Zoo Baby Announcement!

Someone new just hatched at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo – a black-footed penguin chick!  The chick is vocalizing, walking, eating fish, and gaining weight every day.

The six-week-old African black-footed penguin hatched on November 24.  The parents are mated penguins Chunk and Flash.  Both parents hatched at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo – Chunk in 2007 and Flash in 2008.

The new chick is the first offspring for the pair, whom keepers describe as having a very strong bond.  Chunk and Flash reared their chick exclusively for the first few weeks of its life by feeding it regurgitated fish, says zoo keeper Britni Plummer.

When the chick was a few weeks old, zoo keepers took over feeding duties so the chick would learn to accept fish from keepers. The chick eats chopped fish and gets vitamins daily.  So far, the chick eats with gusto and has NEVER turned down a meal!

Zoo keepers aren’t sure yet whether the adorable bundle of feathers is male or female and haven’t decided on a name.  The zoo’s veterinary team will perform a blood test later this month to determine the chick’s gender.

This is the first penguin chick to hatch at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo since 2012.  African black-footed penguins are endangered and the new chick is an important ambassador for its wild cousins.  In addition to participating in the Penguin Species Survival Plan, the zoo financially supports the South-African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).

You can visit the new chick at the penguin exhibit this spring and learn more about efforts to conserve penguins and their wild habitat.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

This video from early November shows Flash (left) serenading Chunk (off screen) on her birthday, just a few weeks before the hatching of their first chick!

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

See a Baby Orangutan’s First Birthday Party

Zoo keepers had a birthday party for Asmara the baby orangutan and her “auntie” Melati this week.  Thirty years separate the two (Asmara turned 1 on Nov. 22 and Melati turned 31 on Nov. 19) but we think an orangutan is never too young or too old to be celebrated!

The party began when Asmara went into her exhibit with mom Tara.  They ignored the wrapped “gifts” that keepers had placed in the exhibit, instead opting to climb way up to the skylights.

When male orangutan Tengku joined the party, he swung skillfully to the back wall to taste the “Happy Birthday” message keepers had written in flour paste.  Next, he snatched up several gifts and began tearing them open to discover the treats that keepers had hidden inside.

What was Asmara’s favorite gift?  A nearly-empty jar of peanut butter.  The little one watched intently as Tara scraped out the tasty treat.  At one point, Asmara tried unsuccessfully to put her head in the jar!

Want to give baby Asmara the best birthday gift ever?  Adopt an orangutan at the zoo.  Your unrestricted gift will help us pay for Asmara’s food and care for one whole year!

Click on the photos to enlarge:

Animal babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

rooster fort wayne

Indiana Family Farm By The Numbers

The Indiana Family Farm is a must-see attraction at the zoo.  Guests can walk through a working barn and pet donkeys, sheep, pigs, and more!  Just outside the barn is the chicken coop where the rooster crows, and a few yards down the path is the goat yard – where our curious goats are always ready to make a new friend.

It takes many hardworking hands to care for all of our hoofed and feathered friends, and those hands stayed busy this summer!  Here’s a 2015 recap of the Indiana Family Farm by the numbers:

  • 9 zoo keepers
  • 12 species of animals
  • 29 goats
  • 48 individual animals in all
  • 680 bales of hay
  • 1,020 bags of wood shavings
  • 3,400 pounds of grain
  • 618,498 guests served during the 2015 season

All those numbers add up to one great experience for zoo guests.

Zoo keeper Laura Sievers contributed to this blog and had this to say about her work in the Indiana Family Farm, “Whether it’s the first place or the last place our guests visit, the Indiana Family Farm is a place for making memories.”

Click on the photos to enlarge.  (Not pictured:  The barn mouse.  He was hiding.)

zoo nature fort wayne

We Have a Kids4Nature 2015 Winner!

Sumatran Tiger – 93,378 votes – Winner!

Giraffe – 88,345 votes

Hellbender – 64,212 votes


How Kids4Nature Works

On every visit, guests received a recycled metal washer that represented 10 cents. Guests could then “vote” for their favorite project by dropping the washer in the wishing well.  Votes helped determine how much funding each project receives.

Additional votes could be made with real quarters, nickels, and dimes – 100% of any added contributions went toward the voted project. Total contributions were calculated from April – October.

Click on the photos to see this year’s Kids4Nature animals:

These three projects will share 50% of the zoo’s $80,000 conservation commitment in 2015, with the allocation proportional to the number of votes received.  The other 50% of Kids4Nature funds will be shared by our Conservation Partners.

The Sumatran tiger won the most votes (and a year’s worth of bragging rights for our own Indah and Bugara), but ALL of the zoo’s conservation projects win when our guests care about conservation.  Thank you to all who voted at the Kids4Nature kiosk in 2015 to show your support of wild animals and wild places.


2015 Zoo Attendance Breaks All Records

Adorable baby animals, new exhibits, and a birthday celebration helped the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo set a new attendance record in 2015.

A total of 618,498 people visited the zoo in 2015, exceeding the previous attendance record of 614,666, set in 2009 when the African Journey exhibit first opened.

This figure includes 590,649 guests who visited during the regular zoo season of April 25-October 11, and 27,849 guests who attended the Wild Zoo Halloween in 2015.

The zoo celebrated its 50th birthday in 2015 and welcomed many baby animals, including a reticulated giraffe and an endangered Sumatran orangutan.  Phase 2 of the $7 million Australian Adventure renovation project opened, featuring tropical fish and sharks in The Reef, and touchable stingrays at Stingray Bay.

Also in 2015, the zoo was named the 7th Best Zoo in the United States and the 20th Best Zoo in the World by TripAdvisor, with rankings based on customer reviews.

“We thank our entire community for your support during this record-breaking season,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson. “I’m proud of our staff for serving over 600,000 guests as we work to fulfill our mission of connecting people with animals.”

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.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

# # #

About the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo:  The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s mission is to connect kids and animals, strengthen families, and inspire people to care.  The zoo is northeast Indiana’s largest tourist attraction, hosting more than 600,000 guests annually.  The zoo received the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award, was named the #7 Zoo in the United States and the #20 zoo in the world by TripAdvisor, was voted Indiana’s #1 “Gotta-Do Summer Attraction,” and is consistently named one of the nation’s Top Ten Zoos for Kids by national media outlets.

The zoo is a conservation leader, contributing more than $80,000 annually to local, regional, and international efforts to protect wild animals and habitats, and participating in cooperative management programs for 91 endangered species and taxa. The zoo was named Northeast Indiana’s Sustainable Business of the Year in 2014.

As a self-supporting facility, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo receives no tax dollars for operations. The zoo’s operations are funded entirely by earned revenue and donations.

The zoo is closed for the season and will reopen April 26, 2016.

3411 Sherman Boulevard   Fort Wayne, IN 46808   P: 260-427-6800   F: 260-427-6820   www.kidszoo.org



otter pumpkin

Animals Go Wild For Pumpkins

Tigers gotta gnaw, otters gotta play, and penguins – well, they’re just penguins!  Zoo critters showed off their animal instincts at the annual Pumpkin Stomp & Chomp as part of last week’s Wild Zoo Halloween festivities.

The award for most action-packed pumpkin encounter went to tigers Indah and Bugara, who attacked their pumpkins at full pounce, then batted them around like rubber toys.  The lemurs practically climbed inside their treat-laden pumpkins.  Some animals, like the sea lions, were more interested in the candy-bag-toting, costumed kids than their pumpkins. Once zoo keepers took the lid off a bamboo-stuffed pumpkin, the red pandas finally figured out that pumpkins aren’t so bad after all.  The penguins, however, were completely indifferent to their smiling jack-o-lantern.

Why did we give pumpkins to zoo animals?  Watching the animals nibble, gnaw, gnarl, play, and sometimes devour their pumpkins is a treat for guests, and provides valuable enrichment for the animals. Enrichment stimulates the animals’ natural behaviors and offers physical and mental challenges.

Click on the photos to find out what the animals did with their pumpkins:



NKOTB (New Kids On The Beach)

The zoo’s penguin exhibit is home to four new black-footed penguins!  The three males and one female are named Ollie, Cricket, Roman, and Tapanga.  They arrived earlier this summer with a breeding recommendation from the  Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Does that mean there’s a penguin chick on the way?

“Not yet,” states zoo keeper Sarah Cox, who cares for the penguins.  “The new males are still young and it may be another year before they’re ready to breed.”

Guests can identify three younger male penguins from the older members of the flock by their markings.  Juvenile black-footed penguins have all-black feathers on their faces and lack a black chest stripe.  They won’t get their adult markings until they molt.

The juvenile males are all one year old.  Tapanga is two years old and has already molted, so she has white facial markings like the other adults.

During the annual molting season, a penguin’s old feathers fall out and are replaced by new feathers, a process that takes several weeks and leaves the penguin with temporary bald spots.  Zoo keeper Britni Plummer explains, “Penguins go through changes in behavior and appearance when they molt.  They gain weight, don’t swim as much, and their whole body looks different.”  Plummer says that guests sometimes express concern about the molting penguins. “We’ve had guests ask if our penguins are sick when they’re molting, because the animals look so different.  They’re not sick, it’s just a normal part of their life cycle.”

When Ollie, Cricket, and Roman are mature enough to breed, one of them is likely to pair up with Tapanga.  Once Tapanga has chosen her beau the other suitors will have to look for a new partner.  Penguins pair for life.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

sheep|fort wayne zoo

Mother and Son Makeovers

Roxanne and Jerry (the mother-son sheep duo at the Indiana Family Farm) are sporting new looks this month.  Each is about five pounds lighter and probably feeling much cooler after their routine shearing on August 28.

Shearing is a twice-yearly event at the zoo and requires two zoo keepers.  This time around, keepers Heather Schuh and Laura Sievers did the honors.

This video shows the shearing process:

The wool is donated to local artisans who spin it into yarn.

Click to enlarge Roxanne’s and Jerry’s before-and-after photos:


bee on flower

2, 4, 6, 8, We Can Help Them Pollinate!

Why are we cheering for pollinators?  Because their work is important to our environment! Pollination is an essential step in the life cycle of many flowering and cone-bearing plants (not just the kinds that look pretty, the kinds we eat as well).

Here are some of the things the zoo is doing to help the pollinators (bees, butterflies, birds, and more) that help to sustain our food chain:

Pollinator Gardens

The proper term for the pollinator gardens at the zoo is “Monarch Waystations,” and we have two of them.  One is located at the Indiana Family Farm and the other is on the hill that runs parallel to the Sky Safari ride in the African Journey.  Gardens like these can look a little rough in their early years, but once established they bear flowers yearly and require minimal upkeep.

Zoo keeper Dave Messmann is part of a team of zoo staff and volunteers working to expand the Monarch Waystations and keep them flourishing.  Messman offers some suggestions regarding pollinator-friendly plants, “There are many species of native plants you could put in a pollinator garden.  Some of the plants we have at the Indiana Family Farm are goldenrod, milkweed, and bee balm.  They’re all different colors.”

Messmann explains that a healthy garden is one that can sustain various forms of life, “If you look close you can see a little ecosystem develop.  Aphids live on the plants, insects eat the aphids.  Sometimes the inside of the stem is a place where insects can develop.  The garden becomes self-sustainable.”

And a sustainable garden is the kind of place where monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators flourish.  Here are photos of some of the plants in the zoo’s Monarch Waystations.  Click on the photos to enlarge, and consider including some pollinator-friendly plants in your next gardening project:

Bee Keeping

There’s a beehive at the zoo, and it’s a unique one.  Our hive has clear sides, so guests can have a look inside at the bees’ hard work.  Bees pollinate a variety of plants, including many of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts we eat.  The next time you eat apples, broccoli, or almonds, thank a bee!  If you’d like to learn more about bee keeping, visit the American Beekeeping Federation website.  Click on the photos to enlarge:


In the summer of 2015, the zoo devoted an entire day to pollinator education at our What’s The Buzz event.  Zoo guests learned about the importance of pollinators like bees and butterflies.  Kids participated in several event stations, and even built “beehives” from re-used materials to learn how bees work together.  Education helps us understand pollinators and the critical role they play in the food chain.  We’re all in this together!

southern stingray|fort wayne zoo

Stingray Bay Opens at the Zoo

stingray bay|fort wayne zoo

Guests at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can now explore Stingray Bay when they visit the Australian Adventure.

The exhibit, which features a 20,000-gallon saltwater tank depicting a fishing village and Australian mangrove swamp filled with stingrays, opens today, September 3.

“We’re thrilled to introduce our guests to these awesome animals,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson.

Two species of stingray inhabit the tank – southern stingrays and cownose rays – for a total of 20 stingrays in the exhibit. Southern stingrays can grow up to five feet wide from fin to fin. Cownose rays are smaller at 24-30 inches wide.

Guests can view the stingrays through the chest-high, clear acrylic walls of the tank. Or, guests can choose to reach over the walls in hopes of touching a stingray as it swims past.

Stingrays have barbed venomous spines at the bases of their tails, which are used for defense against predators.   At the zoo, these spines have been trimmed and removed, so there is no danger to guests.

Closely related to sharks, stingrays are a type of fish with skeletons made of cartilage rather than bone. They breathe by taking in water and passing it over their gills to extract oxygen. Stingrays’ downward-facing mouths are filled with stubby teeth that crush clam and snail shells. After the flesh is eaten, shell fragments are spit out. At the zoo, keepers feed whole fish to the stingrays by hand. They also scatter food in the tank, allowing the rays to forage.

Stingray Bay occupies the former Nocturnal Building, which once housed bats, echidnas (spiny anteaters), and other creatures active at night.

The new exhibit will emphasize ocean conservation. “We want to empower our guests to make choices that help our oceans,” said Anderson. Staff at Stingray Bay will distribute information to help guests choose sustainable seafood at grocery stores and restaurants.

Stingray Bay is part of a $7 million, three-phase renovation of the Australian Adventure, which was originally built in 1987 at a cost of $2.5 million. All funds for the current project, as well as the 1987 project, were donated by individuals, foundations, and businesses. The zoo is especially grateful to the Gary Probst Family, sponsor of Stingray Bay.

“Stingray Bay was made possible with the generous support of the Gary Probst Family. Mr. Probst also donates his time and talents as a zoo board member. Everything you see at the zoo is built with the support of our community,” Anderson shared.

Phase 1 of the Australian Adventure renovation opened in 2014 and included visitor amenities such as expanded restaurant seating, additional restrooms, and improvements to the train station, which was renamed the Z.O.&O. Railroad.

Phase 2 of the Australian Adventure renovation includes Stingray Bay and The Reef, which opened in May and features a 17,000-gallon tank filled with tropical fish, and a 50,000-gallon tank housing 2,000 schooling fish and five sharks.

The Outback in the Australian Adventure closed on August 11 so construction could begin on Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure. Scheduled to open in 2016, Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure will include a play stream called Crocodile Creek, new bird aviaries, a new reptile exhibit, and renovations to the River Ride, kangaroo yard, and dingo exhibit. The zoo is also scheduled to receive Tasmanian devils from Australia as part of an Australian government program aimed at protecting this species. Wild Tasmanian devils are under severe threat from a deadly transmissible cancer.

Donations to the Australian Adventure Capital Campaign are welcome. For $400, a Recognition Tile can be engraved with the names of individuals, families, and businesses and displayed on a decorative wall at the Australian Adventure entrance.   For donation information, visit kidszoo.org or contact the zoo at 260-427-6800.

Stingray Bay Facts:

  • Tank volume: 20,000 gallons of artificial seawater
  • Species: Southern Stingrays and Cownose Rays
  • Location: Australian Adventure exhibit

Stingray Facts

  • Stingrays are closely related to sharks.
  • Stingrays breathe underwater with gills. Water enters through the spiracles and as it passes over the gills, oxygen seeps through the walls of tiny blood vessels and into the blood. Gills perform the same function as our lungs, except that our lungs remove oxygen from the air.
  • Stingrays have flat bodies, which allow them to lie flat on the sea floor, hidden in the sand. With eyes on top of their heads, they can watch for predators while remaining partially buried.
  • Spines are used for defense. When rays feel threatened, they may raise their powerful tails and slam their barbed spines into attackers.
  • Stingrays’ spines are covered in venomous mucus. When the spines pierce flesh, the venom is released, causing severe pain.
  • Stingrays flap their fins on the sea floor to uncover buried clams, snails, and fish.
  • Stingrays’ downward-facing mouths are filled with stubby teeth that crush clam and snail shells. After the flesh is eaten, shell fragments are spit out.
  • Because stingrays’ eyes are on top of their heads, they can’t see food on the sea floor. Instead, rays find food by smelling, touching, and detecting tiny electrical fields emitted by every animal.

Mangrove Facts

  • Mangrove trees grow where the freshwater of rivers and lagoons meets the saltwater of the ocean. Because of this the salinity of the water in a mangrove ecosystem can vary as the tides go in and out. Branching roots (called “prop roots”) form underwater “forests” that shelter thousands of species, including stingrays, crabs, worms, and mollusks. These areas also serve as breeding grounds for many seagoing fish—the young fish grow up in the shelter of the mangrove roots until they are large enough to survive in the open ocean.
  • Where mangroves are present, shorelines are protected from powerful ocean waves. On riverbanks, mangroves trap sediments before they flow into the ocean.
  • Mangroves shed excess salt through leaves and bark. Special “breathing roots” poke up through the water to take in air.
  • Bats, snakes, lizards, and insects live in mangrove treetops.
  • Australia has the 3rd largest mangrove area of all countries in the world, after Indonesia and Brazil.