March 12, 2014
The zoo’s baby boom continues as zoo keepers welcome a new addition to the Indonesian Rain Forest…a teeny, tiny, two-inch crocodile skink. It’s the first time this reptile species has ever been hatched at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo! This imperious addition to the animal kingdom weighed-in at two grams, approximately the weight of a pencil eraser.
Although its name implies a lizard of force and stature, this particular crocodile skink began its life cycle in a fragile state.
Late last year, zoo keepers discovered by accident that the adult crocodile skinks had produced an egg. Dave Messmann, a zoo keeper in the Indonesian Rain Forest, accidentally disturbed the egg while cleaning the skinks’ aquarium. “We were concerned about the disturbance. It’s a best-practice to avoid moving a reptile egg once it’s discovered, ” Messmann stated. He also explained the reason why zoo keepers would have preferred avoidance, “An air pocket inside the egg can shift if the egg is moved, potentially causing the embryo to suffocate.”
Hoping for the best, zoo keepers decided to incubate the egg and observe. They constructed an incubator by filling a deli tub with wet moss and poking holes in the tub’s lid. The egg was carefully placed atop the moss and the tub was placed on a shelf. The egg was then allowed to incubate at room temperature, undisturbed. After sixty days, a live hatchling was observed!
At eleven days old, the crocodile skink baby weighed-in at 2 grams. Now thirty days old, the baby is doing fine and continues to develop normally. It will likely reach an adult length of eight inches and top-out at one pound.
Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.
Click on the pictures to enlarge:
March 5, 2014
This just in – Zoo keepers have named the two colobus monkey babies at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo!
~Jibini’s baby is male and named Obi (pronouced “oh-bee”). His name means “heart.”
~Wamblenica’s baby is female and named Mchumba (pronouced “meh-choom-ba”). Her name means “sweetheart.”
Obi and Mchumba were born in late January. Click here to read the zoo’s earlier blog post announcing the colobus babies’ births.
Why did keepers wait so long to name the babies? “We wanted to wait until we found out both of their sexes so we could give them corresponding names,” says African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson. Determining Mchumba’s sex took longer because the infant monkey clung very tightly to her mother, and keepers waited some time before approaching mom and baby. This clinging behavior is typical in colobus infants.
Zoo Keeper Jessica Walker reports that the babies are developing normally and have undergone behavioral as well as physical changes. “Since their arrival, the babies have developed rapidly! Initially they clung tight to their respective mothers, and either nursed or slept for the majority of the day. They vocalized only slightly. Now, although they still display the clinging and nursing behaviors of infancy, both babies have been moving more and have found their voices.”
Walker also notes changes in Obi and Mchumba’s physical appearance. “The first couple of days after birth the little ones were completely white. Their coloration is slowly changing to resemble the black-and-white pattern of an adult colobus monkey. The change will be more noticeable in the coming weeks.”
The photos below were taken on February 27, 2014, around the time of the babies’ one-month birthday. Click to enlarge:
February 26, 2014
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.
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):
February 19, 2014
Maggie, a very friendly green-naped pheasant pigeon in Indonesian Rain Forest, experienced a life-changing event in August when she was introduced to Zazu, a male pheasant pigeon. Maggie and Zazu quickly became a pair, and recently welcomed a new baby!
Winter has been a busy time for Maggie and Zazu. They built a nest on the forest floor and took turns incubating their single egg. Now that their chick has hatched, both parents hunt for seeds, fruit, and insects to feed their chick.
Feeding a new baby bird is a tireless job, but all their work is paying off. The new chick is already half the size of its parents and will soon be foraging for food on its own.
Keepers are eager to learn the chick’s gender, but they’ll have to wait until they can catch it. The chick is always on the move and darts behind vegetation when approached. “The way we determine a pheasant pigeon’s sex is by doing a blood draw. We’re waiting until the baby gets a little older and more comfortable with the staff before we approach it,” says zoo keeper Tiffany Jones.
Green-naped pheasant pigeons are native to New Guinea and nearby islands, and they are considered endangered in parts of their range. Pheasant pigeons are non-flighted birds, but they can glide for short distances. The zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan for these birds to manage breeding and maintain a genetically healthy zoo population.
Because she often strolled alongside the rain forest boardwalk, Maggie is well-known to zoo guests. We’ll see if she returns to her old habits this summer when her chick becomes independent. Visit Maggie and see if you can spot the new chick when the zoo opens for the season on April 26.
Click on the images below to enlarge:
Baby Animals, Birds, Indonesian Rain Forest, Zoo News
February 12, 2014
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo enjoyed a baby boom during the last week of January when two black-and-white colobus monkeys were born within two days of one another.
“The fact that they were born within two days of each other was a big surprise,” stated African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson. “We were aware that both of the adult females were pregnant, but based on their size we anticipated that one mother would deliver a bit later than the other. We never expected two infants at the same time!”
The babies, which have not yet been named, were born on January 26 and January 28, 2014. They were born without complication and have displayed healthy postnatal behavior. Dr. Kami Fox, the zoo’s veterinary intern, states that “Both babies and moms are doing very well. The newborns are clinging tightly to their respective mothers, just like they should. The keepers have witnessed them nursing frequently as well.”
The colobus monkeys will live indoors until the weather permits outdoor access. During the zoo season, guests can observe the troop on exhibit in the African Journey. The following six monkeys make up the zoo’s colobus troop:
Eagleson explains why the sex of the second colobus baby remains unknown, “We have yet to determine the gender of Wamblenica’s baby because mom is extremely overprotective. Her baby clings tightly to her at all times and we’ve allowed Wamblenica some distance to avoid unintended stress on mother and baby.”
Colobus monkeys live in the rain forests of central and eastern Africa. They grow into adept climbers despite their unique hand structure. Although it is common practice to reference the “opposable thumbs” of primates, colobus monkeys lack this feature and instead use their four full-sized fingers to form a hook that helps them grasp branches. In addition to climbing, colobus monkeys can leap from tree to tree by launching themselves from a high limb on one tree to a lower limb on another. Guests of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can observe this behavior when the zoo opens on April 26.
Click on the images below to enlarge:
Baby Animals, Monkeys, Zoo News
February 5, 2014
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:
~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.
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:
January 29, 2014
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:
January 22, 2014
When Bo the reticulated python got his annual physical last week, it took seven people just to hold onto this unusual patient in the Indonesian Rain Forest.
At 15’ 3” long, Bo is 61 pounds of pure muscle and squirmed mightily to express his displeasure at this visit from the vet.
Zoo staffers get their hands on this powerful snake only once a year, so despite Bo’s protests, zoo veterinarians Dr. Joe Smith and Dr. Kami Fox wanted to examine every inch of him (one hundred eighty-three inches, to be exact!)
Lead snake keeper Dave Messmann held Bo’s head while other keepers and veterinary staff lined up to stretch out the snake. Keepers inspected Bo’s skin, looking for irregularities in his scales or lumps under the skin.
Messmann gently held Bo’s mouth open with a rubber spatula so Dr. Fox could examine the snake’s teeth. A string was run down Bo’s spine to determine his exact length, and Dr. Fox drew blood from Bo’s tail for testing.
“Bo is a healthy snake,” said Dr. Smith after the exam. As if he was trying to prove his excellent physical condition, Bo downed a tasty rat immediately after being returned to his exhibit.
January 15, 2014
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.
January 8, 2014
Zoo keepers got a big surprise last month when a tentacled snake in the Indonesian Rain Forest gave birth to seven babies overnight!
Zoo keepers knew that the female snake was pregnant, but weren’t sure when the babies would arrive. An ultrasound done in December revealed a tangle of little snakes inside the mother.
Dr. Kami Fox, the zoo’s veterinary intern states that the length of gestation and anticipated due date for tentacled snakes is difficult to determine. “We try to assess how far along they are via ultrasound but rarely do we witness the actual birth. In this particular case, the snake gave birth during the night and in the morning we observed the new babies.”
Tentacled snakes are ovoviviparous, which means they produce eggs inside their body, but instead of laying eggs they give birth to live young. Here’s how it works: The unborn snakes are nourished via egg yolk (the mother has no placenta), and the eggs hatch prior to birth. The mother snake then delivers live young.
Tentacled snakes are ambush hunters. According to Zoo Keeper Dave Messmann, “They use their tails to anchor themselves and wait for their prey.” At this point, the unique tentacles for which the species is named allow the snake to sense vibration from the unsuspecting prey – usually a small fish. Once the predator becomes aware of its prey it strikes with its mouth. The strike is lightning-fast, lasting only a matter of milliseconds.
Baby tentacled snakes begin hunting just hours after birth. According to Dr. Fox, “The babies come out hungry so we provide size-appropriate fish for them.”
The only known predator to tentacled snakes is humans.