Zoo Blog

May 1, 2013

Rare Javan Gibbon Born at Zoo

Javan gibbon baby sleeping

A very rare baby – one of only two born in the United States in the last 12 months – has arrived at the zoo.  A male Javan gibbon was born on April 16 in the Indonesian Rain Forest.

“We are thrilled with the birth,” says Animal Curator Mark Weldon. “Dieng is being a good mother and the baby appears healthy.”

On a visit to the gibbons’ indoor quarters, Dieng, the mother, held her new baby tightly to her chest as she swung gracefully from branch to branch.  The baby had no choice but to hang on tight to Dieng’s furry belly or risk falling to the ground.  But luckily, nature has equipped baby gibbons with a strong grip!

Lionel, the baby’s father, and big brother Jaka, who was born here in March 2011, were more focused on the treats being offered by zoo keeper Kristen Sliger than on the new baby.  “Jaka is curious about his new sibling, but Dieng is also very protective,” she said.  The new arrival does not yet have a name.

For now, the gibbons’ access to the outdoors will be limited to time periods when the temperature is above 60 degrees.  The apes will only be allowed to venture into the overhead chute that connects their indoor quarters to the outdoor exhibit.  “We just want to play it safe and make sure the baby is ready to move into the big exhibit before we give them complete access,” Sliger said. 

Javan gibbons are rare in zoos and in the wild.  Fewer than 4,000 of these gibbons remain on the island of Java, where they are under intense pressure from the island’s burgeoning human population.   Read more about Javan gibbons here.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Baby Animals, Zoo News

April 24, 2013

Big Snake Makes a Big Move

Bo Snake

A new reticulated python named Bo has slithered onto the scene in the Indonesian Rain Forest.

When Bo made his public debut on opening day, he had zoo fans intrigued from the start.  “He is very active and curious for a big snake,” says zoo keeper Tim Jedele.  “All the zoo guests were amazed that he was moving around and looking at them through the glass.”

Bo started out his life as a pet in someone’s home, and the owner later donated Bo to the Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square in Saginaw, Michigan.  When the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s resident python, Jed, passed away over the winter and keepers began searching for a new snake, the search led them to Bo, who was rapidly outgrowing the facilities in Saginaw.   “The staff at Saginaw took excellent care of Bo,” says Jedele.  Bo’s Saginaw fans even created a special going-away card and sent it along on his trip to Fort Wayne. 

After Bo’s routine 90-day quarantine period was completed, Jedele and zoo keeper Dave Messmann loaded Bo into a crate and delivered him to the python exhibit in Dr. Diversity’s Rain Forest Research Station.  Bo, who is 15 feet long and weighs 55 pounds, immediately began exploring the trees, pond, and logs in the 20-foot-long display. 

Bo already seems comfortable in his new home in the Indonesian Rain Forest.  “Bo is a perfect fit for our exhibit,” says Jedele.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Reptiles

April 19, 2013

Opening Day Update

waterfowl and sea lions in flood

Who knew we’d experience snow flurries and flooding rains on the eve of the zoo’s Opening Day!  We want to inform our fans that due to  unseasonable weather, about 20 of the zoo’s 200 animal species will not be on exhibit for Opening Weekend, April 20-21.

Affected species include vultures, owls, pelicans, some Australian birds, storks, hornbills, zebras, alligators, gibbons, sitatunga, capuchin monkeys and possibly giraffes.   We feel its important to protect the health of these amazing creatures in our care, so we’ll be monitoring the weather carefully and moving them outdoors as the temperatures warm in the next few weeks. 

All guest pathways are completely accessible and free of floodwater, but as of Friday evening, some exhibits contained standing water.

The zoo is committed to excellent animal care and outstanding guest service.  Enjoy your visit and return often this season!

Posted in: Zoo News

April 17, 2013

A Sneak Peek at our New Tigers

Bugara sumatran tiger

Sumatran tigers Indah and Bugara arrived at the zoo in February, and on Wednesday, zoo keepers allowed the cats to explore Tiger Forest for the first time in preparation for the zoo’s opening day on Saturday.  Read about the cats’ arrival from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas here.

Zoo staff members gathered to see how the one-and-a-half-year-old brother and sister would react to their new surroundings.  Indah was the first to walk the long chute that connects the indoor holding to the wooded outdoor exhibit.  “Indah was much braver than her brother,” said Indonesian Rain Forest Area Manager Tanisha Dunbar.  “She definitely took more risks.”

Once in the exhibit, Indah immediately investigated the pond, viewing windows, and every tree trunk.  Meanwhile, Bugara was more cautious.  “He was startled by the construction that was going on nearby,” said Dunbar.  Once he entered the exhibit, Bugara instantly walked to the small viewing window to check out the staff members who had assembled to watch.

After a few minutes, Bugara relaxed a bit, but that’s when the action began.  Indah began stalking her brother at every opportunity, crouching behind logs and springing out to chase him.  A few times, both cats leaped at each other with all eight feet leaving the ground!  Bugara eventually wised up and began looking behind himself every few minutes to make sure Indah wasn’t following him.

Indah and Bugara are amazing representatives of this critically endangered species.  Fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild, making zoo cats increasingly important for the survival of the species.  Read more about Sumatran tigers here.

Click on the photos below to enlarge to full screen.

Posted in: Tigers

April 16, 2013

What’s New for 2013

kangaroo joey with mother in Australian Adventure

You’ll enjoy new babies, old favorites, and upgraded amenities when the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo opens for its 49th season on Saturday, April 20. 

A highlight of the season is the arrival of two new Sumatran tigers. The brother and sister pair, named Bugara and Indah, arrived form the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas in February to replace tigers Teddy and Kemala, who moved to other zoos for breeding purposes.  The 1-1/2 year-old cats are playful and very interested in people because they were hand-reared after being rejected by their mother. 

Two baby monkeys born last fall are lively additions to the African Journey.  A baby colobus monkey named Kaasidy was born in September and a swamp monkey named Orion joined the troop in November. 

At least three kangaroo joeys are exploring the Australian Adventure.  Born last May or June, the joeys have only recently been out of their mothers’ pouches.  All of the joeys were sired by the zoo’s only adult male kangaroo, Mako, who arrived here two years ago.

Two unique southeast Asian reptiles will arrive in the Indonesian Rain Forest later this season.  Viper boas, which are small nonvenomous snakes, will live in Dr. Diversity’s Rain Forest Research Station.  Crocodile skinks are unusual lizards found along jungle waterways.  They’ll be housed near the rain forest’s waterfall.

Many construction projects were completed to improve guest service and maintain the high quality of exhibits within the zoo.  The red panda exhibit was rebuilt this winter, and the colobus monkey exhibit was relocated within the African Village; it remains under construction through May.  Both projects were funded by generous donors.  To improve accessibility, the mulch pathway in the Indonesian Rain Forest was replaced with a boardwalk made from recycled plastic lumber, thanks to the support of the AWS Foundation.

The African Village underwent significant improvements, including replacement of mulched walkways with concrete paths, expansion of the African Oasis concession stand, additional seating for the concession stand, renovations to the restroom facilities, and new landscaping.  The zoo’s food service partner, Service Systems Associates, participated in the upgrades.

“We are eager to share our new babies – and the entire zoo experience – with our half-million guests in 2013,” says Anderson.  “It’s going to be a great season at the zoo!

Posted in: Zoo News

April 10, 2013

How to Weigh a Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon

To maintain excellent health as she ages, Gorgon, our 18-year-old Komodo dragon, gets regular monthly weigh-ins.  Picking up and carrying the five-foot-long, 62-pound lizard to a scale is not an option – that could be stressful for Gorgon and dangerous for the zoo keepers.

Zoo keeper Dave Messmann, who has cared for Gorgon since she arrived at the zoo as a hatchling in 1995, created a six-foot-long box for transporting Gorgon to and from the scale.  The box features a clear Lexan lid and multiple hatch doors for inspecting various parts of the lizard’s body. 

Messmann simply parks the transport box next to a small door in Gorgon’s enclosure.  “We bait the box with food – in this case we’re using mice – and Gorgon walks right in,” he explains.  Once Gorgon is inside the box, the back hatch is closed and the entire box is carried to a set of load bars and weighed.  Keepers have already weighed the empty box, so they’ll subtract the box’s weight from the total to get a weight on Gorgon.  “Her weight has been pretty stable for the last several months,” says Messmann.  “That’s a good sign.”

As an aging Komodo dragon, Gorgon is being treated for arthritis and other age-related ailments.  Her transport box is made of plastic, so the veterinarian can obtain x-rays without removing Gorgon from the box.  When it’s time to move Gorgon outside to her summer home, she comes and goes in this custom-made transport box.

Obtaining weights is a basic tool for monitoring animal health, especially with reptiles, who typically mask any symptoms of illness until it’s often too late for treatment.   “We want to do everything we can to keep her healthy,” Messmann says.

Read more about Komodo dragons here, and download a high-quality image of Gorgon in our Photo Gallery.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Reptiles

April 2, 2013

Spring Cleaning at the Aquarium

moon jellyfish swimming

 After moving the hundreds of moon jellies to a back-up tank, 500 gallons of sea water are pumped out of the tank.  When the water level is too low for the pump, aquarists Gary Stoops and Ian Wallace resort to the old fashioned method of bailing the water with a scoop and bucket.Once a year, the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium crew takes on a daunting task:  draining, cleaning, and scrubbing the two 500-gallon jellyfish tanks.

“Once we have all the water out, we will scrub the tank walls to get rid of the old food, polyps, and debris that settle on the floor and walls of the tank,” Stoops explains. 

The moon jellies eat brine shrimp, and some of the unhatched brine shrimp eggs fall to the tank floor.  Polyps are the result of jellyfish reproduction, but these tiny jellies do not survive in the confines of the aquarium.

This spring cleaning event results in a major water change for the jellies, with about 80% of their tank water being removed and replaced (about 20% of the water is pumped into a sump, and will be added back to the tank).  For many aquatic species, this would present too much of a shock, but Stoops says, “Moon jellies are pretty hardy.” 

Stoops mixes up artificial sea water for the tank, which mimics the natural ocean in that it contains traces of nearly every element on earth.  Once the water cycles through the filtration system, it will be ready again for the moon jellies.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Aquarium

March 12, 2013

Zoos Cooperate to Breed Australian Magpies

magpie chicks 107x107px

Four eggs from a pair of Australian magpies at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo traveled to the Toledo Zoo as part of a cooperative effort to raise chicks of this species, which is rare in zoos.  Three of the eggs hatched.

“These chicks are the first to be hatched at a North American zoo in many years,” says animal curator Mark Weldon.  Our pair is one of only three Australian magpie pairs living in North American zoos.

In the past, the zoo’s Australian magpie pair laid eggs, but did not successfully raise chicks.  By working with the Toledo Zoo and placing the eggs in their climate-controlled incubator, we were able to increase the odds of a successful hatch.

Upon hatching, Australian magpie chicks are blind and featherless.  After about two weeks, they open their eyes and begin to develop downy feathers.  They grow quickly:  at one month old, the chicks are nearly the same size as their parents!

Because the three Australian magpie eggs were hatched in an incubator, the chicks are being hand-fed by zoo keepers.  Once the chicks have fledged (left the nest), they will be placed at other zoos.  You can see the zoo’s magpies in the Australian Adventure when the zoo opens on April 20.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Baby Animals, Birds

March 7, 2013

Photographer captures unique zoo animals on film

Joel Sartore blue crowned hanging parrot 107 x 107px

What’s it like to work with a world-famous photographer on a life-long quest to document endangered species?  Several zoo staff members found out last fall when National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore visited the zoo  to photograph some of our most unusual species for his Photo Ark project.  Sartore’s main goal was to photograph our honey badgers, which are rare in zoos.  While here, he also snapped our blue-crowned hanging parrots, hunting cissas, black storks, Ruppell’s griffon vultures, banded mongoose, wildebeest, and other species.

Sartore photographs each species on a black or white background, which provides a stark contrast for the complex beauty of each animal.  In the photo, Sartore photographs one of our black storks in a white “tent” built especially for this task. 

Nearly half of the world’s fauna are threatened with extinction on some level.  Sartore hopes his Photo Ark will one day hold images of all species present in North American zoos, documenting them before they disappear.  About 2,400 species have been photographed so far.  We’re honored to be part of this educational and inspiring project.  See all Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo animals in the Photo Ark.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Zoo News

February 27, 2013

Indah and Bugara are Here!

tiger banner 107x107

After receiving a huge-send-off from the Cameron Park Zoo, Sumatran tigers Indah and Bugara arrived safely in Fort Wayne last week after an all-night ride from their birthplace in Waco, Texas.

The Cameron Park Zoo Staff sent a hand-made banner with the tigers, signed by the tigers’ many fans during a going-away party held for the cats the week before their departure.  Because they were rejected by their mother as cubs and hand-raised by zoo staff, Indah and Bugara were very dear to the staff.  “We will miss them greatly,” said Cameron Park Zoo Marketing and Public Relations Manager Duane McGregor. 

tiger banner

The Fort Wayne staff is already impressed with the cats’ personalities.  “They are really nice cats,” said Animal Curator Mark Weldon.  “I think they’re going to do really well in our exhibit.”

Indah and Bugara replace Teddy and Kemala, the zoo’s former tigers, who recently went to the San Diego Zoo and the Toronto Zoo, respectively, for breeding purposes.  The moves of all four tigers were recommended by the Species Survival Plan, which coordinates breeding of endangered species in zoos.

Because they are brother and sister, Indah and Bugara will not breed, but they are a perfect fit for Tiger Forest because they get along so well and can be exhibited together.   Plan to meet Indah and Bugara on your first visit of the season, which begins  April 20.

See photos of Indah and Bugara.

Posted in: Tigers
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