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orangutans fort wayne zoo

First Photos! – Baby Asmara Explores Her Exhibit

Asmara, a 16-week old Sumatran orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, went into Orangutan Valley for the first time last week. Until now, Asmara and her mother, Tara, have been living in an off-exhibit bedroom adjacent to the main exhibit.

On their first day in the exhibit, Asmara clung tightly to her mother as Tara explored high up in the trees.  Zoo keeper Angie Selzer watched nervously, buy all went well. “Tara climbed very high right away, but Asmara clung tightly just like she would in the wild,” she said.

Prior to the big day, the exhibit underwent extensive baby-proofing.  Zoo keepers covered the floor with soft straw and checked the trees, walls, and vines for potential safety issues.  The City of Fort Wayne’s tree crews even got involved, helping to reinforce the vines and hammocks.

Will you get to see Tara and Asmara when the zoo opens on April 25?  Zoo keepers are working toward that goal. Indonesian Rain Forest area manager Tanisha Dunbar explained, “The goal is to mix all four of our orangutans behind-the-scenes, and once they’re comfortable, we’ll let them all go out on exhibit together,” said Dunbar.  “And they always have a choice.  They can choose whether or not to go out each morning, although Tara’s never been one to stay behind-the-scenes.”

Born on November 22 to Tara and her mate, Tengku, Asmara is important to the future of Sumatran orangutans, which are Critically Endangered.  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:

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:

 

 

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:

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”?

kids4nature logo 107

Did You Help Us Change the World in 2013?

If you visited the Kids4Nature Kiosk this summer, then you sure did!  With your help, we directed $80,000 to the zoo’s Conservation Programs.  More than 180,000 zoo guests voted by releasing a metal washer into one of three coin funnels this season.   

So who won?

  • African Lions got 43% of the votes 
  • Javan Gibbons earned 34%
  • Sandhill Cranes secured 23%
Every vote counts!

Every vote counts!

We will soon send more than $80,000 to these and other organizations to support their conservation work.  By voting at the Kids4Nature Kiosk, making donations, and rounding up  at the Wild Things Gift Shop,  you’ve helped us to protect animals and their habitats.  Thank you to everyone who got involved.  Together we’re changing the world!

For a complete listing of the Zoo’s conservation commitments, click here.

Click on a photo of one of this year’s featured projects to enlarge:

capuchin monkey and pumpkin

Pumpkin Playtime

Animals and pumpkins may seem like an unlikely pairing, but they are a big hit at the zoo.  With so many pumpkins here for the Wild Zoo Halloween, zoo keepers are grabbing gourds to use as enrichment with the animals.

Enrichment is the practice of introducing novel foods and objects to provide mental and physical stimulation for the animals.  

Pumpkins can be used as toys, food, or a container for treats.  The dingoes’ pumpkins were covered in papier-mâché to make them extra-challenging to open.  The red pandas got pumpkins stuffed with bamboo leaves and grapes, and the capuchin monkeys received jack-o-lanterns with treats inside.  The orangutans simply cracked open the pumpkins and ate the seeds!

Enjoy these photos of zoo critters with their pumpkins – click on the photos to enlarge.

 

Tengku orangutan wearing hard hat

6 Things You Never Knew About Orangutans

With the spotlight on Tara, our new orangutan, we’re sharing some orangutan insights this week!

1. Orangutans are lazy
It’s true – even wild orangutans sleep late and take lots of naps.  Because they are so intelligent, they know exactly which trees are fruiting.  They’ll go directly to the food source, eat, then rest.  No need to wander the forest all day searching for a meal! 

2. Orangutans make their beds
In the wild, orangutans arrange leaves and branches to make a comfy nest.  Check out this video of Tengku, our male orangutan, making a nest out of blankets and shredded paper.   

3. Orangutans are tree-dwellers
Wild orangutans rarely descend to the ground, and the same is true at the zoo.  The artificial trees and vines in Orangutan Valley allow our orangutans to move just as they would in the forest.   Tengku shows how it’s done in the video below. 

4. Orangutans use umbrellas
In the rain forest, orangutans hold big leaves above their heads when it rains.  At the zoo, our orangutans put blankets, hats, and paper bags on their heads.

5. Orangutans aren’t monkeys
Along with gorillas, chimpanzees, and gibbons, orangutans belong to the group of primates called apes.  Apes have bigger brains and are generally larger than monkeys.  The easiest way to tell them apart:  monkeys have tails, apes don’t.

6. Orangutans need our help
Found only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, orangutans are in trouble.  Sumatran orangutan populations have declined up to 80% since the 1950s, mainly because their habitat is being destroyed.  You can help by shopping responsibly for products that contain palm oil, which is grown in Sumatra and is found in many everyday products. Get a free mobile app to help with your shopping choices. 

Learn more about orangutans
  

Meet Tara, the zoo’s newest orangutan!

Click on the photos below to enlarge.