May 14, 2014
Say “hello” to one of the zoo’s newest residents! Ombe the male lemur joined females Cushla and Kyna last November. Now two years of age, Ombe is fitting right in. Zoo keepers have observed him acclimating to his new troop.
“Ombe developed a strong bond with Kyna right away. They spend a lot of time together and he also interacts with Cushla,” states zoo keeper Helena Lacey.
Prior to zoo opening, zoo keepers worked with Ombe using positive reinforcement. “We trained Ombe with small approximations – small steps,” Lacey explains. “Training an animal to willingly move from one location to another is helpful for the times when they have to move indoors because of cold weather.”
A really big island Off the coast of eastern Africa, the ring-tailed lemur lives on the large island of Madagascar. They live mainly in forested areas.
What do they eat? Lemurs munch on fruit, leaves, bark, flowers, grass, and tree sap. Lemurs eat by holding food with their front feet.
The lemur look Lemurs’ bodies are covered with soft, thick, brown-grey fur that is very pale on their chest and stomach. Preening takes up much time of a lemur’s time.
All three of the zoo’s lemurs display the typical lemur look, but zoo keepers can easily tell them apart. Lacey explains that “Cushla is the easiest to spot because of her short tail. Kyna has a small, narrow face and Ombe is fluffy and handsome.”
Swift movers Ring-tailed lemurs are active both during the day and at night. Although they live mainly on the ground, they are very comfortable moving around in treetops. Lemurs escape to these treetops when threatened. They will defend their territory and signal alarm with loud calls.
Uncertain future Less than 10% of Madagascar’s original forest cover remains, putting all 30 species of lemurs in jeopardy. The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is committed to the conservation of wild animals and wild places. Learn more here.
Click on the photos to enlarge:
May 7, 2014
When Cookie, one of the most popular ponies at the zoo, passed away last fall, everyone asked, “Will you get another pony to replace Cookie?”
Byron Hooley, whose family operates the pony rides, was on the lookout for just the right pony all winter. He found her in Clara, an eight-year-old blonde and tan beauty.
“She just has the right personality,” Hooley said. “She’s nice and calm.”
A zoo pony’s job takes some getting used to. “She still has a lot to learn,” Hooley said of Clara. They have to get accustomed to crying children, peacocks, bulky diaper bags, and passing sirens, all of which can spook a little pony. The ponies also need to stand still while waiting for their next rider. “It can take two years before they get used to that,” Hooley says.
Then there’s the task of fitting in with the other ponies, who can be bossy or give a newcomer the cold shoulder. “Clara fit in pretty well right away,” Hooley said.
For the first few months, Hooley’s staff will lead Clara while she gives rides to kids. Eventually, Hooley hopes she’ll be able to take young riders on her own, just like Cookie did. “Clara’s got big shoes to fill,” Hooley said, “but we think she can get there.”
Give Clara a friendly zoo welcome on our Facebook page!
April 30, 2014
Actually, we have two new cats at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo! Meet Thor and Loki, a pair of Canada lynx brothers who arrived just in time for zoo opening this week. The cats were shy at first and spent most of their time inside the hollowed-out logs in their exhibit. However, feline curiosity eventually prevailed and the young brothers are beginning to explore.
Canada lynx are carnivorous, so the zoo’s lynx eat a special all-meat diet mixed with vitamins and minerals. Both of the cats are eating well and zoo keepers have found a way to encourage them to explore even more. According to zoo keeper Rachel Purcell, “We spread their food around the exhibit. This way they’ll come out of the logs and down the hill.”
The cats also have distinct personalities. Purcell states that, “Loki is a little more outgoing but Thor’s confidence is slowly coming along. On Monday morning they spent an hour exploring near the front of the exhibit. They’re both doing well.”
Not your household kitty cat Lynx fur is typically yellowish-brown but can include some gray. Their ears boast long, dark hairs that point straight up and act as hearing aids. Adult lynx as well as kittens display this ear trait. Canada lynx also have a black-tipped tail. Lynx have long legs and large, furry paws that act as snow shoes.
A nocturnal loner Lynx usually live alone in a territory that encompasses anywhere from 5 to 100 square miles, and they are nocturnal so they sleep during the day. The zoo’s lynx are often spotted napping inside their logs but can become active during the day time, especially in the morning.
A northern resident
Canada Lynx (also known as Canadian lynx) live throughout Canada and in northern areas of the United States. They are typically found in forests but can also live in tundra regions.
The zoo’s Canada lynx exhibit is located just inside the front gates, across from the lion drinking fountain. Guests can visit Thor and Loki seven days a week – Be sure to get a look at those giant paws!
Click on the pictures below to enlarge:
April 23, 2014
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.
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:
April 16, 2014
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.
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:
April 9, 2014
Tengku, the zoo’s male Sumatran orangutan, has something new to add to his resume: International Researcher. Tengku’s contribution to the research of Dr. Graham L. Banes, a biological anthropologist who visited the zoo last week, may help save these rare apes from the brink of extinction.
Dr. Banes studies the biodiversity of orangutans in zoos and in the wild and is building a database containing genetic information on every captive orangutan in the world.
Tengku provided a blood sample so researchers can study his DNA as part of a four-generation study. Zoo keepers had already trained him on this procedure via operant conditioning. This video from 2012 shows the procedure:
Managed programs have existed in zoos for decades, but zoos are not the only participants in orangutan research. Orphanages and rehabilitation centers, which are found on the “front lines” of orangutan conservation, are also included in this study. Such facilities house orangutans who have been displaced, injured, or orphaned as a result of habitat destruction.
Dr. Banes explained that ensuring genetic biodiversity in zoos and rehabilitation centers is important. A genetically diverse population decreases the likelihood of health problems and reduces the rate of infant mortality.
A healthy zoo population will become essential if Sumatran orangutan populations continue to decline. Orangutans have endured an 80-90% reduction in their natural habitat. In other words, they are running out of places to live. Their species is listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN (source: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/39780/0). To compound this situation, proposed changes in Indonesian law further threaten the survival of orangutans in the wild. According to Dr. Banes, “Preserves are being un-protected.”
Tengku is helping his wild cousins, and so can you. The AZA has prepared an online petition to the Indonesian government regarding the destruction of the 10-20% of rain forest cover that remains. You can go to change.org to review and sign the petition.
The IUCN estimates that there are around 7,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild. To put that number into perspective, consider that Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis holds 70,000 people for NCAA basketball tournaments.
The zoo’s conservation page lists resources for those wanting to get involved with the conservation of wild animals and wild places.
Click on the photos to enlarge:
April 2, 2014
Thirty one-month-0ld moon jellyfish arrived at the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium this week! Hatched at the New England Aquarium, these two-inch-diameter moon jellies joined 13 adult jellies in the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium.
Because moon jellies have an average life span of six months in the wild and one year in captivity, the introduction of new moon jellies is a yearly event at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. The babies will mature quickly and should have a bell size of six to eight inches when the zoo opens on April 26.
Zoo keepers transitioned the babies into their new aquarium slowly. A large bag containing the new moon jellies was placed inside the aquarium but was not opened right away, allowing water temperatures to equalize. Little by little, zoo keepers allowed small amounts of water from the bag and the aquarium to mix together. Click on the video for behind-the-scenes footage of the acclimation process:
Moon jellies are not endangered and are a favorite food of several endangered sea turtle species. However, balloons and plastic grocery bags closely resemble jellyfish when floating in the ocean. If sea turtles ingest the balloons and bags, they can die. You can help sea turtles by recycling plastic grocery bags and avoiding mass balloon releases.
Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.Aquarium, Baby Animals
March 26, 2014
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:
Enrichment, Zoo News
March 19, 2014
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:
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: