Zoo Blog

August 2, 2013

Tara the Orangutan Now on Exhibit

Tara the orangutan

Tara, the Sumatran orangutan who arrived at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo this spring, is ready to meet the public.  She will be in the orangutan exhibit now through Sunday.

“Tara is amazing,” says zoo keeper Angie Selzer, who cares for the orangutans.  “She has adapted very well to her new home.”

Tara has not yet been mixed with Tengku, the zoo’s 28-year-old male orangutan, or Melati, a 28-year-old female, so she will be alone in the exhibit through the weekend.  “We want Tara to become completely comfortable in the exhibit before being mixed with the other orangutans,” Selzer said.  So far, the three orangutans have had limited contact with each other through mesh panels behind the scenes.

“Our next step is to allow Tara to meet Melati face to face,” Selzer says.  That encounter will probably happen in the next few weeks behind the scenes, meaning that there could be days when no orangutans are in the exhibit.  After Tara and Melati get to know each other, Tengku will join them.

Tara, age 18, has a habit of climbing up to the skylights in the orangutan exhibit, so zoo guests will have to look carefully to see the petite red ape this weekend.

Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in April from the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo.  She can be distinguished from the other orangutans by her petite build and darker fur on her face, hands, and feet.

The zoo hopes that Tara and Tengku will someday produce offspring, but it is too early to predict when that might happen.

Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species and are managed in zoos by a Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population.  These rare apes are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where their future is threatened by persistent habitat destruction as forests are converted to palm oil plantations, timber concessions, and mining operations. Zoos could prove to be the last stronghold for this species, which some experts predict could become functionally extinct in the wild within 10 to 20 years.

Posted in: Conservation, Orangutans, Zoo News

July 31, 2013

The Fastest Animal in the Rain Forest

Tree Shrew Featured

Which zoo animals can leap across their exhibit, grab a cricket, and eat it, all in a few seconds?  The zoo’s pair of northern tree shrews!

“They rarely sit still,” says Zoo Keeper Dave Messmann of these Southeast Asian forest-dwellers.  “They are always moving.”

These tiny acrobatic critters look like miniature squirrels but are closely related to monkeys and apes.  “Kids say that they look like Scrat, the character from the Ice Age movies,” Messmann says.

Belange, our one-year-old female and Tup, a five-year-old male, are still getting to know each other, so they take turns in the exhibit in Dr. Diversity’s Rain Forest Research Station in the Indonesian Rain Forest.   Messmann lures them on and off exhibit with tasty crickets.  “They really live their lives at top speed,” Messmann says, noting that tree shrews are sexually mature at 60 days and may live only about eight years.  Aside from crickets, they dine on chopped fruits, veggies, insects, and a pelleted diet.

On a recent visit, Messmann gave Belange a shed snake skin as an enrichment activity.  The tree shrew darted about and rubbed her chest on the shed skin, probably to scent mark the new item.  At one point, Belange poked her head through the shed skin and wore it like a scarf for a few minutes, until her constant motion caused it to fall off.  

Click the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Zoo News

July 24, 2013

Perfect Plumage for a Penguin

penguin

If you’re a penguin, your feathers are super-important:  they keep you warm in chilly waters, they keep your skin dry, and provide you with a snappy tuxedo-like outfit. 

But once a year, it all falls apart – literally.  During a one-to two-week period each year, all of a penguin’s feathers fall out.  This process is called molting, and it causes dramatic changes in the zoo’s African black-footed penguin flock.

“Each of our 17 penguins molts on a different schedule,” says zoo keeper Kasey DeLucenay.  “There is almost always someone in the process.”

Molting begins with each penguin increasing its weight by about 50% in just a few weeks.  “A bird that weighs five pounds might gain more than two pounds,” DeLucenay says.  The weight gain helps a penguin get through the molt – a time when it can’t swim and hunt for fish – without eating. 

During the molt, the penguins look scruffy, with patches of fluffy feathers popping up in random spots.  “The molt seems to start at the tail and work its way up the body,” DeLucenay says.

Eventually, the old plumage is replaced by a sleek new set of feather.  In juveniles, the brown feathers are replaced by the black-and-white plumage of the adults.  As a finishing touch, the penguins preen each feather by rubbing it with waterproofing oil, which is taken from a gland at the base of the tail.

Read more about penguins here.

You can help feed the penguins at a VIP Experience.

Click the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: African Animals, Birds, Penguins

July 17, 2013

How to Make a Lion Eat His Dinner

Africa Lion Featured Image

Bill the lion needs no introduction.  His laid-back attitude and stunning physique make him a crowd favorite.  Thanks to his penchant for resting on the exhibit window, he’s in thousands of family photos.  Could he be any more of a superstar?

“I think Bill just enjoys being awesome,” says zoo keeper Jennifer McDermott. 

Bill was only two years old with a scruffy little mane when he debuted at the African Journey’s grand opening in 2009.  As he prepares to celebrate his 7th birthday on July 22, he has matured into a beautiful 435-pound adult male lion.

But amid all the hype, Bill has a few bad habits.  According to McDermott, “Bill is the pickiest eater I’ve ever seen.”

Because lions eat only one thing – meat – this can be a problem.  The zoo buys a frozen prepared meat diet (similar to a tube of ground beef) by the ton.  When a new batch of meat arrives, keepers know that Bill will snub his finicky nose at it, at least for the first few days.

“He makes what I call a ‘yuck’ face, like a little kid,” says McDermott.  “He’ll scrunch up his eyes, stick out his tongue, and walk away from his food.”  In lion-speak, this apparently means “I don’t wanna eat this, and you can’t make me!”

McDermott doesn’t worry about Bill’s diva-like attitude regarding his dinner.  “He eventually eats it,” she says. 

Unlike Bill, Ina the lioness is very interested in her food.  When McDermott calls the cats to dinner at the end of the day, Ina makes a beeline for the meat placed in their night quarters.  Bill, on the other hand, takes his sweet time.  “We just wait him out,” says McDermott.  When he does decide to come inside, “He walks very slowly,” she says. 

Bad habits aside, McDermott is in awe of Bill.  “I love looking into his eyes,” she says.  “He’s just beautiful.”

Read more about lions here.

You can help feed the lions at a VIP Experience.

Click the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: African Animals, Lions

July 10, 2013

Meet Kaasidy, Our Little Daredevil

baby colobus monkey

How many ways can a 9-month-old monkey worry her keepers?  Kaasidy the baby colobus monkey is trying to find out.

“She’s quite the daredevil ,” said African Journey Area Manger Amber Eagleson of Kaasidy.  Eagelson describes Kaasidy’s first day in the new colobus monkey exhibit, when the little monkey climbed to the top of the exhibit, let go, and dropped ten feet to a low branch.  “My heart stopped for just a second,” says Eagleson.  But Kaasidy had no worries – she climbed to the top and did it all over again.

One of Kaasidy’s favorite antics is to hang from the long bushy tails of her mother, Jibini, and Wamblenica, another female.  “They don’t seem to mind at all,” said Eagleson.  But dad’s tail is off-limits.  “We never see her hanging from Finnigan’s tail – he’s not as tolerant as the females.”

Kaasidy was born on September 25, so she was on exhibit for only a few days before the zoo closed for the season.  The colobus family moved back outdoors after their exhibit in the African Journey was completely rebuilt and enlarged this spring.  Colobus monkeys are native to the forests of central and eastern Africa. 

Eagleson encourages you to spend time at the colobus exhibit and watch Kaasidy at play.  “She only rests for a few minutes,” Eagleson said.  “Then she’s back at it again.”

Read more about colobus monkeys.

Click the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: African Animals, Baby Animals, Monkeys

July 2, 2013

Introducing Tara the Orangutan

Tara the orangutan

Tengku and Melati, the zoo’s Sumatran orangutans, are about to make a new friend:  Tara, a female orangutan, is the newest member of the orangutan family.

“Tara is full of personality,” says zoo keeper Angie Selzer, who cares for the orangutans.  “We’re thrilled to have her in Fort Wayne.”

Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in April, and, after completing a routine 30-day quarantine period, is getting to know male orangutan Tengku, who turns 27 on July 3, and female Melati, age 28.  Introductions are taking place behind the scenes.  “We first allow the orangutans to see each other through mesh doors,” explains Selzer.  “Only after we are comfortable with their interactions will we let them meet face to face.” 

The introduction process could take a few months, Selzer says, so it could be awhile before zoo guests see Tara in the Orangutan Valley exhibit.  During the introduction period, Tengku and Melati will be allowed to move back and forth between the exhibit and the behind-the-scenes areas where Tara lives, so there could be times when no orangutans are in the exhibit.

Born at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tara is 18 years old, which is middle aged for an orangutan (the median life expectancy for female Sumatran orangutans is 32 years).  She moved to the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo in 2002. Both Tengku and Melati have lived in Fort Wayne since Orangutan Valley opened in 1995 in the Indonesian Rain Forest exhibit.

“Tara is an awesome orangutan,” says Selzer.  “The staff at the Columbus Zoo took excellent care of her.”  Selzer notes that Tara is already trained on several medical behaviors, such as presenting her arm for a blood draw, which make her daily management much more efficient.   

Tara can be distinguished from the other orangutans by her petite build and darker fur on her face, hands, and feet.

Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species and are managed in zoos by a Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population.  These rare apes are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where their future is threatened by persistent habitat destruction as forests are converted to palm oil plantations, timber concessions, and mining operations.  Zoos could prove to be the last stronghold for this species, which some experts predict could become functionally extinct in the wild within 10 to 20 years.

Learn how you can help orangutans by making wise purchases of everyday items made with palm oil.

Learn more about Sumatran orangutans.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

 

Posted in: Conservation, Orangutans, Zoo News

June 26, 2013

Zebras with Spots?

zebra face

As she prepares to feed the zebras on the 3-acre African Journey savannah, zoo keeper Lisa Gehlhausen gathers her equipment.  Wheelbarrow:  check.   Zebra treats:  check.  Stick to fend off ostrich:  check. Treats for ostrich:  check.  Wait a minute – are we feeding the ostrich or the zebras?

“You really can’t feed one without the other,” she says.  “The ostrich follow us everywhere.”

Indeed, Kimmy and Penny, the zoo’s two female ostriches, are ever-present as Gehlhausen tosses chunks of carrot and sweet potato to the zebras.  “We use these treats to encourage the zebras to go into the barn at night,” she explains.  “That helps reduce wear and tear on the pasture.”  The zebras also eat hay and grain, and nibble on real grass on the pasture.

A bucket of cracked corn distracts the ostriches while Gehlhausen explains how she tells the zoo’s three female zebras apart.  “Each zebra has different markings,” she says.  “The trick is to look at the things that aren’t stripes.”  Telodi, for example, has one white spot on the left side of her lower neck, while Jasiri has two white spots in the center of her neck, as if she is wearing a necklace.  Okolo has a black spot on her left shoulder.

As herd animals, Telodi, Jasiri, and Okolo are never far from each other.  And if there’s food involved, the ostriches are guaranteed to be in the vicinity.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: African Animals, Zebras, Zoo News

June 24, 2013

Kroger Donates $67,620 to the Zoo

Kroger logo

Kroger and Scott’s shared the results of their 2013 Zoo Week promotion today by delivering a check for $67,620 to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  

“Kroger and Scott’s are outstanding community partners,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson.  “We are grateful for their longstanding support of the zoo.”

The donation represents 3% of sales on Zoo Day May 15, as well as donations by customers who “voted” among three zoo animals by donating $1 at the checkout May 5-18.

Bugara the tiger, with 6,661 votes, unseated incumbent Jelani the giraffe, who had 5,769 votes. Fishbone the sea lion received 5,168 votes. 

Kroger and Scott’s created Zoo Day in 1993.  To date, the stores have donated $1,530,181 to the zoo.  

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Zoo News

June 19, 2013

Mr. Happy “Rocks”

Mr. Happy Featured Image

A few weeks ago, our friends at Pokagon State Park called with a problem:  a 26-year-old Blanding’s turtle named Mr. Happy wasn’t looking so happy.  This turtle, named for the perpetual “smile” on his face, lives at Pokagon’s Nature Center and is a staff and visitor favorite.

Blanding’s turtles are endangered in Indiana, so Mr. Happy is an important ambassador for our state’s wildlife.  In May, Mr. Happy stopped eating and became lethargic. Fred Wooley, Pokagon’s longtime naturalist, called on Zoo Veterinarian Joe Smith for help.

“When Mr. Happy arrived at the zoo, he didn’t look well at all,” said Smith, who quickly determined the cause of Mr. Happy’s dire state:  Mr. Happy had swallowed a very large rock.  The rock was lodged in the turtle’s stomach and completely blocked his digestive tract.  He also had pneumonia, because bits of food had made their way into his lungs.

Using an endoscope (a flexible tube which can be inserted down the throat), a steady hand, and much patience, Smith was able to remove the pesky pebble.  “It took two hours to get the rock out,” Smith said.

With his stomach now freed of the rock, Mr. Happy got right back to business. “He started eating almost immediately after we finished the procedure,” Smith said.

Mr. Happy is back at Pokagon’s Nature Center, basking in the admiration of his many fans.  “People beam when I tell them the story of that turtle,” said Wooley.  “I have to give Dr. Joe and his staff all the credit in the world.”  And the rock?  “We have it pinned above his aquarium,” Wooley said – presumably where the turtle can’t take a bite of it again.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Conservation, Reptiles, Zoo News

June 12, 2013

Our Growing Gibbon Family

Javon Gibbon Baby Blog Post

The Javan gibbon baby born at the zoo on April 16 is growing more adventuresome by the day, thanks to excellent care by his mother Dieng – and perhaps some encouragement by his rambunctious big brother, two-year-old Jaka.

The male baby, who has not yet been named, spends most of his time clinging to Dieng’s belly, but keepers have noticed more activity lately.  “We’ve seen him reach out to grab a branch once in a while,” said zoo keeper Kristin Sliger.  “But he’s still too little to move around on his own.”

Jaka, on the other hand, is always on the move.  During a recent photo shoot he rarely sat still, preferring to leap and swing among the branches and vines in the tree-filled exhibit in the Indonesian Rain Forest. 

Javan gibbons are rare – so rare that one other United States zoo exhibits this rare species.   When Jaka was born in 2011, he was the first Javan gibbon born in any United States zoo.  Dieng, her mate Lionel, and their two youngsters are the largest group of Javan gibbons in a U.S. zoo.

“We are honored to be one of only two zoos in to exhibit this endangered species,” said Zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon.  “With this species, we can make a significant impact on conservation.”

UPDATE July 1, 2013:  The baby has a name!  It’s Kado, which is an Indonesian word meaning “gift.”

Learn more about Javan gibbons.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Baby Animals, Conservation, Gibbons, Zoo News
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