Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Baby Orangutan Climbs and Explores at Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Baby Asmara Climbing 7What does a six-month-old Sumatran Orangutan like to do?  Climb, explore, and climb some more!

Asmara the Sumatran Orangutan was born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on November 22, 2014, one of only two babies of this critically endangered species to be born in a United States zoo in 2014.  

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Baby Asmara learning to climbPhoto Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

You first met Asmara on ZooBorns when she was four months old and still clinging tightly to her mother, Tara.  Asmara first started climbing at about five months old, using small ropes that keepers hung close to the ground.  Now, Tara carries her baby high into the trees within the exhibit and lets her little one explore.  Asmara grips the vines with both hands and both feet, sometimes unsure of what she should do next.  Mom is always close by to rescue the little ape when she gets herself in a fix.

It’s easy to see that Orangutans are specially adapted for life in the treetops.  With thumb-like big toes, these apes can grasp branches with ease.

Sumatran Orangutans are native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and are found nowhere else in the wild.  Because their rain forest habitat is being destroyed, often for the illegal construction of palm oil plantations, Sumatran Orangutans are confined to small fragments of forest.  They are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Only about 7,000 remain in the wild. 

See more photos of Asmara below the fold.

Continue reading "Baby Orangutan Climbs and Explores at Fort Wayne Children's Zoo" »


Baby Orangutan Hangs on Tight

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Asmara, a 16-week old Sumatran Orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, went into her exhibit 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.

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Photo Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

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, but 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.

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.


Rare Baby Orangutan is First US Birth in 2014

Baby Sumatran Orangutan - 3 days old - Fort Wayne Children's Zoo - Credit Angie Selzer 3
A Sumatran Orangutan born on November 22 at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is the only one born in a United States zoo so far in 2014, and therefore represents a significant addition to the population of this critically endangered species.

Baby Sumatran Orangutan - 10 days old - Fort Wayne Children's Zoo - credit Dr Kami Fox

Baby Sumatran Orangutan - 3 days old - Fort Wayne Children's Zoo - credit Angie Selzer 2
Baby Sumatran Orangutan - 3 days old - Fort Wayne Children's Zoo - credit Angie Selzer
Asmara 10 days old - credit Angie Selzer
Photo Credit:  Angie Selzer (1,3,4,5); Kami Fox (2)

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 in her off-exhibit bedroom late in the evening on November 21, 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 female baby unassisted. Immediately following the delivery, Tara began cleaning her infant and placed it in her nest – a pile of wood shavings and blankets – where she sleeps at night.

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 problems, zoo keepers spent 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 Animal Curator Mark Weldon. “Tara is proving to be a good mother.”

The breeding of Tara with 28-year-old male 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. 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.

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. 


Spunky Little Lemur Arrives in Fort Wayne

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A spunky Ring-Tailed Lemur born on September 22 is growing up fast at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  The female baby is named Madi, which is short for Madagascar, the home of Ring-Tailed Lemurs in the wild.

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FWZ_0400editedPhoto Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Madi was born to first-time parents Kyna and Ombe.  Their breeding was recommended by the Species Survival Plan, a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that seeks to maintain genetic diversity in zoo-dwelling populations of endangered animals.

Female Ring-tailed Lemurs are pregnant for four to five months.  Baby Lemurs are born with lots of hair and with eyes wide open. At first, babies cling to their mothers’ chests, but later ride on their backs. At about six months of age, the young are independent.

Lemurs live nowhere else in the world except Madagascar.  Unfortunately, less than 10% of Madagascar’s forest cover remains and due to this drastic loss of habitat, Ring-tailed Lemurs are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Red Panda Cub Debuts at Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Maliha in bowl with logo 8-28-14Right on schedule, Maliha, a 3-month-old Red Panda cub at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, began coming out of her nest box last week.  Most Red Panda cubs emerge from the nest at about 12 weeks of age.

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Maliha and Xiao 9-2 with logoPhoto Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

According to zoo keepers, Maliha has a bold personality that sometimes makes her mother, Xiao, nervous.  Maliha likes to climb and explore, with her mother often following close behind, calling out warnings to the daring cub.  Sometimes, Xiao will urge Maliha back into the nest box, as if to say “Playtime is over!”

Zoo keepers say Maliha is strong and feisty, and is steadily gaining weight.  She now weighs about two pounds. 

You first met Maliha on ZooBorns in July.  Born on June 9, Maliha is especially important because she is the first Red Panda cub to survive at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  Xiao gave birth to two previous litters, but none of her offspring survived more than two weeks.  About half of all Red Panda cubs die within the first 30 days after birth.  

Xiao’s breeding with her mate, Junjie, was recommended by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

Red Pandas are found only in the mountainous regions of Nepal, Myanmar, and central China.  They are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, primarily due to habitat destruction.  The SSP carefully manages this species to maintain a genetically diverse, demographically stable, and self-sustaining zoo population. 

See more photos of the Red Panda cub below.

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Fort Wayne's Red Panda Cub is "Feisty, Chubby, and Squirmy"

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A Red Panda cub born June 9 at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo made her media debut this week and was proclaimed “feisty, chubby, and squirmy” by her keepers.

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30 day Exam 001adjusted(1)Photo Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

 
Now 30 days old, the female cub passed a critical milestone.  “About half of all Red Panda cubs die within 30 days after birth,” says Animal Curator Mark Weldon.  “We are obviously pleased that our cub has made it this far.”  The cub has not yet been named.

Though the cub has survived the first 30 days, she still faces other hurdles. “Weaning is a critical time for Red Panda cubs as they make the transition from mother’s milk to solid food,” explained Zoo Keeper Helena Lacey.  Weaning occurs when the cub is five to six months old.

Five-year-old mother Xiao and her cub spend nearly all of their time in an air-conditioned nest box within the Red Panda exhibit, where Xiao nurses, grooms, and sleeps next to her cub.  This is natural behavior for Red Pandas, which nest in hollow trees in the wild.  Cubs typically remain in the nest box for about three months. 

Zoo keepers monitor the duo via a remote camera mounted in the nest box.  “They sleep most of the time, but we also see Xiao grooming herself and the cub,” said Lacey.  Xiao leaves the nest box several times a day to eat and climb in the exhibit while her cub remains in the nest box. 

Three to four times a week, zoo keepers distract Xiao with a tasty bamboo branch and quickly weigh the cub.  So far, the cub is gaining weight and has more than tripled her birth weight of 139 grams to 454 grams (about one pound).  Twice a week, the veterinary staff performs a brief exam on the cub, checking for any abnormalities.

The cub’s eyes are now open.  The baby squirms and squeals during her weigh-ins and checkups – signs of a strong and alert cub.  At this time, the zoo staff sees no need to intervene by hand-rearing the cub or offering supplemental feedings, though protocols are in place should the need arise.

The breeding of Red Pandas is overseen by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).  The goal of the SSP is to maximize genetic diversity in zoo-dwelling populations of endangered and threatened animals. 

Red Pandas are native to the forested foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in China and Nepal, where they feed primarily on bamboo.  Though they share a name with the famed black-and-white giant pandas, the two are not closely related.  The name “panda” comes from the Nepalese word ponya, which means “bamboo-eater.” They are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

 


Endangered Turtle Hatches at Fort Wayne Children' Zoo

IMG_0471adjThe Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s newest baby may be small, but the tiny Black-breasted Leaf Turtle could play an important role in saving an endangered species.

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IMG_0498adjPhoto Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

The teensy terrapin hatched on May 10 after a 75-day incubation.  At three weeks old, it weighed just over six grams (about the same weight as a quarter).  Black-breasted Leaf Turtles in zoos are managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).  For now, zoo keepers are caring for the hatchling behind-the-scenes and monitoring its progress carefully, feeding it fruit, vegetables, crickets, and worms. 

Why are Black-breasted Leaf Turtles endangered?  It all comes down to habitat destruction and over-collection in their native range of Southeast Asia.  These Turtles are collected for use in Traditional Asian Medicine, and are often sold as pets. Their unique facial expressions, scallop-edged shells, and small size make them particularly attractive within the pet trade.   Black-breasted Leaf Turtles live up to 20 years but only reach an average length of five inches, making them one of the smallest Turtles in the world.


Crocodile Skink a First for Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

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The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo welcomed a new addition on February 10 – a two-inch-long Crocodile Skink.  It’s the first time this lizard species has ever hatched at the zoo.  The hatchling weighed two grams, approximately the weight of a pencil eraser. 

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Crocodile Skink Fort Wayne Children's Zoo 5Photo Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

This little Crocodile Skink came as a surprise to zoo keepers.  Late last year, zoo keepers discovered that the zoo’s two adult Crocodile Skinks had produced an egg in their exhibit.  Zoo keeper Dave Messmann accidentally disturbed the egg while cleaning the Skinks’ aquarium.  “We were concerned about the disturbance.  It’s best practice to avoid moving a reptile egg,” Messmann said.  That’s because if a reptile egg is disturbed, an air pocket inside the egg can shift, potentially causing the embryo to suffocate. 

Hoping for the best, zoo keepers decided to incubate the egg by placing it in a deli tub filled with wet moss.  The egg incubated at room temperature, undisturbed.  After 60 days, the egg hatched.

Now more than a month old, the hatchling is developing normally.  The gender is not yet known.  Adult Crocodile Skinks are about eight inches long and weigh about one pound.

Crocodile Skinks are native to New Guinea in Southeast Asia, where they inhabit moist areas along waterways.  They are one of the few lizards that make sounds.  Because they are secretive, little is known about them in the wild.


Colobus Monkey Baby Boom at Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

_D3S3280croppedIndiana’s Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo enjoyed a January baby boom when two Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys were born within two days of one another. 

“The fact that they were born within two days of each other was a big surprise,” said African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson.  “We were aware that both of the adult females were pregnant, but based on their size we anticipated that one mother would deliver a bit later than the other.  We never expected two infants at the same time!”

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Photo Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Zoo keepers bestowed corresponding names on the little Monkeys:  the male is named Obi, which means “heart” in an African language, and the female is named Mchumba, which translates as “sweetheart.”

Keepers had to wait to name the infants until they could determine their genders.  Mchumba clung so tightly to her mom that there was no opportunity to determine gender for several weeks after birth. The babies are half-siblings – they were born to different mothers and share the same father. 

Colobus Monkeys begin life with all-white fur.  At three or four months of age, they develop the dramatic black and white coat that characterizes the adult Monkeys.  Colobus are unusual among Monkeys because they have a three-chambered stomach, which helps digest the fibrous leaves they consume in the wild.  

Colobus Monkeys live in the rain forests of central and eastern Africa, and their survival in the wild is threatened by habitat destruction.  The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan to ensure genetically healthy populations of endangered and threatened animals.


Newborn Colobus Monkey Snuggles Close to Mom

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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 last week.  Colobus babies are covered in white fur.  At 2-3 months of age, they develop the deep black coat, shaggy white mantle, and tufted white tail typical of adult Colobus Monkeys. 

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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 clings to her mother’s belly, though in a few weeks she’ll begin to climb about. 

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 (AZA). 

Photo Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo