Archive for Zoo News
Only 10 More Days!
We selected April 26 as our opening day way back in September of 2013, and now it’s almost here! We are nearly caught up from the challenges that the winter weather threw at us, and our staff is in high gear prepping for opening day. Here’s a list of what we’re doing this week:
- Exhibits are getting minor repairs and new paint jobs on warm days.
- Rides are being cleaned and “un-winterized” to prepare for the required state inspection they undergo every year. This winter provided a few hurdles: the Australian Adventure River Ride finally thawed at the end of March! This week, crews are reinstalling the Sky Safari ride chairs. (See the photo gallery below.)
- Landscaping crews are mulching the zoo’s many flower beds.
- New employees are being trained to take on their new tasks.
- Zoo favorites like the Lion Drinking Fountain get a makeover to look their best in your family photos!
- Last but not least, the animals who have been living in warm indoor quarters will move into their outdoor enclosures next week.
All of the staff and volunteers at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo are counting down the days to April 26. We hope you’ll join us in making 2014 the best zoo season ever!
Click on the images below 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
She’s Red, Blue & Green All Over
What zoo animal has a blue tongue, green scales, and a red tail? Our new red-tailed green ratsnake! The young female snake was approximately one week old when she arrived in November. She will eventually join the zoo’s adult male red-tailed ratsnake in the Indonesian Rain Forest.
The red-tailed green rat snake’s name is a bit misleading. Here are some fun facts about these snakes:
- Red-tailed ratsnakes are recognizable for their striking green scales and bright blue tongue, not for a red tail. As the snake develops into adulthood, it may or may not end up with a red tail. It’s tail could be red, but could also take on a brown, green, gray, or even purplish hue.
- Despite their name, red-tailed green ratsnakes are more likely to eat a rat than to be mistaken for one. This species of snake also eats birds and their eggs along with smaller reptiles.
- They are a non-venomous snake. They kill their prey by squeezing and suffocating them, a process known as “constriction”.
Red-tailed ratsnakes are native to Southeast Asia, where they are valued as a natural, ecologically-friendly means for rodent control. As such, this species has been left alone to thrive and is not endangered.
Click on the photos below to enlarge:
The Colobus Babies Have Names!
This just in – Zoo keepers have named the two colobus monkey babies at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo!
~Jibini’s baby is male and named Obi (pronouced “oh-bee”). His name means “heart.”
~Wamblenica’s baby is female and named Mchumba (pronouced “meh-choom-ba”). Her name means “sweetheart.”
Obi and Mchumba were born in late January. Click here to read the zoo’s earlier blog post announcing the colobus babies’ births.
Why did keepers wait so long to name the babies? ”We wanted to wait until we found out both of their sexes so we could give them corresponding names,” says African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson. Determining Mchumba’s sex took longer because the infant monkey clung very tightly to her mother, and keepers waited some time before approaching mom and baby. This clinging behavior is typical in colobus infants.
Zoo Keeper Jessica Walker reports that the babies are developing normally and have undergone behavioral as well as physical changes. “Since their arrival, the babies have developed rapidly! Initially they clung tight to their respective mothers, and either nursed or slept for the majority of the day. They vocalized only slightly. Now, although they still display the clinging and nursing behaviors of infancy, both babies have been moving more and have found their voices.”
Walker also notes changes in Obi and Mchumba’s physical appearance. “The first couple of days after birth the little ones were completely white. Their coloration is slowly changing to resemble the black-and-white pattern of an adult colobus monkey. The change will be more noticeable in the coming weeks.”
The photos below were taken on February 27, 2014, around the time of the babies’ one-month birthday. Click 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
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo enjoyed a baby boom during the last week of January when two black-and-white colobus monkeys were born within two days of one another.
“The fact that they were born within two days of each other was a big surprise,” stated African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson. “We were aware that both of the adult females were pregnant, but based on their size we anticipated that one mother would deliver a bit later than the other. We never expected two infants at the same time!”
The babies, which have not yet been named, were born on January 26 and January 28, 2014. They were born without complication and have displayed healthy postnatal behavior. Dr. Kami Fox, the zoo’s veterinary intern, states that “Both babies and moms are doing very well. The newborns are clinging tightly to their respective mothers, just like they should. The keepers have witnessed them nursing frequently as well.”
The colobus monkeys will live indoors until the weather permits outdoor access. During the zoo season, guests can observe the troop on exhibit in the African Journey. The following six monkeys make up the zoo’s colobus troop:
Eagleson explains why the sex of the second colobus baby remains unknown, “We have yet to determine the gender of Wamblenica’s baby because mom is extremely overprotective. Her baby clings tightly to her at all times and we’ve allowed Wamblenica some distance to avoid unintended stress on mother and baby.”
Colobus monkeys live in the rain forests of central and eastern Africa. They grow into adept climbers despite their unique hand structure. Although it is common practice to reference the “opposable thumbs” of primates, colobus monkeys lack this feature and instead use their four full-sized fingers to form a hook that helps them grasp branches. In addition to climbing, colobus monkeys can leap from tree to tree by launching themselves from a high limb on one tree to a lower limb on another. Guests of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can observe this behavior when the zoo opens on April 26.
Click on the images below to enlarge:
Posted in: Baby Animals, Monkeys, 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”?
For 22 years, thousands of children took their very first pony ride on a friendly zoo pony named Cookie. We are saddened to report that Cookie passed away last month at age 38.
“We always put first-time riders on Cookie,” said Byron Hooley, whose family has operated the zoo’s pony rides for nearly 40 years. “She could sense if kids were a little scared and would take it nice and slow.”
A 38-year-old pony is considered very old, according to Hooley.
In her advanced age, Cookie only worked a few days a week last season. “Everyone always asked for Cookie,” Hooley said. “There were so many parents who rode Cookie when they were kids, and wanted their children to have the same experience.”
“All my grandkids took their first pony ride on Cookie,” Hooley said. “She was one of those ponies who took care of her rider. Cookie will be tough to replace.”
Share your memories of Cookie on the zoo’s Facebook page.
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?