April 9, 2014
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.
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:
April 2, 2014
Thirty one-month-0ld moon jellyfish arrived at the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium this week! Hatched at the New England Aquarium, these two-inch-diameter moon jellies joined 13 adult jellies in the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium.
Because moon jellies have an average life span of six months in the wild and one year in captivity, the introduction of new moon jellies is a yearly event at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. The babies will mature quickly and should have a bell size of six to eight inches when the zoo opens on April 26.
Zoo keepers transitioned the babies into their new aquarium slowly. A large bag containing the new moon jellies was placed inside the aquarium but was not opened right away, allowing water temperatures to equalize. Little by little, zoo keepers allowed small amounts of water from the bag and the aquarium to mix together. Click on the video for behind-the-scenes footage of the acclimation process:
Moon jellies are not endangered and are a favorite food of several endangered sea turtle species. However, balloons and plastic grocery bags closely resemble jellyfish when floating in the ocean. If sea turtles ingest the balloons and bags, they can die. You can help sea turtles by recycling plastic grocery bags and avoiding mass balloon releases.
Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.Aquarium, Baby Animals
March 26, 2014
Picasso said “Every child is an artist.” At the zoo, we think “Every animal is an artist!” Last week, four zoo animals painted “masterpieces” that will be auctioned at future zoo fundraising events. The artists were Hugh the penguin, Mawson the dingo, and Tengku and Tara the Sumatran orangutans.
Fundraising is not the only reason the zoo’s animals paint. The activity provides physical and mental challenges that elicit natural behaviors. This type of stimulation is also known as “animal enrichment.”
The following media gallery showcases each of the zoo’s artists at work:
The photos below illustrate “before and after” shots of the creative process. Click on any of the thumbnails to enlarge:
The following videos show Sumatran orangutans Tara and Tengku working with paintbrushes:
Enrichment, Zoo News
March 19, 2014
What zoo animal has a blue tongue, green scales, and a red tail? Our new red-tailed green ratsnake! The young female snake was approximately one week old when she arrived in November. She will eventually join the zoo’s adult male red-tailed ratsnake in the Indonesian Rain Forest.
The red-tailed green rat snake’s name is a bit misleading. Here are some fun facts about these snakes:
- Red-tailed ratsnakes are recognizable for their striking green scales and bright blue tongue, not for a red tail. As the snake develops into adulthood, it may or may not end up with a red tail. It’s tail could be red, but could also take on a brown, green, gray, or even purplish hue.
- Despite their name, red-tailed green ratsnakes are more likely to eat a rat than to be mistaken for one. This species of snake also eats birds and their eggs along with smaller reptiles.
- They are a non-venomous snake. They kill their prey by squeezing and suffocating them, a process known as “constriction”.
Red-tailed ratsnakes are native to Southeast Asia, where they are valued as a natural, ecologically-friendly means for rodent control. As such, this species has been left alone to thrive and is not endangered.
Click on the photos below to enlarge:
March 12, 2014
The zoo’s baby boom continues as zoo keepers welcome a new addition to the Indonesian Rain Forest…a teeny, tiny, two-inch crocodile skink. It’s the first time this reptile species has ever been hatched at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo! This imperious addition to the animal kingdom weighed-in at two grams, approximately the weight of a pencil eraser.
Although its name implies a lizard of force and stature, this particular crocodile skink began its life cycle in a fragile state.
Late last year, zoo keepers discovered by accident that the adult crocodile skinks had produced an egg. Dave Messmann, a zoo keeper in the Indonesian Rain Forest, accidentally disturbed the egg while cleaning the skinks’ aquarium. “We were concerned about the disturbance. It’s a best-practice to avoid moving a reptile egg once it’s discovered, ” Messmann stated. He also explained the reason why zoo keepers would have preferred avoidance, “An air pocket inside the egg can shift if the egg is moved, potentially causing the embryo to suffocate.”
Hoping for the best, zoo keepers decided to incubate the egg and observe. They constructed an incubator by filling a deli tub with wet moss and poking holes in the tub’s lid. The egg was carefully placed atop the moss and the tub was placed on a shelf. The egg was then allowed to incubate at room temperature, undisturbed. After sixty days, a live hatchling was observed!
At eleven days old, the crocodile skink baby weighed-in at 2 grams. Now thirty days old, the baby is doing fine and continues to develop normally. It will likely reach an adult length of eight inches and top-out at one pound.
Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.
Click on the pictures to enlarge:
March 5, 2014
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:
February 26, 2014
noun, pronounced: [kom-uh-ser-ee]
1. a store that sells food and supplies to the personnel or workers in a military post, mining camp, lumber camp, or the like.
2. a dining room or cafeteria, especially one in a motion-picture studio.
Great definition, but they forgot about zoos! Did you know that the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo operates its own commissary? The zoo has four staff members who work seven days a week, 365 days a year prepping food for the animals. Their daily tasks include meal planning, nutrition research, food prep, meal distribution, and of course cleanup.
To showcase the commissary staff’s handiwork, we put together a quiz called “Who Ordered This?” Try to guess which animal goes with each of these nutritionally-balanced culinary masterpieces. (You can find the answers at the bottom of this page):
February 19, 2014
Maggie, a very friendly green-naped pheasant pigeon in Indonesian Rain Forest, experienced a life-changing event in August when she was introduced to Zazu, a male pheasant pigeon. Maggie and Zazu quickly became a pair, and recently welcomed a new baby!
Winter has been a busy time for Maggie and Zazu. They built a nest on the forest floor and took turns incubating their single egg. Now that their chick has hatched, both parents hunt for seeds, fruit, and insects to feed their chick.
Feeding a new baby bird is a tireless job, but all their work is paying off. The new chick is already half the size of its parents and will soon be foraging for food on its own.
Keepers are eager to learn the chick’s gender, but they’ll have to wait until they can catch it. The chick is always on the move and darts behind vegetation when approached. “The way we determine a pheasant pigeon’s sex is by doing a blood draw. We’re waiting until the baby gets a little older and more comfortable with the staff before we approach it,” says zoo keeper Tiffany Jones.
Green-naped pheasant pigeons are native to New Guinea and nearby islands, and they are considered endangered in parts of their range. Pheasant pigeons are non-flighted birds, but they can glide for short distances. The zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan for these birds to manage breeding and maintain a genetically healthy zoo population.
Because she often strolled alongside the rain forest boardwalk, Maggie is well-known to zoo guests. We’ll see if she returns to her old habits this summer when her chick becomes independent. Visit Maggie and see if you can spot the new chick when the zoo opens for the season on April 26.
Click on the images below to enlarge:
Baby Animals, Birds, Indonesian Rain Forest, Zoo News
February 12, 2014
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:
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:
Baby Animals, Monkeys, Zoo News
February 5, 2014
Most Hoosiers have seen a brown bat (aka Myotis lucifugus or “Little Brown Bat”). It’s the mosquito-gobbling, attic-dwelling species native to much of North America. Bats, the only flying mammal in the animal kingdom, play an important role in our ecosystem. They control the insect population and help to pollinate many plant species.
Sadly, many of our other bat species are harder to spot and their survival may be in jeopardy.
All told, 12 species of bats live in Indiana, but four of these are endangered, including:
~Northern long-eared bat
~Evening bat (endangered in Indiana)
Six other species of bat are listed as species “of special concern” by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (source: http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/7662.htm).
Because bats are a misunderstood yet essential part of our ecosystem, it is important that they continue to thrive in Indiana.
What can you do to help? Build your own bat house! Last summer, our Z-Team teen volunteers built several of these simple wooden structures, which now hang on zoo buildings. Pam George, a retired educator, led this essential conservation effort. “This project did more than help our local bats,” said George. “It helped these teens learn new skills, and more importantly, that they can make a difference for wildlife.”
Get easy-to-use bat house plans from Bat Conservation International at batcon.org.
Please remember that bats, like any wild animal, should not be handled.
Click on the images below to enlarge: