Bugs for Breakfast

Do you ever wonder what’s in your food? At the zoo, we need to know exactly what’s in the animals’ food. In fact, we analyze everything that our animals eat – including mealworms.

Mealworms are eaten by many animals including mongooses, bat-eared foxes, and Australian birds. It’s not the mealworms themselves, but what the mealworms have eaten that determines their nutritional value. “What the mealworms eat has a direct effect on animals that consume the mealworms,” says Brooke Stowell, zoo commissary supervisor.

Mealworms are a good source of protein, and are kept alive in the commissary until they are fed to animals.  But mealworms don’t come with a nutrition label, so Stowell is varying the mealworms’ diet and testing their nutritional value. “We are testing the mealworms because we want them to be as nutritious as possible,” says Stowell.

Do the animals notice the difference?  “Probably not,” says Stowell.  “They just enjoy eating the mealworms!”  

Testing mealworms may seem like an extreme measure, but it’s all part of our commitment to excellent animal health. Says Stowell, “We do this so our animals eat the very best food that will promote the very best health.”

Read about animal diets on our Animal Information Pages.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

 

kangaroo

Hoppy…er, Happy Birthday, Kangaroo!

Mako the kangaroo got extra attention on his 12th birthday last week, and none of the 23 other eastern grey kangaroos in the mob were complaining. “He was more than willing to share his birthday treat,” said zoo keeper Marian Powers.

Mako got special treatment because he IS special: he’s the only adult male in the mob and has fathered 12 joeys here (with more possibly on the way). His birthday “cake” was a tasty combination of willow and ash branches, sprinkled with cottonwood and grape leaves.

“When we delivered the cake, Mako actually shied away from it,” says zoo keeper Kierra Klein. “We think he prefers to stay out of the spotlight.”

 

As dozens of zoo guests gathered to watch the birthday festivities, Mako stretched out and gave himself a good belly scratch while the female ‘roos and their joeys investigated – then devoured – the leafy cake.

 “Overall, Mako’s birthday celebration was pretty low-key, which fits with his relaxed personality,” says Powers. Perhaps more of us should follow Mako’s example of how to spend the perfect birthday: After nibbling on his cake, he lounged by the pool (actually the small pond in the Kangaroo Walkabout) for the rest of the day.  Hoppy Birthday, Mako!

Learn more about eastern grey kangaroos.

sheep

Extreme Makeover: Sheep Edition

The sheep got serious “haircuts” last week on the Indiana Family Farm, with each sheep shedding about ten pounds of wool!

Roxy, an 8-year-old female, and Jerry, her 7-year-old son, got their semi-annual shearing at the hands of zoo keeper Sarah Sloan.  Wielding heavy-duty electric clippers, Sloan carefully trimmed every inch of each sheep, creating mounds of wool on the barn floor.  The wool is donated to local artisans, who spin it into yarn for knitting. 

“Shearing helps keep the sheep comfortable now that the weather is warmer,” Sloan said.  “If we didn’t shear them, their wool would continue to grow and become matted.”

The sheep were surprisingly calm during the procedure.  Zoo keeper Heather Schuh held each sheep’s head while Sloan did the shearing.  Sloan stopped occasionally to check the temperature of the shearing blade, making sure it wasn’t getting too hot.  “The blade gets caked with lanolin from the wool,” she explained.  “We replace it after each shearing session.”  Lanolin is a waxy substance that naturally occurs in sheep’s wool and allows the wool to easily shed water.  Lanolin is used in lotions, ointments, and many industrial products.

After their extreme makeovers, Roxy and Jerry appeared unfazed by their now-slim silhouettes.  “After shearing, we can get a good look at their body condition, and they’ll be a lot more comfortable in the hot weather,” said Sloan.  The sheep already have their next “haircut” appointment booked for August.

Click the photos below to enlarge to full screen.

 

Javan gibbon baby sleeping

Rare Javan Gibbon Born at Zoo

A very rare baby – one of only two born in the United States in the last 12 months – has arrived at the zoo.  A male Javan gibbon was born on April 16 in the Indonesian Rain Forest.

“We are thrilled with the birth,” says Animal Curator Mark Weldon. “Dieng is being a good mother and the baby appears healthy.”

On a visit to the gibbons’ indoor quarters, Dieng, the mother, held her new baby tightly to her chest as she swung gracefully from branch to branch.  The baby had no choice but to hang on tight to Dieng’s furry belly or risk falling to the ground.  But luckily, nature has equipped baby gibbons with a strong grip!

Lionel, the baby’s father, and big brother Jaka, who was born here in March 2011, were more focused on the treats being offered by zoo keeper Kristen Sliger than on the new baby.  “Jaka is curious about his new sibling, but Dieng is also very protective,” she said.  The new arrival does not yet have a name.

For now, the gibbons’ access to the outdoors will be limited to time periods when the temperature is above 60 degrees.  The apes will only be allowed to venture into the overhead chute that connects their indoor quarters to the outdoor exhibit.  “We just want to play it safe and make sure the baby is ready to move into the big exhibit before we give them complete access,” Sliger said. 

Javan gibbons are rare in zoos and in the wild.  Fewer than 4,000 of these gibbons remain on the island of Java, where they are under intense pressure from the island’s burgeoning human population.   Read more about Javan gibbons here.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

waterfowl and sea lions in flood

Opening Day Update

Who knew we’d experience snow flurries and flooding rains on the eve of the zoo’s Opening Day!  We want to inform our fans that due to  unseasonable weather, about 20 of the zoo’s 200 animal species will not be on exhibit for Opening Weekend, April 20-21.

Affected species include vultures, owls, pelicans, some Australian birds, storks, hornbills, zebras, alligators, gibbons, sitatunga, capuchin monkeys and possibly giraffes.   We feel its important to protect the health of these amazing creatures in our care, so we’ll be monitoring the weather carefully and moving them outdoors as the temperatures warm in the next few weeks. 

All guest pathways are completely accessible and free of floodwater, but as of Friday evening, some exhibits contained standing water.

The zoo is committed to excellent animal care and outstanding guest service.  Enjoy your visit and return often this season!

kangaroo joey with mother in Australian Adventure

What’s New for 2013

You’ll enjoy new babies, old favorites, and upgraded amenities when the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo opens for its 49th season on Saturday, April 20. 

A highlight of the season is the arrival of two new Sumatran tigers. The brother and sister pair, named Bugara and Indah, arrived form the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas in February to replace tigers Teddy and Kemala, who moved to other zoos for breeding purposes.  The 1-1/2 year-old cats are playful and very interested in people because they were hand-reared after being rejected by their mother. 

Two baby monkeys born last fall are lively additions to the African Journey.  A baby colobus monkey named Kaasidy was born in September and a swamp monkey named Orion joined the troop in November. 

At least three kangaroo joeys are exploring the Australian Adventure.  Born last May or June, the joeys have only recently been out of their mothers’ pouches.  All of the joeys were sired by the zoo’s only adult male kangaroo, Mako, who arrived here two years ago.

Two unique southeast Asian reptiles will arrive in the Indonesian Rain Forest later this season.  Viper boas, which are small nonvenomous snakes, will live in Dr. Diversity’s Rain Forest Research Station.  Crocodile skinks are unusual lizards found along jungle waterways.  They’ll be housed near the rain forest’s waterfall.

Many construction projects were completed to improve guest service and maintain the high quality of exhibits within the zoo.  The red panda exhibit was rebuilt this winter, and the colobus monkey exhibit was relocated within the African Village; it remains under construction through May.  Both projects were funded by generous donors.  To improve accessibility, the mulch pathway in the Indonesian Rain Forest was replaced with a boardwalk made from recycled plastic lumber, thanks to the support of the AWS Foundation.

The African Village underwent significant improvements, including replacement of mulched walkways with concrete paths, expansion of the African Oasis concession stand, additional seating for the concession stand, renovations to the restroom facilities, and new landscaping.  The zoo’s food service partner, Service Systems Associates, participated in the upgrades.

“We are eager to share our new babies – and the entire zoo experience – with our half-million guests in 2013,” says Anderson.  “It’s going to be a great season at the zoo!

Photographer captures unique zoo animals on film

What’s it like to work with a world-famous photographer on a life-long quest to document endangered species?  Several zoo staff members found out last fall when National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore visited the zoo  to photograph some of our most unusual species for his Photo Ark project.  Sartore’s main goal was to photograph our honey badgers, which are rare in zoos.  While here, he also snapped our blue-crowned hanging parrots, hunting cissas, black storks, Ruppell’s griffon vultures, banded mongoose, wildebeest, and other species.

Sartore photographs each species on a black or white background, which provides a stark contrast for the complex beauty of each animal.  In the photo, Sartore photographs one of our black storks in a white “tent” built especially for this task. 

Nearly half of the world’s fauna are threatened with extinction on some level.  Sartore hopes his Photo Ark will one day hold images of all species present in North American zoos, documenting them before they disappear.  About 2,400 species have been photographed so far.  We’re honored to be part of this educational and inspiring project.  See all Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo animals in the Photo Ark.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

tiger zoomobile

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