Zoo Blog

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

February 18, 2013

Tigers Depart and Arrive at Zoo to Help Save Critically Endangered Species

Bugara 107x107px

One Sumatran tiger has departed and two more will arrive this month at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo as part of a cooperative effort to increase the population of this critically endangered species.

Male Sumatran tiger Teddy, who was the only tiger at the zoo, departed last week for the San Diego Zoo.  Teddy was one of three cubs born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on April 22, 2004.  Teddy’s companion, a female named Kemala, moved to the Toronto Zoo in December.

A pair of one-year-old Sumatran tigers from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas is expected to arrive in Fort Wayne later this month.  Indah, the female, was born on August 15, 2011.  Her brother Bugara was born 14 hours later on August 16.  They were rejected by their mother and hand-raised by the Cameron Park Zoo staff.

The moves of all four tigers were recommended by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).  The SSP coordinates the breeding of zoo tigers to ensure the genetic diversity of the captive population.  Both Teddy and Kemala will be matched with potential mates at their new facilities.

“Though we are always sad to see animals leave, knowing that they could breed and increase the population of this species makes it worthwhile,” says zoo animal curator Mark Weldon.  About 65 Sumatran tigers currently live in accredited United States zoos, and four were born in 2012.

Because they are so closely related, Indah and Bugara will not be bred with each other.   As hand-reared cats, they are not good candidates for breeding with tigers who were parent-reared.  In addition, their genetic background makes them a low priority for breeding.  “There are a limited number of zoos with breeding space for Sumatran tigers,” says Weldon, “and those spaces are reserved for cats who can contribute the most genetic diversity to the population.”

Upon arrival, Indah and Bugara will undergo a routine 30-day quarantine period before being introduced to their exhibit.  The two will live together in the wooded half-acre Tiger Forest exhibit within the award-winning Indonesian Rain Forest.

Found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Sumatran tigers are critically endangered, with fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers though to remain in the wild.  Sumatran tigers are the smallest of the six living tiger subspecies.  Experts believe only that only 3,200 total tigers remain in the wild.  Three tiger subspecies have become extinct in the last 80 years.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.


Posted in: Tigers

November 14, 2012

Swamp Monkey Family is Growing!

swamp baby150x150

Swamp monkeys Brie and Bangi are parents again!  A new addition to the family was born on Thursday, November 1. 

The baby, whose gender is not yet known, is the 5th baby for the prolific pair.  The infant has plenty of older siblings to keep it company:  older brother Anderson, age 3, and sisters Izzy, 2, and Luella, 1 are extremely curious about the new arrival.  An older sister, named Calvin, is now living at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

As with any addition to a family, the dynamics of the swamp monkey group have shifted.  “At first, Luella seemed upset that she couldn’t get all of her mom’s attention,” said zoo keeper Erin Fairchild, “but she seems to have adjusted to the new baby.”

For now, the baby clings to Brie’s belly to nurse and nap.  In a few weeks, the youngster should begin to interact with its brothers and sisters.  By the time the zoo opens on April 20, the baby will be hopping, jumping, and swinging in the enclosure with its siblings!

Learn more about swamp monkeys here.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.




Posted in: Baby Animals, Monkeys

October 4, 2012

Baby Colobus Monkey Born at the Zoo

colobus baby 150x150px

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is celebrating the birth of a baby black and white colobus monkey, the first to be born in 12 years at the zoo.  The female baby was born on September 25.

The infant, named Kaasidy, and her mother, Jibini, went outdoors into their exhibit for the first time late this morning in the African Journey.  The baby’s father is named Finnigan.

Colobus babies are covered in white fur.  At 3-4 months of age, they develop the deep black coat, shaggy white mantle, and tufted white tail typical of adult colobus monkeys. 

Jibini is a first-time mother, so zoo keepers have been watching carefully to make certain she is caring for her baby. 

For now, Kaasidy can be seen clinging to her mother’s belly, though in a few weeks she’ll begin to climb about.  However, to protect the baby, the monkeys will only be allowed access to their outdoor exhibit when the outdoor temperature is above 60 degrees.

Colobus monkeys are native to Africa’s equatorial forests, where they spend nearly all of their time in trees feeding on fruits, leaves, and other vegetation.  Some populations are threatened due to habitat loss and hunting for their dramatic black-and-white coat.  To maintain a genetically healthy zoo population of colobus monkeys, they are cooperatively managed by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. 

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo closes for the season on Sunday, October 14.  Portions of the zoo will be open during the Wild Zoo Halloween, beginning October 19, but the African Journey will not be open during the Wild Zoo Halloween.

 Read more about colobus monkeys here.


Posted in: Baby Animals, Monkeys
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