Three new joeys live in the kangaroo yard this year and all of them are mature enough to spend time out of the pouch. We can hardly believe they’re all over eight months old! But with all that time spent in the pouch, we wanted to know how early zoo keepers knew the mama kangaroos had joeys…and how they could tell!
Kangaroos are pregnant for only a month before giving birth to their jelly bean-sized baby (yay for ten-day trimesters), and zoo keepers may not even realize that a kangaroo is pregnant. Immediately after birth, the little one climbs all by itself into the pouch. This takes about 10 minutes. Sometimes zoo keepers witness the tiny bab’s ascent, and sometimes they don’t; so they rely on mom’s behaviors to help clue them in on the pregnancy.
Zoo keeper Marian Powers says it’s difficult to tell when a kangaroo is pregnant, so keepers watch for changes in behavior. “We record all observed breeding behavior, so we have some idea of things that may be happening,” says Powers. “We might also notice mom leaning and preparing her pouch. When the pouch is empty, it develops a waxy coating to keep the skin protected. When mom is getting ready to give birth, she sticks her head in her pouch and begins cleaning that wax off.”
Once the baby is in the pouch it latches on to a teat and stays all safe and snuggled inside for the next six months. During this time, the joey grows and begins moving around. Sometimes it’s during this pouch-only phase of growth that zoo keepers can confirm birth. After about six months a little foot or tail finds its way out, and everyone knows there’s a baby on board.
Zoo keepers wait for the opportunity to confirm a new joey, but it can take time. “The first sighting of a toe or the tip of a tail or nose is an exciting moment. Joey watch requires a lot of patience!” says Powers.
Eventually the joey will leave the pouch for short periods of time. As it grows stronger and gains independence it leaves the pouch for longer durations and begins hopping like the adult kangaroos. But for the first half year of life, a joey’s entire world is a safe, snug little nursery attached to mom.
Animal babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.
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The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo will stay open later beginning Saturday, May 28 and continue late hours through Labor Day, September 5. The zoo will be open from 9 a.m. – 7p.m. daily. Last admission will be at 7 p.m.; grounds will close at 8 p.m.
The zoo is extending its hours to better serve members and guests. In 2015, the zoo offered extended hours on Wednesdays during the summer months. Feedback was positive and afternoon arrivals increased. This year’s late hours will happen seven days a week through September 5.
“We observed an upward trend in the number of guests arriving in the afternoon when we offered later hours,” says Ann Barker, director of finance for the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Barker looks forward to the change in hours for 2016, “Summer evenings are a beautiful time to enjoy the zoo, and now we can offer that benefit to our guests seven days a week.”
Zoo Director Jim Anderson says, “We hope the evening hours will allow more people to enjoy the zoo this summer. Our zoo exists for the community, and we want to share our animals with as many people as possible.”
Click on the Photos to See Dr. Smith’s Field Journal from the Mariana Islands:
How the Snake Became a Threat And What We’re Doing to Save the Birds:
North of Guam in the Pacific Ocean is an archipelago of volcanic islands known as the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. Two of those islands, Tinian and Saipan, are home to birds found nowhere else on earth. Those birds have thrived inside a utopia without natural predators. However, a new threat emerged during World War II.
The War made its way to Guam in the early 1940s and with it came boats, planes, and cargo. A stowaway species, the brown tree snake, found its way onto Guam and became established. This was a big problem for the birds of Guam, which had evolved without fear of predation. They were not adapted to defend against the invasive snake and made easy prey for the newcomer! The brown tree snake has also been sighted in the Mariana Islands.
The brown tree snake continues to threaten bird populations today. A not-for-profit group called Pacific Bird Conservation (PBC) is working to save the birds of the Mariana Islands, and they’ve enlisted the help of thought-leaders from zoos around the world.
Dr. Joe Smith, Director of Animal Programs at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, spent two weeks in the islands serving as a veterinary advisor to PBC’s Marianas Avifauna Conservation (MAC) Program. According to PBC’s website, the MAC Program “is intended to provide the avifauna of the Mariana archipelago with the best possible chances for long-term survival.*”
How does the MAC Program accomplish their goal?
“It’s a twenty-four-year plan,” says Dr. Smith, “and each year the program picks one or two bird species. We carefully capture the birds in large nets, then retain them for captive breeding or translocate them to another island in the chain where brown tree snakes are not detected.” This year, the team translocated Tinian monarchs and bridled white-eyes to the remote island of Guguan.
Why breed some bird species and translocate others?
“Some species are good candidates for captive breeding and others are not. Captive breeding has saved other birds from extinction, including the Guam rail. However, one of the species included in this year’s project was the Tinian monarch, a type of flycatcher. Flycatchers eat on the fly and it can be challenging for us to maintain them in captivity. Including translocation as a conservation strategy offers them the best chance of survival.”
The MAC Program also focused on the bridled white-eye this year. For this species, both captive breeding and translocation are being utilized as conservation strategies.
PBC set out to collect 50 birds of each species during the 2016 collection effort. A team of zoo professionals collected 102 individual birds and translocated them to a different island. The MAC Program also provides food and veterinary care for the birds until they can be released. Prior to release, each bird received a physical exam, blood collection, fecal parasite check, and unique leg bands that will allow it to be identified as an individual in the future. All told, the team spent three weeks on the islands of Guam, Tinian, Saipan, and Guguan.
The project will continue in 2017, with a focus on saving the rufous fantail and the Mariana fruit dove. Dr. Smith expects the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo will continue its yearly commitment to the MAC Program. The zoo has actively participated in the MAC Program since 2014.
Why does a zoo in Fort Wayne, Indiana care so much about wildlife in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Dr. Smith offers a conservationist’s perspective, “Every species has inherent value. We are all part of the same planet. Humans caused this ecological disruption, and it’s up to us to fix it.”
*(http://www.pacificbirdconservation.org/mariana-conservation-program-mac.html, accessed 5/16/16)
Echo, the penguin chick, is the beginning of a third generation of African black-footed penguins at the zoo. She’s the offspring of Chunk and Flash, and all four of her grandparents live with the zoo’s colony as well!
Echo’s parents are known for their strong bond. Last year, the pair was recommended for breeding by the Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP). The Penguin SSP is a collaborative management program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that works to maintain sustainable, genetically diverse penguin populations in zoos.
Zoo keepers were delighted when Echo hatched last November, but the baby boom didn’t stop there. The penguin colony grew by one more when Blue hatched in February. Blue is the offspring of L. Pink and R. Pink, making him Echo’s uncle.
African black-footed penguins are endangered, and every new chick gives hope to the future of their species. The zoo financially supports SAANCOB Saves Seabirds, a non-profit organization working to reverse the decline of wild penguin populations.
Visit the zoo this season to see three generations of feathered cuteness.
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The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo opens for the 2016 season on Saturday, April 23 with new exhibits, new animal species, and some adorable zoo babies!
“Our 50th season was a big one,” says Zoo Director Jim Anderson, “and we have even more for our guests to do and see in Season 51!”
Australian Adventure Renovation
Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure renovation opens this season and will feature a complete renovation of The Outback. Animal highlights include a new reptile house featuring knob-tailed geckos and a woma python, three new aviaries featuring galah cockatoos and straw-necked ibises, and the Tasmanian devil exhibit set to open in late summer.
Renovations to The Outback also include the all-new Outback Springs play stream and updates to the Crocodile Creek Adventure Ride. “We think guests will love the new look and feel of the Crocodile Creek Adventure Ride,” says Anderson. “It’s a great time for the whole family.”
Echo the African Penguin Chick…and a Surprise New Chick!
Zoo fans are eagerly awaiting their first chance to see baby Echo, a female penguin chick that hatched at the zoo in November, 2015. Echo’s arrival marked the start of a third penguin generation at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
The zoo’s penguin colony grew by one more (surprise!) when Blue hatched in February. Blue is a male and is the offspring of bonded pair L. Pink and R. Pink, making him Echo’s uncle.
Blue still lives behind-the-scenes and will join the flock on exhibit later this spring.
Anderson says, “African black-footed penguins are endangered and their population in the wild is declining. Every new chick is important to the future of their species.”
Sumatran Orangutan Baby
Asmara the baby Sumatran orangutan is one year old this season and starting to test her independence. Asmara is sure to delight guests as she climbs, explores, and tries to steal mom’s food! Born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo to parents Tara and Tengku, Asmara represents a critically endangered species on the brink of extinction.
“Asmara is a little ambassador for her wild cousins,” says Anderson. “She helps us fulfill our mission of connecting kids with animals and inspiring people to care.”
More Zoo Babies
Guests of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can expect to find many adorable babies during their visit. In addition to a baby Sumatran orangutan and two feathery penguin chicks, guests can visit three new kangaroo joeys, a baby crocodile skink, and a baby swamp monkey.
“Animal babies are always a guest favorite,” says Anderson, “and visiting new babies is a fun way for families to connect.”
Extended Hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day
The zoo will stay open late until 7p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission gates will close at 7p.m., with zoo grounds closing at 8p.m.
“We listened to our guests,” says Anderson, “and what we heard is that they want more time to enjoy the zoo. We are pleased to offer this benefit to zoo guests.”
Extended hours also create an opportunity for guests to enjoy dinner or schedule evening picnics in the Parkview Physicians Group Pavilions. Catered group picnics were previously available during lunch hours and the zoo expects the later time slots to fill quickly.
More of What’s New
Phase 2 of the Australian Adventure renovation is officially complete and includes Stingray Bay (opened September, 2015) and a new Shark Conservation Area in the Australian Adventure Plaza
Exclusive VIP Experiences take guests behind the scenes for close encounters with their favorite animals. This year’s VIP lineup features new experiences including stingray encounters, vulture feeding, and orangutan training. For an additional fee, guests can schedule a VIP Experience and spend quality time with our animals and zoo keepers!
Updates to the Indonesian Rain Forest include a new roof in the tiger viewing area and a renovated exhibit featuring lesser sulphur-crested cockatoos.
Faye the reticulated giraffe arrived from the Cape May County Park & Zoo last winter and is sure to be a new favorite among guests. “Faye is getting along well with the herd, and we expect her to be a regular at the feeding platform,” says Anderson.
By participating in cooperative management programs for more than 90 species and taxa, the zoo is helping to preserve genetic diversity in endangered and threatened animals from around the world, including Sumatran orangutans, reticulated giraffes, and African penguins.
“Kids4Nature is a kid-friendly conservation program that invites every guest to participate,” says Anderson. Guests receive a recycled metal washer at the ticket booth. Each washer counts as a “vote” toward one of three conservation projects. “Last year, our guests helped direct more than $90,000 of the zoo’s conservation commitment toward conservation projects around the world,” says Anderson.
Plan a visit in 2016 to see what’s new at the zoo!
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You’ve heard of window shopping, but what about window kisses? You can get your own window kiss at the zoo this year and it won’t cost a thing! The zoo’s sea lions – Legend, Cassandra, Fishbone, and Grits – give guests window kisses at the end of each Sea Lion Show. Sea Lion Shows happen twice daily and are free with zoo admission.
Why are the animals so apt to show “affection” to zoo guests?
“It’s a trained behavior.” explains sea lion trainer Britni Plummer. Plummer says, “The girls are trained on a variety of behaviors and all four will swim around the glass for window kisses at the end of the show.”
Training is a form of enrichment for the sea lions. Zoo keepers use positive reinforcement to train the sea lions, which gives the animals choice and control. When an animal chooses a behavior, like swimming up to the window for a “kiss,” they receive a tasty treat in return. The 11AM and 3PM Sea Lion Shows are dynamic and enriching training sessions for the animals. The sea lions get mental and physical stimulation, lots of fish to eat, and they develop a trusting relationship with their zoo keepers.
And guests get a kiss. It’s a winning situation no matter which side of the glass you’re on!
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Elvis and Pugsley may be known for their good looks, but did you know that they’re smart, too? The zoo’s Kunekune pigs are already intelligent animals, and now they’re going to school!
Their school is the barnyard and their teachers are zoo keepers.
Zoo keeper Heather Schuh and section supervisor Laura Sievers train Elvis and Pugsley almost every morning. Schuh and Sievers begin each training session by greeting the animals and inviting them to participate. If the animals choose to train that day, keepers offer treats each time an animal performs a desired behavior (like sitting, turning, or moving indoors). The pigs’ treat is a piece of carrot, which serves as positive reinforcement for the animals. Keepers also follow the desired behavior with a secondary form of reinforcement, like a quiet whistle.
Why train pigs? Behavior management coordinator Holly Walsh explains the benefits, “Training gives the animals a choice to participate, thereby reducing stress for both the animals and their keepers. Training also encourages animals to cooperate in their daily routines and also their veterinary care.” Elvis and Pugsley are learning three behaviors that will help with future vet exams: sit, turn, and hold still. “We use positive reinforcement to teach the animals how to participate in their own care,” says Walsh.
Animal training sessions happen every day at the zoo, and they’re fun to watch! Stop by the Indiana Family Farm on your next zoo trip and ask a keeper if any of the animals are training that day. You might get to watch the pigs go to school.
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“Yes, he really is in there,” is the answer that aquarist Gary Stoops gives when zoo guests ask, “Are you sure there’s a zebra moray eel?”
Lazarus the zebra moray eel is known for his ability to evade public view, coming out of his hiding places once or twice a day (maybe) for a feeding or brief swim across The Reef aquarium. It’s hard to believe this elusive fish is over three feet long!
His hiding places change all the time. Sometimes a guest will spot Lazarus, but by the time they’ve readied their camera for a photo, the eel has disappeared behind the coral, leaving only an inch or two of his tail visible. How can you get a look and maybe even snap a photo of an eel known for his hide-and-seek skills? Stoops offers advice, “Ask an aquarist or a zoo keeper when feeding time is scheduled. We offer him shrimp a few times a week. Lazarus swims to the top of the tank once or twice during each feeding. After that he hides again.”
But there is good news—Phase II of the Australian Adventure remodel brought hope for those wanting to catch a glimpse of the black-and-white striped swimmer!
The recent remodel of the 17,000-gallon Reef tank provided Lazarus with a new hiding spot that’s perfect for a stealthy eel. Near the side viewing window there’s a small cave extending from the coral. If you come on the right day and look carefully inside, you might see a small face looking back at you. That’s Lazarus.
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