otter pumpkin

Animals Go Wild For Pumpkins

Tigers gotta gnaw, otters gotta play, and penguins – well, they’re just penguins!  Zoo critters showed off their animal instincts at the annual Pumpkin Stomp & Chomp as part of last week’s Wild Zoo Halloween festivities.

The award for most action-packed pumpkin encounter went to tigers Indah and Bugara, who attacked their pumpkins at full pounce, then batted them around like rubber toys.  The lemurs practically climbed inside their treat-laden pumpkins.  Some animals, like the sea lions, were more interested in the candy-bag-toting, costumed kids than their pumpkins. Once zoo keepers took the lid off a bamboo-stuffed pumpkin, the red pandas finally figured out that pumpkins aren’t so bad after all.  The penguins, however, were completely indifferent to their smiling jack-o-lantern.

Why did we give pumpkins to zoo animals?  Watching the animals nibble, gnaw, gnarl, play, and sometimes devour their pumpkins is a treat for guests, and provides valuable enrichment for the animals. Enrichment stimulates the animals’ natural behaviors and offers physical and mental challenges.

Click on the photos to find out what the animals did with their pumpkins:


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…

Click on the photos to enlarge:

Animal babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

Zoo Baby Announcement!

It’s a girl!  Madi the ring-tailed lemur was born to mother Kyna and father Ombe on September 22.  The baby is doing well and will be on exhibit for the rest of the season, weather permitting.

You may think most animal babies are born in the spring, but lemurs are typically born in the fall.  Their breeding season occurs in April and gestation lasts 4-5 months.  Ring-tailed lemurs are born with lots of hair and with eyes wide open. At first, the baby clings to its mother’s chest, but later it will ride on her back.  The young are independent after six months.

You can help support the care of Madi and other zoo animals by adopting a lemur.  (Classic animal adoptions are only $35!)

Madi is short for “Madagascar,” the home of ring-tailed lemurs in the wild.  Less than 10% of Madagascar’s forest cover remains and due to this drastic loss of habitat, ring-tailed lemurs are an endangered species.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

lemur zoo attraction

From the Island of Madagascar

Say “hello” to one of the zoo’s newest residents!  Ombe the male lemur joined females Cushla and Kyna last November.  Now two years of age, Ombe is fitting right in.  Zoo keepers have observed him acclimating to his new troop.

“Ombe developed a strong bond with Kyna right away.  They spend a lot of time together and he also interacts with Cushla,” states zoo keeper Helena Lacey. 

Prior to zoo opening, zoo keepers worked with Ombe using positive reinforcement.  “We trained Ombe with small approximations – small steps,” Lacey explains.  “Training an animal to willingly move from one location to another is helpful for the times when they have to move indoors because of cold weather.”madagascar zoo map

A really big island Off the coast of eastern Africa, the ring-tailed lemur lives on the large island of Madagascar. They live mainly in forested areas.

What do they eat? Lemurs munch on fruit, leaves, bark, flowers, grass, and tree sap. Lemurs eat by holding food with their front feet.

lemur zoo attraction

The lemur look Lemurs’ bodies are covered with soft, thick, brown-grey fur that is very pale on their chest and stomach. Preening takes up much time of a lemur’s time.

All three of the zoo’s lemurs display the typical lemur look, but zoo keepers can easily tell them apart.  Lacey explains that “Cushla is the easiest to spot because of her short tail.  Kyna has a small, narrow face and Ombe is fluffy and handsome.”

Swift movers Ring-tailed lemurs are active both during the day and at night. Although they live mainly on the ground, they are very comfortable moving around in treetops. Lemurs escape to these treetops when threatened. They will defend their territory and signal alarm with loud calls.

Uncertain future Less than 10% of Madagascar’s original forest cover remains, putting all 30 species of lemurs in jeopardy.   The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is committed to the conservation of wild animals and wild places.  Learn more here.

Click on the photos to enlarge: