Archive for Farm Animals

Zoo Keepers Turn Snow into Fun

rachel purcell zoo keeeper in snow

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.”

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Posted in: Central Zoo, Enrichment, Farm Animals, Gibbons, Indonesian Rain Forest, Zoo News

Got Pumpkins?

pig with pumpkin

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.

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Posted in: Central Zoo, Enrichment, Farm Animals, Indonesian Rain Forest, Orangutans, Red Panda, Zoo News

Guess Which Animal Weighs 120 Pounds

goat zoo scale

If you visited the Indiana Family Farm at the zoo last weekend, you might have noticed that our goats got some extra attention from zoo keepers.  Many of our guests were curious why the goats were paraded, one at a time, into a nearby barn.  It was goat-weighing day, of course!

The zoo keeps a variety of records on each of its animals, including weight.  Zoo keepers track each goat’s weight throughout the year to look for any fluctuations.  Keeping accurate health records, including weight, helps zoo keepers and vet staff monitor for changes in the animals.  This in turn helps the keepers and staff to spot potential health concerns early.

“We weigh each goat monthly, or more often if we have concerns about the animal not eating enough,” states zoo keeper Chase Caldwell.

With goats, however, keeping up a robust diet usually isn’t a problem.  Most of the zoo’s goats will try to eat almost anything, including maps, purses, shoe laces, and even the scale.  “It’s a goat thing,” says Caldwell.  “They like to test everything out to see if they can eat it.  We don’t even have to train them to step onto the scale.  We just put food out and they step right up.”

Which goat topped the scale?  It was Oliver, a buff-colored male weighing in at 55.3 kilograms (about 120 pounds).

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Posted in: Central Zoo, Farm Animals, Zoo News

Extreme Makeover: Sheep Edition

sheep

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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Posted in: Farm Animals, Zoo News