keeper Stephanie Raiman.  “They can be seen on exhibit most days, unless it is raining. They are starting to poke their heads out more and look around.”  Raiman recommends that guests first look for the adult lemur with the shortest tail (that’s Cushla, the mother).  Once they spot mom, it’s easy to find the babies clinging to her front.

The twins, both males, are still very small and to call them visually “identical” would be an understatement.  The tiny boys are equally and unequivocally cute as they curiously peek out at their surroundings.  Zoo guests can visit the boys in Central Zoo near the pony rides.

UPDATE 6/25/15:  Zoo keepers named the lemur babies Apollo (meaning sun or light) and Zeus (meaning sky).

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Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

 

All Grown Up

Every zoo animal has a unique story and a journey all their own.  Some animals come to the Fort Wayne Children’s zoo as adults and some are born here and move on to new adventures at other zoos.  The lemur and wildebeest babies born at the zoo in 2014 fall into a different category.  They’re growing up right here in Fort Wayne and zoo guests get to see it all!

Back in September one of the zoo’s ring-tailed lemurs, Kyna, gave birth to a healthy baby girl.  Zoo keepers named her “Madi” and guests had a chance to see mom and baby on exhibit for a few weeks before the close of the 2014 season.  Madi has grown quite a bit and is almost as big as the other three lemurs in her troop.  Zoo keeper Helena Lacey explains lemur behavior, “Madi would stay with her family in the wild, so she stays with them at the zoo.  She’s weaned now and eats the same diet as the adults.”  Lacey has also begun training Madi using operant conditioning.  Zoo keepers train animals on behaviors such as moving indoors when it gets cold out and standing on a scale for monthly weight checkups.

Lacey stated that while there is no plan to relocate Madi to another zoo, it is always a possibility, “Lemurs are a managed species, so it’s always a possibility that she may have to go to another zoo.  If she did go, mom would likely go with her.”  (Ring-tailed lemurs are managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan.)

Over in the zoo’s African Journey lives a juvenile wildebeest named Sangria.  She was born the morning of July 9, 2014 to the delight of many guests who were lucky enough to be near the savannah that day – Surprise!  (Zoo keepers weren’t expecting the baby for another week.)  Sangria is nearly a year old now and African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson doesn’t anticipate her leaving any time soon.

Eagleson discusses the wildebeest breeding program, “We’re trying to build and sustain our own wildebeest population.  We have a new male coming this year who’s not related to any of our females.”  Genetic diversity is important in zoos and the new male could potentially breed with all three of the zoo’s females.

Could there be another baby boom on the African Journey savannah in 2016?  Time will tell…

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Animal babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

Purdue Resident Ophthalmologist Ben Bergstrom|fort wayne children's zoo

A Win-Win for Veterinary Care

The Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo have winning partnership.  Faculty and residents from the vet school travel to the zoo to provide specialized animal care.  In return, Purdue’s veterinarians gain valuable experience working with exotic animals they might not otherwise encounter.

For both parties, sharing knowledge and experience adds value as they work to provide excellent animal care.

Purdue’s faculty veterinary ophthalmologist Jean Stiles and resident Ben Bergstrom visited Fort Wayne last week to perform eye exams on a variety of zoo species.  The African black-footed penguins were among the list of patients, since penguins are susceptible to cataracts.  Dr. Stiles and Dr. Bergstrom examined several members of the zoo’s penguin flock while the zoo’s director of animal health Dr. Joe Smith and veterinarian Dr. Kami Fox offered insight on exotic animal care.  Other zoo staff assisted in holding the penguins safely for their exams (pictured below).

Dr. Joe Smith describes the zoo’s relationship with Purdue, “It’s mutually beneficial.  Sometimes we call them up here for specific cases.  Sometimes they contact us to gain experience with exotics.  They’re doing this on their own time.”

Dr. Stiles and Dr. Bergstrom did note minimal cataracts in several of the penguins that zoo staff will monitor.  No treatment is recommended at this time.

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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!

Verreaux's eagle o

Who’s Hoo-ing at the Zoo

There are three owl species at the zoo, and each is beautiful and interesting in its own way.  Learn a little more about these feathered birds of prey, then visit them on your next zoo trip:

Eurasian Eagle Owl

eurasian eagle owlEsmerelda and Andrey are new at the zoo this season.  The pair arrived in March, sponsored by a generous donation from the German Heritage Society.  Zoo development director Amy Lazoff received the donation and noted that owlets are a possibility for the breeding pair.

Zoo guests can visit the Eurasian eagle owl exhibit in Central Zoo, near the red pandas, and be sure observe the ground for owl pellets.

Like other birds of prey, owls regurgitate pellets made of bones, claws, teeth, fur, and other indigestible items.  Owls feed on small mammals, such as mice and voles.

Owl pellets tend to be large and are often used for study in animal education programs.

 

Verreaux’s Eagle Owl

Verreaux's eagle oThis beautiful bird species can be found in the zoo’s African Journey.  Roosevelt, the male, came to Fort Wayne in 2010.  A female named Mio joined him just in time for the 2015 zoo season, arriving in March.

Zoo keeper Ty Laemmle enjoys introducing guests to the Verreaux’s eagle owls.  “They have bright pink eyelids and also are famous for eating hedgehogs,” states Laemmle.  The owls avoid hedgehog-related injuries by peeling the sharp spines off before ingesting their prey.

At the zoo, the Verreaux’s eagle owls eat large mice, chicks, and small rats.

Verreaux’s eagle owls are often called “milky eagle owls” because of their coloring.  Look for Mio near the front of the exhibit and Roosevelt near the back, as this is the birds’ preferred seating arrangement.

Common Barn Owl

common barn owlThere’s a third species of owl that many guests overlook at the zoo.  Our common barn owl, Lindbergh, isn’t always active during the day.  A “night owl” by all accounts, Lindbergh is typically active after dark but may perk up during feeding time at 5PM, making Wild Wendesdays a great time to visit.

Guests can visit Lindbergh in the Indiana Family Farm.  Zoo keeper Heather Schuh states that guests have the opportunity to observe Lindbergh’s weighing if they happen to be in the right place at the right time, “She gets weighed once every other month which involves us catching her to put her in a crate and then onto a scale. If the guests happen to be here on that day, they will see her very active.”

Schuh anticipates Lindbergh’s next weighing will occur on or around June 1.

broom and drill with watermark

Spring Cleaning, Zoo-Style

If you think spring cleaning your house is a chore, consider spring cleaning the entire zoo!  As we count down to Opening Day on April 25, our staff is busy all over our 40 acre property.  Here are some of the items we’ll be checking off our list:

  • Drain and power-wash Sea Lion Beach
  • Vacuum and scrub the penguin grottos
  • Cut and hang tree limbs to use as perches in exhibits
  • Sweep all walkways and guest areas
  • Plant flowers and beautify landscaping
  • Install new exhibit signage
  • Update concession stand signage (Look for new menu items this year!)
  • Paint, paint, paint
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch

…And this list is certainly NOT exhaustive!  Zoo director Jim Anderson expresses his appreciation for all the work that goes into Opening Day, “Our staff works very hard to leave no stone unturned in the weeks preceding zoo opening.  We all want to deliver a perfect experience to zoo guests.  Thousands of details add up to one impressive finished product!”

We look forward to sharing the zoo with you in 2015.

 

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Turkey Vulture

They Needed a Place to Call Home

The zoo is home to two birds that might not fit in anywhere else. Vincent the turkey vulture and Maverick the red-tailed hawk reside here at the zoo because of they are considered “non-releasable.”

Both raptors came to the zoo after being rescued and rehabilitated at regional facilities. Here are their stories:

Turkey VultureVincent the turkey vulture arrived at the zoo in 2004 after spending time at Asherwood Environmental Center in Noble County, which is operated by ACRES Land Trust. Vincent was injured when he swooped down to feed on a dead animal and was hit by a vehicle. Animal carcasses located close to busy roads are dangerous to vultures and are often the result of litter. Humans throw garbage or unwanted food out of their cars, then curious field animals approach and get hit. This is a potentially deadly situation for turkey vultures that instinctively fly toward animal carcasses, regardless of whether those animals died naturally in a field or near a busy road as the result of human activites.

Vincent had bodily injuries and a severely damaged eye when he was rescued. His caregivers gave and continue to give him the best care possible, but Vincent’s injuries have left him unable to fly and also blind in one eye. Vincent is not likely to thrive in the wild and is therefore non-releasable.

Vincent has spent more than a decade here at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo under the care of vet staff and zoo keepers. According to zoo keeper Helena Lacey, Vincent requires daily eye drops and pain medication. Lacey is one of the people who administers his daily medication.

Vincent lives in an exhibit located on the Central Zoo hill across from the red panda exhibit. Despite his challenges, Vincent is usually in good spirits and appears to enjoy visitors. If you approach his exhibit, Vincent will likely turn his head completely to the side so he can see you. (He only sees out of his right eye.) If you’re lucky, you might get to observe Vincent eating rodents during his morning feeding – Just don’t tell him that’s where we put his medicine!

red-tailed hawkMaverick the red-tailed hawk is another non-releasable bird living in the Central Zoo, located near the Indiana Family Farm. According to veterinary technician Maraiah Russell, Maverick was found by a member of the public in July 2006 in Columbia City, Indiana. Maverick was unable to fly but the circumstances leading to his injury are unknown.

Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehab got involved, and Dr. Pat Funnel provided care with hopes of releasing Maverick once he recovered. However, the primary feathers on his right wing never grew back, so Maverick will never be able to fly or hunt on his own again. In 2007, the zoo received Maverick as a non-releasable bird and he has done very well here. A note to zoo guests – Don’t be alarmed if you see Maverick lying on the ground inside his exhibit. According to Russell, “Maverick likes to sunbathe on the ground with his wings spread sometimes, and many of our guests have thought he was injured or ill.”

Stories like Vincent’s and Maverick’s are often the result of human carelessness. Please avoid littering or leaving food near the side of the road. If you do spot an injured bird, call a local rehab facility like Asherwood or Soarin’ Hawk for assistance. It is everyone’s job to protect wild animals and to respect the wild places they call home.