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baby red panda cub fort wayne

Red Panda Cub Gets a Name

She’s strong and she’s beautiful, and now the zoo’s six-week-old red panda cub has a name to match.  Zoo keepers have bestowed the name “Maliha” on the little female cub – a name that means “strong and beautiful” in a Nepalese language.

Zoo Keeper Helena Lacey, who works with the red pandas daily, chose the cub’s name to reflect her wild heritage – red pandas are native to Nepal and China – and to fit the cub’s personality.  “I also wanted her name to reflect the whole journey we’ve been on with our red pandas for the last three years,” she said.  “Plus, she is a very strong cub, and beautiful too!”

Maliha still spends all her time in an air-conditioned nest box with her mother, five-year-old Xiao, but is gradually becoming more active, Lacey says. “Maliha rolls around, plays with her feet, and stays awake more,” she says.  “She tries to walk, but her feet still slide out from under her.”

Red panda cubs typically remain in the nest box for about three months. This means that zoo guests have little chance of seeing the cub until late August or early September.  Zoo keepers monitor Xiao and Maliha via a remote camera mounted in the nest box. This video shows Maliha as she discovers her paws:

Though Maliha is thriving, she still faces other hurdles. “Weaning is a critical time for red panda cubs as they make the transition from mother’s milk to solid food,” explained Lacey.  Weaning occurs when the cub is five to six months old.

The path to the red panda exhibit remains closed to zoo guests in an effort to minimize disturbances for the new family.  Guests can sometimes see Junjie, the cub’s father, lounging on branches in the exhibit.

Maliha is weighed regularly to ensure that she is receiving appropriate maternal care.  She has more than quadrupled her birth weight of 139 grams and now weighs 545 grams (about 1.25 pounds).

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

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:

baby red panda Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

First Peek at Baby Red Panda

We’re happy to announce that our 30-day-old female red panda cub, born on June 9, has passed a critical milestone and is doing well.  These photos give you a peek at the little cub, who remains behind the scenes in the nest box with her mother.

“About half of all red panda cubs die within 30 days after birth,” says Animal Curator Mark Weldon.  “We are obviously pleased that our cub has made it this far.” 

This is the third litter of cubs to be born to female Xiao, age 5, and her 6-year-old mate, Junjie.  Two cubs were born to Xiao in 2012, and a single cub was born in 2013; none of these cubs survived longer than two weeks.  Red pandas are an endangered species.

“We remain cautiously optimistic about the cub,” said Shelley Scherer, who supervises the Central Zoo and Australian Adventure.  “This cub was born healthy and had an above average birth weight.  Xiao is also a more experienced mother, which has certainly been a factor.”

“This cub is feisty, squirmy, and chubby,” said Zoo Keeper Helena Lacey, who works with the red pandas daily. 

Though the cub has survived the first 30 days, she still faces other hurdles. “Weaning is a critical time for red panda cubs as they make the transition from mother’s milk to solid food,” explained Lacey.  Weaning occurs when the cub is five to six months old.

Zoo keepers monitor the duo via a remote camera mounted in the nest box.  “They sleep most of the time, but we also see Xiao grooming herself and the cub,” said Lacey.  Xiao leaves the nest box several times a day to eat climb in the exhibit. 

Xiao and her cub spend nearly all of their time tucked in a nest box within the red panda exhibit, where Xiao nurses, grooms, and sleeps next to her cub.  This is natural behavior for red pandas, who nest in hollow trees in the wild.  Cubs typically remain in the nest box for about three months, which means zoo guests have little chance of seeing the cub until late August or early September.

Three to four times a week, zoo keepers distract Xiao with a tasty bamboo branch and quickly weigh the cub.  So far, the cub is gaining weight, and has more than tripled her birth weight of 139 grams to 454 grams (about one pound).  Twice a week, they perform a more thorough exam on the cub, checking for any abnormalities.

The cub’s eyes are now open, and she makes high-pitched squeals during her weigh-ins and checkups. 

The path to the red panda exhibit remains closed to zoo guests in an effort to minimize disturbances for the new family. 

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

Red pandas are native to the forested foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in China and Nepal, where they feed primarily on bamboo.  Though they 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:

frog zoo attraction

Ribbit. Croak. Blurp.

A core component of the zoo’s mission is “inspiring people to care.”  One of the ways that inspiration manifests itself is through the grassroots conservation efforts of zoo fans like YOU. Back in March, the zoo trained local volunteers on a program called FrogWatch USA.  The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) started FrogWatch USA more than ten years ago a way for “individuals and families to learn about the wetlands in their communities and help conserve amphibians by reporting the calls of local frogs and toads.”  (Source: https://www.aza.org/frogwatch/) 

This type of grassroots, research-driven conservation is also known as “citizen science.”  Kathy Terlizzi, Volunteer Coordinator with the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo oversees the zoo’s FrogWatch USA program.  Terlizzi trains new volunteers every year in March so that they can observe and report on frog calls throughout the season.  Terlizzi states that, “Volunteers are out in Fort Wayne right now listening for frogs and reporting their results online.  They’ll be uploading their data all summer long.”

frog watch USA zoo conservation

Frogs are an important part of our ecosystem, and FrogWatch USA is helping to conserve many species around the country.  It’s not all work, though.  Terlizzi notes that, “The fun they have while participating is an added bonus!”

Do you want to learn more about Indiana frogs and hear their calls?  Click here for the AZA’s Indiana Frogs page.  You could join us in March to train as a FrogWatch citizen scientist!

frog zoo attraction

Trained volunteers listen for local frog calls and report them to a national scientific database.

 

kangaroo zoo attraction

Get the Scoop on Australia

We’re building a new Australian Adventure!  Phase I is already underway and includes a new Ice Cream Shoppe, expanded seating for the Outpost Grille, new restroom facilities, and a new entrance near the train station.  Oh, and speaking of the train, crews are installing a new grade-level train crossing complete with authentic railroad crossing gates.

ice cream zoo attraction

Construction professionals put the finishing touches on the new Ice Cream Shoppe

 Buy Recognition Tile Button

The Australian Adventure first opened in 1987, funded entirely with donations.  The new Australian Adventure will be built with donations as well.  Construction for Phase I of this $7 million project is well underway, and we’ve already raised more than $5 million toward our goal.  You can help by purchasing an engraved Recognition Tile with your contribution of $400.  Contributions of $1000 or more will also be recognized on a permanent aluminum plaque.

Your Recognition Tile will be part of a one-of-a-kind sculptural display near new Australian Adventure entrance.  We’ll engrave your tile with your family name, the names of your children or grandchildren, or in memory of a loved one.   

What will Phases II and III have in store?  Plenty!  Here’s a condensed version of the plans:

Welcome to Stingray Bay

See eye to eye with gentle stingrays as they glide across a shallow pool in a brand-new exhibit that’s sure to be a highlight of the new Australian Adventure.  Housed in the former Australia After Dark building, Stingray Bay features up-close viewing opportunities and state-of-the-art life support systems.  A limited number of guests will have the chance to touch the stingrays under the guidance of zoo staff – a truly amazing experience!

Splash in Crocodile Creek

Go ahead – kick off your shoes and wade into Crocodile Creek!  Like a cool oasis in the Australian Outback, Crocodile Creek beckons with clear water and large boulders.  Kids wade in the shallow water, building dams with small rocks or making tiny rafts from sticks.  Shaded benches await nearby for those who prefer to rest.

Dive in the Great Barrier Reef

From the Australian Adventure Plaza, stroll over to Stingray Bay or the completely remodeled Great Barrier Reef Aquarium, showcasing the diversity of the world’s largest coral reef system.

New themed displays and interactive elements enliven your experience among our ocean wonders.  Sharks, jellyfish, and tropical fish benefit from all-new life support and filtration systems designed to keep the salt water tanks crystal clear.

The Land of Birds

Cross the bridge into the Outback and experience the magic of Australia’s vast, desert interior.  Encounter a few of Australia’s 800 species of birds, including the strikingly-colored galah, also known as the rose-breasted cockatoo. Walk through a brand-new aviary teeming with cockatiels and magpies.  Brightly-colored rainbow lorikeets nibble on nectar, just like they would in the wild.

Nearby, four-foot-tall emus strut across their yard, showing off their shaggy gray feathers.  In the background, you hear the distinct call of a flock of kookaburras.  Hoo-oo-oo-oo-ah-ah-ah!

Meet the Reptiles

Have you ever encountered a shingle-backed skink?  How about a spotted python?  These and other Australian reptiles greet you in the renovated Australian Adventure.  Stop by the tin-roofed hut and get nose-to-nose with these scaly creatures.

Meet the Mob

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was among the first to unveil a walk-through kangaroo experience when the Australian Adventure first opened in 1987.  This one-of-a-kind journey continues as you stroll among our mob of eastern grey kangaroos, which is one of the largest in any North American zoo.  Watch for ‘roos hopping across the path in front of you! 

Say G’Day to the Dingoes

As Australia’s top predator, dingoes have been persecuted and hunted for bounty.  The zoo’s dingo pack is among the largest in the country. On cool summer mornings, watch as the energetic dingoes explore their exhibit bordering the Outback Adventure River Ride.

Float on the River Ride

You’ll be drawn to a relaxing float on the Outback Adventure River Ride.  Already the most popular ride in the zoo, exciting improvements will make the ride even better.  Authentic Outback details – as well as a few surprises – bring out the explorer in you!  Like all zoo rides, the Outback Adventure River Ride generates important income to support your non-profit zoo.

Click on the images to enlarge:

zoo bat attraction

These Endangered Species Need YOUR Help

Most Hoosiers have seen a brown bat (aka Myotis lucifugus or “Little Brown Bat”).   It’s the mosquito-gobbling, attic-dwelling species native to much of North America.  Bats, the only flying mammal in the animal kingdom, play an important role in our ecosystem.  They control the insect population and help to pollinate many plant species.

Sadly, many of our other bat species are harder to spot and their survival may be in jeopardy.

All told, 12 species of bats live in Indiana, but four of these are endangered, including:

~Indiana bat
~Gray bat
~Northern long-eared bat
~Evening bat (endangered in Indiana)

Six other species of bat are listed as species “of special concern” by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (source: http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/7662.htm). 

Because bats are a misunderstood yet essential part of our ecosystem, it is important that they continue to thrive in Indiana.

bat houses zoo conservation

A bat house hangs at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

What can you do to help? Build your own bat house!  Last summer, our Z-Team teen volunteers built several of these simple wooden structures, which now hang on zoo buildings.  Pam George, a retired educator, led this essential conservation effort. “This project did more than help our local bats,” said George. “It helped these teens learn new skills, and more importantly, that they can make a difference for wildlife.”

Get easy-to-use bat house plans from Bat Conservation International at batcon.org.

Please remember that bats, like any wild animal, should not be handled.

 Click on the images below to enlarge:

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:

red panda in log

Who’s the Cutest Zoo Animal?

There’s never been a Cutest Animal Contest at the zoo, but we’re pretty sure the red pandas would be strong contenders for the title.  In fact, “awwww” is the most frequently uttered word at the red panda exhibit! 

Male red panda Junjie, age 5, and his mate Xiao, age 4, have distinct personalities.  According to zoo keeper Sam Emberton, Junjie is the more cautious of the two.  “Junjie prefers to sit and watch before approaching us,” she says.  Xiao (pronounced JOW) is also shy, but she gets very interested when keepers arrive with food.  “She is very food-motivated, so she is willing to approach us,” Emberton says.

The red pandas are more than just cute critters – they are vulnerable to extinction in their native Himalayan home, which includes parts of China and Nepal.  That’s why we’re celebrating International Red Panda Day on Saturday, September 21 from 11 AM – 3 PM.

The red panda population has dwindled more than 40% in the last 50 years, according to some estimates.  Illegal hunting, loss of habitat, and competition with domestic livestock pose serious threats to the red pandas’ survival.  Only about 10,000 of these bamboo-eating animals remain in the wild. 

What is the zoo doing to protect this rare species?  By participating in the Red Panda Species Survival Plan, we help manage a genetically diverse zoo-based panda population.   (Although Xiao has produced two litters of cubs in 2012 and 2013, none of the cubs survived.)  By participating in events like International Red Panda Day, we can help spread the word about these fascinating creatures.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

 

Tiger Twins Turn Two!

Indah and Bugara, our Sumatran tiger siblings, turn two years old this week!

“These tigers are very popular,” says Indonesian Rain Forest Area Manager Tanisha Dunbar of the two cats, who arrived this winter from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas.

Though they are twins, the tigers have different birthdays.   Indah, the female, was born on August 15 and Bugara, the male, was born several hours later on August 16.  We’re planning a small celebration on August 16! 

“Indah is especially interested in people,” says Dunbar.  “If you visit first thing in the morning, she’ll follow kids from window to window.”  Bugara is the more laid-back of the two cats.  “He is not as focused as his sister,” Dunbar says.  “His attention span is pretty short!”

Bugara is the larger of the two cats, weighing 254 pounds.  Indah weighs 204 pounds.  Aside from the size difference, it’s easy to tell the two cats apart because the tip of Bugara’s left ear is missing.  On Indah, look for the three black stripes above each eye that look like oversized “eyelashes.”

Because their mother did not properly care for them, Indah and Bugara were hand-reared by Cameron Park Zoo staff, which is partly why they are so interested in people.  Hand-reared cats are typically not good candidates for breeding, so Bugara has been neutered.   This allows us to exhibit the cats together even after they reach breeding age.

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which is their only wild home.  Their native forests are being destroyed to build unsustainable palm oil plantations. 

YOU CAN HELP!  Because palm oil is in thousands of everyday products, it’s hard to avoid, but you can support companies that buy only sustainably-grown palm oil.  Download a free app to help you make eco-friendly shopping choices that help tigers, orangutans, and other rain forest animals.

Learn more about Sumatran tigers.

Watch a  video of Indah and Bugara’s first day in Tiger Forest this spring.

Click on each photo 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.

Tara the orangutan

Tara the Orangutan Now on Exhibit

Tara, the Sumatran orangutan who arrived at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo this spring, is ready to meet the public.  She will be in the orangutan exhibit now through Sunday.

“Tara is amazing,” says zoo keeper Angie Selzer, who cares for the orangutans.  “She has adapted very well to her new home.”

Tara has not yet been mixed with Tengku, the zoo’s 28-year-old male orangutan, or Melati, a 28-year-old female, so she will be alone in the exhibit through the weekend.  “We want Tara to become completely comfortable in the exhibit before being mixed with the other orangutans,” Selzer said.  So far, the three orangutans have had limited contact with each other through mesh panels behind the scenes.

“Our next step is to allow Tara to meet Melati face to face,” Selzer says.  That encounter will probably happen in the next few weeks behind the scenes, meaning that there could be days when no orangutans are in the exhibit.  After Tara and Melati get to know each other, Tengku will join them.

Tara, age 18, has a habit of climbing up to the skylights in the orangutan exhibit, so zoo guests will have to look carefully to see the petite red ape this weekend.

Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in April from the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo.  She can be distinguished from the other orangutans by her petite build and darker fur on her face, hands, and feet.

The zoo hopes that Tara and Tengku will someday produce offspring, but it is too early to predict when that might happen.

Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species and are managed in zoos by a Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population.  These rare apes are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where their future is threatened by persistent habitat destruction as forests are converted to palm oil plantations, timber concessions, and mining operations. Zoos could prove to be the last stronghold for this species, which some experts predict could become functionally extinct in the wild within 10 to 20 years.