Zoo Blog

November 5, 2013

2013 Attendance Second-Highest Ever

entrance with red ZOO letters

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo experienced its second-highest yearly attendance ever in 2013 with a total of 545,900 guests. 

This figure includes 525,744 people who visited during the regular zoo season of April 21-October 13, and 20,156 who visited during the Wild Zoo Halloween.

The zoo’s attendance record is 614,666, set in 2009 when the African Journey exhibit opened.  This figure includes regular season and Wild Zoo Halloween attendance.

The zoo opened to the public for the first time in 1965.

“We are thankful for the support of our members, out-of-town guests, and the entire community for another great year,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson.  “Our staff works hard to provide an excellent experience for our visitors.  I’m proud of the work we do to connect our guests with animals every day.”

The zoo is operated by the non-profit Fort Wayne Zoological Society and receives no tax funding for operations.  Ticket sales, membership sales, concessions, other earned revenue, donations, and sponsorships comprise the zoo’s operating budget.

The zoo is the largest tourist attraction in northeast Indiana.  About one in five zoo visitors comes from outside of Indiana.  Forty percent of zoo guests are from Allen County.  For more than 90% of out-of-town zoo guests surveyed, the zoo was their main reason for travelling to Fort Wayne.

The zoo is currently closed for the season and will reopen on April 26, 2014.

Posted in: Zoo News

October 16, 2013

Pumpkin Playtime

capuchin monkey and pumpkin

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.

 

Posted in: Monkeys, Orangutans, Red Panda, Zoo News

September 30, 2013

Zoo Awarded Accreditation

zebra face

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.

Posted in: Zoo News

September 25, 2013

Norbert’s Favorite Things

Norbert totoise 107x107px

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.

 

 

Posted in: Reptiles, Zoo News

September 18, 2013

Wild Zoo Halloween Begins Oct. 18

halloween

Get your costume on!  Little ones can enjoy “merry-not-scary” fun at the Wild Zoo Halloween October 18-20, 24-27 & 31 from 1:00-6:00 PM daily. 

The Wild Zoo Halloween promises wholesome family fun for everyone.  Here’s what you can do in just one visit!

*Get wild at the Monster Mash Dance Party
*Enjoy daily live animal shows
*Meet Broomhilda the Witch
*Kids get treats on the Treat Trails
*Navigate the Corn Maze
*Pick your very own mini-pumpkin from our Pumpkin Patch!

Daily Activity Schedule

  2:00     Live Animal Show   Australian Adventure Plaza
  2:45     Meet K’Zoo   Australian Adventure Plaza
  3:00     Sea Lion Feeding   Sea Lion Beach
  3:30     Monster Mash Dance Party   Australian Adventure Plaza
  4:00     Live Animal Show  

Australian Adventure Plaza

Special Days

Friday,
Oct 18

Free Train Rides Ride the train for free as many times as you like all day!
Saturday, 
Oct 19
Princess Day Meet Cinderella (African Journey), Snow White (Australian Adventure Plaza), Sleeping Beauty (Red Panda exhibit), and Tiana (Zoo Entrance Plaza) from 2-5 PM
Sunday, 
Oct 20
Superhero Day Meet Spiderman (Australian Adventure Plaza), Superman (African Journey), and Batman (Red Panda Exhibit) from 2-5 PM
Thursday, 
Oct 24
Mascot Day

High-five your favorite mascots from 2-4 PM Australian Adventure Plaza
Meet the Mad Ant, Icynormous, Sparky the Fire Dog, Johnny, Biscuit, Mean Jean, Wally the Skating Dog, Roller Roo, Bill the Lion, and K’Zoo

Friday, 
Oct 25
Free Train Rides Ride the train for free as many times as you like all day!
Saturday, 
Oct 26
Star Wars Day Meet Star Wars characters and R2D2 robots from 2-5 PM today
Australian Adventure Plaza
Sunday, 
Oct 27
Magic Day Enjoy amazing magic shows at 2:30 and 3:45 PM
Australian Adventure Plaza
Thursday, Oct 31 Pumpkin Decorating Workshop

Decorate your own mini-pumpkin to take home

 

Here’s a preview of all the fun you can have at the Wild Zoo Halloween:

halloween halloween
halloween halloween
halloween halloween
beauty shop _DSC0871
Posted in: Zoo News

September 18, 2013

Who’s the Cutest Zoo Animal?

red panda in log

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.

 

Posted in: Conservation, Red Panda, Zoo News

September 11, 2013

Beautiful Birds of Prey

Eurasian eagle owl 107x107px

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

 

 

Posted in: African Animals, Birds

August 28, 2013

How to Train a Crane

Wattled crane 107x107px

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.

Posted in: African Animals, Birds, Conservation

August 21, 2013

The Python Weighs In

reticulated python

It’s weigh-in day for Bo, the zoo’s reticulated python, and keepers in the Indonesian Rain Forest have been preparing for the procedure since early morning.

“We start by placing his wooden crate right next to his exhibit,” explains zoo keeper Dave Messmann.  A small hole in the exhibit wall lines up perfectly with the hole in the crate, and Bo can’t resist the dark hiding spot.  He slithers into the crate almost right away.  “Snakes are naturally drawn to dark hiding places,” says Messmann.

With Bo safely in the crate, Messmann and zoo keeper Tim Jedele take the opportunity to completely clean and sanitize the snake’s exhibit.  “Bo is a very active snake, and he knocks over the artificial plants all the time,” says Messmann. 

Once the exhibit is cleaned, Messmann and Jedele weigh the snake – crate and all – on a portable scale.  After subtracting the weight of the empty crate, Messmann calculates that Bo weighs at about 65 pounds – a gain of ten pounds since the snake was last weighed in April, after he arrived from the Children’s Zoo in Saginaw, Michigan

It’s tough to measure the length of a large snake, but Messmann decides to give it a try when Bo is released back into the exhibit.  After a little coaxing, Bo leaves his hiding place and enters the just-cleaned exhibit, conveniently sliding along the window where Messmann has placed a tape measure.  “The tail tip is out!” Jedele calls, and Messmann checks the placement of Bo’s nose against the tape: Fifteen feet, six inches – a gain of about nine inches since Bo arrived.

Bo gets busy checking out (and messing up) most of the work that Jedele and Messmann did that morning in his exhibit.  But it’s Bo’s busy lifestyle that has made him a real crowd-pleaser.  “He likes to climb up the glass and look right at you,” Messmann says.  “It kind of takes people by surprise.”

Messmann is pleased with Bo’s weight gain and growth.  “He is an awesome snake,” Messmann says.  “It’s great to see zoo guests enjoying and learning about him.”

Read more about reticulated pythons.

Click the photos below to view them full screen.

 

Posted in: Reptiles

August 14, 2013

Tiger Twins Turn Two!

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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.

 

Posted in: Conservation, Tigers
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