When you think of a 2-year-old toddler words like cute, energetic and little may come to mind. Well, cute and energetic are definite descriptors for our youngsters, but they're far from little. Which youngsters are we talking about? Our baby elephants of course!
The Indianapolis Zoo's herd includes eight African elephants: Sophi, Tombi, Kubwa, Ivory, Zahara, Kedar, Kalina and Nyah. But it's the youngest calves that create some of the most amusing memories for Zoo keepers and guests alike.
We caught up with keepers recently to hear how 3-year-old Kalina and 2-year-old Nyah are growing up and the dynamic they've added to the Zoo's herd.
Since the moment she made her way into the world on July 20, 2011, Kalina has had an outgoing personality. Just minutes after she was born, even while keepers and veterinary staff were still checking her over, Kalina got up on her feet and insisted she get to her mom Kubwa for her first drink of milk!
Like any typical 3-year-old, Kalina is full of energy. She loves to play with tires and large plastic barrels, and her favorite snack is tree branches, especially larger logs that she can strip the bark from with her tusks.
Although Kalina still spends most of her time with her mom, she loves to spend time with "Auntie" Tombi, and they're often seen together near the pool in the elephant exhibit. Sometimes she'll even join in with Sophi or Kubwa for a mud or dust bath. Guests can often see Kalina in the middle of the yard with the other elephants surrounding her – anything to be the center of attention!
Not shy about demanding attention from her herd mates and keepers, Kalina has a zest for life and dives into activities full speed ahead.
Nyah, on the other hand, is a more laid back calf than Kalina. At 2 years old, she is the youngest elephant at the Zoo and was born on June 28, 2012. The daughter of Ivory and sister to Zahara, keepers say Nyah has an independent streak, but enjoys interacting with and learning from her sister.
Zahara, like any good big sister, lets Nyah join in her fun. Nyah loves to climb on Zahara and will even splash and dunk her in the pool when the weather is warm. When playtime comes to an end, Zahara watches out for Nyah, even standing over her as she naps.
Along with spending time with her sister and mom, Nyah is often seen with Sophi or on "play dates" with Kalina. The two calves wrestle and push, chase each other around and even play tug-of-war with their toy tires.
Not much seems to phase little Nyah, and as long as she has crunchy celery hearts to munch on, keepers say she takes the busy life of the herd in stride.
Let's Hear it for the Herd
Each of the Indianapolis Zoo's elephants has a unique personality – from Sophi, the trumpeting matriarch, to Kedar, the bull of the barn, each elephant adds an element that creates a very nurturing environment for these young calves to grow up in.
The Zoo is known worldwide for the calves that have been born and raised here. Research that began at the Zoo led to successful artificial insemination of elephants worldwide, and Ivory and Kubwa made history as the first of their species to deliver healthy calves by these alternative reproductive techniques.
According to keepers, when an elephant birth is expected here at the Zoo it is a very exciting time for everyone and it's always an amazing experience to welcome a new calf into the growing herd. Having family groups develop in the herd is very enriching for the elephants and rewarding for their keepers, who are devoted to providing excellent care for them.
To learn more about the Indianapolis Zoo's elephant herd and conservation efforts check out the Who's At the Zoo and Conservation Initiatives pages.
In the Malay language, the word orangutan means "person of the forest." Yet orangutans are rapidly losing their native forest homes in Borneo and Sumatra, putting them on a dangerous track to become the first great ape to go extinct in recorded history.
"We can say with absolute certainty that right now this is a conservation crisis for wild orangutans," said Dr. Rob Shumaker, the Indianapolis Zoo's Vice President of Conservation and Life Sciences and one of the world's foremost authorities on orangutan cognition. "If current conditions don't change, this could very well be the last generation of wild orangutans."
In recognition of Orangutan Caring Week, a global celebration from Nov. 9-15, the Zoo is highlighting initiatives that promote orangutan conservation. Primary among those was the May opening of the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, which provides a home for Zoo's orangutans and raises awareness for this species' plight through research, education and conservation. Additionally, the Zoo is committed to offering opportunities for the community to work together to create a positive future for one of the most endangered of the great apes.
Understanding Orangutans and Their Conservation Issues
Intelligent and charismatic, orangutans are creatures of the rainforest and are the only non-human great apes native to Asia. Their physiology is perfectly adapted for a life high in the forest canopy. With their long arms, hands with opposable thumbs and feet with opposable big toes, orangutans maneuver confidently through the treetops. The largest of all arboreal animals, orangutans travel the forest swinging from branch to branch, both hand over hand and sometimes grasping with a combination of all four appendages.
Orangutans are closely related to humans, sharing 96.4 percent of their DNA. Yet orangutans' extended social system is very different from humans. The least social of all the great apes, orangutans do not live in groups. While young orangutans will stay with their mothers for many years, adults typically spend long periods of time alone.
Each orangutan travels through a geographic area known as a home range, which may include many square miles of trees to provide all of the resources they need. However, many forest corridors have been interrupted or destroyed entirely by deforestation and conversion for agriculture, leaving individuals cut off from resources and unable to find mates. Wild orangutan populations have been steadily declining for decades and deforestation is the primary culprit.
Nearly 25,000 square miles of orangutan habitat has been destroyed or converted for other purposes in the past 20 years, and habitat loss continues at a rate of about 1-2 percent per year. In the past 35 years, deforestation has resulted in the loss of about 50,000 orangutans, and about 70 percent of remaining wild orangutans live outside of protected forests.
Yet the devastating effects of deforestation are impacting humans as well. In a story making headlines globally, Sumatra, one of only two countries where wild orangutans still live, has been hit hard by floods and landslides. Stoked by torrential rains sweeping through Indonesia, these disasters have inundated dozens of villages and left tens of thousands homeless.
"There's not just a need to maintain a healthy forest for the sake of orangutans, it also has huge benefits for the human populations as well," said Shumaker. "Once we lose the forest, not only do we lose all of the wildlife, there are issues with erosion, poor water quality, poor air quality and a greater vulnerability to severe weather effects like the flooding being experienced right now in Sumatra. Preserving the habitat is a win-win."
Long before the May opening of the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, the Zoo has supported reforestation efforts in Borneo. Shumaker began the Zoo's outreach in 2013 by visiting Kutai National Park in East Kalimantan, Borneo, to study the habitat loss and offer a proposal to help in the reforestation of the area.
Additionally, the Zoo supports the Orangutan Kutai Project led by Dr. Anne Russon, who has studied orangutans for more than 30 years. The project started in 2009 to protect the seriously endangered orangutan population and recover critical habitat that has been largely destroyed.
In areas where the forest is already gone, one of the best strategies is to start reforestation as soon as possible," said Shumaker.
To make conservation outreach an integral element of the new Center, the Zoo created opportunities for guests to become active partners in reforestation efforts. With the simple swipe of a credit card at kiosks located at the Center's exit, visitors can give to a reforestation project that grows, plants and maintains new trees. In less than six months, Zoo guests have already given $15,800, with new donations coming in every day to help rebuild depleted sections of forest habitat, benefiting orangutans and thousands more rainforest species.
"Saving orangutans — or any other species — takes a complex and multi-level commitment, and it's exciting to see the people of our community joining us in such a thoughtful and strategic task as reforestation," said Mike Crowther, the Zoo's President and CEO. "We think most Hoosiers understand that when you have a vision, develop a plan, acquire resources, work hard and follow through, you can make progress. Our community is making a real contribution toward ensuring our children and their children will continue sharing a world enriched by orangutans, while they're also creating a more sustainable future for all of us."
Promoting Sustainable Palm Oil
Palm oil is at the heart of the deforestation issue and a critical component in the conservation conversation. A cheap and edible vegetable oil taken from the fruits of oil palm trees, palm oil is used in more than 50 percent of manufactured items readily available at any grocery store — from candy and foods, to cosmetics and beauty care products, to plastics and even fuel.
Nearly 85 percent of the world's palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, and more than half of plantations established in those two countries since 1990 have occurred at the expense of natural forests. Because palm oil is so lucrative to Indonesia's economic stability, any solution must benefit both humans and orangutans alike.
The Zoo has taken a stand on illegal and unsustainably managed palm oil plantations by joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in 2013. Additionally, the Zoo encourages consumers to do their part by supporting companies working toward using 100 percent sustainable palm oil.
"Boycotting palm oil isn't the answer," said Shumaker. "We really need to support companies that are moving forward with transition plans for certified sustainable palm oil. It's not going to be quick or easy for anyone, but these companies deserve tremendous credit for recognizing the need and responding quickly."
A growing number of companies are making strides toward that goal. Recently Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme announced sustainability pledges along with plans for measurable changes in the coming years, including working with suppliers and purchasing cooperatives to source palm oil that is 100 percent traceable to mills and plantations.
Additionally, Zoo sponsor Endangered Species Chocolate is among several companies currently using 100 percent sustainable palm oil and also making extra efforts by donating to animal conservation. The Zoo applauds these and all other corporate commitments to minimize the impact on wildlife and help create a brighter future for orangutans.
Public Education Opportunities
The Zoo believes educating people about the amazing animals inhabiting our planet is a crucial first step to empowering them to support conservation efforts to save these species.
"One of the best things we can do at the Indianapolis Zoo is to educate people about orangutans' abilities and encourage them to add their voice to the conversation about the state of orangutans in the wild," said Shumaker.
The Center's Tim M. Solso Learning Studio offers daily opportunities for guests to watch as orangutans engage in voluntarily cognitive research tasks with Shumaker and Dr. Chris Martin, the Zoo's Postdoctoral Research Associate.
Since the Center's opening, Martin has begun his fun and fascinating research with the orangutans, utilizing a dual-screened interactive station that allows humans and orangutans cooperatively to complete tasks side by side. Shumaker's work with the orangutans focuses on number sequencing and symbol comprehension tasks. He and Azy, the Zoo's dominant male orangutan, have been collaborating for decades on this cognitive research while the Zoo's other orangutans have begun participating more recently.
The public research demonstrations provide an immersive, educational experience, allowing visitors to identify with, understand and appreciate orangutans. The hope is that visitors walk away with a deeper understanding of this endangered species and in turn feel inspired to care about orangutan conservation.
In addition, the Zoo will host a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a small group of travelers to learn and explore the habitat of wild orangutans during an Indonesian expedition from July 24-Aug. 10 2015. Escorted by Shumaker, guests will see these great apes attending "forest school," experience the natural beauty of Kutai National Park and appreciate the region's rich cultural diversity. Reservations for this unforgettable, educational trip are currently being accepted.
"Orangutans are fascinating, charming, and like us, endlessly curious," said Crowther. "Whether you're watching our orangutans participate in learning demonstrations here at the Zoo or watching their wild cousins move through the forests of Borneo or Sumatra, orangutans leave a lasting impression on people that compels us to join in protecting them."
While haunting Halloween fun, costumes and trick-or-treating become a focus for many children this time of year, a truly frightening future faces orangutans in the wild. Halloween provides the perfect time to talk about how a simple piece of candy can affect a species nearly 10,000 miles away. How you might ask? A single ingredient contained in that candy: palm oil.
Habitat destruction and conversion for agriculture, most often palm oil plantations, are the primary causes of diminishing wild orangutan populations. As one of the most endangered of the great apes, the time to save orangutans from extinction is growing very short.
What is Palm Oil?
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil taken from the pulp of fruits grown on oil palms. Grown on both large-scale plantations and small-scale family farms, nearly 85 percent of the world's palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, the only remaining habitat for wild orangutans.
Palm oil is used in 50 percent of manufactured food and other products we buy, not just candy. It can be found in a wide range of products like margarine, chocolate, ice cream, soaps, cosmetics, fuel for cars and power plants and many more.
The issue for orangutans occurs when forest habitat is destroyed for illegal plantations, targeted for its rich, moist growing area.
How Can You Help?
The Indianapolis Zoo is committed to encouraging our members, guests and zoos across the nation to become more involved in responsibility addressing this crisis. The most conscientious choice individuals can make in the palm oil crisis is to support responsible and sustainable palm oil production.
Because the palm oil market is economically vital for the people of Borneo and Sumatra, for a solution to work it must benefit not only orangutans but people as well. As a consumer, you can do your part by supporting companies that are working toward using 100 percent sustainable palm oil.
Mobile apps have even been launched to help people make responsible decisions when purchasing products and to recognize companies that are doing well or that need improvement. A new app, created by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, was designed to encourage sustainable choices when shopping for groceries or personal care products — something you can easily use when buying sweet treats this holiday season!
Learn more about palm oil, orangutan conservation and how your consumer choices can help the effort here.
For guests young or old, whether you're an orangutan expert or an individual encountering these apes for the first time, the Indianapolis Zoo's Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center has created awe-inspiring moments since its opening in May. Offering an unparalleled experience for visitors and orangutans alike, it's an exhibit in which the apes are thriving.
When the Center was designed, the Indianapolis Zoo's team had a goal — to make the space functional for orangutans, creating everything from the apes' point of view. The Zoo collaborated with some of the world's most qualified architects and orangutan researchers, including foremost great ape expert Dr. Rob Shumaker, who is now the Zoo's Vice President of Conservation and Life Sciences.
What they created is an internationally recognized exhibit like none other — an innovative facility that accommodates orangutans' arboreal lifestyle, engages their remarkable intelligence and supports their unique social structure.
"This is truly innovative, especially for a primate that needs control and independence over their social choices," said Dr. Rafaella Commintante, a professor at California State University who has studied orangutans in the wild and recently visited the Zoo to discuss orangutan conservation.
Features of the Center
According to Shumaker, the Center incorporates interesting and functional three-dimensional spaces both indoors and out so the orangutans can move around on all levels and choose where they want to go. Whether guests see the apes outside traveling or within the interior areas, it's because the orangutans, by their own accord, chose to be there.
Orangutans travel daily on the Myrta Pulliam Hutan Trail, and it's hard to predict exactly where every individual will be throughout the day. That's exactly what researchers hoped for when designing the layout of the buildings, outdoor yards, towers, platforms, cables and bridges. The apes are enjoying many new social choices, and the other orangutans they spend time with changes from day to day — sometimes even hour to hour. That creates an exciting and dynamic environment that's wonderful for the apes, keepers and visitors alike.
Both in the wild and in zoos, orangutans are natural learners and problem solvers, and they need ways to exercise their minds. The orangutans respond eagerly and voluntarily engage with tasks during daily sessions in the Tim M. Solso Learning Studio, and repeat visitors have even been impressed by the progress the orangutans have made this summer!
A Functional Forest
Since the Center opened, hundreds of thousands of people have visited and had lots of interesting questions.
One of the most common is, "Can orangutans be happy without trees?" It's certainly a fair question. Orangutan bodies are uniquely adapted for climbing and moving through a complex, vertical environment. They also need enough space to travel and make social choices. While all of this occurs for wild orangutans living in a forest, it's also happening at the Center.
The Center's design promotes natural locomotion for the apes, and is seen on a continuous basis. Those same behaviors wouldn't occur if the exhibit was full of artificial trees, while newly planted trees would not have been able to safely support the constant use of orangutans in the Center. The orangutans regularly make social choices and travel around the entire complex, resulting in more activity and healthy exercise.
The key question from the point of view of the apes is not whether the space looks like a forest, but does it function in a way that allows their natural behaviors? The answer is a resounding "Yes!"
We agree with our colleague Dr. Steve Ross, ape expert and Director of the Fisher Center at the Lincoln Park Zoo, when he says that "Understanding the behavioral needs of apes is tremendously important in a zoo setting. Creating environments that let them express their most normal behaviors promotes physical and psychological health."
The results are clear: All of our orangutans are active, healthy, engaged intellectually and making choices that enrich their lives every day.
They're among the world's oldest species of mammal. Rhinoceros and their ancestors have been around for nearly 55 million years and, at one time or another, nearly 100 different species of these incredible creatures have roamed the planet. Now, only five species remain — white, black, greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran — and three of those are critically endangered.
Though wild rhinos face a difficult plight, the challenge can be overcome. Conservationists are coming together worldwide as part of a huge effort to save these giant creatures, and even small contributions to help raise awareness can make a big difference.
World Rhino Day is celebrated every Sept. 22, and the purpose is to share the knowledge of these awesome animals to help spark people's interest in wanting to save them. The Indianapolis Zoo, home to three white rhinos, is proud to recognize this day as part of an overall effort to save this remarkable species.
The word rhinoceros comes from two Greek words: rhino, meaning "nose", and ceros, meaning "horn". And that horn is actually what has made these beautiful beasts a target for hunters. Just a century ago, more than a half million rhinos wandered the continents of Africa and Asia. Today, their numbers have been reduced to less than 30,000 in the wild.
A distant relative to horses and zebras, rhinos are among the largest living animals — the white rhino is the largest after the elephant. But their size isn't enough to keep them safe from poachers.
According to the International Rhino Foundation's Operation Stop Poaching Now campaign, about 1,000 rhinos were killed in 2013. Through Sept. 1 of this year, a staggering 769 rhinos had been poached — roughly one rhino every eight hours!
At the heart of this crisis are differences in cultural beliefs. Many Asian cultures erroneously believe that rhino horn holds special healing properties. People use ground horn in hot tea and other serums to treat all sorts of ailments, from colds and flu, to headaches and arthritis, to snakebites and countless others. Some myths even say the horn is an aphrodisiac.
In reality, rhino horn is made of keratin, the same material found in human hair and fingernails. And it's been scientifically proven to be no more effective at treating ailments as chewing your own nails or hair.
Conservationists are finding it difficult to overcome centuries of cultural tradition — difficult, but not impossible.
Thanks to the diligent efforts of conservation groups like the International Rhino Foundation, which the Indianapolis Zoo supports, some rhino populations are actually increasing.
Two decades ago, the number of black rhinos in the wild had dropped to just 2,300. But intensive anti-poaching efforts have helped these amazing mammals rebound to about 5,000. The greater one-horned rhino has come back from even more dire straits. After their population dipped to less than 200 in the mid-20th century, they now number around 3,300 in the wild.
White rhinos have been one of the biggest success stories for rhino conservationists. Twenty years ago, only about 6,400 of these creatures survived in the wild. Now, with around 20,000 roaming the African savannahs, there are more white rhinos left in the wild than all other species combined. However, like all rhino species, white rhinos still face significant threats.
The key to saving these magnificent animals is education, and everyone can help through simple actions like spreading the word and supporting rhino conservation efforts.
Plains Senior Keeper Amber Berndt and Public Relations Specialist Carla Knapp contributed to this blog.
As the Zoo celebrates World Orangutan Day, guests, staff and the community are reminded of the similarities between humans and these great apes. But it's important to also remember the role we play in orangutans being here for generations to come. With habitat destruction and conversion for agriculture a serious threat for endangered orangutans in the wild, they are on track to become the first great ape to go extinct.
A crisis exists for these sentient beings and their conservation, but efforts by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums may be a step in the right direction.
The Board of Directors approved a position statement that will guide efforts to address palm oil messaging with visitors and ensure a journey towards deforestation-free palm oil by AZA-accredited institutions.
Dr. Rob Shumaker, the Indianapolis Zoo's Vice President of Conservation and Life Sciences, assisted on the Palm Oil Task Force that created the document. The task force will continue its work to support AZA accredited groups that are committed to changing palm oil's effect on the ecosystem.
The position states "the AZA recognizes that unsustainable palm oil production results in massive deforestation, rapid biodiversity loss in tropical ecosystems and significant greenhouse gas emissions. Global consumption of palm oil and its derivatives is increasing, requiring strong conservation action to save species. By facilitating change through audience and stakeholder engagement, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are well positioned to help break the link between palm oil production and deforestation."
The Indianapolis Zoo, which is accredited through the AZA, supports endangered species including orangutans through global involvement and financial support. Through hard work these organizations, researchers and scientists in the field are helping to preserve unique animals and their habitats for future generations.
The ecological impact for the Zoo's newest exhibit spreads far beyond Indianapolis. The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center's purpose is to help people understand and appreciate orangutans, and therefore actively support orangutan conservation.
The Zoo supports the Orangutan Kutai Project in the Kutai National Park in East Kalimantan, Borneo. The project started in 2009 to protect the seriously endangered orangutan population and recover the critical habitat that has been largely destroyed.
The Indonesian reforestation initiative grows, plants and cares for these trees in areas where the forest has been depleted. Within the Center guests have the opportunity to make this reforestation project a success by making donations to plant trees through interactive features of the exhibit.
Learn more about conservation initiatives the Indianapolis Zoo supports here.
Leaves, twigs and branches — for humans, that’s a great mix
for garden mulch, but for elephants, it’s a favorite snack!
African elephants are the world’s largest herbivores and
feeding their cravings can be a big chore, especially when an elephant, which
weighs several tons, will eat about 1.5 percent of its body weight every single
At the Indianapolis Zoo, our
elephants regularly receive leaves and branches that our Horticulturists
have trimmed from trees and shrubs around our 64-acre campus. Feeding out this
edible greenery, called browse, is both economically and environmentally
friendly — the ultimate in going green.
Browse makes up only a small portion of the elephants’ daily
diet, yet elephants aren’t the only animals that receive browse for food. So
our Horticulture staff is still challenged to provide enough browse to satisfy
our animals’ appetite.
Recently, the Zoo branched out and started a partnership
with the Indianapolis Museum of Art to
collect browse from the Virginia
B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. Their 100 wooded acres provides a virtual
all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of leafy limbs for Zoo animals. Plus, offering
their landscape clippings as browse is an eco-friendly way for the IMA to keep
their campus looking beautiful.
Starting small, our Horticulturists recently cut two young
mulberry trees from the back of the nature park that our Plains staff fed to
the elephants later that day. Browse are a form of nutrition as well as
enrichment for the animals, as it encourages them to forage for food just as
they would in the wild. Nyah, the youngest of the elephants in our herd, also
enjoyed playfully flipping her food around with her trunk.
And snack time didn’t last long on this particular afternoon,
as the elephants quickly ate every last tasty splinter.
Waste not, want not!
When you're thinking about visiting the Indianapolis Zoo, it's easy to get swept up with excitement at all the epic adventures just waiting for you inside our front gate! As a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden all in one attraction, the Zoo offers so much to see and do. Plus it's a unique experience every time you visit. But before you jump in your car, we're giving guests amazing ways to save money, and it all starts by planning ahead. Here's five hits to help you have a phenomenal and affordable Zoo visit!
It's all up to you: A great way to save time and money is by taking advantage of the new Pick Your Day, Pick Your Price, Pick Your Package program, which allows guests to plan a visit that fits their schedule and their budget. With this new online ticket program, prices vary daily based on many factors, including that day's projected attendance. In general, we expect lighter crowds during the week, and by planning your visit on those days, not only will you save money, you'll also find shorter lines and enjoy more personal interactions with our animals. Plus, by planning ahead and purchasing tickets in advance online, guests can lock in the lowest price. Prices will never fall below today's listed prices, but they may increase the longer you wait to buy. The further in advance you purchase tickets, the more you can save.
Become a member: If you visit the Zoo more than twice a year, the most cost-effective option is a Zoo membership and there are multiple packages available to accommodate everyone. In addition to 12 months of unlimited Zoo visits, members receive other great benefits like free parking, discounts throughout the Zoo, early admission to the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center on weekends through Labor Day as part of the Wake Up With the Orangutans program and more.
Have an adventure: The Zoo's Family Fun Adventure Package is a popular option for out-of-town guests. Explore the city of Indianapolis with four Zoo tickets, four tickets to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis and an overnight stay at a participating hotel — all for an affordable rate. The Zoo also partners with dozens of area hotels to offer discount admission tickets with an overnight stay.
Enjoy amazing shows & chats: General Zoo admission includes more than you might think! Experience upbeat dolphin shows daily at the Marsh Dolphin Theater or head to Dean's Arena for the high-energy JUMP! The Ultimate Dog Show. Plus, you can learn more about our incredible creatures from the zookeepers who care for them during daily keeper chats. You won't want to miss any of it!
Stop and smell the roses. The Zoo's 64 acres are wonderful, but make sure to visit White River Gardens, too! This beautiful 3-acre botanical garden is located right next to the Zoo's front gate and is included with regular admission. Now through Sept. 2 you'll also find hundreds of beautiful butterflies at Butterfly Kaleidoscope inside the Hilbert Conservatory. Escape the stresses of the city and immerse yourself in this stunning natural oasis.
Now that you know all of the secrets for having an epic Zoo adventure, what are you waiting for? Start planning your next visit today! We look forward to seeing you soon!
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a zookeeper? Maybe you were inspired during a recent visit to a zoo. Perhaps you've thought about going into profession involving animals. Maybe you're just looking for a career that's different than the normal 9-to-5 office job — that's great too!
Now, guests at the Indianapolis Zoo have the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a zookeeper with Zooper Challenge!
This summer the Zoo created an all-inclusive experience for visitors called the Total Adventure Package. Included in this deal are unlimited rides and animal feeds as well as exclusive access to a virtual game called Zooper Challenge. This innovative new feature allows players to step into the role of zookeeper. Keeper Kim will be your guide throughout Zooper Challenge, asking you questions and giving you tons of fun animal facts!
Here's how it works.
Purchase the Total Adventure Package. TAP is available at the front gate or, if you're in to saving time (and who isn't), you can buy it in advance online.
Put on your orange wristband. Either wrist is fine. Just make sure you don't cover the TAP logo on the wristband. It won't scan as well if you do.
Start at a keeper kiosk. There are six located all around the Zoo. All of the kiosks are marked on the Zoo map so they aren't hard to find. Look for a big orange canopy with three screens underneath and you've found them. Then, listen to Kim's instructions and type your name.
Find your first animal station. Hold the TAP logo on your wristband to the matching logo on the station. It's important to hold, not swipe, the wristband. It might take a few seconds to register, so be patient, it's worth the wait! You'll be rewarded with exciting behind-the-scenes information.
Listen to Kim. Our helpful guide will ask you a question about the specific animals you're learning about. To discover the answer, just watch our incredible critters on exhibit and then find the nearby animal station to continue.
Answer the question. Look for another keeper kiosk where you will answer Kim's question. Once you've found one, hold your wristband to the symbol again to choose from the multiple choice answers.
Repeat steps 4-6 and become an animal expert! The longer you play, the more you'll learn and the higher you'll ascend in the game. You might even work your way to head keeper with the help of Kim and the knowledge you gain from each exhibit!
Get rewarded for your Zoo smarts! Whether you decide to answer questions at one or all 14 animal stations, when you've finished your adventure, head to the gift shop at the front of the Zoo to receive your reward.
Interacting with Keeper Kim and learning about caring for animals may be the nudge you need! If this game sparks curiosity some sort of career at a zoo or aquarium, make sure to check out some tips from the American Association of Zookeepers.
Are you ready for the challenge? Visit the Indianapolis Zoo and see if you have what it takes. Who knows— you might just find the zookeeper in you!
When guests walk under the Indianapolis Zoo marquee, they
step into a world of adventure. Exotic and inspiring animals make people of all
ages wonder about the world just a little more.
But caring for all of our animals is no small task. It takes
the dedication and expertise of our
remarkable zookeepers to provide care and comfort to our herds, pods and
flocks each and every day.
In honor of National Zookeeper
Week, July 20-26, we want to send a special thanks to our keepers, in all
departments, for being a part of the Indianapolis Zoo team. Their character, commitment, expertise and
effort have helped establish us as a world-class zoo.
“Our Life Sciences staff – our zookeepers – are a remarkable
group with a unique combination of skills, experience and a deep personal
commitment,” said Mike Crowther, Indianapolis Zoo president and CEO. “We are
very fortunate to have them on our team.”
But to be a part of this team it takes not only passion but extensive
knowledge about the animals in our collection as well.
Education is a vital requirement of the keepers’ job here at
the Zoo. Each of our full-time keepers has an undergraduate degree, most
commonly with a major in biology, zoology or psychology. Several individuals on
staff continued their education even further to complete master’s and doctorate
“Our zookeepers are scientists with extraordinary dedication
to the well-being of the individual animals they care for,” Crowther said.
Some grew up around animals, like Encounters keeper Eric
Garrison, who said his involvement with his family’s farm at an early age
helped set him on the path to becoming a zookeeper. Others on staff were
inspired by shows and zoo experiences they had during their childhood.
But what does it take to begin the career path to keeper?
The best advice Deserts Area Manager John Wyatt had to offer
was to concentrate on pursuing a related degree and working to get your foot in
the door, whether through volunteering or internships.
“It’s a very competitive field so it can be tough, but I
would tell people to not give up, keep trying. It will happen,” Wyatt said.
“Internships are really key, or just volunteering is a great
way to start,” said Encounters keeper Meagan Keen. “Indianapolis is great
because of the Zoo
teen program, so you can start in high school to start gaining that
Dana Lambert, an Encounters keeper, feels now more than ever
children have helpful tools if they’re interested in this career path.
“Just start studying, find out the things that you think are
interesting and look into volunteering. We’re going to need more and more good
zookeepers in the future,” Lambert said. “It’s always going to be a job that we
need to fill and we want to have good, dedicated and patient people going into
that. There are lots of opportunities for growth in the field.”
Crowther believes it takes a very special person to be a
“They are highly educated and trained of course, but they’ve
also come out on top during a rigorous selection process. Those who become part
of our team are the best of the best,” he said.
The Indianapolis Zoo currently employs more than 100
individuals whose job relates to animal care, including keepers and veterinary
staff, with additional help from volunteers.
“It takes a lot of
hard work, but it’s worth it,” said Oceans aquarist Holly Kennedy. “I come to
work each day loving my job.”
To find out more information about working in zoos,
aquariums or other places studying animal behavior, visit the careers page of
the Association of Zoos
& Aquariums website.
Guests are encouraged to meet and interact with these
inspiring individuals during daily keeper chats. Make sure to thank our keepers if you see them on grounds while
you’re at the Zoo!