fort wayne zoo 50 years birthday

Zoo Announces 50th Birthday Celebration

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo turns 50 years old in 2015, and the entire community is invited to be part of the celebration.

“The zoo was built by this community, starting with the school children who donated pennies to build Monkey Island back in 1965,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson.  “Since then, thousands of families and businesses have donated funds to create everything you see at the zoo.”  More than 20 million people have visited the zoo since it opened on July 3, 1965, and more than $32 million has been donated for capital projects.

“The zoo’s 50th Birthday Celebration is our way of thanking the community for five decades of outstanding support,” Anderson said.

To kick off the celebration, the zoo invites the community to submit photos of their families enjoying the zoo.  Photos from the 1960s and 1970s are especially needed, but all photos are welcome.  Submitted photos may be used in the zoo’s 2015 advertising campaign.  Fans may submit photos before February 28 by posting them to the zoo’s social media accounts, emailing them to, or bringing prints to the zoo, where they will be scanned and returned.

The 50th Birthday Celebration will continue all season long.  Highlights will include a “Happy Birthday to Zoo” Party on July 1 with performances by local youth choirs; a giant Birthday Card for zoo guests to sign; appearances by the zoo’s new Mascot at community events; partnerships with the Three Rivers Festival and Fort Wayne TinCaps; paw prints painted on roads leading to the zoo this summer; signs showing “Then & Now” zoo photos; a Nature Scavenger Hunt for kids; contests on social media; an expanded zoo history section on the zoo’s website; and more.  Commemorative merchandise will be available in the zoo’s Wild Things Gift Shop all season.

“The support of our community has made the zoo the world-class facility we are today,” said Anderson.  “We’re excited to share 50 years of zoo memories as we continue to grow the zoo for the next generation of kids and families.”

The zoo opens for the 2015 season on April 25.  The zoo’s 50th Birthday is sponsored by Sweetwater, PNC, Strahm Building Solutions, Do it Best, Centier Bank, and Mainstay Solutions.

Click here to see historical photos of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

# # #

Zoo History Highlights:

  • July 3, 1965:  Zoo opens for the first time
  • 1976:  African Veldt opens
  • 1979:  Great Zoo Halloween opens (now called Wild Zoo Halloween)
  • 1987:  Australian Adventure opens
  • 1994:  Indonesian Rain Forest opens
  • 1995:  Orangutan Valley opens
  • 1996:  Tiger Forest opens
  • 2001:  Indiana Family Farm opens
  • 2002:  Sea Lion Beach opens
  • 2009:  African Journey (formerly the African Veldt) opens
  • 2014:  Phase 1 of the Australian Adventure renovation opens
  • 2015:  Phase 2 of the Australian Adventure renovation opens
  • 2016:  Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure renovation opens


Recent Zoo Accolades:

  • Travelers’ Choice Award, TripAdvisor, 2014
  • Best Family Attraction in Indiana,, 2014
  • Indiana’s #1 Gotta-Do Summer Attraction, Indiana Office of Tourism Development survey, 2012
  • One of the Nation’s Ten Best Zoos for Kids, Parents Magazine, 2009


Zoo Animal & Conservation Highlights:

  • Critically endangered Sumatran orangutan birth, 2014
  • Endangered red panda birth, 2014
  • One of only two zoos nationwide to house endangered Javan gibbons
  • Contribute more than $80,000 annually in conservation support
  • Innovative Kids4Nature program allows zoo guests to help direct zoo conservation funding
  • Z-TEAM Conservation Crew involves youth in local hands-on conservation programs
  • Participate in breeding and management programs for more than 90 endangered and threatened animal species and taxa through the  Association of Zoos & Aquariums
  • Named Northeast Indiana Sustainable Business of the Year in 2014


Community and Economic Impact:

  • A non-profit organization that receives no tax support
  • More than 20 million visitors since 1965; currently host more than 500,000 people per year
  • More than $22 million in economic impact annually
  • 95% of out-of-town zoo guests cite the zoo as their main season for travelling to Fort Wayne
  • Currently employs 71 full-time and 21 part-time employees year-round; additional 75 hired each summer
  • More than 30,000 school children visit the zoo annually
  • More than 35,000 people attend zoo education programs annually
  • 400 people donate more than 33,000 hours of volunteer time annually
toads fort wayne zoo

Yes, Toads are Cute.

Really, they are! —————–>

 OK, so maybe you’re still on the fence about whether toads are cute or just plain toad-looking.  Take a look at the photos below.  The fire-bellied toads in the Indonesian Rain Forest welcomed several groups of babies this year, and they definitely get a “cute” vote from the staff here at the zoo!

Want to help native toads and frogs?  Participate in FrogWatch and help gather data about amphibians in your backyard.  Training classes are coming up in February.

Click on the photos to enlarge and see our baby toads grow up:

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

Baby orangutan, 2 weeks

7 FAQs about our Baby Orangutan Answered

Tara, a Sumatran orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, delivered a healthy baby girl on November 22.  Zoo staff named the baby Asmara, which means “love,” and she is the first Sumatran orangutan born at any zoo in the United States in 2014.  Asmara represents a significant addition to the population of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, and the zoo has received many questions on Facebook and Twitter about this special little ape.

Here are the answers to 7 Frequently Asked Questions about baby Asmara:

Q:  When can people see the baby?
A:  Mom Tara and baby Asmara are getting to know one another and only limited zoo staff are permitted to see them.  This is to allow quiet bonding time for the pair.  We expect that Tara and Asmara will be out on exhibit when the zoo reopens on April 25.

Q:  Will the new baby stay in Fort Wayne?
A:  Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered.  The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo participates in the Species Survival Program managed by the AZA. As such, we work with the program to ensure genetic diversity in zoos and sometimes animals are called to live elsewhere. While we don’t know all that the future will hold, we do know that orangutans mature slowly and Tara’s baby will require maternal care for the next 6-8 years.

Q:  Where are Asmara and Tara right now?
A:  They’re currently living in the orangutan bedrooms, which are adjacent to the orangutan exhibit.  They share a bedroom separate from the other orangutans.

Q:  Do the zoo keepers get to hold and feed the baby?
A:  Zoo keepers have not fed Asmara, nor have they handled her.  Tara is doing everything she should to care for her baby, including nursing.

Q:  Who delivered Asmara?
A:  Zoo keepers observed Tara’s delivery in case of complications but did not assist.  Tara delivered her baby on her own.

Q:  Has Tengku met his baby yet?
A:  Tara has been in a separate bedroom from adult orangutans Tengku (Asmara’s father) and Melati since about a week before giving birth. All the orangutans have had visual and auditory contact the entire time, through labor, delivery and afterwards.  Both Tengku and Melati are interested in the baby.

Q:  Will all the orangutans ever be allowed to share the same space?
A:  Yes, eventually.  When zoo keepers do start introductions, it will be gradual through a mesh barrier first and then physical contact in the behind-the-scenes area.  The current plan will be to introduce Tengku with Tara and Asmara first and then to introduce Melati to the group.


Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

Zoo Names Baby Orangutan

A baby Sumatran orangutan born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on November 22 has a name – one that reflects how special she is to the zoo and the entire population of these endangered apes. Her name is Asmara, which translates to “love” in Indonesian.

Now 11 days old, Asmara and her mother, 19-year-old Tara, are bonding behind-the-scenes at the zoo’s orangutan exhibit. Asmara is developing normally and Tara is providing excellent maternal care. Like all orangutan infants, Asmara clings to her mother constantly and will continue to do so for the next several months.

As the only Sumatran orangutan to be born in a United States zoo so far in 2014, Asmara represents an important addition to the zoo-dwelling orangutan population.  About 320 Sumatran orangutans live in zoos worldwide, and only about 15 babies are born each year in the world’s zoos.  Fewer than 7,000 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild forests of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The breeding Tara with 28-year-old Tengku was recommended by the Orangutan Species Survival Plan, a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that seeks to maintain genetic diversity within zoo-dwelling populations of endangered and threatened animals.

Because Asmara is Tara’s first baby and Tara has never observed another female caring for an infant, officials were concerned that she may not know how to care for her baby.   Zoo staff had extensive plans in place should Tara fail to provide care, but so far, none of those measures have been needed.

Zoo fans can watch for baby photos on the zoo’s Facebook and Twitter pages in the coming weeks.  Zoo guests will have their first chance to see the new baby when the zoo opens for the season on April 25.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:


baby orangutan fort wayne zoo

Baby Orangutan Born at the Zoo

Tara, a Sumatran orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, delivered a healthy female baby in the early morning hours of Saturday, November 22.

The baby is the only Sumatran orangutan born in a United States zoo in 2014, so she represents a significant addition to the population of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans.

“We are thrilled with the outcome so far,” said Zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon. “Tara is doing everything she should to care for her baby.”

Zoo keepers and veterinary staff expected 19-year-old Tara to give birth between mid-November and early December.  They had been watching Tara by remote camera overnight for several weeks.  When keepers observed Tara pacing late Friday in her off-exhibit bedroom, they suspected she was in labor and arrived at the zoo to monitor the birth.  Tara’s labor lasted a few hours, and she delivered her baby unassisted.

Immediately following the delivery, Tara began cleaning her infant and placed it in her nest – a pile of wood wool and blankets – where she sleeps at night.  The baby was first observed nursing Sunday morning.

No name has yet been chosen for the baby.  For now, Tara and the baby are staying in the bedrooms adjacent to the zoo’s orangutan exhibit.

Tara’s pregnancy was announced in October.  Orangutans are pregnant for an average of 245 days, or a little over eight months.  The baby’s father is Tengku, the zoo’s 28-year-old male orangutan, who arrived in Fort Wayne from Zoo Atlanta in 1995.

Zoo officials are cautiously optimistic about the baby’s future.  Because this is Tara’s first baby and she has never observed another female caring for an infant, officials were concerned that she may not know how to care for her baby.

To address any potential issues with the birth, zoo keepers spent the last several months preparing an extensive Birth Management Plan.  Prior to the birth, zoo keepers used a plush stuffed toy and operant conditioning to train Tara to bring her “baby” to keepers who could bottle-feed it if Tara failed to nurse.  Tara has also been trained to present her nipple to keepers to nurse a baby, in the event that keepers must provide daily care for the infant.

“So far, none of these measures has been needed,” said Weldon.  “Tara is proving to be a good mother.”

The breeding of Tara with Tengku was recommended by the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that seeks to maintain genetic diversity within populations of endangered animals.  Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in 2013 from the Columbus Zoo.  Lori Perkins of Zoo Atlanta chairs the Orangutan SSP, and she says that only eight other orangutans have been born in United States Zoos in 2014, but all are Bornean orangutans – a separate subspecies from the Sumatran orangutans that are held at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  Perkins notes that two other Sumatran orangutans are currently pregnant at other US zoos.

Zoo fans can watch for baby photos on the zoo’s Facebook and Twitter pages in the coming weeks. Zoo guests will have their first chance to see the new baby when the zoo opens for the season on April 25.  “Orangutans grow very slowly, so this baby will still be clinging to mom and learning to climb when the zoo opens in the spring,” said Weldon.  Orangutans have the longest childhood of any animal other than humans, and require maternal care until they are six to eight years old.

About 320 Sumatran orangutans live in zoos worldwide, and an average of 15 babies are born each year in the world’s zoos.  In the wild, these red-furred apes are found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, where the population is in drastic decline due to illegal hunting and the destruction of their forest homes to build palm oil plantations.  Fewer than 7,000 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild.  Some experts predict orangutans could become extinct in the wild within a few decades if circumstances remain unchanged.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

crocodile skink baby lizard zoo

Meet a Cute New Zoo Baby

The zoo’s crocodile skinks have done it again – they had another baby!  The newest member of the family is just 2 weeks old and every bit as cute as its 9-month old sibling.

Zoo keepers observed an egg back in August and began planning for a hatchling.  On November 3 the egg hatched and a healthy baby emerged.  Zoo keeper Dave Messmann offered a report on the lizard, “It was a normal hatchling and seems to be doing very well.  It eats live crickets and it’s getting bigger.”

Messmann held the baby skink to show how small it really is (see photo below.)  Although it’s still tiny, weighing no more than a few grams, the skink will increase in size significantly over the next several months.  Its older sibling has quadrupled in size since birth and the zoo’s adult crocodile skinks weigh approximately one pound each.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

Meet Madi the Mini-Me Lemur

Madi the ring-tailed lemur is now six weeks old and looks like a mini-me version of her mother.  Born to first-time parents Ombe and Kyna, baby Madi is doing well and growing larger and more independent each day.

“Madi is starting to move off of mom and showing interest in the things around her,” stated zoo keeper Helena Lacey.  “She’s doing great and hitting all the milestones that she should.”

An upcoming milestone is weaning from mother’s milk to solid food.  Lacey says that while zoo keepers haven’t observed Madi eating any solid food, the interest is there.  “We haven’t seen her eat anything yet but she has been reaching for the objects around her, including food.”  Lemurs munch on fruit, leaves, bark, flowers, grass, and tree sap.  The zoo’s lemurs also get corn on the cob as part of their diet.

The zoo announced Madi’s arrival on October 1.  Madi has already attracted national attention as a featured ZooBorns animal.

Madi is short for Madagascar, the home of endangered ring-tailed lemurs in the wild.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

entrance with red ZOO letters

2014 Attendance is Third Highest in Zoo History

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo experienced its third-highest yearly attendance ever in 2014 with a total of 545,563 guests.

This figure includes 520,613 people who visited during the regular zoo season of April 26-October 12, and 24,950 who visited during the Wild Zoo Halloween in 2014.

Attendance in 2014 was just 337 people shy of the zoo’s second-highest yearly attendance of 545,900 in 2013.

The zoo’s all-time attendance record is 614,666, set in 2009 when the African Journey exhibit first opened.

“We thank everyone who supported the zoo this year, including our members, out-of-town guests, and the entire community,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson.  “I’m proud of our staff and the excellent work they 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.

pig with pumpkin

Got Pumpkins?

Got Pumpkins?  We do!  It’s that time of year again, when pumpkins and gourds take over the zoo’s landscape.  They’re festive and provide the perfect backdrop for our annual Wild Zoo Halloween event, but our sea of squash is more than just décor.  The pumpkins we stock also provide enrichment for the zoo’s animals.

Lemurs, red pandas, and pigs are among the many animals at the zoo who have “pumpkin playtime” on their enrichment calendars.  Each animal approaches the Fall treat in a different way.

Lemurs lick honey and raisins off the outside of the pumpkins.  (We can thank their zoo keepers for the five-star dinner presentation.)  Red pandas forage inside pumpkins, but not for the seeds.  Instead, zoo keepers fill the pandas’ pumpkins with their preferred diet of bamboo.  The zoo’s pigs approach the filled pumpkins in a different way, treating each one like an “edible bowl”.

Animal enrichment is a daily event at the zoo with a variety of activities tailored to each animal’s needs.  This time of year, pumpkins are aplenty and provide a seasonal twist for zoo animals.

Click on the photos to enlarge:


PPG Pavilion Sketch thumbnail

Zoo Announces New Pavilions, Sponsored by Parkview Physicians Group

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo today unveiled two new pavilions under construction in the African Journey, funded in part by a generous donation from Parkview Physicians Group.

“The zoo provides an outstanding venue for families to spend time together, something we believe is important as we look to promote health and well-being throughout the community,” said Dr. Mitchell Stucky, president, Parkview Physicians Group.  “Parkview Physicians Group appreciates the opportunity to invest in and help to promote one of Fort Wayne’s most treasured attractions.”

Named the Parkview Physicians Group Pavilions, the two structures combined can seat more than 400 people.  The pavilions will be used for zoo events and special activities, and will be available for rental when the zoo opens for the 2015 season in April.

Zoo Parkview pavilions

“The Parkview Physicians Group Pavilions answer a long-standing need for local businesses and organizations in our community,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson.  “We can now host events in the pavilions, and provide rental space, catering, and an amazing zoo experience for zoo guests.”

As a non-profit organization receiving no tax support, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo operates on revenue from tickets sales, memberships, and donations.  The Parkview Physicians Group Pavilions will provide a new source of revenue, allowing the zoo to remain self-supporting and operate without tax funding.

“By supporting the zoo with this donation, Parkview Physicians Group demonstrates their commitment to the entire Fort Wayne community,” said Anderson.  “They are an outstanding community partner.”

Organizations wishing to rent the Parkview Physicians Group pavilions may contact the zoo office at 260-427-6800 for more information.