zoo keeper cleaning|fort wayne children's zoo

Yes, We Do Windows

If you’ve ever been to a sea lion show at the zoo, you know that the zoo’s sea lions are trained to display lots of cool animal behaviors.  They are not, however, trained to wash windows and vacuum the beach.  That’s why zoo keepers Sarah Cox and Chris Woodard donned wetsuits, goggles, and snorkeling gear during a recent day on the job.

The two entered the water and got right to work while guests watched.  Cox brought along a small ladder and window-washing supplies and Woodard used a long vacuum hose.

Fishbone and Grits were in the water with the zoo keepers that day.  The animals swam close Cox and Woodard and even splashed and vocalized, getting the attention of the keepers and the crowd.  Cox describes the experience, “It’s definitely a great experience being in the same medium as the sea lions.  They are great when we are in the water with them, but we always have to be aware of where they are.”  Cox also shared that she enjoys getting some personal time in with the animals.

Though they enjoy the task, cleaning sea lion beach is hard work.  Woodard explains, “We vacuum Sea Lion Beach once a week. We try to vacuum out as much debris as possible.  Sea Lion Beach is quite similar to your local pool. It needs to be cleaned frequently even though we have a very large filtration system attached to the exhibit.  Vacuuming [the beach] is a really exhausting task but it always proves to be a fun chore.”

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prairie dog|fort wayne children's zoo

What’s Up, Little Pup?

The zoo’s prairie dog exhibit has a reason for excitement:  a fluffy, cute new pup surfaced last week!  Zoo keepers first spotted the youngster on June 24, but based on the baby’s size they estimate that he or she was born some time in April.

Zoo keepers suspected that a baby had been born when the town (group of prairie dogs) suddenly became elusive and began spending most of the day underground.  Zoo keeper Helena Lacey has observed the pup above-ground and reported that the little one is taking an interest in solid food.  Lacey stated that zoo keepers have not been able to determine whether the baby is male or female.

Now that the pup has surfaced, zoo staff is hopeful that the town will spend more time above ground.  The new baby is fairly easy to discern from the adults.  He or she is extra-fluffy and still smaller than the others.  Here’s a handy “field guide” for pup identification:

prairie dog pup|fort wayne children's zoo

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Video by zoo keeper Helena Lacey:

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click here to meet more zoo babies!

A Double-Dose of Zoo Baby Cuteness

There’s a double-dose of cuteness at the ring-tailed lemur exhibit – Cushla the lemur had twins!

The babies were born June 10.  Now two weeks old, they’re spending time outside and getting acquainted with their troop in their exhibit.  The twins are still nursing and spend all their time clinging to mom, but they often peek out to get a look at zoo guests.

“They are doing well,” states zoo keeper Stephanie Raiman.  “They can be seen on exhibit most days, unless it is raining. They are starting to poke their heads out more and look around.”  Raiman recommends that guests first look for the adult lemur with the shortest tail (that’s Cushla, the mother).  Once they spot mom, it’s easy to find the babies clinging to her front.

The twins, both males, are still very small and to call them visually “identical” would be an understatement.  The tiny boys are equally and unequivocally cute as they curiously peek out at their surroundings.  Zoo guests can visit the boys in Central Zoo near the pony rides.

UPDATE 6/25/15:  Zoo keepers named the lemur babies Apollo (meaning sun or light) and Zeus (meaning sky).

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Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.


Baby giraffe|fort wayne children's zoo

It’s A Boy!

A six-foot-tall baby has arrived at the zoo:  A male baby giraffe was born on June 14!  Baby and mom are bonding behind-the-scenes in the giraffe barn.

Female giraffe Zahra delivered the baby, her first, around 5:00 PM Sunday in the giraffe barn, according to African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson.  “It was a textbook delivery,” says Eagleson. “The whole delivery took about two hours.”

The baby’s father is Ezeji.  Both Ezeji and Zahra are five years old.

Giraffes give birth standing up, and the baby falls feet-first to the ground.  Keepers had bedded Zahra’s stall with a thick layer of wood shavings to cushion the baby’s landing.  Immediately after the birth, Zahra began licking the calf to clean him.

“Within an hour of birth, the calf stood up and was walking, although he was a bit wobbly,” says Eagleson.  “He began nursing shortly afterward.”  These survival instincts are a great advantage to baby giraffes born in the wild, who can be targeted by predators.

The calf has not yet been named.  He will remain in the barn with Zahra for several weeks, while he gains strength and gets acquainted with the five other members of the zoo’s giraffe herd.  “Our other adult females, including the calf’s grandmother Zuri, are extremely interested in the calf,” says Eagleson.  “They were licking and sniffing him through the wire walls of the stall.”

The new calf is the 23rd giraffe born at the zoo since 1976.

Watch the zoo’s social media accounts for updates on the calf, including an announcement on when he will debut in the giraffe exhibit.

UPDATE 6/17/15:  Video of calf’s first vet exam (one day old).

UPDATE 6/19/15:  Zoo keepers named the new giraffe baby Kiango, which means “light” or “sunshine” in Swahili.

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Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.


All Grown Up

Every zoo animal has a unique story and a journey all their own.  Some animals come to the Fort Wayne Children’s zoo as adults and some are born here and move on to new adventures at other zoos.  The lemur and wildebeest babies born at the zoo in 2014 fall into a different category.  They’re growing up right here in Fort Wayne and zoo guests get to see it all!

Back in September one of the zoo’s ring-tailed lemurs, Kyna, gave birth to a healthy baby girl.  Zoo keepers named her “Madi” and guests had a chance to see mom and baby on exhibit for a few weeks before the close of the 2014 season.  Madi has grown quite a bit and is almost as big as the other three lemurs in her troop.  Zoo keeper Helena Lacey explains lemur behavior, “Madi would stay with her family in the wild, so she stays with them at the zoo.  She’s weaned now and eats the same diet as the adults.”  Lacey has also begun training Madi using operant conditioning.  Zoo keepers train animals on behaviors such as moving indoors when it gets cold out and standing on a scale for monthly weight checkups.

Lacey stated that while there is no plan to relocate Madi to another zoo, it is always a possibility, “Lemurs are a managed species, so it’s always a possibility that she may have to go to another zoo.  If she did go, mom would likely go with her.”  (Ring-tailed lemurs are managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan.)

Over in the zoo’s African Journey lives a juvenile wildebeest named Sangria.  She was born the morning of July 9, 2014 to the delight of many guests who were lucky enough to be near the savannah that day – Surprise!  (Zoo keepers weren’t expecting the baby for another week.)  Sangria is nearly a year old now and African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson doesn’t anticipate her leaving any time soon.

Eagleson discusses the wildebeest breeding program, “We’re trying to build and sustain our own wildebeest population.  We have a new male coming this year who’s not related to any of our females.”  Genetic diversity is important in zoos and the new male could potentially breed with all three of the zoo’s females.

Could there be another baby boom on the African Journey savannah in 2016?  Time will tell…

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Animal babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

Purdue Resident Ophthalmologist Ben Bergstrom|fort wayne children's zoo

A Win-Win for Veterinary Care

The Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo have winning partnership.  Faculty and residents from the vet school travel to the zoo to provide specialized animal care.  In return, Purdue’s veterinarians gain valuable experience working with exotic animals they might not otherwise encounter.

For both parties, sharing knowledge and experience adds value as they work to provide excellent animal care.

Purdue’s faculty veterinary ophthalmologist Jean Stiles and resident Ben Bergstrom visited Fort Wayne last week to perform eye exams on a variety of zoo species.  The African black-footed penguins were among the list of patients, since penguins are susceptible to cataracts.  Dr. Stiles and Dr. Bergstrom examined several members of the zoo’s penguin flock while the zoo’s director of animal health Dr. Joe Smith and veterinarian Dr. Kami Fox offered insight on exotic animal care.  Other zoo staff assisted in holding the penguins safely for their exams (pictured below).

Dr. Joe Smith describes the zoo’s relationship with Purdue, “It’s mutually beneficial.  Sometimes we call them up here for specific cases.  Sometimes they contact us to gain experience with exotics.  They’re doing this on their own time.”

Dr. Stiles and Dr. Bergstrom did note minimal cataracts in several of the penguins that zoo staff will monitor.  No treatment is recommended at this time.

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Goat close up with watermark|fort wayne children's zoo

9 Tips For Making the Most of Your Zoo Visit (Goats are #7)

No summer vacation is complete without a trip to the zoo!  Here are nine tips for making the most of your zoo visit:

#1 – Catch a FREE sea lion show.  They happen at Sea Lion Beach every day at 11AM and 3PM.

#2 – Buy a ride pass.  You’ll get 12 rides for the price of 10…and don’t worry if you don’t use all 12 in one day.  Ride passes never expire!

#3 – Visit our newest babies.  Asmara the baby Sumatran orangutan lives in the zoo’s Indonesian Rain Forest and there’s a new colobus monkey baby in the African Journey.  Our kangaroo mob has a new joey that just started venturing out of the pouch.

#4 – Feed a giraffe.  You can buy a piece of lettuce at the giraffe platform for 1 token ($1).  One of our friendly giraffes might come up and eat it right out of your hand!

#5 – Turn your zoo trip into a learning experience.  Visit the For Educators page on our website for ideas and resources.

#6 – Chat with a volunteer.  Our amazing volunteers love talking with guests and sharing their passion for animals and education.  Zoo volunteers are easy to spot – they wear bright red shirts with the zoo logo.

#7 – Make a friend at the Indiana Family Farm.  You’re allowed to pet many of the animals in the barn, including goats, sheep, and donkeys.  Ask a zoo keeper or volunteer for help if you’re not sure how to approach an animal.  They’re there to help.

#8 – Try some new fare.  You’ll find lots of new menu items at our remodeled concession stands.

#9 – Share your memories.  Post your pictures to our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feeds.  Your photo could be featured on the front page at kidszoo.org!

The Reef Opens Friday

The Reef Opens Friday

Guests at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can now add a trip to The Reef to their Australian Adventure itinerary.

The exhibit, which features a 17,000-gallon saltwater tank depicting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, will open on Friday, May 22

Originally constructed in 1987, the aquatic exhibit was completely renovated over the winter.  “We drained the tank, rebuilt the artificial coral, and buffed decades of tiny scratches off the 27-foot-long acrylic window,” says Zoo Director Jim Anderson.  “The result is a sparkling showcase of this diverse ecosystem.”

Contractors added finishing touches to the tank on Wednesday, and dozens of fish moved into the exhibit on Thursday.

Two separate 600-gallon tanks display moon jellyfish and a new tank of venomous lionfish.

The Reef’s exhibit gallery has been renovated to resemble an old cannery warehouse in an Australian seaside town.  Formerly carpeted and dimly lit, the gallery now features exposed brick, rustic beams, and colorful signage

The building also includes a 50,000-gallon shark tank, but zoo guests will have to wait a bit longer to see those predators.  “The logistics of moving sharks are complicated,” says Anderson. “We didn’t want to make our guests wait any longer. We’re eager to invite them into The Reef to see what we’ve done so far.”  Black-tip sharks will move into the exhibit with hundreds of small schooling fish called pilchards in July.

The Reef is part of a $7 million, three-phase renovation of the Australian Adventure, which was 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.

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 The Reef and the all-new Stingray Bay, which is currently under construction.  Stingray Bay occupies the former Nocturnal Building, and opening is planned for late July.

In 2016, Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure renovation will completely upgrade the current Outback and 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 in late 2015 as part of an Australian government program aimed at protecting this species.  Wild Tasmanian devils are under severe threat from a deadly transmissible cancer.  Their exhibit will open in 2016 as part of Phase 3.

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.

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Verreaux's eagle o

Who’s Hoo-ing at the Zoo

There are three owl species at the zoo, and each is beautiful and interesting in its own way.  Learn a little more about these feathered birds of prey, then visit them on your next zoo trip:

Eurasian Eagle Owl

eurasian eagle owlEsmerelda and Andrey are new at the zoo this season.  The pair arrived in March, sponsored by a generous donation from the German Heritage Society.  Zoo development director Amy Lazoff received the donation and noted that owlets are a possibility for the breeding pair.

Zoo guests can visit the Eurasian eagle owl exhibit in Central Zoo, near the red pandas, and be sure observe the ground for owl pellets.

Like other birds of prey, owls regurgitate pellets made of bones, claws, teeth, fur, and other indigestible items.  Owls feed on small mammals, such as mice and voles.

Owl pellets tend to be large and are often used for study in animal education programs.


Verreaux’s Eagle Owl

Verreaux's eagle oThis beautiful bird species can be found in the zoo’s African Journey.  Roosevelt, the male, came to Fort Wayne in 2010.  A female named Mio joined him just in time for the 2015 zoo season, arriving in March.

Zoo keeper Ty Laemmle enjoys introducing guests to the Verreaux’s eagle owls.  “They have bright pink eyelids and also are famous for eating hedgehogs,” states Laemmle.  The owls avoid hedgehog-related injuries by peeling the sharp spines off before ingesting their prey.

At the zoo, the Verreaux’s eagle owls eat large mice, chicks, and small rats.

Verreaux’s eagle owls are often called “milky eagle owls” because of their coloring.  Look for Mio near the front of the exhibit and Roosevelt near the back, as this is the birds’ preferred seating arrangement.

Common Barn Owl

common barn owlThere’s a third species of owl that many guests overlook at the zoo.  Our common barn owl, Lindbergh, isn’t always active during the day.  A “night owl” by all accounts, Lindbergh is typically active after dark but may perk up during feeding time at 5PM, making Wild Wendesdays a great time to visit.

Guests can visit Lindbergh in the Indiana Family Farm.  Zoo keeper Heather Schuh states that guests have the opportunity to observe Lindbergh’s weighing if they happen to be in the right place at the right time, “She gets weighed once every other month which involves us catching her to put her in a crate and then onto a scale. If the guests happen to be here on that day, they will see her very active.”

Schuh anticipates Lindbergh’s next weighing will occur on or around June 1.

colobus monkey baby

Surprise New Baby at the Zoo

Zoo keeper Jess Brinneman found a delightful surprise when she arrived at work on April 22 (Earth Day).  Jibini the colobus monkey had just given birth!

Brinneman describes that morning, “I walked into the monkey building and found Jibini holding her new baby.  It was a big surprise.  It appeared as though she had just given birth.  I called our area manager and she notified our animal curator and vet staff.  We had been observing her for signs of pregnancy but hadn’t confirmed anything yet.”

Zoo staff suspected that Jibini could be pregnant and had been monitoring her for weight gain but hadn’t observed anything significant.  They did, however, notice a couple of diet changes that may have been pregnancy-related.  “She has been eating more kale than usual for the past two months,” states Brinneman, “and I noticed that for the first time she preferred peanuts over grapes, but we didn’t observe any clear signs of pregnancy prior to her delivery.”

The baby, a female, is Jibini’s third offspring.  Jibini’s other daughter and son, Kaasidy and Obi, were born at the zoo and live with Jibini and adult male colobus Finnigan.  Zoo keepers were aware of Jibini’s two previous pregnancies prior to delivery.

Jibini is nursing and caring for her infant, allowing zoo keepers to take a hands-off approach.  All of the colobus monkeys, including the new baby, will go out onto exhibit together soon – possibly as early as next week.

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Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.