Archive for Conservation
Mr. Happy: Still “Rockin’” One Year Later
Zoo fans might remember the story of Mr. Happy, a 27-year-old Blanding’s turtle who came to us last year with a serious medical issue. The friendly turtle, who resides at Pokagon State Park, had ingested a large rock that was blocking his digestive tract.
Blanding’s turtles are endangered in Indiana, so Mr. Happy is an important ambassador for our state’s wildlife. When he got sick and stopped eating last year, park officials and zoo staff were quick to respond. You can read about his surgery here.
We’re happy to report that one year later, Mr. Happy is doing great! Staff from the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo recently paid a visit to Mr. Happy and his caregivers and discovered that the turtle is healthy and thriving.
Interpretive naturalist Mandi Webb spoke of the turtle’s healthy appetitie, “He’s doing very well. He eats a lot. We call Mr. Happy the ‘finisher-upper’ because of how much he eats.” Webb works with Mr. Happy almost every day and stated that his appetite never wanes.
Long-time park naturalist Fred Wooley concurred with Webb, “Mr. Happy is doing very well. We’re fortunate to have contacts within the animal conservation field who will provide medical care for sick or injured animals. Blanding’s turtles can live to be 80 and Mr. Happy is eating and behaving normally.”
To demonstrate his vigor, Pokagon staff arranged a race for Mr. Happy. His opponent was Mr. Box, an eastern box turtle who resides with Mr. Happy at the park’s Nature Center.
Although Mr. Happy didn’t win this time, Webb assured his fans that the turtle wasn’t upset about the loss. “Mr. Happy does win races sometimes, but he’s easily distracted. Sometimes he just wants to stop and look at the leaves on the ground.”
Perhaps Mr. Happy’s story has a lesson to offer: Don’t race too quickly to the finish line without stopping to enjoy the journey.
Click on the photos to enlarge:
Happy Birthday, Tengku!
Tengku the Sumatran orangutan turns 28 this week. He was born on July 3, 1986 and came to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in 1995, shortly after the opening of the zoo’s Indonesian Rain Forest. During his nearly two decades here, Tengku has formed a special connection with zoo guests. His social demeanor and playful behavior inspire people to care about orangutans in the wild.
What can you do to support Tengku and his wild cousins? Here are some ideas from his birthday list:
- Visit the zoo and spend some time in the Indonesian Rain Forest. There you can learn more about the plight of orangutans in the wild.
- Share your photos and stories of Tengku on social media to raise awareness about orangutan conservation. You can connect with the Fort Wayne Children’s zoo on Facebook and Twitter.
- Adopt an orangutan to help us provide healthy food, exceptional care, and veterinary needs for your animal for one whole year.
- Splurge on an orangutan VIP Experience. Go behind the scenes with Tengku and Melati and watch as they create a unique painting right before your eyes – then take the painting with you for a one-of-a-kind home accent. (Ages 8 and older only – up to four guests per VIP experience)
- Get educated about endangered orangutans and find out what you can do to help. The Orangutan Conservancy, one of the zoo’s conservation partners, is a good resource.
Area Manager Tanisha Dunbar has been working with Tengku for the past 13 years. She shared her thoughts regarding this very special primate, “It has been a joy working with him since 2001 and I am looking forward to working with him for many years to come. Happy Birthday, Tengku!”
Below is a photo gallery of some of Tengku’s memorable moments. Click on the photos to enlarge:
Baby Red Panda Born at Zoo
A female red panda cub was born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on June 9 to female Xiao (pronounced JOW), age 4, and her 5-year-old mate, Junjie.
This is the third litter of cubs to be born at the zoo since 1997. Two cubs were born to Xiao in 2012, and a single cub was born in 2013; none of these cubs survived longer than two weeks.
An endangered species, red pandas are difficult to breed and rear in zoos. About half of all cubs die within 30 days of birth. Only a few dozen red panda cubs are born in United States zoos each year.
Contact with Xiao and her cub is extremely limited to improve the cub’s odds of survival. For now, the pathway in front of the red panda exhibit is closed to zoo guests. Keepers monitor the new mother, who spends most of her time in a nest box with the cub, via a remote camera system.
“We are monitoring the cub and are cautiously optimistic at this point,” says Area Manager Shelley Scherer. “But there are still many challenges ahead for this little cub.”
An extensive protocol is in place to monitor the cub while minimizing stress on the mother. Keepers allowed Xiao and her cub complete privacy for the first day, because data show that cubs have a better chance of survival if they are left alone with the mother for the first 24 hours. On Tuesday, keepers quickly weighed the cub while Xiao was out of the nest box feeding; the cub weighed 139 grams. On Wednesday, the veterinary staff performed a brief hands-on health check and determined the cub’s gender.
Daily weigh-ins will continue and supplemental feeding or hand-rearing will be implemented depending on the cub’s progress.
“We always prefer that animals raise their own young, but we are prepared to do all we can to ensure the survival of the cub,” said Animal Curator Mark Weldon. “However, hand-rearing provides no guarantee that the cub will survive.” Weldon noted that hand-reared cubs have a 50-50 chance of survival.
Zoo keepers conducted weekly ultrasounds on Xiao this spring to monitor the cub before birth. Xiao was trained to stand and accept the ultrasound, during which she was rewarded with a food treat. Her diet, which includes commercially-produced chow and fresh bamboo, was altered to provide additional nutrition during her pregnancy. Keepers also installed a second air-conditioned nest box in the exhibit to give Xiao comfortable options for nesting.
Tests revealed that cub born to Xiao in 2013, which survived for only three days, never ingested any milk, though the reason for this is not known. That cub was scheduled to undergo a complete physical on the day it died.
Mary Noell of the Cincinnati Zoo serves as North American Regional Studbook Keeper for red pandas and maintains data on all red pandas in United States and Canadian zoos. “This is not an unusual situation,” she said last year after the cub died. Noell visited the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in 2013 and noted that the zoo’s facilities and protocols met all current standards for red panda care.
Red panda cubs are born blind and deaf. The mother spends nearly all her time nursing and grooming her cubs during the first week. The cubs remain in the nest until they are about three months old. Little is known about red panda cub mortality in the wild.
“If the cub survives, zoo guests are unlikely to see it outside of the nest box until sometime in August or September,” said Scherer. Until then, the zoo will post updates on its website and social media accounts.
The breeding of red pandas is overseen by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). The goal of the SSP is to maximize genetic diversity in captive populations of endangered animals.
Red pandas are native to the forested foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in China and Nepal, where they feed primarily on bamboo. Though they share a name with the famed black-and-white giant pandas, the two are not closely related. The name “panda” comes from the Nepalese word ponya, which means “bamboo-eater.”Posted in: Baby Animals, Conservation, Red Panda, Zoo News
Ribbit. Croak. Blurp.
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.”
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!
Posted in: Conservation, Zoo News
Tengku Helps Wild Orangutans
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:
These Endangered Species Need YOUR Help
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:
Did You Help Us Change the World in 2013?
If you visited the Kids4Nature Kiosk this summer, then you sure did! With your help, we directed $80,000 to the zoo’s Conservation Programs. More than 180,000 zoo guests voted by releasing a metal washer into one of three coin funnels this season.
So who won?
- African Lions got 43% of the votes
- Javan Gibbons earned 34%
- Sandhill Cranes secured 23%
We will soon send more than $80,000 to these and other organizations to support their conservation work. By voting at the Kids4Nature Kiosk, making donations, and rounding up at the Wild Things Gift Shop, you’ve helped us to protect animals and their habitats. Thank you to everyone who got involved. Together we’re changing the world!
For a complete listing of the Zoo’s conservation commitments, click here.
Click on a photo of one of this year’s featured projects to enlarge:
Who’s the Cutest Zoo Animal?
There’s never been a Cutest Animal Contest at the zoo, but we’re pretty sure the red pandas would be strong contenders for the title. In fact, “awwww” is the most frequently uttered word at the red panda exhibit!
Male red panda Junjie, age 5, and his mate Xiao, age 4, have distinct personalities. According to zoo keeper Sam Emberton, Junjie is the more cautious of the two. “Junjie prefers to sit and watch before approaching us,” she says. Xiao (pronounced JOW) is also shy, but she gets very interested when keepers arrive with food. “She is very food-motivated, so she is willing to approach us,” Emberton says.
The red pandas are more than just cute critters – they are vulnerable to extinction in their native Himalayan home, which includes parts of China and Nepal. That’s why we’re celebrating International Red Panda Day on Saturday, September 21 from 11 AM – 3 PM.
The red panda population has dwindled more than 40% in the last 50 years, according to some estimates. Illegal hunting, loss of habitat, and competition with domestic livestock pose serious threats to the red pandas’ survival. Only about 10,000 of these bamboo-eating animals remain in the wild.
What is the zoo doing to protect this rare species? By participating in the Red Panda Species Survival Plan, we help manage a genetically diverse zoo-based panda population. (Although Xiao has produced two litters of cubs in 2012 and 2013, none of the cubs survived.) By participating in events like International Red Panda Day, we can help spread the word about these fascinating creatures.
Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Posted in: Conservation, Red Panda, Zoo News
How to Train a Crane
For sheer beauty and elegance, few zoo birds rival the wattled cranes in the African Journey. You’d never guess that these seemingly peaceful birds have an aggressive streak.
“They will jab at you with their beak,” says Amber Eagleson, who manages the African Journey. “And there is some serious power in those legs – they will kick right at you.”
Wattled cranes stand four to five feet tall and are native to wetlands throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Our birds, Betty and Hannibal, are an established pair who produced their first clutch of eggs last year. Unfortunately, both eggs were crushed, probably by the cranes themselves as they moved around in their nest – not uncommon in first-time parents.
Because of the potential for injury, zoo keepers always work in pairs when entering the cranes’ marshy enclosure, which sits along the boardwalk near the African Journey’s exit. They also wear goggles for eye protection, and carry a broom to fend off the birds if they get aggressive.
Another tool used to manage the cranes is training. “The cranes are trained to station on a target,” like a colored board on a stick, Eagleson explains. “By rewarding them when they touch their beak to the target, we can move them to a different area of the exhibit.” This allows keepers to keep the cranes’ attention when crews are performing maintenance in the exhibit, for example. “It also allows us to see the birds up close and inspect their body condition,” Eagleson says. The cranes are rewarded for their participation with pinky mice.
Wattled crane populations are shrinking in Africa, due to destruction and alteration of wetlands.
Click on the photos below to view them full screen.
Betty and Hannibal reinforce their pair bond with unison calls – loud, shrill honks that are made with heads tilted back. They also perform an elaborate mating dance, jumping up and down with wings flapping while moving back and forth. “I see this nearly every day,” Eagleson says. Also, watch for nest-building activity this fall – eggs are usually laid in late August or early September in a huge grassy nest.
Tiger Twins Turn Two!
Indah and Bugara, our Sumatran tiger siblings, turn two years old this week!
“These tigers are very popular,” says Indonesian Rain Forest Area Manager Tanisha Dunbar of the two cats, who arrived this winter from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas.
Though they are twins, the tigers have different birthdays. Indah, the female, was born on August 15 and Bugara, the male, was born several hours later on August 16. We’re planning a small celebration on August 16!
“Indah is especially interested in people,” says Dunbar. “If you visit first thing in the morning, she’ll follow kids from window to window.” Bugara is the more laid-back of the two cats. “He is not as focused as his sister,” Dunbar says. “His attention span is pretty short!”
Bugara is the larger of the two cats, weighing 254 pounds. Indah weighs 204 pounds. Aside from the size difference, it’s easy to tell the two cats apart because the tip of Bugara’s left ear is missing. On Indah, look for the three black stripes above each eye that look like oversized “eyelashes.”
Because their mother did not properly care for them, Indah and Bugara were hand-reared by Cameron Park Zoo staff, which is partly why they are so interested in people. Hand-reared cats are typically not good candidates for breeding, so Bugara has been neutered. This allows us to exhibit the cats together even after they reach breeding age.
Sumatran tigers are critically endangered on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which is their only wild home. Their native forests are being destroyed to build unsustainable palm oil plantations.
YOU CAN HELP! Because palm oil is in thousands of everyday products, it’s hard to avoid, but you can support companies that buy only sustainably-grown palm oil. Download a free app to help you make eco-friendly shopping choices that help tigers, orangutans, and other rain forest animals.
Learn more about Sumatran tigers.
Watch a video of Indah and Bugara’s first day in Tiger Forest this spring.
Click on each photo to enlarge.
Posted in: Conservation, Tigers