Humans are clearing millions of acres of rain forest in Asia, Africa, and South America every year. In Sumatra and Borneo, these forests were once home to many species, like Sumatran orangutans. Now, plantations in these countries produce the most palm oil in the world, displacing these great apes.
Sumatra and Borneo are the only native habitats for orangutans. With the slowest reproductive rate of any mammal (six to ten years) and devastating habitat loss, the wild orangutan population has declined from 300,000 to lower than 45,000 in 14 years (1990–2004). The Sumatran orangutan species may have dropped as low as 6,600.
Plantations in Borneo and Sumatra produced more than 44 million metric tons of palm oil in 2009, and the number is rising. It is the most widely spread edible oil because it is used in thousands of products, including health care products, pet foods, and candy.
Palm oils themselves are not the problem; it is the sustainability of the product. Plantations can produce more edible oil on the same plot of land than any other oil, but some companies are choosing to destroy more forest area using wildfire techniques instead of replanting.
As we purchase candy for our upcoming Wild Zoo Halloween event, we are keeping the orangutans in mind by checking labels — and you should too! But be aware, there are more than 50 different names for palm oil on product labels. Check out this helpful sustainable palm oil candy brand guide.
For more information regarding the palm oil crisis, visit the Orangutan Conservancy website.
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo opens for the 2016 season on Saturday, April 23 with new exhibits, new animal species, and some adorable zoo babies!
“Our 50th season was a big one,” says Zoo Director Jim Anderson, “and we have even more for our guests to do and see in Season 51!”
Australian Adventure Renovation
Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure renovation opens this season and will feature a complete renovation of The Outback. Animal highlights include a new reptile house featuring knob-tailed geckos and a woma python, three new aviaries featuring galah cockatoos and straw-necked ibises, and the Tasmanian devil exhibit set to open in late summer.
Renovations to The Outback also include the all-new Outback Springs play stream and updates to the Crocodile Creek Adventure Ride. “We think guests will love the new look and feel of the Crocodile Creek Adventure Ride,” says Anderson. “It’s a great time for the whole family.”
Echo the African Penguin Chick…and a Surprise New Chick!
Zoo fans are eagerly awaiting their first chance to see baby Echo, a female penguin chick that hatched at the zoo in November, 2015. Echo’s arrival marked the start of a third penguin generation at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
The zoo’s penguin colony grew by one more (surprise!) when Blue hatched in February. Blue is a male and is the offspring of bonded pair L. Pink and R. Pink, making him Echo’s uncle.
Blue still lives behind-the-scenes and will join the flock on exhibit later this spring.
Anderson says, “African black-footed penguins are endangered and their population in the wild is declining. Every new chick is important to the future of their species.”
Sumatran Orangutan Baby
Asmara the baby Sumatran orangutan is one year old this season and starting to test her independence. Asmara is sure to delight guests as she climbs, explores, and tries to steal mom’s food! Born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo to parents Tara and Tengku, Asmara represents a critically endangered species on the brink of extinction.
“Asmara is a little ambassador for her wild cousins,” says Anderson. “She helps us fulfill our mission of connecting kids with animals and inspiring people to care.”
More Zoo Babies
Guests of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can expect to find many adorable babies during their visit. In addition to a baby Sumatran orangutan and two feathery penguin chicks, guests can visit three new kangaroo joeys, a baby crocodile skink, and a baby swamp monkey.
“Animal babies are always a guest favorite,” says Anderson, “and visiting new babies is a fun way for families to connect.”
Extended Hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day
The zoo will stay open late until 7p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission gates will close at 7p.m., with zoo grounds closing at 8p.m.
“We listened to our guests,” says Anderson, “and what we heard is that they want more time to enjoy the zoo. We are pleased to offer this benefit to zoo guests.”
Extended hours also create an opportunity for guests to enjoy dinner or schedule evening picnics in the Parkview Physicians Group Pavilions. Catered group picnics were previously available during lunch hours and the zoo expects the later time slots to fill quickly.
More of What’s New
Phase 2 of the Australian Adventure renovation is officially complete and includes Stingray Bay (opened September, 2015) and a new Shark Conservation Area in the Australian Adventure Plaza
Exclusive VIP Experiences take guests behind the scenes for close encounters with their favorite animals. This year’s VIP lineup features new experiences including stingray encounters, vulture feeding, and orangutan training. For an additional fee, guests can schedule a VIP Experience and spend quality time with our animals and zoo keepers!
Updates to the Indonesian Rain Forest include a new roof in the tiger viewing area and a renovated exhibit featuring lesser sulphur-crested cockatoos.
Faye the reticulated giraffe arrived from the Cape May County Park & Zoo last winter and is sure to be a new favorite among guests. “Faye is getting along well with the herd, and we expect her to be a regular at the feeding platform,” says Anderson.
By participating in cooperative management programs for more than 90 species and taxa, the zoo is helping to preserve genetic diversity in endangered and threatened animals from around the world, including Sumatran orangutans, reticulated giraffes, and African penguins.
“Kids4Nature is a kid-friendly conservation program that invites every guest to participate,” says Anderson. Guests receive a recycled metal washer at the ticket booth. Each washer counts as a “vote” toward one of three conservation projects. “Last year, our guests helped direct more than $90,000 of the zoo’s conservation commitment toward conservation projects around the world,” says Anderson.
Plan a visit in 2016 to see what’s new at the zoo!
Click on the photos to enlarge:
Zoo keepers had a birthday party for Asmara the baby orangutan and her “auntie” Melati this week. Thirty years separate the two (Asmara turned 1 on Nov. 22 and Melati turned 31 on Nov. 19) but we think an orangutan is never too young or too old to be celebrated!
The party began when Asmara went into her exhibit with mom Tara. They ignored the wrapped “gifts” that keepers had placed in the exhibit, instead opting to climb way up to the skylights.
When male orangutan Tengku joined the party, he swung skillfully to the back wall to taste the “Happy Birthday” message keepers had written in flour paste. Next, he snatched up several gifts and began tearing them open to discover the treats that keepers had hidden inside.
What was Asmara’s favorite gift? A nearly-empty jar of peanut butter. The little one watched intently as Tara scraped out the tasty treat. At one point, Asmara tried unsuccessfully to put her head in the jar!
Want to give baby Asmara the best birthday gift ever? Adopt an orangutan at the zoo. Your unrestricted gift will help us pay for Asmara’s food and care for one whole year!
Click on the photos to enlarge:
Animal babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.
Tigers gotta gnaw, otters gotta play, and penguins – well, they’re just penguins! Zoo critters showed off their animal instincts at the annual Pumpkin Stomp & Chomp as part of last week’s Wild Zoo Halloween festivities.
The award for most action-packed pumpkin encounter went to tigers Indah and Bugara, who attacked their pumpkins at full pounce, then batted them around like rubber toys. The lemurs practically climbed inside their treat-laden pumpkins. Some animals, like the sea lions, were more interested in the candy-bag-toting, costumed kids than their pumpkins. Once zoo keepers took the lid off a bamboo-stuffed pumpkin, the red pandas finally figured out that pumpkins aren’t so bad after all. The penguins, however, were completely indifferent to their smiling jack-o-lantern.
Why did we give pumpkins to zoo animals? Watching the animals nibble, gnaw, gnarl, play, and sometimes devour their pumpkins is a treat for guests, and provides valuable enrichment for the animals. Enrichment stimulates the animals’ natural behaviors and offers physical and mental challenges.
Click on the photos to find out what the animals did with their pumpkins:
Animal enrichment is a big deal at the zoo. We even dedicate one of our summer events, Ice Day, to enriching animals. Zoo keepers, trainers, and vet staff spend a lot of time planning the animals’ enrichment calendars, but what exactly is animal enrichment, and why do we do it?
Enrichment means providing a stimulating environment that offers physical and mental challenges for an animal. When elements of an animal’s zoo environment mimic the problem-solving opportunities they encounter in the wild, the animals exhibit natural behaviors. Enrichment can help zoo animals thrive socially, mentally, and physically.
The zoo provides a variety of enrichment for animals:
Finding food in the wild can be a complex activity for an animal. For instance, orangutans find ripe fruit in the wild, then forage carefully for the seeds, which they eat. Pumpkins are an edible enrichment item for the zoo’s orangutans because the animals must use this natural foraging behavior to extract and eat the pumpkin seeds.
Many animals have a well-developed sense of smell to find prey, locate water, and avoid predators. The zoo’s capuchin monkeys love to sniff out spices scattered in their exhibits. On a previous Ice Day, zoo keepers froze fragrant spices into ice blocks. Upon finding an ice block, a capuchin flung it across the island!
In a natural habitat, an animal will encounter new textures every day as it forages, hunts, and finds shelter. At the zoo, keepers brush the Komodo dragon’s rough scales with a long-handled brush (from a safe distance, of course!)
Zoo keepers encourage animals to use their natural intelligence by hiding food in “puzzle feeders.” The friendly goats in the Indiana Family Farm use their problem-solving skills while they work as a group to reach tasty lettuce hidden in the feeders.
Zoo guests can watch the sea lions receive training enrichment every day at the 11:30 AM and 3 PM feeding shows. By requesting behaviors and rewarding the sea lions with fish, zoo keepers provide an intense and entertaining enrichment session. The sea lions get both physical and mental exercise, and the keepers develop a trusting relationship with the sea lions.
Do you want to get involved? Join us at an upcoming Animal Enrichment Workshop, where you’ll make some of the enrichment objects that zoo animals receive every day!
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.
Asmara, a 16-week old Sumatran orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, went into Orangutan Valley for the first time last week. Until now, Asmara and her mother, Tara, have been living in an off-exhibit bedroom adjacent to the main exhibit.
On their first day in the exhibit, Asmara clung tightly to her mother as Tara explored high up in the trees. Zoo keeper Angie Selzer watched nervously, buy all went well. “Tara climbed very high right away, but Asmara clung tightly just like she would in the wild,” she said.
Prior to the big day, the exhibit underwent extensive baby-proofing. Zoo keepers covered the floor with soft straw and checked the trees, walls, and vines for potential safety issues. The City of Fort Wayne’s tree crews even got involved, helping to reinforce the vines and hammocks.
Will you get to see Tara and Asmara when the zoo opens on April 25? Zoo keepers are working toward that goal. Indonesian Rain Forest area manager Tanisha Dunbar explained, “The goal is to mix all four of our orangutans behind-the-scenes, and once they’re comfortable, we’ll let them all go out on exhibit together,” said Dunbar. “And they always have a choice. They can choose whether or not to go out each morning, although Tara’s never been one to stay behind-the-scenes.”
Born on November 22 to Tara and her mate, Tengku, Asmara is important to the future of Sumatran orangutans, which are Critically Endangered. 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:
Baby Asmara turns 2 months old this week! The critically endangered Sumatran orangutan was born at the zoo on November 22. Her parents are Tara and Tengku, two of the zoo’s adult orangutans. Asmara and mom Tara are doing well behind-the-scenes and zoo fans frequently send us questions via social media about the baby.
Angie Selzer is a zoo keeper who cares for the orangutans. She was present during Tara’s labor and witnessed the delivery of Asmara. Selzer explains the day-to-day life of Asmara, “She spends all of her time with her mom. Most of the time she’s nursing or sleeping in her nest. She grips onto her mom well.”
Developing a strong grip is important for orangutans. As Asmara grows she’ll begin climbing and swinging from tree to tree. Selzer reports that Asmara’s development is progressing normally and that Tara is gradually introducing some early independence into her baby’s routine, “Tara is doing a really good job. She gives Asmara tummy time and has been showing Asmara how to grip onto things other than just mom.”
Dr. Joe Smith is the zoo’s veterinarian. He explains why the vet staff and keepers have chosen to limit behind-the-scenes access to media and even to most zoo staff, “Orangutan infants have a naïve immune system, just like human babies do, and they can contract many of the same diseases that we humans can carry. Plus, we’re right in the middle of flu season so we’re choosing to be cautious.”
Dr. Smith stated that baby Asmara’s development is going well and that her vet staff and keepers do not have any medical concerns at this time.
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: