Archive for Indonesian Rain Forest
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:
The Baby Boom Continues
The zoo’s baby boom continues as zoo keepers welcome a new addition to the Indonesian Rain Forest…a teeny, tiny, two-inch crocodile skink. It’s the first time this reptile species has ever been hatched at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo! This imperious addition to the animal kingdom weighed-in at two grams, approximately the weight of a pencil eraser.
Although its name implies a lizard of force and stature, this particular crocodile skink began its life cycle in a fragile state.
Late last year, zoo keepers discovered by accident that the adult crocodile skinks had produced an egg. Dave Messmann, a zoo keeper in the Indonesian Rain Forest, accidentally disturbed the egg while cleaning the skinks’ aquarium. “We were concerned about the disturbance. It’s a best-practice to avoid moving a reptile egg once it’s discovered, ” Messmann stated. He also explained the reason why zoo keepers would have preferred avoidance, “An air pocket inside the egg can shift if the egg is moved, potentially causing the embryo to suffocate.”
Hoping for the best, zoo keepers decided to incubate the egg and observe. They constructed an incubator by filling a deli tub with wet moss and poking holes in the tub’s lid. The egg was carefully placed atop the moss and the tub was placed on a shelf. The egg was then allowed to incubate at room temperature, undisturbed. After sixty days, a live hatchling was observed!
At eleven days old, the crocodile skink baby weighed-in at 2 grams. Now thirty days old, the baby is doing fine and continues to develop normally. It will likely reach an adult length of eight inches and top-out at one pound.
Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.
Click on the pictures to enlarge:
For Your Zoo-to-Do List…
Maggie, a very friendly green-naped pheasant pigeon in Indonesian Rain Forest, experienced a life-changing event in August when she was introduced to Zazu, a male pheasant pigeon. Maggie and Zazu quickly became a pair, and recently welcomed a new baby!
Winter has been a busy time for Maggie and Zazu. They built a nest on the forest floor and took turns incubating their single egg. Now that their chick has hatched, both parents hunt for seeds, fruit, and insects to feed their chick.
Feeding a new baby bird is a tireless job, but all their work is paying off. The new chick is already half the size of its parents and will soon be foraging for food on its own.
Keepers are eager to learn the chick’s gender, but they’ll have to wait until they can catch it. The chick is always on the move and darts behind vegetation when approached. ”The way we determine a pheasant pigeon’s sex is by doing a blood draw. We’re waiting until the baby gets a little older and more comfortable with the staff before we approach it,” says zoo keeper Tiffany Jones.
Green-naped pheasant pigeons are native to New Guinea and nearby islands, and they are considered endangered in parts of their range. Pheasant pigeons are non-flighted birds, but they can glide for short distances. The zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan for these birds to manage breeding and maintain a genetically healthy zoo population.
Because she often strolled alongside the rain forest boardwalk, Maggie is well-known to zoo guests. We’ll see if she returns to her old habits this summer when her chick becomes independent. Visit Maggie and see if you can spot the new chick when the zoo opens for the season on April 26.
Click on the images below to enlarge:
Posted in: Baby Animals, Birds, Indonesian Rain Forest, Zoo News
How Many Keepers Does it take to Hold a Python?
When Bo the reticulated python got his annual physical last week, it took seven people just to hold onto this unusual patient in the Indonesian Rain Forest.
At 15’ 3” long, Bo is 61 pounds of pure muscle and squirmed mightily to express his displeasure at this visit from the vet.
Zoo staffers get their hands on this powerful snake only once a year, so despite Bo’s protests, zoo veterinarians Dr. Joe Smith and Dr. Kami Fox wanted to examine every inch of him (one hundred eighty-three inches, to be exact!)
Lead snake keeper Dave Messmann held Bo’s head while other keepers and veterinary staff lined up to stretch out the snake. Keepers inspected Bo’s skin, looking for irregularities in his scales or lumps under the skin.
Messmann gently held Bo’s mouth open with a rubber spatula so Dr. Fox could examine the snake’s teeth. A string was run down Bo’s spine to determine his exact length, and Dr. Fox drew blood from Bo’s tail for testing.
“Bo is a healthy snake,” said Dr. Smith after the exam. As if he was trying to prove his excellent physical condition, Bo downed a tasty rat immediately after being returned to his exhibit.
New Year, New Babies!
Zoo keepers got a big surprise last month when a tentacled snake in the Indonesian Rain Forest gave birth to seven babies overnight!
Zoo keepers knew that the female snake was pregnant, but weren’t sure when the babies would arrive. An ultrasound done in December revealed a tangle of little snakes inside the mother.
Dr. Kami Fox, the zoo’s veterinary intern states that the length of gestation and anticipated due date for tentacled snakes is difficult to determine. “We try to assess how far along they are via ultrasound but rarely do we witness the actual birth. In this particular case, the snake gave birth during the night and in the morning we observed the new babies.”
Tentacled snakes are ovoviviparous, which means they produce eggs inside their body, but instead of laying eggs they give birth to live young. Here’s how it works: The unborn snakes are nourished via egg yolk (the mother has no placenta), and the eggs hatch prior to birth. The mother snake then delivers live young.
Tentacled snakes are ambush hunters. According to Zoo Keeper Dave Messmann, “They use their tails to anchor themselves and wait for their prey.” At this point, the unique tentacles for which the species is named allow the snake to sense vibration from the unsuspecting prey – usually a small fish. Once the predator becomes aware of its prey it strikes with its mouth. The strike is lightning-fast, lasting only a matter of milliseconds.
Baby tentacled snakes begin hunting just hours after birth. According to Dr. Fox, “The babies come out hungry so we provide size-appropriate fish for them.”
The only known predator to tentacled snakes is humans.
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”?
There’s A New Bird in Town!
Meet Leonard, our newest resident in the Indonesian Rain Forest. Leonard is a crested wood partridge, or “roul roul” (short for his Latin name Rollulus rouloul). Born on May 16, 2013, he traveled to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo from Milwaukee. His diet includes a mix of corn and seeds similar to the items that a roul roul might forage from the forest floor. Although they can fly short distances, roul rouls spend the majority of their life in low-lying areas. In fact, roul roul chicks begin walking and foraging on their own just one week after they’re born!
The crested wood partridge is a near-threatened species. They nest and forage in the tropical rain forests and bamboo thickets of Southeast Asia, and their primary threat is habitat destruction. Here are some of the areas that the crested wood partridge calls home:
- Thailand (southern)
- Burma (southern)
Keep an eye out for Leonard when the zoo reopens this spring - you may be able to spot him strutting the forest floor in the Jungle Dome! Visit our Conservation page to learn more about the zoo’s commitment to saving wild animals and wild places.
Posted in: Birds, Indonesian Rain Forest
Where Do the Animals Go in the Winter?
At the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, we often hear the question, “Where do the animals go in the winter?” The answer is – They stay right here! The zoo is quieter since we closed for the season on October 13, but our animals and zoo keepers haven’t gone anywhere. Some animals spend the winter outdoors, some indoors, and many have the opportunity to do both. Here’s a list of where a few of our animals spend their fall and winter “vacation”:
Why do some of the animals stay in while others go out? According to African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson, it all depends on something called ”access temperature”. The access temperature is the threshold that’s safe for a particular species. “Zoo keepers monitor the outdoor temperature to determine whether an animal can go outside”, states Eagleson. Access temperature varies considerably, even for animals from the same geographic region. For example, giraffes have an access temperature of 45 degrees. African birds can endure much lower temperatures. Eagleson states that “Ostriches have an access temp of zero degrees and for storks it’s five to ten degrees.”
The animals of the Indonesian Rain Forest also have a diverse range of access temperatures. According to Area Manager Tanisha Dunbar, primates venture outdoors as long as temperatures are above 40 degrees. The 40-degree threshold also applies to tigers. Says Dunbar, “Some of the animals have continuous access to the outdoors, and some go out on exhibit if the weather allows it.” The birds of the rain forest, however, spend the off-season inside the rain forest dome.
So although the zoo is closed for the season, the animals are still here…with the exception of one group. The horses and ponies spend the winter off-site at a family farm.
The animals of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo will all be here and ready for opening day on April 26. Will you join us?