Zoo Blog

June 11, 2014

Happy Birthday, Sea Lions!

Grits 100 pxl

The zoo’s California sea lions will celebrate their birthday this Saturday, June 14.  The festivities begin at 11AM and will coincide with the scheduled sea lion show.

Three of our sea lions – Fishbone, Grits, and Cassandra – were actually born on June 14.  (Legend’s birthday is on May 6.)  How does a colony of four aquatic mammals celebrate their special day?  With a “cake” and some water games!  Zoo keeper Nikki Finch is involved in planning the festivities.  “The sea lions will get a very special birthday cake made of fish and ice,” states Finch.  They will also perform behaviors and play in the water.  Zoo guests are invited to the party!

The sea lion show, which happens every day at 11AM and 3PM, is a guest favorite at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  Sea lions are known for their intelligence, and the zoo’s colony has the opportunity to showcase their smarts at the daily shows.  Fishbone, Grits, Legend, and Cassandra are trained to perform a variety of behaviors and seem to enjoy the attention from zoo keepers and guests.

The show is fun and energetic, but the zoo also hopes that guests will take an important message with them:  Our sea lions eat sustainable seafood and we can, too!  By choosing seafood that is harvested and farmed in a way that protects our oceans, we can make a big difference.  The zoo has partnered with Seafood Watch to help guests understand why sustainable seafood matters.  We even have a free app to help you make better seafood choices.    Stop by a show this summer to find out more, and be sure to wish the zoo’s sea lions a Happy Birthday on June 14!

Posted in: Central Zoo, Zoo News

June 4, 2014

Guess Which Animal Weighs 120 Pounds

goat zoo scale

If you visited the Indiana Family Farm at the zoo last weekend, you might have noticed that our goats got some extra attention from zoo keepers.  Many of our guests were curious why the goats were paraded, one at a time, into a nearby barn.  It was goat-weighing day, of course!

The zoo keeps a variety of records on each of its animals, including weight.  Zoo keepers track each goat’s weight throughout the year to look for any fluctuations.  Keeping accurate health records, including weight, helps zoo keepers and vet staff monitor for changes in the animals.  This in turn helps the keepers and staff to spot potential health concerns early.

“We weigh each goat monthly, or more often if we have concerns about the animal not eating enough,” states zoo keeper Chase Caldwell.

With goats, however, keeping up a robust diet usually isn’t a problem.  Most of the zoo’s goats will try to eat almost anything, including maps, purses, shoe laces, and even the scale.  “It’s a goat thing,” says Caldwell.  “They like to test everything out to see if they can eat it.  We don’t even have to train them to step onto the scale.  We just put food out and they step right up.”

Which goat topped the scale?  It was Oliver, a buff-colored male weighing in at 55.3 kilograms (about 120 pounds).

Click on the photos to enlarge:

 

Posted in: Central Zoo, Farm Animals, Zoo News

May 28, 2014

Teeny-Tiny Turtle Baby

black-breasted leaf turtle

Our newest zoo baby may be small, but tiny creatures are a big deal for the zoo keepers at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  Say “hello” to our brand new black-breasted leaf turtle in the Indonesian Rain Forest

This teensy terrapin is almost three weeks old and weighs just over six grams (about the same weight as a quarter).  Black-breasted leaf turtles are an endangered species managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, which makes this a very important birth.  Zoo keepers are caring for the hatchling behind-the-scenes and monitoring its progress carefully. 

Dave Messmann, who works with turtles and other zoo reptiles, related the cautious enthusiasm surrounding the baby animal, “We waited for two weeks before inviting anyone to take pictures.  We wanted to be sure that the hatchling was thriving before introducing it.  We’re excited about hatching an endangered species and we’re monitoring this one very closely.”

Click on the photos to enlarge (additional text below):

Why are black-breasted leaf turtles endangered?  It all comes down to habitat destruction and over-collection.  Black-breasted leaf turtles are native to Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam and Southern China.  They are used in Traditional Asian Medicine, and are often sold as pets. These turtles’ unique facial expression and small size make them particularly attractive within the pet trade.  However, Messmann contends that this endangered species might not be as easy to rear as people assume.  “Turtles require a lot of care and proper nutrition throughout their lives.  At the zoo we give them a specific diet and document their care.  If people don’t feed and nurture them properly their shells can become deformed.”  The diet to which Messmann refers consists of fruit, vegetables, worms and crickets.

Black-breasted leaf turtles live up to 20 years but only reach an average length of five inches, making them one of the smallest turtles in the world.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital. 

 

 

Posted in: Baby Animals, Indonesian Rain Forest, Reptiles, Zoo News

May 21, 2014

Ribbit. Croak. Blurp.

frog zoo attraction

A core component of the zoo’s mission is “inspiring people to care.”  One of the ways that inspiration manifests itself is through the grassroots conservation efforts of zoo fans like YOU. Back in March, the zoo trained local volunteers on a program called FrogWatch USA.  The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) started FrogWatch USA more than ten years ago a way for “individuals and families to learn about the wetlands in their communities and help conserve amphibians by reporting the calls of local frogs and toads.”  (Source: https://www.aza.org/frogwatch/) 

This type of grassroots, research-driven conservation is also known as “citizen science.”  Kathy Terlizzi, Volunteer Coordinator with the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo oversees the zoo’s FrogWatch USA program.  Terlizzi trains new volunteers every year in March so that they can observe and report on frog calls throughout the season.  Terlizzi states that, “Volunteers are out in Fort Wayne right now listening for frogs and reporting their results online.  They’ll be uploading their data all summer long.”

frog watch USA zoo conservation

Frogs are an important part of our ecosystem, and FrogWatch USA is helping to conserve many species around the country.  It’s not all work, though.  Terlizzi notes that, “The fun they have while participating is an added bonus!”

Do you want to learn more about Indiana frogs and hear their calls?  Click here for the AZA’s Indiana Frogs page.  You could join us in March to train as a FrogWatch citizen scientist!

frog zoo attraction

Trained volunteers listen for local frog calls and report them to a national scientific database.

 

Posted in: Conservation, Zoo News

May 14, 2014

From the Island of Madagascar

lemur zoo attraction

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:

Posted in: Central Zoo, Lemurs, Zoo News

May 7, 2014

Meet Clara the Pony

pony zoo attraction

When Cookie, one of the most popular ponies at the zoo, passed away last fall, everyone asked, “Will you get another pony to replace Cookie?”

Byron Hooley, whose family operates the pony rides, was on the lookout for just the right pony all winter. He found her in Clara, an eight-year-old blonde and tan beauty.

“She just has the right personality,” Hooley said. “She’s nice and calm.”

A zoo pony’s job takes some getting used to. “She still has a lot to learn,” Hooley said of Clara. They have to get accustomed to crying children, peacocks, bulky diaper bags, and passing sirens, all of which can spook a little pony. The ponies also need to stand still while waiting for their next rider. “It can take two years before they get used to that,” Hooley says.

Then there’s the task of fitting in with the other ponies, who can be bossy or give a newcomer the cold shoulder. “Clara fit in pretty well right away,” Hooley said.

For the first few months, Hooley’s staff will lead Clara while she gives rides to kids. Eventually, Hooley hopes she’ll be able to take young riders on her own, just like Cookie did. “Clara’s got big shoes to fill,” Hooley said, “but we think she can get there.”

Give Clara a friendly zoo welcome on our Facebook page!

Posted in: Ponies, Zoo News

April 30, 2014

There’s a New Cat in Town

lynx zoo attraction

Actually, we have two new cats at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo!  Meet Thor and Loki, a pair of Canada lynx brothers who arrived just in time for zoo opening this week.  The cats were shy at first and spent most of their time inside the hollowed-out logs in their exhibit.  However, feline curiosity eventually prevailed and the young brothers are beginning to explore.

Canada lynx are carnivorous, so the zoo’s lynx eat a special all-meat diet mixed with vitamins and minerals.  Both of the cats are eating well and zoo keepers have found a way to encourage them to explore even more.  According to zoo keeper Rachel Purcell, “We spread their food around the exhibit.  This way they’ll come out of the logs and down the hill.” 

The cats also have distinct personalities.  Purcell states that, “Loki is a little more outgoing but Thor’s confidence is slowly coming along.  On Monday morning they spent an hour exploring near the front of the exhibit.  They’re both doing well.”

canadian lynx zoo attractionNot your household kitty cat Lynx fur is typically yellowish-brown but can include some gray. Their ears boast long, dark hairs that point straight up and act as hearing aids.  Adult lynx as well as kittens display this ear trait.  Canada lynx also have a black-tipped tail.  Lynx have long legs and large, furry paws that act as snow shoes.

A nocturnal loner Lynx usually live alone in a territory that encompasses anywhere from 5 to 100 square miles, and they are nocturnal so they sleep during the day.  The zoo’s lynx are often spotted napping inside their logs but can become active during the day time, especially in the morning.

A northern resident
Canada Lynx (also known as Canadian lynx) live throughout Canada and in northern areas of the United States.  They are typically found in forests but can also live in tundra regions.

The zoo’s Canada lynx exhibit is located just inside the front gates, across from the lion drinking fountain.  Guests can visit Thor and Loki seven days a week – Be sure to get a look at those giant paws!

Click on the pictures below to enlarge:

Posted in: Central Zoo, Zoo News

April 23, 2014

Get the Scoop on Australia

kangaroo zoo attraction

We’re building a new Australian Adventure!  Phase I is already underway and includes a new Ice Cream Shoppe, expanded seating for the Outpost Grille, new restroom facilities, and a new entrance near the train station.  Oh, and speaking of the train, crews are installing a new grade-level train crossing complete with authentic railroad crossing gates.

ice cream zoo attraction

Construction professionals put the finishing touches on the new Ice Cream Shoppe

 Buy Recognition Tile Button

The Australian Adventure first opened in 1987, funded entirely with donations.  The new Australian Adventure will be built with donations as well.  Construction for Phase I of this $7 million project is well underway, and we’ve already raised more than $5 million toward our goal.  You can help by purchasing an engraved Recognition Tile with your contribution of $400.  Contributions of $1000 or more will also be recognized on a permanent aluminum plaque.

Your Recognition Tile will be part of a one-of-a-kind sculptural display near new Australian Adventure entrance.  We’ll engrave your tile with your family name, the names of your children or grandchildren, or in memory of a loved one.   

What will Phases II and III have in store?  Plenty!  Here’s a condensed version of the plans:

Welcome to Stingray Bay

See eye to eye with gentle stingrays as they glide across a shallow pool in a brand-new exhibit that’s sure to be a highlight of the new Australian Adventure.  Housed in the former Australia After Dark building, Stingray Bay features up-close viewing opportunities and state-of-the-art life support systems.  A limited number of guests will have the chance to touch the stingrays under the guidance of zoo staff – a truly amazing experience!

Splash in Crocodile Creek

Go ahead – kick off your shoes and wade into Crocodile Creek!  Like a cool oasis in the Australian Outback, Crocodile Creek beckons with clear water and large boulders.  Kids wade in the shallow water, building dams with small rocks or making tiny rafts from sticks.  Shaded benches await nearby for those who prefer to rest.

Dive in the Great Barrier Reef

From the Australian Adventure Plaza, stroll over to Stingray Bay or the completely remodeled Great Barrier Reef Aquarium, showcasing the diversity of the world’s largest coral reef system.

New themed displays and interactive elements enliven your experience among our ocean wonders.  Sharks, jellyfish, and tropical fish benefit from all-new life support and filtration systems designed to keep the salt water tanks crystal clear.

The Land of Birds

Cross the bridge into the Outback and experience the magic of Australia’s vast, desert interior.  Encounter a few of Australia’s 800 species of birds, including the strikingly-colored galah, also known as the rose-breasted cockatoo. Walk through a brand-new aviary teeming with cockatiels and magpies.  Brightly-colored rainbow lorikeets nibble on nectar, just like they would in the wild.

Nearby, four-foot-tall emus strut across their yard, showing off their shaggy gray feathers.  In the background, you hear the distinct call of a flock of kookaburras.  Hoo-oo-oo-oo-ah-ah-ah!

Meet the Reptiles

Have you ever encountered a shingle-backed skink?  How about a spotted python?  These and other Australian reptiles greet you in the renovated Australian Adventure.  Stop by the tin-roofed hut and get nose-to-nose with these scaly creatures.

Meet the Mob

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was among the first to unveil a walk-through kangaroo experience when the Australian Adventure first opened in 1987.  This one-of-a-kind journey continues as you stroll among our mob of eastern grey kangaroos, which is one of the largest in any North American zoo.  Watch for ‘roos hopping across the path in front of you! 

Say G’Day to the Dingoes

As Australia’s top predator, dingoes have been persecuted and hunted for bounty.  The zoo’s dingo pack is among the largest in the country. On cool summer mornings, watch as the energetic dingoes explore their exhibit bordering the Outback Adventure River Ride.

Float on the River Ride

You’ll be drawn to a relaxing float on the Outback Adventure River Ride.  Already the most popular ride in the zoo, exciting improvements will make the ride even better.  Authentic Outback details – as well as a few surprises – bring out the explorer in you!  Like all zoo rides, the Outback Adventure River Ride generates important income to support your non-profit zoo.

Click on the images to enlarge:

Posted in: Australian Adventure, Kangaroos, Zoo News

April 16, 2014

Only 10 More Days!

countdown zoo attraction

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:

Posted in: Monkeys, Zoo News

April 9, 2014

Tengku Helps Wild Orangutans

orangutan

Tengku, the zoo’s male Sumatran orangutan, has something new to add to his resume:  International Researcher.  Tengku’s contribution to the research of Dr. Graham L. Banes, a biological anthropologist who visited the zoo last week, may help save these rare apes from the brink of extinction.

orangutan research zoo attraction

Dr. Banes shows some of his research to Tengku.

Dr. Banes studies the biodiversity of orangutans in zoos and in the wild and is building a database containing genetic information on every captive orangutan in the world.   

Tengku provided a blood sample so researchers can study his DNA as part of a four-generation study.  Zoo keepers had already trained him on this procedure via operant conditioning.  This video from 2012 shows the procedure:

Managed programs have existed in zoos for decades, but zoos are not the only participants in orangutan research.  Orphanages and rehabilitation centers, which are found on the “front lines” of orangutan conservation, are also included in this study.  Such facilities house orangutans who have been displaced, injured, or orphaned as a result of habitat destruction.

Dr. Banes explained that ensuring genetic biodiversity in zoos and rehabilitation centers is important.  A genetically diverse population decreases the likelihood of health problems and reduces the rate of infant mortality. 

A healthy zoo population will become essential if Sumatran orangutan populations continue to decline.  Orangutans have endured an 80-90% reduction in their natural habitat.  In other words, they are running out of places to live.  Their species is listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN (source: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/39780/0).   To compound this situation, proposed changes in Indonesian law further threaten the survival of orangutans in the wild.  According to Dr. Banes, “Preserves are being un-protected.” 

Tengku is helping his wild cousins, and so can you.  The AZA has prepared an online petition to the Indonesian government regarding the destruction of the 10-20% of rain forest cover that remains.  You can go to change.org to review and sign the petition.

The IUCN estimates that there are around 7,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild.  To put that number into perspective, consider that Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis holds 70,000 people for NCAA basketball tournaments. 

The zoo’s conservation page lists resources for those wanting to get involved with the conservation of wild animals and wild places.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

Posted in: Conservation, Indonesian Rain Forest, Orangutans
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