May 29, 2013
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.
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Birds, Zoo News
May 22, 2013
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!
May 15, 2013
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.
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Farm Animals, Zoo News
May 8, 2013
Keeping animals healthy is a zoo keeper’s number one goal. But because some health problems can remain unseen until it’s too late, zoos keepers turn to diagnostic tools for help.
Heart problems are a leading cause of death for both zoo-managed and wild orangutans and gorillas, so zoos have banded together to develop the Great Ape Heart Project, based at Zoo Atlanta. The project is collecting data on orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas that will advance understanding of ape heart conditions.
“This effort will help us understand what healthy ape hearts look like,” said Zoo Veterinarian Joe Smith, DVM, who serves as the veterinary advisor for the Orangutan Species Survival Plan and a member of the Great Ape Heart Project Executive Steering Committee.
At the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, keepers conduct weekly ultrasounds on our two orangutans, Tengku (male) and Melati (female), assisted by ultrasound technicians Sue Hansen and Kathy Rutschilling. Ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure where a probe is held against the body, and sound waves emitted from the probe generate an image of structures within the body. The ultrasound machine was donated by Lutheran Hospital.
Keeper Angie Selzer explains that getting ultrasound images of orangutan hearts took months of training. “First, we had to get the orangutans used to the big ultrasound machine,” she said. The orangutans were already trained to present their chest to the keepers, so the next step was introducing the ultrasound probe and holding it against the chest. “We started with a piece of PVC pipe with a cap on the end, then we switched to using the real probe,” Selzer said.
All procedures are conducted through heavy wire mesh to protect keepers from the orangutans, who are far stronger than humans of equal size.
The orangutans are now comfortable with the routine procedure except for one aspect: the clear gel applied on the end of the ultrasound probe. “Tengku does not like the ultrasound gel at all,” Selzer said. “He keeps a blanket nearby to wipe off his chest after each session.”
After Dr. Dave Kaminskas, a local cardiologist, reads the ultrasounds, then the data is sent to the Great Ape Heart Project’s database, where it will help build a healthy future for apes – both in the wild and in zoos.Orangutans
May 1, 2013
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.
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April 24, 2013
A new reticulated python named Bo has slithered onto the scene in the Indonesian Rain Forest.
When Bo made his public debut on opening day, he had zoo fans intrigued from the start. “He is very active and curious for a big snake,” says zoo keeper Tim Jedele. “All the zoo guests were amazed that he was moving around and looking at them through the glass.”
Bo started out his life as a pet in someone’s home, and the owner later donated Bo to the Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square in Saginaw, Michigan. When the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s resident python, Jed, passed away over the winter and keepers began searching for a new snake, the search led them to Bo, who was rapidly outgrowing the facilities in Saginaw. “The staff at Saginaw took excellent care of Bo,” says Jedele. Bo’s Saginaw fans even created a special going-away card and sent it along on his trip to Fort Wayne.
After Bo’s routine 90-day quarantine period was completed, Jedele and zoo keeper Dave Messmann loaded Bo into a crate and delivered him to the python exhibit in Dr. Diversity’s Rain Forest Research Station. Bo, who is 15 feet long and weighs 55 pounds, immediately began exploring the trees, pond, and logs in the 20-foot-long display.
Bo already seems comfortable in his new home in the Indonesian Rain Forest. “Bo is a perfect fit for our exhibit,” says Jedele.
Click on the photos below to enlarge.
April 19, 2013
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!Zoo News
April 17, 2013
Sumatran tigers Indah and Bugara arrived at the zoo in February, and on Wednesday, zoo keepers allowed the cats to explore Tiger Forest for the first time in preparation for the zoo’s opening day on Saturday. Read about the cats’ arrival from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas here.
Zoo staff members gathered to see how the one-and-a-half-year-old brother and sister would react to their new surroundings. Indah was the first to walk the long chute that connects the indoor holding to the wooded outdoor exhibit. “Indah was much braver than her brother,” said Indonesian Rain Forest Area Manager Tanisha Dunbar. “She definitely took more risks.”
Once in the exhibit, Indah immediately investigated the pond, viewing windows, and every tree trunk. Meanwhile, Bugara was more cautious. “He was startled by the construction that was going on nearby,” said Dunbar. Once he entered the exhibit, Bugara instantly walked to the small viewing window to check out the staff members who had assembled to watch.
After a few minutes, Bugara relaxed a bit, but that’s when the action began. Indah began stalking her brother at every opportunity, crouching behind logs and springing out to chase him. A few times, both cats leaped at each other with all eight feet leaving the ground! Bugara eventually wised up and began looking behind himself every few minutes to make sure Indah wasn’t following him.
Indah and Bugara are amazing representatives of this critically endangered species. Fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild, making zoo cats increasingly important for the survival of the species. Read more about Sumatran tigers here.
Click on the photos below to enlarge to full screen.
April 16, 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!Zoo News
April 10, 2013
To maintain excellent health as she ages, Gorgon, our 18-year-old Komodo dragon, gets regular monthly weigh-ins. Picking up and carrying the five-foot-long, 62-pound lizard to a scale is not an option – that could be stressful for Gorgon and dangerous for the zoo keepers.
Zoo keeper Dave Messmann, who has cared for Gorgon since she arrived at the zoo as a hatchling in 1995, created a six-foot-long box for transporting Gorgon to and from the scale. The box features a clear Lexan lid and multiple hatch doors for inspecting various parts of the lizard’s body.
Messmann simply parks the transport box next to a small door in Gorgon’s enclosure. “We bait the box with food – in this case we’re using mice – and Gorgon walks right in,” he explains. Once Gorgon is inside the box, the back hatch is closed and the entire box is carried to a set of load bars and weighed. Keepers have already weighed the empty box, so they’ll subtract the box’s weight from the total to get a weight on Gorgon. “Her weight has been pretty stable for the last several months,” says Messmann. “That’s a good sign.”
As an aging Komodo dragon, Gorgon is being treated for arthritis and other age-related ailments. Her transport box is made of plastic, so the veterinarian can obtain x-rays without removing Gorgon from the box. When it’s time to move Gorgon outside to her summer home, she comes and goes in this custom-made transport box.
Obtaining weights is a basic tool for monitoring animal health, especially with reptiles, who typically mask any symptoms of illness until it’s often too late for treatment. “We want to do everything we can to keep her healthy,” Messmann says.
Click on the photos below to enlarge.