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!

Click on the photos to enlarge:

monkey fort wayne zoo

Cutest. Baby. Monkey. Ever.

The zoo welcomed yet another cute baby – A male swamp monkey was born on January 7!

As if his big, baby eyes, fuzzy fur, and tiny little hands weren’t cute enough, this baby often sticks his tongue out at the camera!  That makes him {arguably} the cutest baby monkey ever.

Zoo keepers named the little one Bakari, meaning “promising” in Swahili.  Keepers wanted a name that starts with the letter B because baby’s parents are named Bangi and Brie.

One family member, however, doesn’t follow the alliterative status quo.  It’s big sister Luella, and despite their differing initials, she has already taken an interest in her new baby brother.  Luella, now five years old, has been watching mom Brie and trying to assist with motherly duties.

Big brother Orion is also taking an interest in Bakari and often grooms mom while she’s holding the baby.

When can guests meet baby Bakari? Zoo keeper Jess Brinneman says the baby will probably be out on exhibit when the zoo opens April 23. “We expect Bakari to be out when we open for the 2016 season. I’m guessing he’ll take an interest in the grass and leaves and the world around him.  Everyone’s looking forward to watching him explore.”

Click on the photos to enlarge:

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

What’s the Deal With Animal Enrichment?

Animal enrichment is a big deal at the zoo.  We even dedicate one of our summer events, Ice Day, to enriching animals.  Zoo keepers, trainers, and vet staff spend a lot of time planning the animals’ enrichment calendars, but what exactly is animal enrichment, and why do we do it?

Enrichment means providing a stimulating environment that offers physical and mental challenges for an animal. When elements of an animal’s zoo environment mimic the problem-solving opportunities they encounter in the wild, the animals exhibit natural behaviors. Enrichment can help zoo animals thrive socially, mentally, and physically.

The zoo provides a variety of enrichment for animals:

Edible Enrichment  Tengku the orangutan digs for tasty seeds inside a pumpkin (2)

Finding food in the wild can be a complex activity for an animal. For instance, orangutans find ripe fruit in the wild, then forage carefully for the seeds, which they eat.  Pumpkins are an edible enrichment item for the zoo’s orangutans because the animals must use this natural foraging behavior to extract and eat the pumpkin seeds.

A capuchin monkey with ice watermarkSensory Enrichment

Many animals have a well-developed sense of smell to find prey, locate water, and avoid predators. The zoo’s capuchin monkeys love to sniff out spices scattered in their exhibits.  On a previous Ice Day, zoo keepers froze fragrant spices into ice blocks.  Upon finding an ice block, a capuchin flung it across the island!

Gorgon's brushing komodo dragonTextural Enrichment

In a natural habitat, an animal will encounter new textures every day as it forages, hunts, and finds shelter. At the zoo, keepers brush the Komodo dragon’s rough scales with a long-handled brush (from a safe distance, of course!)

 

goat food enrichment puzzle feederProblem-Solving Enrichment

Zoo keepers encourage animals to use their natural intelligence by hiding food in “puzzle feeders.” The friendly goats in the Indiana Family Farm use their problem-solving skills while they work as a group to reach tasty lettuce hidden in the feeders.

 

sea lion 600x600Training Enrichment

Zoo guests can watch the sea lions receive training enrichment every day at the 11:30 AM and 3 PM feeding shows. By requesting behaviors and rewarding the sea lions with fish, zoo keepers provide an intense and entertaining enrichment session. The sea lions get both physical and mental exercise, and the keepers develop a trusting relationship with the sea lions.

 

Do you want to get involved?  Join us at an upcoming Animal Enrichment Workshop, where you’ll make some of the enrichment objects that zoo animals receive every day!

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!

Click on the photos to enlarge:

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!

colobus monkey baby

Surprise New Baby at the Zoo

Zoo keeper Jess Brinneman found a delightful surprise when she arrived at work on April 22 (Earth Day).  Jibini the colobus monkey had just given birth!

Brinneman describes that morning, “I walked into the monkey building and found Jibini holding her new baby.  It was a big surprise.  It appeared as though she had just given birth.  I called our area manager and she notified our animal curator and vet staff.  We had been observing her for signs of pregnancy but hadn’t confirmed anything yet.”

Zoo staff suspected that Jibini could be pregnant and had been monitoring her for weight gain but hadn’t observed anything significant.  They did, however, notice a couple of diet changes that may have been pregnancy-related.  “She has been eating more kale than usual for the past two months,” states Brinneman, “and I noticed that for the first time she preferred peanuts over grapes, but we didn’t observe any clear signs of pregnancy prior to her delivery.”

The baby, a female, is Jibini’s third offspring.  Jibini’s other daughter and son, Kaasidy and Obi, were born at the zoo and live with Jibini and adult male colobus Finnigan.  Zoo keepers were aware of Jibini’s two previous pregnancies prior to delivery.

Jibini is nursing and caring for her infant, allowing zoo keepers to take a hands-off approach.  All of the colobus monkeys, including the new baby, will go out onto exhibit together soon – possibly as early as next week.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

countdown zoo attraction

Only 10 More Days!

We selected April 26 as our opening day way back in September of 2013, and now it’s almost here!  We are nearly caught up from the challenges that the winter weather threw at us, and our staff is in high gear prepping for opening day.  Here’s a list of what we’re doing this week:

  • Exhibits are getting minor repairs and new paint jobs on warm days.
  • Rides are being cleaned and “un-winterized” to prepare for the required state inspection they undergo every year.  This winter provided a few hurdles: the Australian Adventure River Ride finally thawed at the end of March!  This week, crews are reinstalling the Sky Safari ride chairs.  (See the photo gallery below.)
  • Landscaping crews are mulching the zoo’s many flower beds.
  • New employees are being trained to take on their new tasks.
  • Zoo favorites like the Lion Drinking Fountain get a makeover to look their best in your family photos!
  • Last but not least, the animals who have been living in warm indoor quarters will move into their outdoor enclosures next week.
capuchin monkey zoo attraction

The capuchin monkeys will move onto Monkey Island next week.

All of the staff and volunteers at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo are counting down the days to April 26.  We hope you’ll join us in making 2014 the best zoo season ever!

Click on the images below to enlarge:

colobus baby zoo attraction

The Colobus Babies Have Names!

This just in – Zoo keepers have named the two colobus monkey babies at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo! 

~Jibini’s baby is male and named Obi (pronouced “oh-bee”).  His name means “heart.”

~Wamblenica’s baby is female and named Mchumba  (pronouced “meh-choom-ba”).  Her name means “sweetheart.”

Obi and Mchumba were born in late January.  Click here to read the zoo’s earlier blog post announcing the colobus babies’ births.

Why did keepers wait so long to name the babies?  “We wanted to wait until we found out both of their sexes so we could give them corresponding names,” says African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson.  Determining Mchumba’s sex took longer because the infant monkey clung very tightly to her mother, and keepers waited some time before approaching mom and baby.  This clinging behavior is typical in colobus infants.

Zoo Keeper Jessica Walker reports that the babies are developing normally and have undergone behavioral as well as physical changes.  “Since their arrival, the babies have developed rapidly!  Initially they clung tight to their respective mothers, and either nursed or slept for the majority of the day.  They vocalized only slightly.  Now, although they still display the clinging and nursing behaviors of infancy, both babies have been moving more and have found their voices.”

Walker also notes changes in Obi and Mchumba’s physical appearance.  “The first couple of days after birth the little ones were completely white.  Their coloration is slowly changing to resemble the black-and-white pattern of an adult colobus monkey.   The change will be more noticeable in the coming weeks.” 

The photos below were taken on February 27, 2014, around the time of the babies’ one-month birthday.  Click to enlarge:

colobus baby zoo attraction

Oh, Baby!

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo enjoyed a baby boom during the last week of January when two black-and-white colobus monkeys were born within two days of one another. 

“The fact that they were born within two days of each other was a big surprise,” stated African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson.  “We were aware that both of the adult females were pregnant, but based on their size we anticipated that one mother would deliver a bit later than the other.  We never expected two infants at the same time!”

The babies, which have not yet been named, were born on January 26 and January 28, 2014.  They were born without complication and have displayed healthy postnatal behavior.  Dr. Kami Fox, the zoo’s veterinary intern, states that “Both babies and moms are doing very well.  The newborns are clinging tightly to their respective mothers, just like they should.  The keepers have witnessed them nursing frequently as well.” 

The colobus monkeys will live indoors until the weather permits outdoor access.  During the zoo season, guests can observe the troop on exhibit in the African Journey.  The following six monkeys make up the zoo’s colobus troop:

  • adult male Finnigan
  • adult female Wamblenica
  • adult female Jibini
  • Wamblenica and Finnigan’s newborn (gender unknown)
  • Jibini and Finnigan’s one-year-old daughter Kaasidy
  • Jibini and Finnigan’s male newborn

 

Eagleson explains why the sex of the second colobus baby remains unknown, “We have yet to determine the gender of Wamblenica’s baby because mom is extremely overprotective.  Her baby clings tightly to her at all times and we’ve allowed Wamblenica some distance to avoid unintended stress on mother and baby.”

 

Colobus monkeys live in the rain forests of central and eastern Africa.  They grow into adept climbers despite their unique hand structure.  Although it is common practice to reference the “opposable thumbs” of primates, colobus monkeys lack this feature and instead use their four full-sized fingers to form a hook that helps them grasp branches. In addition to climbing, colobus monkeys can leap from tree to tree by launching themselves from a high limb on one tree to a lower limb on another.  Guests of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can observe this behavior when the zoo opens on April 26.

 

 

 

Click on the images below to enlarge: