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Hello, Goodbye: Red Panda Update

Big changes are happening at the red panda exhibit.  We’re saying goodbye to two old friends, hello to a new one, and maybe preparing for a new arrival.

Zoo fans got to know Maliha the red panda cub in 2014.  Maliha was born to mother Xiao and father Junji on June 9.  A team of zoo keepers and veterinarian staff monitored the little cub closely for the first few months, while the path to her exhibit remained closed in an effort to minimize disturbances.  Near the end of the 2014 season, Maliha did venture out into her exhibit and zoo guests had a chance to meet her before we closed in October.

Zoo staff is happy to report that Maliha is still thriving and that the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has received a new breeding recommendation for Xiao!

The breeding of red pandas is overseen by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.  The goal of the SSP is to maximize genetic diversity in zoo-dwelling populations of endangered and threatened animals.

What does all of this mean for the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo?  First, it means that a new male red panda has come to Fort Wayne.  His name is Mars and he’s currently getting acquainted with his new mate, Xiao.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Second, male red panda Junji has been called to relocate to Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden in Evansville.  There is a breeding recommendation in place for Junji and his new mate, Celeste.

Finally, the SSP has recommended relocation for Maliha, which will likely occur in early April, 2015.  Maliha’s new home will be Potter Park Zoo in Lansing Michigan. Red pandas reach sexual maturity at approximately 1 year, 7 months of age, which means Maliha will not be ready to breed until 2016.

In the meantime, Maliha will continue living at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo with her mom Xiao and new friend Mars.  Mars met both females on February 3 and the introductions have gone smoothly.

With all going according to plan, can zoo fans expect panda babies in 2015?  Probably not, but it’s not out of the question.  Area manager Shelly Scherer explains, “Red panda breeding season is January through February.  We are not too optimistic that we will have cubs this summer; however since their breeding season does run until the end of February, there still is a chance.”

Red pandas are native to the forested foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in China and Nepal, where they feed primarily on bamboo.  They are classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Though red pandas 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.”

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

Credit to zoo keeper Helena Lacey for Mars photo.

zoo keepers in snow

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:

baby orangutan fort wayne childrens zoo

Baby Orangutan Turns Two Months Old

Baby Asmara turns 2 months old this week!  The critically endangered Sumatran orangutan was born at the zoo on November 22.  Her parents are Tara and Tengku, two of the zoo’s adult orangutans.  Asmara and mom Tara are doing well behind-the-scenes and zoo fans frequently send us questions via social media about the baby.

Angie Selzer is a zoo keeper who cares for the orangutans.  She was present during Tara’s labor and witnessed the delivery of Asmara.  Selzer explains the day-to-day life of Asmara, “She spends all of her time with her mom.  Most of the time she’s nursing or sleeping in her nest.  She grips onto her mom well.”

Developing a strong grip is important for orangutans.  As Asmara grows she’ll begin climbing and swinging from tree to tree.  Selzer reports that Asmara’s development is progressing normally and that Tara is gradually introducing some early independence into her baby’s routine, “Tara is doing a really good job.  She gives Asmara tummy time and has been showing Asmara how to grip onto things other than just mom.”

Dr. Joe Smith is the zoo’s veterinarian.  He explains why the vet staff and keepers have chosen to limit behind-the-scenes access to media and even to most zoo staff, “Orangutan infants have a naïve immune system, just like human babies do, and they can contract many of the same diseases that we humans can carry.  Plus, we’re right in the middle of flu season so we’re choosing to be cautious.”

Dr. Smith stated that baby Asmara’s development is going well and that her vet staff and keepers do not have any medical concerns at this time.

About 320 Sumatran orangutans live in zoos worldwide, and an average of 15 babies are born each year in the world’s zoos. In the wild, these red-furred apes are found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, where the population is in drastic decline due to illegal hunting and the destruction of their forest homes to build palm oil plantations. Fewer than 7,000 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild. Some experts predict orangutans could become extinct in the wild within a few decades if circumstances remain unchanged.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

 

 

toads fort wayne zoo

Yes, Toads are Cute.

Really, they are! —————–>

 OK, so maybe you’re still on the fence about whether toads are cute or just plain toad-looking.  Take a look at the photos below.  The fire-bellied toads in the Indonesian Rain Forest welcomed several groups of babies this year, and they definitely get a “cute” vote from the staff here at the zoo!

Want to help native toads and frogs?  Participate in FrogWatch and help gather data about amphibians in your backyard.  Training classes are coming up in February.

Click on the photos to enlarge and see our baby toads grow up:

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

Baby orangutan, 2 weeks

7 FAQs about our Baby Orangutan Answered

Tara, a Sumatran orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, delivered a healthy baby girl on November 22.  Zoo staff named the baby Asmara, which means “love,” and she is the first Sumatran orangutan born at any zoo in the United States in 2014.  Asmara represents a significant addition to the population of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, and the zoo has received many questions on Facebook and Twitter about this special little ape.

Here are the answers to 7 Frequently Asked Questions about baby Asmara:

Q:  When can people see the baby?
A:  Mom Tara and baby Asmara are getting to know one another and only limited zoo staff are permitted to see them.  This is to allow quiet bonding time for the pair.  We expect that Tara and Asmara will be out on exhibit when the zoo reopens on April 25.

Q:  Will the new baby stay in Fort Wayne?
A:  Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered.  The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo participates in the Species Survival Program managed by the AZA. As such, we work with the program to ensure genetic diversity in zoos and sometimes animals are called to live elsewhere. While we don’t know all that the future will hold, we do know that orangutans mature slowly and Tara’s baby will require maternal care for the next 6-8 years.

Q:  Where are Asmara and Tara right now?
A:  They’re currently living in the orangutan bedrooms, which are adjacent to the orangutan exhibit.  They share a bedroom separate from the other orangutans.

Q:  Do the zoo keepers get to hold and feed the baby?
A:  Zoo keepers have not fed Asmara, nor have they handled her.  Tara is doing everything she should to care for her baby, including nursing.

Q:  Who delivered Asmara?
A:  Zoo keepers observed Tara’s delivery in case of complications but did not assist.  Tara delivered her baby on her own.

Q:  Has Tengku met his baby yet?
A:  Tara has been in a separate bedroom from adult orangutans Tengku (Asmara’s father) and Melati since about a week before giving birth. All the orangutans have had visual and auditory contact the entire time, through labor, delivery and afterwards.  Both Tengku and Melati are interested in the baby.

Q:  Will all the orangutans ever be allowed to share the same space?
A:  Yes, eventually.  When zoo keepers do start introductions, it will be gradual through a mesh barrier first and then physical contact in the behind-the-scenes area.  The current plan will be to introduce Tengku with Tara and Asmara first and then to introduce Melati to the group.

 

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

Zoo Names Baby Orangutan

A baby Sumatran orangutan born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on November 22 has a name – one that reflects how special she is to the zoo and the entire population of these endangered apes. Her name is Asmara, which translates to “love” in Indonesian.

Now 11 days old, Asmara and her mother, 19-year-old Tara, are bonding behind-the-scenes at the zoo’s orangutan exhibit. Asmara is developing normally and Tara is providing excellent maternal care. Like all orangutan infants, Asmara clings to her mother constantly and will continue to do so for the next several months.

As the only Sumatran orangutan to be born in a United States zoo so far in 2014, Asmara represents an important addition to the zoo-dwelling orangutan population.  About 320 Sumatran orangutans live in zoos worldwide, and only about 15 babies are born each year in the world’s zoos.  Fewer than 7,000 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild forests of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The breeding Tara with 28-year-old Tengku was recommended by the Orangutan Species Survival Plan, a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that seeks to maintain genetic diversity within zoo-dwelling populations of endangered and threatened animals.

Because Asmara is Tara’s first baby and Tara has never observed another female caring for an infant, officials were concerned that she may not know how to care for her baby.   Zoo staff had extensive plans in place should Tara fail to provide care, but so far, none of those measures have been needed.

Zoo fans can watch for baby photos on the zoo’s Facebook and Twitter pages in the coming weeks.  Zoo guests will have their first chance to see the new baby when the zoo opens for the season on April 25.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

 

baby orangutan fort wayne zoo

Baby Orangutan Born at the Zoo

Tara, a Sumatran orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, delivered a healthy female baby in the early morning hours of Saturday, November 22.

The baby is the only Sumatran orangutan born in a United States zoo in 2014, so she represents a significant addition to the population of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans.

“We are thrilled with the outcome so far,” said Zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon. “Tara is doing everything she should to care for her baby.”

Zoo keepers and veterinary staff expected 19-year-old Tara to give birth between mid-November and early December.  They had been watching Tara by remote camera overnight for several weeks.  When keepers observed Tara pacing late Friday in her off-exhibit bedroom, they suspected she was in labor and arrived at the zoo to monitor the birth.  Tara’s labor lasted a few hours, and she delivered her baby unassisted.

Immediately following the delivery, Tara began cleaning her infant and placed it in her nest – a pile of wood wool and blankets – where she sleeps at night.  The baby was first observed nursing Sunday morning.

No name has yet been chosen for the baby.  For now, Tara and the baby are staying in the bedrooms adjacent to the zoo’s orangutan exhibit.

Tara’s pregnancy was announced in October.  Orangutans are pregnant for an average of 245 days, or a little over eight months.  The baby’s father is Tengku, the zoo’s 28-year-old male orangutan, who arrived in Fort Wayne from Zoo Atlanta in 1995.

Zoo officials are cautiously optimistic about the baby’s future.  Because this is Tara’s first baby and she has never observed another female caring for an infant, officials were concerned that she may not know how to care for her baby.

To address any potential issues with the birth, zoo keepers spent the last several months preparing an extensive Birth Management Plan.  Prior to the birth, zoo keepers used a plush stuffed toy and operant conditioning to train Tara to bring her “baby” to keepers who could bottle-feed it if Tara failed to nurse.  Tara has also been trained to present her nipple to keepers to nurse a baby, in the event that keepers must provide daily care for the infant.

“So far, none of these measures has been needed,” said Weldon.  “Tara is proving to be a good mother.”

The breeding of Tara with Tengku was recommended by the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that seeks to maintain genetic diversity within populations of endangered animals.  Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in 2013 from the Columbus Zoo.  Lori Perkins of Zoo Atlanta chairs the Orangutan SSP, and she says that only eight other orangutans have been born in United States Zoos in 2014, but all are Bornean orangutans – a separate subspecies from the Sumatran orangutans that are held at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  Perkins notes that two other Sumatran orangutans are currently pregnant at other US zoos.

Zoo fans can watch for baby photos on the zoo’s Facebook and Twitter pages in the coming weeks. Zoo guests will have their first chance to see the new baby when the zoo opens for the season on April 25.  “Orangutans grow very slowly, so this baby will still be clinging to mom and learning to climb when the zoo opens in the spring,” said Weldon.  Orangutans have the longest childhood of any animal other than humans, and require maternal care until they are six to eight years old.

About 320 Sumatran orangutans live in zoos worldwide, and an average of 15 babies are born each year in the world’s zoos.  In the wild, these red-furred apes are found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, where the population is in drastic decline due to illegal hunting and the destruction of their forest homes to build palm oil plantations.  Fewer than 7,000 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild.  Some experts predict orangutans could become extinct in the wild within a few decades if circumstances remain unchanged.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

crocodile skink baby lizard zoo

Meet a Cute New Zoo Baby

The zoo’s crocodile skinks have done it again – they had another baby!  The newest member of the family is just 2 weeks old and every bit as cute as its 9-month old sibling.

Zoo keepers observed an egg back in August and began planning for a hatchling.  On November 3 the egg hatched and a healthy baby emerged.  Zoo keeper Dave Messmann offered a report on the lizard, “It was a normal hatchling and seems to be doing very well.  It eats live crickets and it’s getting bigger.”

Messmann held the baby skink to show how small it really is (see photo below.)  Although it’s still tiny, weighing no more than a few grams, the skink will increase in size significantly over the next several months.  Its older sibling has quadrupled in size since birth and the zoo’s adult crocodile skinks weigh approximately one pound each.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

pig with pumpkin

Got Pumpkins?

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:

 

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo orangutan

Tara the Orangutan is Pregnant

Tara, a Sumatran orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, is expecting a baby this fall. This is the first pregnancy for 19-year-old Tara, and the baby would be the second orangutan ever born at the zoo.

“We’re excited about Tara’s pregnancy and the chance to add to the population of this critically endangered species,” says Zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon.

The baby is due sometime from mid-November to early December.  The father is Tengku, the zoo’s 28-year-old male orangutan, who arrived in Fort Wayne from Zoo Atlanta in 1995.  Orangutans are pregnant for an average of 245 days, or a little over eight months.

Tara came to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in April 2013 from the Columbus Zoo in Ohio and was introduced to Tengku and Melati, a 29-year-old female orangutan, about a month after arriving.  Zoo keepers regularly monitor Tara’s hormonal cycles and after changes were noted in her cycle this spring, zoo keepers used a human pregnancy test kit to confirm the pregnancy. (Certain brands of over-the-counter tests are known to react accurately with orangutan hormones.)

The breeding of Tara with Tengku was recommended by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that seeks to maintain genetic diversity within populations of endangered animals.  About 320 Sumatran orangutans live in zoos worldwide, and only about 15 babies are born each year in the world’s zoos.  These red-furred apes are found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, where the population is in drastic decline due to illegal hunting and the destruction of their forest homes to build palm oil plantations.

At age 19, “Tara is the perfect age for breeding,” says Zoo Keeper Angie Selzer, who cares for the orangutans.   However, Tara has never given birth, nor has she lived with another female who has delivered a baby. As a result, Tara may not know how to raise an infant.  “Orangutans learn by watching others,” says Weldon.  “If Tara’s never observed maternal behavior, she may not know how to take care of a baby.”

To address any potential issues with the birth, zoo keepers have prepared an extensive Birth Management Plan.  Using a plush stuffed toy and operant conditioning, Tara has been trained to bring her “baby” to keepers who will bottle-feed it if Tara fails to nurse.  Tara has also been trained to present her nipple to keepers to nurse her baby, in the event that keepers must provide daily care for the infant.

In 2006, female orangutan Sayang delivered the first orangutan ever born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  Just one hour after giving birth to a healthy male infant, Sayang collapsed and died unexpectedly from a blood clot in her lungs.

The baby, named Dumadi, was cared for around the clock by zoo keepers until he was eight months old.  He moved to Zoo Atlanta in 2007, where he was fostered by Madu, an experienced mother, and integrated in to the zoo’s orangutan group.  Orangutans have the longest childhood of any animal other than humans, and require maternal care until they are six to eight years old.