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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:

Meet Madi the Mini-Me Lemur

Madi the ring-tailed lemur is now six weeks old and looks like a mini-me version of her mother.  Born to first-time parents Ombe and Kyna, baby Madi is doing well and growing larger and more independent each day.

“Madi is starting to move off of mom and showing interest in the things around her,” stated zoo keeper Helena Lacey.  “She’s doing great and hitting all the milestones that she should.”

An upcoming milestone is weaning from mother’s milk to solid food.  Lacey says that while zoo keepers haven’t observed Madi eating any solid food, the interest is there.  “We haven’t seen her eat anything yet but she has been reaching for the objects around her, including food.”  Lemurs munch on fruit, leaves, bark, flowers, grass, and tree sap.  The zoo’s lemurs also get corn on the cob as part of their diet.

The zoo announced Madi’s arrival on October 1.  Madi has already attracted national attention as a featured ZooBorns animal.

Madi is short for Madagascar, the home of endangered ring-tailed lemurs in the wild.

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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.

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Zoo Baby Announcement!

It’s a girl!  Madi the ring-tailed lemur was born to mother Kyna and father Ombe on September 22.  The baby is doing well and will be on exhibit for the rest of the season, weather permitting.

You may think most animal babies are born in the spring, but lemurs are typically born in the fall.  Their breeding season occurs in April and gestation lasts 4-5 months.  Ring-tailed lemurs are born with lots of hair and with eyes wide open. At first, the baby clings to its mother’s chest, but later it will ride on her back.  The young are independent after six months.

You can help support the care of Madi and other zoo animals by adopting a lemur.  (Classic animal adoptions are only $35!)

Madi is short for “Madagascar,” the home of ring-tailed lemurs in the wild.  Less than 10% of Madagascar’s forest cover remains and due to this drastic loss of habitat, ring-tailed lemurs are an endangered species.

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

north american river otters

Our Otter Has a BFF (Best Furry Friend)

Everybody needs a friend, and Warrick, our lone North American river otter, has a new one! Kramer, a young male otter, recently joined Warrick in the exhibit.

Warrick had been alone since Heather, the zoo’s female river otter, passed away last spring. Zoo staff immediately began searching for a companion for Warrick and found Kramer, an active and energetic otter who was being relocated from Louisiana.

Kramer and Warrick hit it off during their introduction period, and have become faithful companions.  According to zoo keeper Samantha Emberton, “Warrick and Kramer are very active together.  Kramer is a lot younger and he keeps Warrick moving.  We’ve also noticed Kramer picking up some of Warrick’s habits, like stuffing all of his biscuits into his mouth at the same time.”

The two otters are quickly becoming a favorite among zoo guests.  “They cuddle and play and swim together,” states Emberton.  “They’re good buddies.”

Otters were once extirpated (locally extinct) in Indiana, but were reintroduced here in the 1990s.  They are now present in several waterways in our state.

Zoo guests can visit Kramer and Warrick until the zoo closes for the season on October 12 and during the Wild Zoo Halloween, weather permitting.

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Panda Cub’s Baby Book

Maliha the red panda is 14 weeks old now and spends a lot of time outside of her nest, but it wasn’t long ago that zoo guests wondered if they’d ever get a look at the adorable cub.  As expected, it took about three months for Maliha to venture outside on her own and begin exploring her surroundings (video and photos below).

 

International Red Panda Day is this Saturday, and Zoo staff put together a Baby Book to commemorate the endangered cub’s first three months of life.   Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

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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.

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Mr. Happy: Still “Rockin'” One Year Later

Zoo fans might remember the story of Mr. Happy, a 27-year-old Blanding’s turtle who came to us last year with a serious medical issue.  The friendly turtle, who resides at Pokagon State Park, had ingested a large rock that was blocking his digestive tract.

Blanding’s turtles are endangered in Indiana, so Mr. Happy is an important ambassador for our state’s wildlife.  When he got sick and stopped eating last year, park officials and zoo staff were quick to respond.  You can read about his surgery here.

We’re happy to report that one year later, Mr. Happy is doing great!  Staff from the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo recently paid a visit to Mr. Happy and his caregivers and discovered that the turtle is healthy and thriving.

Interpretive naturalist Mandi Webb spoke of the turtle’s healthy appetitie, “He’s doing very well.  He eats a lot.  We call Mr. Happy the ‘finisher-upper’ because of how much he eats.”  Webb works with Mr. Happy almost every day and stated that his appetite never wanes.

Long-time park naturalist Fred Wooley concurred with Webb, “Mr. Happy is doing very well.  We’re fortunate to have contacts within the animal conservation field who will provide medical care for sick or injured animals.  Blanding’s turtles can live to be 80 and Mr. Happy is eating and behaving normally.”

To demonstrate his vigor, Pokagon staff arranged a race for Mr. Happy.  His opponent was Mr. Box, an eastern box turtle who resides with Mr. Happy at the park’s Nature Center.

Although Mr. Happy didn’t win this time, Webb assured his fans that the turtle wasn’t upset about the loss.  “Mr. Happy does win races sometimes, but he’s easily distracted.  Sometimes he just wants to stop and look at the leaves on the ground.”

Perhaps Mr. Happy’s story has a lesson to offer:  Don’t race too quickly to the finish line without stopping to enjoy the journey.

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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.

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