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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.

 

zebra face

Zoo Awarded Accreditation

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has once again met the highest standards in the zoo profession by being awarded Accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

“The entire zoo team works hard to ensure that our programs, protocols, and facilities meet the highest standards,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson, who serves on AZA’s Accreditation Commission and is part of a team that inspects other zoos. 

The zoo was inspected over the summer by representatives of the AZA Accreditation Commission and submitted more than 2,700 pages of documentation to demonstrate that it meets the AZA’s rigorous standards, including animal care; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and other areas.   

Only 223 zoos are accredited by the AZA in the United States. 

Accredited zoos are required to undergo the Accreditation process every five years.  The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was first accredited in 1976.

Norbert’s Favorite Things

Norbert the Aldabra giant tortoise celebrated his 51st birthday this week, reinforcing his status as the oldest animal in the zoo.  But because giant tortoises can live for more than 100 years, Norbert is just middle-aged!

Zoo keeper Ryan Coomer says that Norbert is a friendly fellow.  “He comes over to see us when we are cleaning,” Coomer says.  Norbert’s exhibit-mate, Purdue, isn’t quite as outgoing.  “She is a little bit shy.”

Norbert has a busy schedule because keepers interact with him to provide physical and mental stimulation.  Here are some of Norbert’s favorite things:

Sprinkler Time:  “Norbert likes to play in the twirly sprinkler,” Coomer says.  Play?  “Well, he sits and lets the water hit him.”  
Hose-down:  “When we spray Norbert’s shell with the hose, he’ll stand up tall and stretch out his neck,” Coomer says.  
Neck Rub:  Norbert’s scaly reptilian skin can get dry and flaky, so he gets rubbed with baby oil every month.  
Mud Wallow:  On a hot summer day, nothing beats hunkering down in a giant pool of mud.  As reptiles, tortoises use their environment to regulate their body temperature.  A good wallow does the trick.
Cactus on the Water:  Norbert chases prickly pear cactus fruits that keepers place in his pond.  
Melon Ball:  In the wild, tortoises rear up and stand on their hind legs to reach tasty foliage.  Keepers hang a melon on a rope just high enough to encourage this behavior.  “Norbert can reach pretty high when he wants to,” Coomer says.

So which of these special things did Norbert get on his birthday?  “Nothing special,” Coomer says.  “When you’re 51, it’s just another day!”

Aldabra giant tortoises are listed as vulnerable to extinction in their native home in the Aldabra Atoll, which is part of the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean.  Learn more here.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

 

 

Beautiful Birds of Prey

Some of our most fascinating birds are a diverse group of feathered predators known as “birds of prey.”  Owls, vultures, and hawks are part of this group. 

These birds share some key features:  sharp talons, a strong, hooked beak, and excellent eyesight.  Some, like owls, can capture a mouse in complete darkness.  Vultures can smell a dead animal from up to a mile away!

As top predators in their ecosystems, birds of prey face unique conservation challenges.  The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo supports the conservation efforts of the Peregrine Fund in Tanzania as they work to protect these amazing animals. 

Meet the birds of prey exhibited at the zoo:

Ruppell's Griffon Vulture

Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture

Eurasian eagle owl

Eurasian Eagle Owl

Names:  Igor, Wednesday, Morticia, & Gomez
Location:  African Journey
Look for these birds on the deadfall perches on the
savannah. Learn more

Names:  Gypsy & Seeker
Location:  Central Zoo
Seeker, the female, is the larger of the two birds.
Learn more

 
Verreaux's Eagle Owl

Verreaux’s Eagle Owl

 
Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Name:  Roosevelt
Location:  African Journey
These birds are also known as Milky Eagle Owls.

Name:  Vincent
Location:  Central Zoo
Vincent was struck by a car and brought to the zoo. 
He cannot be released because he has an eye injury.

 
Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

 
Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Name:  Maverick
Location:  Central Zoo
Red-tailed hawks are common in our area.  Look
for them on fence posts as you drive on the highway.

Name:  Lindbergh
Location:  Indiana Family Farm
Peek through the wooden barrier in the Big
Red Barn to get a look at this nocturnal bird. 
Learn more

 

 

How to Train a Crane

For sheer beauty and elegance, few zoo birds rival the wattled cranes in the African Journey.  You’d never guess that these seemingly peaceful birds have an aggressive streak.

“They will jab at you with their beak,” says Amber Eagleson, who manages the African Journey.  “And there is some serious power in those legs – they will kick right at you.” 

Wattled cranes stand four to five feet tall and are native to wetlands throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Our birds, Betty and Hannibal, are an established pair who produced their first clutch of eggs last year.  Unfortunately, both eggs were crushed, probably by the cranes themselves as they moved around in their nest – not uncommon in first-time parents.

Because of the potential for injury, zoo keepers always work in pairs when entering the cranes’ marshy enclosure, which sits along the boardwalk near the African Journey’s exit.  They also wear goggles for eye protection, and carry a broom to fend off the birds if they get aggressive. 

Another tool used to manage the cranes is training.  “The cranes are trained to station on a target,” like a colored board on a stick, Eagleson explains.  “By rewarding them when they touch their beak to the target, we can move them to a different area of the exhibit.”  This allows keepers to keep the cranes’ attention when crews are performing maintenance in the exhibit, for example.  “It also allows us to see the birds up close and inspect their body condition,” Eagleson says.  The cranes are rewarded for their participation with pinky mice. 

Wattled crane populations are shrinking in Africa, due to destruction and alteration of wetlands.

Click on the photos below to view them full screen.

Viewing Tip:

Betty and Hannibal reinforce their pair bond with unison calls – loud, shrill honks that are made with heads tilted back.  They also perform an elaborate mating dance, jumping up and down with wings flapping while moving back and forth.  “I see this nearly every day,” Eagleson says.  Also, watch for nest-building activity this fall – eggs are usually laid in late August or early September in a huge grassy nest.

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.

The Fastest Animal in the Rain Forest

Which zoo animals can leap across their exhibit, grab a cricket, and eat it, all in a few seconds?  The zoo’s pair of northern tree shrews!

“They rarely sit still,” says Zoo Keeper Dave Messmann of these Southeast Asian forest-dwellers.  “They are always moving.”

These tiny acrobatic critters look like miniature squirrels but are closely related to monkeys and apes.  “Kids say that they look like Scrat, the character from the Ice Age movies,” Messmann says.

Belange, our one-year-old female and Tup, a five-year-old male, are still getting to know each other, so they take turns in the exhibit in Dr. Diversity’s Rain Forest Research Station in the Indonesian Rain Forest.   Messmann lures them on and off exhibit with tasty crickets.  “They really live their lives at top speed,” Messmann says, noting that tree shrews are sexually mature at 60 days and may live only about eight years.  Aside from crickets, they dine on chopped fruits, veggies, insects, and a pelleted diet.

On a recent visit, Messmann gave Belange a shed snake skin as an enrichment activity.  The tree shrew darted about and rubbed her chest on the shed skin, probably to scent mark the new item.  At one point, Belange poked her head through the shed skin and wore it like a scarf for a few minutes, until her constant motion caused it to fall off.  

Click the photos below to enlarge.

How to Make a Lion Eat His Dinner

Bill the lion needs no introduction.  His laid-back attitude and stunning physique make him a crowd favorite.  Thanks to his penchant for resting on the exhibit window, he’s in thousands of family photos.  Could he be any more of a superstar?

“I think Bill just enjoys being awesome,” says zoo keeper Jennifer McDermott. 

Bill was only two years old with a scruffy little mane when he debuted at the African Journey’s grand opening in 2009.  As he prepares to celebrate his 7th birthday on July 22, he has matured into a beautiful 435-pound adult male lion.

But amid all the hype, Bill has a few bad habits.  According to McDermott, “Bill is the pickiest eater I’ve ever seen.”

Because lions eat only one thing – meat – this can be a problem.  The zoo buys a frozen prepared meat diet (similar to a tube of ground beef) by the ton.  When a new batch of meat arrives, keepers know that Bill will snub his finicky nose at it, at least for the first few days.

“He makes what I call a ‘yuck’ face, like a little kid,” says McDermott.  “He’ll scrunch up his eyes, stick out his tongue, and walk away from his food.”  In lion-speak, this apparently means “I don’t wanna eat this, and you can’t make me!”

McDermott doesn’t worry about Bill’s diva-like attitude regarding his dinner.  “He eventually eats it,” she says. 

Unlike Bill, Ina the lioness is very interested in her food.  When McDermott calls the cats to dinner at the end of the day, Ina makes a beeline for the meat placed in their night quarters.  Bill, on the other hand, takes his sweet time.  “We just wait him out,” says McDermott.  When he does decide to come inside, “He walks very slowly,” she says. 

Bad habits aside, McDermott is in awe of Bill.  “I love looking into his eyes,” she says.  “He’s just beautiful.”

Read more about lions here.

You can help feed the lions at a VIP Experience.

Click the photos below to enlarge.

Bugs for Breakfast

Do you ever wonder what’s in your food? At the zoo, we need to know exactly what’s in the animals’ food. In fact, we analyze everything that our animals eat – including mealworms.

Mealworms are eaten by many animals including mongooses, bat-eared foxes, and Australian birds. It’s not the mealworms themselves, but what the mealworms have eaten that determines their nutritional value. “What the mealworms eat has a direct effect on animals that consume the mealworms,” says Brooke Stowell, zoo commissary supervisor.

Mealworms are a good source of protein, and are kept alive in the commissary until they are fed to animals.  But mealworms don’t come with a nutrition label, so Stowell is varying the mealworms’ diet and testing their nutritional value. “We are testing the mealworms because we want them to be as nutritious as possible,” says Stowell.

Do the animals notice the difference?  “Probably not,” says Stowell.  “They just enjoy eating the mealworms!”  

Testing mealworms may seem like an extreme measure, but it’s all part of our commitment to excellent animal health. Says Stowell, “We do this so our animals eat the very best food that will promote the very best health.”

Read about animal diets on our Animal Information Pages.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.