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Zoo Announces New Pavilions, Sponsored by Parkview Physicians Group

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo today unveiled two new pavilions under construction in the African Journey, funded in part by a generous donation from Parkview Physicians Group.

“The zoo provides an outstanding venue for families to spend time together, something we believe is important as we look to promote health and well-being throughout the community,” said Dr. Mitchell Stucky, president, Parkview Physicians Group.  “Parkview Physicians Group appreciates the opportunity to invest in and help to promote one of Fort Wayne’s most treasured attractions.”

Named the Parkview Physicians Group Pavilions, the two structures combined can seat more than 400 people.  The pavilions will be used for zoo events and special activities, and will be available for rental when the zoo opens for the 2015 season in April.

Zoo Parkview pavilions

“The Parkview Physicians Group Pavilions answer a long-standing need for local businesses and organizations in our community,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson.  “We can now host events in the pavilions, and provide rental space, catering, and an amazing zoo experience for zoo guests.”

As a non-profit organization receiving no tax support, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo operates on revenue from tickets sales, memberships, and donations.  The Parkview Physicians Group Pavilions will provide a new source of revenue, allowing the zoo to remain self-supporting and operate without tax funding.

“By supporting the zoo with this donation, Parkview Physicians Group demonstrates their commitment to the entire Fort Wayne community,” said Anderson.  “They are an outstanding community partner.”

Organizations wishing to rent the Parkview Physicians Group pavilions may contact the zoo office at 260-427-6800 for more information.

giraffe fort wayne zoo

Our Very Own “Rock Star”

Did you know we have a “Rock Star” at the zoo?  That’s what Zoo Keeper Aim’ee Nelson calls Jelani the giraffe!  Other zoo staffers call him “The King of the Platform,” because  there’s no doubt who’s in charge when Jelani rests his massive head on the railing of the feeding platform.   “When Jelani comes up for lettuce everyone wants to feed him,” says Nelson.

Jelani celebrates his 16th birthday this week and just about every staff member, volunteer, and zoo guest has a fond nickname or special memory to share.  African Journey area Manager Amber Eagleson smiles when she talks about meeting him for the first time.  “I came to the zoo in 2000 when he was only two.  He was already friendly…and hungry!”

Eagleson has observed Jelani’s friendly demeanor year after year.  “He makes an impression on everyone.  When someone has worked in the giraffe barn, Jelani is the one they always remember.”

Eagleson shares a story from a 2003 celebration when a crowd gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” to the then 5-year-old giraffe.   “He started running around the exhibit and put on a big show.  No one was expecting it.”

Zoo guests are invited to Jelani’s sweet 16 celebration on Friday, August 1  from 10AM-3PM.  Some highlights include:

– Adding spots to a giraffe art piece

-Singing “Happy Birthday” and presenting Jelani with his “cake” at 11AM

– Trivia games

– Pin the tail on the giraffe

– A birthday card to sign

– A picture spot with a giraffe in his sweet sixteen car

– Coloring pages

You can visit Jelani and the rest of the herd seven days a week.  Lettuce is available for 1 token ($1) and when Jelani the hungry giraffe is on exhibit, he’s usually ready to eat.  “He lays his head on the platform railing until someone comes to feed him,” says Eagleson.  “We have to ask zoo guests to stay back a few feet because of his size and strength, but that doesn’t stop him from getting his lettuce.  He’s never full.”

Below is a gallery of some of Jelani’s memorable moments.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

goat zoo scale

Guess Which Animal Weighs 120 Pounds

If you visited the Indiana Family Farm at the zoo last weekend, you might have noticed that our goats got some extra attention from zoo keepers.  Many of our guests were curious why the goats were paraded, one at a time, into a nearby barn.  It was goat-weighing day, of course!

The zoo keeps a variety of records on each of its animals, including weight.  Zoo keepers track each goat’s weight throughout the year to look for any fluctuations.  Keeping accurate health records, including weight, helps zoo keepers and vet staff monitor for changes in the animals.  This in turn helps the keepers and staff to spot potential health concerns early.

“We weigh each goat monthly, or more often if we have concerns about the animal not eating enough,” states zoo keeper Chase Caldwell.

With goats, however, keeping up a robust diet usually isn’t a problem.  Most of the zoo’s goats will try to eat almost anything, including maps, purses, shoe laces, and even the scale.  “It’s a goat thing,” says Caldwell.  “They like to test everything out to see if they can eat it.  We don’t even have to train them to step onto the scale.  We just put food out and they step right up.”

Which goat topped the scale?  It was Oliver, a buff-colored male weighing in at 55.3 kilograms (about 120 pounds).

Click on the photos to enlarge:

 

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:

countdown zoo attraction

Only 10 More Days!

We selected April 26 as our opening day way back in September of 2013, and now it’s almost here!  We are nearly caught up from the challenges that the winter weather threw at us, and our staff is in high gear prepping for opening day.  Here’s a list of what we’re doing this week:

  • Exhibits are getting minor repairs and new paint jobs on warm days.
  • Rides are being cleaned and “un-winterized” to prepare for the required state inspection they undergo every year.  This winter provided a few hurdles: the Australian Adventure River Ride finally thawed at the end of March!  This week, crews are reinstalling the Sky Safari ride chairs.  (See the photo gallery below.)
  • Landscaping crews are mulching the zoo’s many flower beds.
  • New employees are being trained to take on their new tasks.
  • Zoo favorites like the Lion Drinking Fountain get a makeover to look their best in your family photos!
  • Last but not least, the animals who have been living in warm indoor quarters will move into their outdoor enclosures next week.
capuchin monkey zoo attraction

The capuchin monkeys will move onto Monkey Island next week.

All of the staff and volunteers at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo are counting down the days to April 26.  We hope you’ll join us in making 2014 the best zoo season ever!

Click on the images below to enlarge:

animal painting zoo attraction

Look at these Animal Masterpieces

Picasso said “Every child is an artist.”  At the zoo, we think “Every animal is an artist!”  Last week, four zoo animals painted “masterpieces” that will be auctioned at future zoo fundraising events.  The artists were Hugh the penguin, Mawson the dingo, and Tengku and Tara the Sumatran orangutans.  

Fundraising is not the only reason the zoo’s animals paint.  The activity provides physical and mental challenges that elicit natural behaviors.  This type of stimulation is also known as “animal enrichment.”

The following media gallery showcases each of the zoo’s artists at work:

 

 

 

The photos below illustrate “before and after” shots of the creative process.  Click on any of the thumbnails to enlarge:

 

 

The following videos show Sumatran orangutans Tara and Tengku working with paintbrushes:

 

 

red-tailed green ratsnake zoo attraction

She’s Red, Blue & Green All Over

What zoo animal has a blue tongue, green scales, and a red tail?  Our new red-tailed green ratsnake!  The young female snake was approximately one week old when she arrived in November.  She will eventually join the zoo’s adult male red-tailed ratsnake in the Indonesian Rain Forest.

The red-tailed green rat snake’s name is a bit misleading.  Here are some fun facts about these snakes:

  •  Red-tailed ratsnakes are recognizable for their striking green scales and bright blue tongue, not for a red tail.  As the snake develops into adulthood, it may or may not end up with a red tail.  It’s tail could be red, but could also take on a brown, green, gray, or even purplish hue.
  • Despite their name, red-tailed green ratsnakes are more likely to eat a rat than to be mistaken for one.  This species of snake also eats birds and their eggs along with smaller reptiles.
  • They are a non-venomous snake.  They kill their prey by squeezing and suffocating them, a process known as “constriction”.

Red-tailed ratsnakes are native to Southeast Asia, where they are valued as a natural, ecologically-friendly means for rodent control.  As such, this species has been left alone to thrive and is not endangered.

Click on the photos below to enlarge:

Who Ordered This?

com·mis·sar·y

noun, pronounced: [kom-uh-ser-ee]

1. a store that sells food and supplies to the personnel or workers in a military post, mining camp, lumber camp, or the like.

2. a dining room or cafeteria, especially one in a motion-picture studio. 

(Source:  dictionary.com)

Great definition, but they forgot about zoos!  Did you know that the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo operates its own commissary?  The zoo has four staff members who work seven days a week, 365 days a year prepping food for the animals.  Their daily tasks include meal planning, nutrition research, food prep, meal distribution, and of course cleanup.

To showcase the commissary staff’s handiwork, we put together a quiz called “Who Ordered This?”  Try to guess which animal goes with each of these nutritionally-balanced culinary masterpieces.  (You can find the answers at the bottom of this page):

 food quiz answers

 

dingo zoo attraction

Happy Birthday to our Two-Year Olds!

The zoo’s dingo puppies celebrate their second birthday on Thursday, January 30.  Zoo keepers hosted an early birthday party complete with enrichment-based gifts.  The gifts, which were made by zoo volunteers, included cardboard “animals” and paper mache balls.  (For more on animal enrichment, visit our website.)

Their litter includes seven pups, five of which still reside here at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  (Male dingo Brumby and female dingo Elzey now live at the Cleveland Zoo.)

The dingoes that celebrated here in Fort Wayne included:

  • Mawson (male)
  • Tingoora (female)
  • Bunyip (male)
  • Airlie (female)
  • Yengo (male)

 

 Bunyip, Mawson, and Tingoora became especially engaged with their cardboard surprises.  Click on the video to watch their reaction!

 

 

 Click on the images below to enlarge:

A diver chats with guests at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

This Job Never Gets Cold

After spending 113 hours and 36 minutes under water in 2013, the zoo’s Dive Team is far from “all wet!” The divers, along with support from staff on the dry side, completed 85 dives last year in their quest to keep the zoo’s Great Barrier Reef tanks sparkling clean.  

Though the 78 degree water temperature sounds balmy, Aquarium Area Manager and Dive Safety Officer Gary Stoops says divers need to wear wet suits to retain body heat, which is lost faster in water than in air.  The thick wet suits also protect divers from aggressive fish.  “Some of the fish are very territorial.  The triggerfish and even the zebra moray eel have been known to challenge the divers, and even nip at their wet suits.”

The shark tank is a different story.  No diver has ever been bitten during a dive with the blacktip reef sharks.  “They just stay away from us,” states Stoops.

When the zoo is open for the season, guests can witness dives and can even get involved in an interactive dive chat!  Divers are outfitted with a speaker and microphone that  allow for live question-and-answer sessions.  Dive Chats are held every Wednesday and Thursday at 1:30 PM.

All-told, divers spend about 90 minutes in the water during each dive.  Most of that time is spent cleaning the coral, and of course avoiding the eel.  At 15, he is the aquarium’s oldest resident and is an expert at defending his territory.