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sheep

Extreme Makeover: Sheep Edition

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.

Click the photos below to enlarge to full screen.

 

orangutan

Healthy Hearts for Orangutans

Keeping animals healthy is a zoo keeper’s number one goal.  But because some health problems can remain unseen until it’s too late, zoos keepers turn to diagnostic tools for help.

Heart problems are a leading cause of death for both zoo-managed and wild orangutans and gorillas, so zoos have banded together to develop the Great Ape Heart Project, based at Zoo Atlanta.  The project is collecting data on orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas that will advance understanding of ape heart conditions. 

“This effort will help us understand what healthy ape hearts look like,” said Zoo Veterinarian Joe Smith, DVM, who serves as the veterinary advisor for the Orangutan Species Survival Plan and a member of the Great Ape Heart Project Executive Steering Committee.

At the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, keepers conduct weekly ultrasounds on our two orangutans, Tengku (male) and Melati (female), assisted by  ultrasound technicians Sue Hansen and Kathy Rutschilling.  Ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure where a probe is held against the body, and sound waves emitted from the probe generate an image of structures within the body.  The ultrasound machine was donated by Lutheran Hospital. 

Keeper Angie Selzer explains that getting ultrasound images of orangutan hearts took months of training.  “First, we had to get the orangutans used to the big ultrasound machine,” she said.  The orangutans were already trained to present their chest to the keepers, so the next step was introducing the ultrasound probe and holding it against the chest.  “We started with a piece of PVC pipe with a cap on the end, then we switched to using the real probe,” Selzer said.

All procedures are conducted through heavy wire mesh to protect keepers from the orangutans, who are far stronger than humans of equal size. 

The orangutans are now comfortable with the routine procedure except for one aspect:  the clear gel applied on the end of the ultrasound probe.  “Tengku does not like the ultrasound gel at all,” Selzer said.  “He keeps a blanket nearby to wipe off his chest after each session.” 

After Dr. Dave Kaminskas, a local cardiologist, reads the ultrasounds, then the data is sent to the Great Ape Heart Project’s database, where it will help build a healthy future for apes – both in the wild and in zoos.

Read more about orangutans here.

Big Snake Makes a Big Move

A new reticulated python named Bo has slithered onto the scene in the Indonesian Rain Forest.

When Bo made his public debut on opening day, he had zoo fans intrigued from the start.  “He is very active and curious for a big snake,” says zoo keeper Tim Jedele.  “All the zoo guests were amazed that he was moving around and looking at them through the glass.”

Bo started out his life as a pet in someone’s home, and the owner later donated Bo to the Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square in Saginaw, Michigan.  When the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s resident python, Jed, passed away over the winter and keepers began searching for a new snake, the search led them to Bo, who was rapidly outgrowing the facilities in Saginaw.   “The staff at Saginaw took excellent care of Bo,” says Jedele.  Bo’s Saginaw fans even created a special going-away card and sent it along on his trip to Fort Wayne. 

After Bo’s routine 90-day quarantine period was completed, Jedele and zoo keeper Dave Messmann loaded Bo into a crate and delivered him to the python exhibit in Dr. Diversity’s Rain Forest Research Station.  Bo, who is 15 feet long and weighs 55 pounds, immediately began exploring the trees, pond, and logs in the 20-foot-long display. 

Bo already seems comfortable in his new home in the Indonesian Rain Forest.  “Bo is a perfect fit for our exhibit,” says Jedele.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

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