Archive for Enrichment
Zoo Keepers Turn Snow into Fun
This week’s snowfall is creating big fun for zoo keepers and animals. The extra clean-up is all in a day’s work, and zoo keepers welcomed the challenge with a fun and enriching attitude.
“We shoveled snow off the top of the lynx exhibit yesterday. It was cold and the snow was heavy but Ashley [Hubbard] and I enjoyed the work,” said zoo keeper Rachel Purcell after spending Monday morning heaving loads of snow in below-freezing weather. It was important that zoo keepers inspect the safety of all animal exhibits after Sunday night’s record snowfall, and ensure that the structures were sound.
Once the animals’ safety was in check, it was time to have a little fun with the 10+ inches of snow that nature sent our way. Animal enrichment happens every day at the zoo, and snow provides unique opportunities for enrichment that aren’t available during the warmer months.. Animal enrichment means “providing a stimulating environment that offers physical and mental challenges for an animal.”
For the goats in the Indiana Family Farm, enrichment usually involves a snack. Each time it snows, and when the weather is above 15 degrees, zoo keepers Heather Schuh and Kylie Kuchinsky let the goats outside for a taste of mother nature’s frozen treat. “Yesterday we built them a snowman with food in it,” states Kuchinsky. “They especially like molasses.”
For some zoo animals, it’s too cold to go outside during the winter months. The Javan gibbons in the Indonesian Rainforest stay indoors in their behind-the-scenes area when the weather gets chilly, but that doesn’t mean they’re left out of the fun. Zoo keeper Taylor Muzzillo brought the outdoors in this week when he offered the gibbons fresh snow flavored with sugar free drink mix.
Muzzillo loaded a large bucket with snow and brought it indoors. He then built small enrichment stations in different places around the gibbons’ behind-the-scenes area. The enrichment Muzzillo provided fell into three categories: textural, edible, and sensory – all of which provide stimulation for the animals.
“They like their snow,” stated Muzzillo. “As soon as I open the door they all come swinging in.”
Click on the photos to enlarge:
Got Pumpkins? We do! It’s that time of year again, when pumpkins and gourds take over the zoo’s landscape. They’re festive and provide the perfect backdrop for our annual Wild Zoo Halloween event, but our sea of squash is more than just décor. The pumpkins we stock also provide enrichment for the zoo’s animals.
Lemurs, red pandas, and pigs are among the many animals at the zoo who have “pumpkin playtime” on their enrichment calendars. Each animal approaches the Fall treat in a different way.
Lemurs lick honey and raisins off the outside of the pumpkins. (We can thank their zoo keepers for the five-star dinner presentation.) Red pandas forage inside pumpkins, but not for the seeds. Instead, zoo keepers fill the pandas’ pumpkins with their preferred diet of bamboo. The zoo’s pigs approach the filled pumpkins in a different way, treating each one like an “edible bowl”.
Animal enrichment is a daily event at the zoo with a variety of activities tailored to each animal’s needs. This time of year, pumpkins are aplenty and provide a seasonal twist for zoo animals.
Click on the photos to enlarge:
Posted in: Central Zoo, Enrichment, Farm Animals, Indonesian Rain Forest, Orangutans, Red Panda, Zoo News
Now THAT’S a Power Lunch!
When we say “power lunch,” we’re not talking about business executives making big decisions while noshing on a meal. No, we’re talking about actual power – like when a 200-pound alligator lunges forward, clamps its massive jaws onto a jumbo-sized rat off a stick, then swallows it whole.
Feeding the zoo’s alligators is not for the faint of heart. Zoo keepers deliver the gators’ food with long tongs, staying as far away from the reptiles as possible. The zoo’s two American alligators, Ron and Penelope, are cooperative at feeding time, but they’re far from cuddly.
Aside from rats, the alligators also eat specially-formulated biscuits and gelatin – yes, gelatin – twice a week. According to area manager Shelley Scherer, “They’re still hungry after eating the rats and biscuits. The gelatin keeps them full without adding unnecessary calories.”
Alligators were once endangered in the United States. But strong laws and careful management brought this species back from the brink of extinction. The population of alligators is now stable.
Click on the photos to enlarge:
These Big Cats are Turning Three
Indah and Bugara, the zoo’s twin Sumatran tiger siblings, are turning three this week…but their birthdays aren’t on the same day. Why not?
“Indah was born before midnight and Bugara was born shortly after,” explains zoo keeper Kristen Sliger. “So even though they’re litter-mates they have different birthdays.”
The pair arrived in Fort Wayne last spring when they were still one year old. Guests can get up close and personal with the tigers – their glass wall exhibit is designed for close (but safe) encounters. Children can have fun playing “peek-a-boo” with Indah and Bugara when the cats venture in and out of sight near the large glass viewing area.
Guest interaction keeps the tigers active, but what happens before and after hours? Sliger discusses some of the enrichment activities that tigers enjoy before and after they go out on exhibit.
“We spray Indah and Bugara with an all-natural fly spray every morning just after we put them out on exhibit,” states Sigler. “They get active during and after the spray. We think it has something to do with the mint smell and its close relation to catnip.”
Indah and Bugara eat a specially-mixed feline diet of meat and vitamins, but Sliger shares that Sunday evenings are extra-special for the pair. “Every Sunday when they come in for the night they each get a huge bone. It’s a cow’s femur.”
Each tiger gets its own bone to avoid any sibling rivalry. Indah may be a little older, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to share her treats yet.
Click on the photos to enlarge:
Look at these Animal Masterpieces
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:
Posted in: Enrichment, Zoo News
Happy Birthday to our Two-Year Olds!
The zoo’s dingo puppies celebrate their second birthday on Thursday, January 30. Zoo keepers hosted an early birthday party complete with enrichment-based gifts. The gifts, which were made by zoo volunteers, included cardboard “animals” and paper mache balls. (For more on animal enrichment, visit our website.)
Their litter includes seven pups, five of which still reside here at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. (Male dingo Brumby and female dingo Elzey now live at the Cleveland Zoo.)
The dingoes that celebrated here in Fort Wayne included:
- Mawson (male)
- Tingoora (female)
- Bunyip (male)
- Airlie (female)
- Yengo (male)
Bunyip, Mawson, and Tingoora became especially engaged with their cardboard surprises. Click on the video to watch their reaction!
Click on the images below to enlarge:
Picky Eaters? We’ve Got Them, Too!
Bill the lion may have a big appetite, but that doesn’t mean he’ll eat anything! According to African Journey Area Director Amber Eagleson, Bill’s reluctance to accept dietary change lead to his reputation as a “picky eater”.
“All our big cats eat a commercial ground-meat diet we purchase by the ton. Whenever we switch meat companies, Bill is always the last to comply. We find it ironic since he eats the largest amount of meat in the entire zoo!” states Eagleson.
Fortunately for Bill, who consumes approximately eight pounds of meat each day, the zoo changes animal diets only a supplier cannot meet the necessary nutritional requirements. To ease the transition to a new diet, Eagleson explains that “For most carnivores, we will mix 75% of the meat they are accustomed to with 25% of the new meat for a week and then go to 50:50 and then 25:75. Almost always, it is no big deal for the animal. However, Bill has given us problems almost every time.”
What’s a zoo keeper to do? In the case of Bill “The Picky Eater” Lion, the transition starts at 95% new to 5% old and proceeds gradually from there.
In the Indonesian Rain Forest, the term “picky eating” takes on a different definition. Melati, Tengku, and Tara, the zoo’s Sumatran orangutans, approach their lunch very carefully. They reach inside of pumpkins and carefully pluck out seeds one at a time. The orangutans then shell and eat each pumpkin seed until the last one is gone. According to Tanisha Dunbar, Area Director for the Indonesian Rainforest, Melati approaches the task so precisely that she finishes every last seed “without breaking a single one.”
Dunbar also points out that, “Melati can peel grapes without breaking them.” How’s that for “picky eating”?