Zoo Blog

November 20, 2013

Where Do the Animals Go in the Winter?

IndoBird 100X100

At the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, we often hear the question, “Where do the animals go in the winter?”  The answer is – They stay right here!  The zoo is quieter since we closed for the season on October 13, but our animals and zoo keepers haven’t gone anywhere.  Some animals spend the winter outdoors, some indoors, and many have the opportunity to do both.  Here’s a list of where a few of our animals spend their fall and winter “vacation”:

 Outdoors             Indoors                    Both                       
  • North American River Otters
  • Indonesian Rain Forest Birds
  • African Journey Birds
  • Sea Lions
  • Fruit Bats
  • Primates
  • Red Pandas
  • Echnidas
  • Lions

Why do some of the animals stay in while others go out?  According to African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson, it all depends on something called “access temperature”.  The access temperature is the threshold that’s safe for a particular species.  “Zoo keepers monitor the outdoor temperature to determine whether an animal can go outside”, states Eagleson.  Access temperature varies considerably, even for animals from the same geographic region.   For example, giraffes have an access temperature of 45 degrees.  African birds can endure much lower temperatures.  Eagleson states that “Ostriches have an access temp of zero degrees and for storks it’s five to ten degrees.”

The animals of the Indonesian Rain Forest also have a diverse range of access temperatures.  According to Area Manager Tanisha Dunbar, primates venture outdoors as long as temperatures are above 40 degrees.  The 40-degree threshold also applies to tigers.  Says Dunbar, “Some of the animals have continuous access to the outdoors, and some go out on exhibit if the weather allows it.”  The birds of the rain forest, however, spend the off-season inside the rain forest dome.

So although the zoo is closed for the season, the animals are still here…with the exception of one group.  The horses and ponies spend the winter off-site at a family farm.

The animals of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo will all be here and ready for opening day on April 26.  Will you join us?

Posted in: African Animals, Birds, Indonesian Rain Forest, Zoo News

November 12, 2013

Did You Help Us Change the World in 2013?

kids4nature logo 107

If you visited the Kids4Nature Kiosk this summer, then you sure did!  With your help, we directed $80,000 to the zoo’s Conservation Programs.  More than 180,000 zoo guests voted by releasing a metal washer into one of three coin funnels this season.   

So who won?

  • African Lions got 43% of the votes 
  • Javan Gibbons earned 34%
  • Sandhill Cranes secured 23%
Every vote counts!

Every vote counts!

We will soon send more than $80,000 to these and other organizations to support their conservation work.  By voting at the Kids4Nature Kiosk, making donations, and rounding up  at the Wild Things Gift Shop,  you’ve helped us to protect animals and their habitats.  Thank you to everyone who got involved.  Together we’re changing the world!

For a complete listing of the Zoo’s conservation commitments, click here.

Click on a photo of one of this year’s featured projects to enlarge:

Posted in: Conservation, Zoo News

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
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