January 22, 2014
When Bo the reticulated python got his annual physical last week, it took seven people just to hold onto this unusual patient in the Indonesian Rain Forest.
At 15’ 3” long, Bo is 61 pounds of pure muscle and squirmed mightily to express his displeasure at this visit from the vet.
Zoo staffers get their hands on this powerful snake only once a year, so despite Bo’s protests, zoo veterinarians Dr. Joe Smith and Dr. Kami Fox wanted to examine every inch of him (one hundred eighty-three inches, to be exact!)
Lead snake keeper Dave Messmann held Bo’s head while other keepers and veterinary staff lined up to stretch out the snake. Keepers inspected Bo’s skin, looking for irregularities in his scales or lumps under the skin.
Messmann gently held Bo’s mouth open with a rubber spatula so Dr. Fox could examine the snake’s teeth. A string was run down Bo’s spine to determine his exact length, and Dr. Fox drew blood from Bo’s tail for testing.
“Bo is a healthy snake,” said Dr. Smith after the exam. As if he was trying to prove his excellent physical condition, Bo downed a tasty rat immediately after being returned to his exhibit.
January 15, 2014
After spending 113 hours and 36 minutes under water in 2013, the zoo’s Dive Team is far from “all wet!” The divers, along with support from staff on the dry side, completed 85 dives last year in their quest to keep the zoo’s Great Barrier Reef tanks sparkling clean.
Though the 78 degree water temperature sounds balmy, Aquarium Area Manager and Dive Safety Officer Gary Stoops says divers need to wear wet suits to retain body heat, which is lost faster in water than in air. The thick wet suits also protect divers from aggressive fish. “Some of the fish are very territorial. The triggerfish and even the zebra moray eel have been known to challenge the divers, and even nip at their wet suits.”
The shark tank is a different story. No diver has ever been bitten during a dive with the blacktip reef sharks. “They just stay away from us,” states Stoops.
When the zoo is open for the season, guests can witness dives and can even get involved in an interactive dive chat! Divers are outfitted with a speaker and microphone that allow for live question-and-answer sessions. Dive Chats are held every Wednesday and Thursday at 1:30 PM.
All-told, divers spend about 90 minutes in the water during each dive. Most of that time is spent cleaning the coral, and of course avoiding the eel. At 15, he is the aquarium’s oldest resident and is an expert at defending his territory.
January 8, 2014
Zoo keepers got a big surprise last month when a tentacled snake in the Indonesian Rain Forest gave birth to seven babies overnight!
Zoo keepers knew that the female snake was pregnant, but weren’t sure when the babies would arrive. An ultrasound done in December revealed a tangle of little snakes inside the mother.
Dr. Kami Fox, the zoo’s veterinary intern states that the length of gestation and anticipated due date for tentacled snakes is difficult to determine. “We try to assess how far along they are via ultrasound but rarely do we witness the actual birth. In this particular case, the snake gave birth during the night and in the morning we observed the new babies.”
Tentacled snakes are ovoviviparous, which means they produce eggs inside their body, but instead of laying eggs they give birth to live young. Here’s how it works: The unborn snakes are nourished via egg yolk (the mother has no placenta), and the eggs hatch prior to birth. The mother snake then delivers live young.
Tentacled snakes are ambush hunters. According to Zoo Keeper Dave Messmann, “They use their tails to anchor themselves and wait for their prey.” At this point, the unique tentacles for which the species is named allow the snake to sense vibration from the unsuspecting prey – usually a small fish. Once the predator becomes aware of its prey it strikes with its mouth. The strike is lightning-fast, lasting only a matter of milliseconds.
Baby tentacled snakes begin hunting just hours after birth. According to Dr. Fox, “The babies come out hungry so we provide size-appropriate fish for them.”
The only known predator to tentacled snakes is humans.
December 11, 2013
Bill the lion may have a big appetite, but that doesn’t mean he’ll eat anything! According to African Journey Area Director Amber Eagleson, Bill’s reluctance to accept dietary change lead to his reputation as a “picky eater”.
“All our big cats eat a commercial ground-meat diet we purchase by the ton. Whenever we switch meat companies, Bill is always the last to comply. We find it ironic since he eats the largest amount of meat in the entire zoo!” states Eagleson.
Fortunately for Bill, who consumes approximately eight pounds of meat each day, the zoo changes animal diets only a supplier cannot meet the necessary nutritional requirements. To ease the transition to a new diet, Eagleson explains that “For most carnivores, we will mix 75% of the meat they are accustomed to with 25% of the new meat for a week and then go to 50:50 and then 25:75. Almost always, it is no big deal for the animal. However, Bill has given us problems almost every time.”
What’s a zoo keeper to do? In the case of Bill “The Picky Eater” Lion, the transition starts at 95% new to 5% old and proceeds gradually from there.
In the Indonesian Rain Forest, the term “picky eating” takes on a different definition. Melati, Tengku, and Tara, the zoo’s Sumatran orangutans, approach their lunch very carefully. They reach inside of pumpkins and carefully pluck out seeds one at a time. The orangutans then shell and eat each pumpkin seed until the last one is gone. According to Tanisha Dunbar, Area Director for the Indonesian Rainforest, Melati approaches the task so precisely that she finishes every last seed “without breaking a single one.”
Dunbar also points out that, “Melati can peel grapes without breaking them.” How’s that for “picky eating”?
December 6, 2013
For 22 years, thousands of children took their very first pony ride on a friendly zoo pony named Cookie. We are saddened to report that Cookie passed away last month at age 38.
“We always put first-time riders on Cookie,” said Byron Hooley, whose family has operated the zoo’s pony rides for nearly 40 years. “She could sense if kids were a little scared and would take it nice and slow.”
A 38-year-old pony is considered very old, according to Hooley.
In her advanced age, Cookie only worked a few days a week last season. “Everyone always asked for Cookie,” Hooley said. “There were so many parents who rode Cookie when they were kids, and wanted their children to have the same experience.”
“All my grandkids took their first pony ride on Cookie,” Hooley said. “She was one of those ponies who took care of her rider. Cookie will be tough to replace.”
Share your memories of Cookie on the zoo’s Facebook page.
December 4, 2013
Meet Leonard, our newest resident in the Indonesian Rain Forest. Leonard is a crested wood partridge, or “roul roul” (short for his Latin name Rollulus rouloul). Born on May 16, 2013, he traveled to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo from Milwaukee. His diet includes a mix of corn and seeds similar to the items that a roul roul might forage from the forest floor. Although they can fly short distances, roul rouls spend the majority of their life in low-lying areas. In fact, roul roul chicks begin walking and foraging on their own just one week after they’re born!
The crested wood partridge is a near-threatened species. They nest and forage in the tropical rain forests and bamboo thickets of Southeast Asia, and their primary threat is habitat destruction. Here are some of the areas that the crested wood partridge calls home:
- Thailand (southern)
- Burma (southern)
Keep an eye out for Leonard when the zoo reopens this spring - you may be able to spot him strutting the forest floor in the Jungle Dome! Visit our Conservation page to learn more about the zoo’s commitment to saving wild animals and wild places.
Birds, Indonesian Rain Forest
November 20, 2013
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”:
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?
November 12, 2013
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%
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:
November 5, 2013
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.Zoo News
October 16, 2013
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.
Monkeys, Orangutans, Red Panda, Zoo News