This fall has been an exciting time for the Indianapolis Zoo. In just two months, six babies have been born in three different areas of the Zoo. Even more exciting, each baby was born to first-time parents. Plus we're expecting another special addition this spring.
As a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Indianapolis Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan program, a collaboration of all accredited organizations with a goal of ensuring the sustainability of a healthy, diverse and demographically varied AZA population. Additionally, like all of the animals at the Zoo, these adorable new arrivals will be ambassadors, helping to raise awareness for the challenges their species face in the wild.
Let's meet the newest members of our Zoo family:
Our lion pride got a little prouder when it welcomed three cubs earlier this fall. Two males and one female were born to mother Zuri and father Nyack on Sept. 21. These are the first lions born at the Zoo since 2003.
Zuri has shown excellent maternal behavior and is caring and protective of her cubs. Until these precious newborns grow a little stronger and begin to gain some independence, they'll rely solely on their mother for survival. Like most lion cubs, our feisty felines were born with mottled fur that will fade into their iconic golden coats. In the first six weeks since birth the cubs have doubled in size. Keepers have also began to notice unique personalities developing in the cubs.
Mom and babies are doing very well. Zuri and her trio will remain in a private area behind the scenes for the next several months for the health of the cubs, and the family is expected to make its debut in the spring of 2016 in our newly renovated lion exhibit presented by MainSource Bank in our Plains area. Before visitors can meet the cubs face to fuzzy face, the public has an opportunity to help name the newborns. They can vote on the babies' names through a poll on our Facebook page through Nov. 30.
On Oct. 13 two pups were born to mother Rue, who is a relative newcomer to our Deserts family herself. She, along with her sisters, Katniss and Prim, came to the Indianapolis Zoo last spring from Toledo Zoo, and Rue's pregnancy just a few months later is a good indicator that the sisters are enjoying their new home and the whole mob is settling in together. With the addition of the pups —the first ever born at the Zoo — our mob is now up to seven!
In the wild, meerkats give birth in underground burrows to protect the pups from predators. When the pups are born, their ears and eyes are shut to keep out the dust. The pups first opened their eyes 11 days after they were born.
Raising the pups is a family affair for meerkats. Within the Zoo's mob, all of the adults have been taking turns caring for the pups throughout the day. The pups will continue to nurse and grow rapidly for the next nine weeks. At about six months they will be the same size as the adults.
Rue and her pups are doing well, although the gender of the pups is still unknown as that process can take a while with meerkats. Following the pups' birth, the whole mob remained in a private area behind the scenes to give them all time to adjust. But by the time the pups were a month old, they were ready to venture out with the adults and explore their new world.
Our Forests family welcomed an addition on Oct. 23 when a baby white-handed gibbon was born to first time parents, mother Koko and father Elliot. The baby arrived just a day before International Gibbon Day.
While the newborn's gender is not yet known, both baby and mother are doing very well. Koko is showing great maternal instincts, and is a caring and protective mother to her baby, which takes after Koko with its dark hair.
In the wild, gibbons live high up in the rainforest canopy and rarely come down to the ground. These lesser apes use their long arms to swing effortlessly between tree branches, covering distances of up to 25 feet and reaching speeds of up to 35mph! While a baby gibbon will use its great grip and arm span to hang on tight to mom as she travels, Koko also provides her infant a seat by holding her legs up.
Known for their elaborate daily vocalizations, gibbons sing to attract mates and announce their territory. When a baby joins the family, the youngster will eventually start singing along with its parents' duets.
Though the apes' melodies could once be heard throughout the forests Southeast Asia, but the number of gibbons in the wild has been reduced by more than half in the past 45 years due primarily to deforestation and hunting. Because 2015 is the Year of the Gibbon, this birth will help raise awareness for the conservation issues facing these endangered apes face.
Since gibbons are native to warmer regions, our new family will only be outside a limited basis this fall, when temperatures reach at least 60 degrees. Throughout the winter, our gibbons will remain warm and cozy in a private indoor area, and guests can expect to see them in the spring in the gibbon exhibit presented by ARAB Termite & Pest Control.
Guests can look forward to another adorable addition this spring as 22-year old Sumatran orangutan Sirih is expecting – the first baby orangutan for the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. Her pregnancy provides an incredible opportunity to engage and inspire guests to take part in conservation efforts for these critically endangered great apes in the wild.
The baby will be the second offspring for Sirih, who had a daughter in 2003 while she lived at the Frankfurt Zoo in Germany. Both mother and first time father, 14-year-old Basan, are Sumatran orangutans, a species listed as a critically endangered by the IUCN, with only about 6,500 left in the wild. Sirih and Basan were recommended as a breeding pair through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan, which helps to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically varied AZA population.
Our guests are invited to follow with Sirih's pregnancy and we'll highlight exciting milestones in anticipation of the baby's arrival — a significant success for Indianapolis and the zoo community. From veterinary care and changes in diet, to Sirih's ultrasounds, the public will have the chance to join in as we prepare for the birth through monthly updates, "Ask About Sirih" live events, social media interactions and much more. Stay tuned!
Find more information about all of our adorable additions over the last 12 months. Special thanks to our friends Hendricks Regional Health for presenting Zoo Babies.
Indianapolis Zoo's Conservation Endeavors Turn to Biofuel Plans
There's something new at the Indianapolis Zoo's cafés … but you won't find it on the menu.
In partnership with Cummins Inc., the Zoo recently took on a biofuel initiative, working to advance its mission of conservation, while implementing new, innovative ways to fuel some of the vehicles throughout grounds.
By collecting used vegetable oil from the fryers in the Zoo's Café on the Commons, staff members are now able to reclaim what would be discarded and instead process the material in a fueling station. This machinery breaks down the oils into ester, an organic compound, and glycerin. The ester is then mixed with fuel to create biodiesel.
So next time you decide to enjoy a few French fries at the Zoo, you're becoming a part of a much bigger picture.
"The Zoo's mission is to empower our guests to make a difference for wildlife. Our operations team embraces that ideal in our work practices and looks for ways in which we can be more efficient in our use of resources as well as raise awareness. Utilizing biofuel from materials that would otherwise be thrown away helps us advance that mission," said Norah Fletchall, the Zoo's Supervising VP of Operations.
Among the fleet are Kubotas and a John Deere tractor that the Zoo's team are beginning to power using a mixture of both biofuel and regular diesel. This mixture will ensure the vehicle continues to run smoothly as a higher percentage of biofuel is utilized in the future.
"As we replace existing vehicles and systems that currently cannot operate using a biofuel mixture, we will be able to more effectively evaluate and perhaps even use the biofuel we produce," Fletchall said. "What's so great about this initial project is Cummins' assistance in properly sizing our system so we could produce small batches now with the capacity to grow larger."
While the first test batch of biodiesel took several days to produce, with practice, 32 gallons of fuel can be created over two-day time spans. This means the Zoo will have the potential to produce more than 500 gallons each year.
"One of the main reasons we partnered with the Indianapolis Zoo is the broad reach that the Zoo has with, one, its conservation message, and two, all of the visitors that can come here on an annual basis," said Cummin's Joe Sawin. "So it's a great opportunity to teach a lot of people about the benefits of biodiesel."
Not only is this initiative reusing material that would otherwise go to waste, biodiesel also produces fewer emissions than traditional petroleum-based fuel, helping the Zoo continue to reduce its carbon footprint.
"We see the utilization of biofuel in our vehicles as a demonstration project. It lays a foundation which we can build upon," Fletchall said.
Want to take a closer look? You can see the biofuel processing station along the tracks of the Zoo's White River Junction train. Plus, check out other ways the Zoo is going green here.
By Nina Evans
For as long as I can remember, the poinsettia has been a part of the holidays, its huge variety of dramatic colors flooding store shelves and checkout lanes every December. The name poinsettia came from the American physician, botanist and diplomat Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first ambassador to Mexico. He introduced it to the United States in 1820s, and the rest is history.
Preventing your poinsettia from becoming history takes some commitment. This tropical resident likes warm, well-lit spaces with just enough water to keep moist. Poinsettias don't react well to sitting in drafts or water or to touching a cold windowpane.
Once the holiday season is over, continue to water your poinsettia regularly. As spring approaches, wean the plant back so that the soil gets dry between waterings. Keep a watchful eye on the stem — if it shrivels, the plant has gotten too dry.
In May, cut the stems back to 4-6 inches in height and get back on a watering schedule that keeps the soil moist. Find it a larger pot so it has room to grow. In June, relocate your poinsettia (still in its pot) outside to a partly shaded location. In July and August, you'll have more new growth to pinch back to keep the plant looking full.
Before September, bring your plant back inside. As soon as October begins, you'll need to start controlling the plant's exposure to light to ensure a holiday bloom. Your poinsettia should be in total darkness between 5pm and 8am each day — you can cover the plant with a box to accomplish this. By November, the light outside will almost line up with this timeframe and you can stop the darkness treatment.
You should see flower buds at this point — if so, you can expect a gorgeous display during December!
If you are visiting Christmas at the Zoo this season, please stop by the Hilbert Conservatory for a little tropical warm up. You may even spy some classic poinsettias in full glory and bursting with color.
Zoo Guests Can Help Impact Species this Halloween
This Halloween it's all about goblins, ghouls and … great apes?
That's right. This Halloween you can play a part in saving species thousands of miles away, just by paying attention to the type of candy you're offering trick-or-treaters.
But how can a piece of candy have an impact? One single ingredient: palm oil.
Habitat destruction and conversion for agriculture, most often palm oil plantations, are the primary causes of diminishing wild orangutan populations, as well as habitat for Sumatran rhinos, tigers, elephants and countless other species.
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 occurs when forest habitat — targeted for its rich, moist growing area — is destroyed for illegal plantations.
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 wildlife but people as well. As a consumer, you can do your part by supporting companies that are working toward using 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO).
Need help deciding what candy to buy?
An app, created by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, was designed to encourage conscientious choices when shopping for groceries or personal care products — something you can easily use when buying sweet treats this holiday season!
Plus, check out our guide to smart, sustainable choices and learn more about palm oil, orangutan conservation and how your consumer choices can help the effort here.
By Nina Evans
Pumpkins are everywhere at this time of year. We love to carve them, decorate with them, smash them and especially eat them! Besides the traditional pumpkin pie, you will find oodles of other pumpkin-flavored delights, like pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin latte, pumpkin beer — the list goes on. But what are you actually getting in all these pumpkin-y edibles?
The distinctions between pumpkins, squash and even gourds are not absolutely clear. They are all members of the same plant family, Cucurbitaceae, and can all be called cucurbits. A large portion of what we call "pumpkin" comes from the three species of that family.
Cucurbita pepo contains many of the plants that produce the typical round, orange carving varieties of pumpkins, as well as some you can eat. C. maxima provides us with many edible squashes and the giant pumpkins. You'll find longer, tan-skinned, orange-fleshed fruit in C. moscheta — more like what you might think of as squash, rather than pumpkin. But this is the species that provides most of the canned pumpkin you buy at the grocery.
If you've ever tried to make a pie or other pumpkin food from the type of pumpkin grown for carving, you were surely disappointed! The flesh of such pumpkins is thin and not really tasty. You'll have much better luck with pumpkins grown specifically for pies, which are smaller and denser than carving pumpkins. Even then, some say these are still not the best for making your favorite pumpkin dish, being somewhat stringy and not very sweet.
You might do better using a good quality canned pumpkin for tasty and reliable results, or grow a C. moscheta variety like Dickenson pumpkin, acclaimed for making delicious pies.
So is it pumpkin, squash or some other cucurbit that is the main ingredient in the myriad of pumpkin foods that surround us? Maybe it doesn't matter so very much. What is really important is how it tastes!
Furthering the Indianapolis Zoo's Reforestation Project in Borneo
Spending the day with orangutans may be nothing new for Dr. Rob Shumaker, the Indianapolis Zoo's Supervising VP of Conservation, Science and Education. And yet, being surrounded by the sounds of southeast Asia's rainforest isn't quite routine.
Recently, Dr. Rob traveled to Borneo to further the Zoo's role in a reforestation project in Kutai National Park.
After flying into Balikpapan, Dr. Rob headed to the seaport city of Bontang to meet with park officials alongside Dr. Anne Russon, who leads the Kutai Orangutan Project and has studied orangutans for more than 30 years.
Joining the group was Pak Erly, director of the national park, who assisted with verifying research and approving reforestation work that will take place over the next five years, an encouraging confirmation for long-term science and conservation efforts.
Into the Forest
But it wasn't all business inside buildings.
Anne's project has expanded to include both the Mentoko – which means "on the river" – and Prevab field sites within the national park, so Dr. Rob and the team explored the forest and even had the chance to observe a young male orangutan in the canopy.
In addition to supporting field sites, the Indianapolis Zoo is protecting habitat throughout Kutai National Park.
Just a decade ago, the national park was largely considered a conservation wasteland, after forest had been destroyed from fires and human development, making the habitat unsuitable for populations of orangutans.
Now, areas throughout the park are becoming conservation priorities to ensure a bright future for these red-haired great apes.
Locations like Bukit Senara – Senara Hill – are once again becoming covered in green, yet still are not a prime path for orangutans to travel through the forest. Why? While the area looks lush, the pioneer species that have regrown there are not usable for apes' needs. However, these plants provide the perfect amount of shade for new seedlings to be planted and protected from the sun's rays.
Seeds of Change
As the Zoo's reforestation project advances, it will focus first on a 50-hectare section of the park, equivalent to a little more than 120 acres.
Collaboration and care are already leading to evidence of conservation successes. In 2013, Dr. Rob visited the national park and planted a seedling – a picture you may recognize from inside the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. Take a look at how much growth has taken place in the course of two years!
If you'd like to help support the Zoo's Kutai project you can donate at one of the Center's interactive kiosks. Plus, learn more about the reforestation project on the Conservation Initiatives page of IndianapolisZoo.com.
Because of the Midwest's cold winter weather, tropicals, succulents and other plants that don't survive in our freezing temperatures are commonly grown as houseplants. Here at the Indianapolis Zoo you will find many such heat-loving plants inside the Deserts Dome and the Hilbert Conservatory.
During the summer, we love to move those "indoor" plants outdoors into the White River Garden's DeHaan Tiergarten. Philodendrons, ferns, bromeliads and succulents are commonly found both inside and out. One you are likely to see in the Garden as well as the Zoo is Alocasia calidora, a type of elephant ear plant. You'll find the largest one inside the Hilbert Conservatory, where it has a home in the middle of our goldfish-stocked stream. Because it stays put there and isn't confined to a pot, it has leaves up to four feet long!
Growing quite nicely both inside and out is the Congo Rojo philodendron. It is a shrub-like philodendron with dark red to reddish green leaves. You'll find a beautiful display of them with lantanas, petunias and dahlias in the raised planters right outside the Conservatory.
Non-hardy succulents (plants with thick, fleshy leaves) are great indoors year round or outdoors in the summer. There are so many varieties with gorgeous leaves and remarkable flowers! Some of the Garden's most prominent succulents greet you at the door: the striped agaves in the concrete urns out front of the entrance. You can find more succulents in the Raised Garden in the Polly Horton Hix Design Gardens, as well as in pots inside the Hilbert Conservatory.
Always cool looking in the Conservatory are the staghorn ferns (Platycerium sp.) hanging high up on the mezzanine. They are epiphytes, plants that get most of their water and nutrients from the air and rain. We decided to try putting some outside this year in the ground in the Shade Garden. They add great contrasting form and texture to the plantings there.
Lots of people have been amazed (maybe you've been one of them?) to see fruiting pineapple plants in the Garden this summer. Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a bromeliad, another type of plant that needs little or no soil. We've put some in the ground, though, in the Symmetry and Oasis Gardens, and they have been turning heads all season!
So don't be shy about taking your houseplants outside for the summer. If you don't have a greenhouse or room for them inside your house when the temperatures drop, find a friend who does have space, or, as a last resort, treat them like annual plants and add them to your compost pile. These indoor plants will make your outdoor garden out-standing!
Our commitment to conservation includes the food we
serve our guests. We are honored to have received REAL Certification for Café on the Commons and our Farm to Table salad cart this year.
The United States Healthful Food Council developed the Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) certification to help consumers identify restaurants committed to healthy food and environmental responsibility. The Zoo and our partner Centerplate are the first in Indiana to receive this national mark of excellence. We're also the first zoo in the country to be certified!
What practices earned us this honor? "Health and sustainability play a role in our food preparation from start to finish," says Joe Hsu, the Zoo's executive chef. "We serve local products, humanely raised meat and seasonal produce whenever possible. Our staff crafts all stocks, dressings and sauces from scratch, giving us control over their flavor and nutrition. We even grow some herbs and vegetables right here on Zoo grounds!"
Here's a recipe we're actually will be using as part of new fall salad entrée at the café:
Fall Spice Couscous & Quinoa Salad
1 pkg 10 oz Israeli couscous (or orzo pasta)
1 pkg 10 oz red or white quinoa
1 ea large sweet potato, peeled, 1/4 in diced, roasted w/ extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper to taste
1 cup Craisins
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup celery, ¼-inch dice
1/4 cup pumpkin seed, toasted
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 oz mint, finely chopped
1 oz cilantro, finely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
*Option: Add grilled chicken and shredded parmesan cheese
1. Cook both couscous and quinoa according to the package. After done cooking, set aside and let cool in fridge for approximately 15 minutes.
2. Roast sweet potato(peeled, 1/4 in diced, coated with EVOO, salt and pepper to taste) in oven at 350 degree for 20 minutes, after cooking, set aside and let it cool in fridge for approximately 15 minutes.
3. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mix well and serve.
*Option: Add grilled chicken and shredded parmesan cheese if you'd like to make a full entrée out of it.
Watching our young animals grow up healthy and happy is one
of the most fun and rewarding experiences at the Indianapolis Zoo. That’s
especially true with rescued animals that receive a new home as well as new
opportunities that would not have otherwise been possible
In December 2013, the Indianapolis Zoo welcomed two California sea lion pups, named Holly
and Joy. Both pups made the trip from California to Indianapolis after their
situations left them unable to survive in the wild. Like all of our animals
here, these amazing marine mammals are wonderful ambassadors, educating guests
about the struggles their species face in the wild.
Joy’s mother was receiving treatment for a condition called
Red Tide at the Marine Mammal Center in Santa Barbara, Calif. when she gave
birth. The condition occurs when marine mammals eat toxic algae which makes them
lethargic and disoriented, so Joy’s mother could not properly care for her new
pup. The staff at the rescue center took over caring for and raising Joy, but
this meant she would not learn proper skills necessary to survive on her own.
Meanwhile, Holly was found stranded on a beach in Malibu and
rehabilitated at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro,
Calif. During this time, the staff noticed Holly was not eating regularly and
displayed behavioral issues and vision problems.
In both cases, the rescue staff ultimately felt the pups’
challenges would prevent them from competing successfully if they were released
back into the wild. So instead, the Zoo gladly provided them a new home in Indianapolis.
Since their arrival, Zookeepers say these pups have adjusted
extremely well to their new
home and enjoy learning new things from the other sea lions and their
trainers. At 2 years old, Holly and Joy are just like little kids; they are
playful and fun, but are still developing their manners. Our trainers work with
Holly and Joy, along with all of our marine mammals, multiple times a day to
practice and teach different behaviors.
Similar to the training keepers conduct with many of the
Zoo’s other animals, when the sea lions perform a behavior correctly, they are
rewarded with food. These sessions also offer an opportunity for the trainers
to make sure the animals are healthy. While the sea lions perform a behavior,
the trainers also check their flippers and teeth, how they walk and swim, and keep
an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. All the sea lions enjoy working
with their trainers, but Joy loves this time so much that she often becomes
upset when her sessions end.
When they’re not learning new behaviors during training sessions,
Holly and Joy get to show their playful sides. Whenever trainers dive in to clean
the tank, the pups are there and ready for some fun. The mischievous little
ones will try to play with the diving gear, and Joy will often steal the
trainers’ brushes and masks!
Out of the two, Holly has the more dominant personality.
During her time here, Holly has become very attached to Hide, one of our older
females, and treats her like a new mother. The two have formed a special bond
and are usually always together.
Joy is easy going and a little more playful than Holly. Guests
will often see her sucking on her tail or chasing dragon flies around on the
surface of the water. As a result of being raised by humans, Joy especially
likes spending time with people, so if you’re viewing the exhibit from
underwater you may get a greeting from her! However, Joy is still a little wary
of other sea lions, like Diego, one of our adult males who is very interested
in becoming her friend.
Holly and Joy are still recognizably smaller than our other
sea lions, so keep watch for the playful pups during our seasonal
sea lion chats and see how much our pups have learned in just two short
Teaching new behaviors is rewarding for keepers and
When guests attend any of the seasonal animal presentations or keeper chats offered at the Indianapolis Zoo, it's easy to see the trustful relationship that exists between animals and their zookeepers.
That mutual respect is established and reinforced during these daily training sessions. And whether an animal is born here at the Zoo or comes from another facility, sessions with new arrivals begin as soon as possible.
In her five years as part of the Zoo's animal care staff, Senior Keeper Jill Burbank has offered countless training sessions with animals in the Forests area. The learning process is stimulating for both the animals and the keepers. It also helps staff ensure the animals' wellness by allowing them to inspect hard-to-see areas like the underbelly or inside the mouth. Over time, animals also learn to participate in basic procedures like blood draws and weight checks.
The length of training sessions depends on each individual animal. When working with tigers, Burbank likes to keep the sessions brief.
"During a typical tiger day, I spend about 45 minutes to an hour training the tigers. Tigers are cats, so they have short attention spans. This is not one 45 minute session. Sessions are typically about 5 minutes long to make sure they stay positive and you keep the tigers' attention. I do multiple 5 minute sessions a day."
Recently, Burbank has enjoyed working with three new furry faces in the Tiger Forest.
The newest area arrivals are 2-year-old brothers Luka and Maxim. The pair of endangered Amur tigers came to Indianapolis in mid-January from the Peoria Zoo as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan program that helps maintain a healthy and diverse population of animals in human care.
Burbank said the tiger siblings arrived in Indianapolis with some past training experience, which was helpful. Both big cats knew how to respond to a target pole, stand on their hind legs and stand on a scale to allow keepers to record their weights.
Working with Zoya, the youngest member of the Tiger Forest, has also been a lot of fun for Burbank. The feisty cub was born to mom Andrea on July 10, 2014, and keepers began training her about five weeks later when she began eating meat.
"She has done fantastic," Burbank said of Zoya. "She is very eager to learn new behaviors."
The complexity of the behavior generally determines how long it takes for animals to learn, Burbank said. So far, Zoya has mastered some of the basics, like how to sit, respond to a target poll, lay down, stand on her hind legs and growl. Other, more challenging behaviors are still a work in progress.
Don't forget to check the seasonal keeper chats schedule during your next Zoo visit to see the training in action.