Jan 22
Amaryllis Aren’t Just For Year-End Holidays

By Nina Evans
Horticulturist

Along with the very traditional poinsettia, the amaryllis (genus Hippeastrum) has become associated with the holiday season in a big way. It's easy to see why, with its large, beautiful flowers in bright and velvety reds, and the ease of growing it to bloom in a fairly short period of time.

Native to tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas, most amaryllis plants grow in a warm, rainy habitat much of the year with just a short, cooler dry season. Their long, strappy leaves surround one or more flower stalks, called scapes, which can grow up to 2 feet tall. Each scape produces four blooms, each featuring six petals and reaching 4 to 6 inches across. There are also some dwarf amaryllis varieties, which make up for their smaller size with more flowers. You will find them in red, white, pink and combinations of those colors; some rare types come in yellow or might even feature double petals. And, with some extra work and attention, you can actually have your holiday bulbs re-bloom outside in the summer!

Unless you spend time in a much warmer part of the world than Indiana, it's likely that you only see these gorgeous plants flowering in December. But that is not how it has to be! Two months ago, just before many suppliers of amaryllis bulbs stopped selling them, we purchased a generous number of 'Red Lion' amaryllis bulbs. Potted up in our greenhouse a few weeks ago, their vibrant, deep red flowers are moving into the Hilbert Conservatory to brighten the month of February and help you celebrate Valentine's Day.

Come see these "multi-holiday" blooms and other tropical plants and flowers in the toasty warmth of the Hilbert Conservatory in the White River Gardens. They will lighten your spirits and might give you a taste of the summer ahead. And, if you are with someone special, maybe inspire a little Valentine's kiss!

Dec 31
Leafy Rebels

By Nina Evans
Horticulturist

The beautiful display of fall color is just a memory, and the more barren look of winter is here. All those trees and shrubs with broad leaves are showing off their bare branches, while those with needle shaped-leaves create sporadic green patches in our yards and gardens. But wait! Looking around you can see broad leaves on some trees, and conifers with hardly any needles! What's up with that?

You can divide trees and shrubs into two groups based on whether they lose their leaves seasonally. Those that do, termed deciduous plants, are primarily broadleaf plants. They go dormant during the cold months. The second group, the ones that hang on to most of their leaves all year, are generally those with narrow, needle-like leaves, and are called conifers. But since nothing in nature is so simple, there are many exceptions to these generalities.

Where ever you are, chances are you can look around and spot some of these "rule-breakers." At the Indianapolis Zoo we have a number broadleaf shrubs and herbaceous perennials that keep their foliage through a good part of the winter. Many of you probably have leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum) or bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica) shrubs in your yards. Their thick, green leaves hang on much of the winter. The truest evergreen shrubs we have are the boxwood (Buxus sp.) and most hollies (Ilex sp.), though there is a deciduous holly called winterberry (Ilex decidua).

This time of year you also are likely to come across broadleaf trees whose leaves stay on the tree but are brown and dead. This phenomenon is called marcescence — a word new to me, I admit. It means the retention of withered parts and most often refers to plant leaves. My favorite winter tree in White River Gardens is the shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria) because of its retained winter foliage. I love the rustling sound the leaves make when stirred by the wind! The pin oak (Q. palutris), black oak (Q. velutina), and white oak (Q. alba) also have this property. Another favorite marcescent tree is American beech (Fagus grandifolia), with its smooth, silvery bark. Amazingly enough, all of these trees are native to the eastern U.S.

On the flip side, I sometimes hear from guests concerned about the conifers we have in the White River Gardens that look as if they are dying, since their needles turn brown and begin falling in autumn. This tree is baldcypress (Taxodium disticum), a conifer that loses its needles. You can see a beautiful ring of them in the Ruth Lilly Shade Garden. As for deciduous conifers in the Zoo, look for the nice European larch (Larix kaempferi) next to the upper viewing area at the walrus exhibit. And this year we've planted two new dawn redwood trees (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) inside Forests and one in the bed between the Forests and the Dolphin Pavilion. The leafed-out branches of all these trees are very feathery and delicate-looking due to their fine-textured needles. And their bare winter form and bark is worth a second look!

So now you have the scoop on some out-of-the-ordinary trees and shrubs that don't follow the broadleaf = deciduous and conifers = evergreen norm. You might want rebel a bit and try out some of them in your own garden. You'll be adding "rule-breaking" beauty and interest to your landscape year round.

 

Dec 08
Protecting our Animals’ Pearly Whites

For humans, regular dental exams are important for maintaining a healthy mouth. The same is true the animals here at the Indianapolis Zoo. Our Zookeepers perform regular checks and, in some cases, daily teeth brushings as part of our animals' overall care​.

But just like humans, sometimes our animals' teeth can become damaged and require additional work. Guests can see the results of that at our walrus and elephant exhibits.

Elephants and walrus are among several species with tusks. These overgrown teeth serve various purposes, like digging and defense. Formed of super-strong ivory, animal tusks grow continuously throughout an animal's lifetime and contain nerves that go all the way back toward the animal's brain. With such handy and durable tools at their disposal, walrus and elephants get a lot of use out of their tusks. But all that wear can occasionally cause damage.

And it's not just adults that incur tusk injuries, juveniles do too. Just like a teething infant, growing tusks can be painful for young animals and sometimes they will rub their tusks on objects or the ground to try to relieve the soreness. And as animals adjust to having these new facial features, they occasionally bump their tusks into things.

Although animal tusks are very hard and durable, they can still fracture or break, which can be very dangerous if left untreated. But here at the Zoo, our veterinarians can treat our animals' pearly whites to prevent additional issues.

Guests can see these treatments on several of our playful young elephants. Elephant tusks are modified incisors and, like all animal tusks, they contain a pulp cavity at the base that recedes as the animal grows; however, the pulp tissue is very close to the end of the tusk in young elephants.

Our active youngsters use their tusks to dig and push objects around, and 4-year-old Kalina especially likes to use hers to strip the bark off tree branches. When all that play starts to wear down the ends of their little tusks, our veterinarians apply metal caps over them to protect the pulp tissue until the tusks grow out a little more.

To repair a damaged tusk, our staff consults with a dentist, who makes impressions of the tusk and places it using dental cement to make sure it fits perfectly. The whole process is painless for the animals, though it requires a lot of patience and cooperation.

In addition to our elephants, guests can also spot tusk caps on our 4-year-old Pacific walrus Pakak, who was found to have a small fracture in his pearly whites. Eventually, as Pakak's tusks grow and strengthen, he won't need his caps anymore and they'll be removed.

In the wild, walrus use their tusks to break through the Arctic ice to hunt. They also utilize these overgrown canine teeth to pull their big, blubbery bodies out of the water and onto the ice, which is why walrus are known as "tooth walkers."

While both male and female walrus grow tusks, guests may notice that our adult female walrus, Aurora, is missing hers. When she was younger, Aurora had problems with tusk injuries and infections, so veterinarians decided to remove her tusks to prevent additional issues.

Our keepers work with our walrus and elephants each day, examining their mouths and cleaning their tusks to make sure they're healthy.

So the next time you visit our walrus or elephant exhibits, see if you can spot our animals' tusk caps.

Nov 30
Facing the Heat: Orangutan Conservationists Take Action during Forest Fires

The recent annual Orangutan Caring Week brought the endangered red-haired apes to the forefront of conversation, providing the opportunity to engage, inspire and empower people to take part in conservation efforts while bringing about an appreciation and understanding of the plight these great apes face in the wild.

Burning in Borneo

Found only in Southeast Asia, on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, the two species – endangered Bornean orangutans and critically endangered Sumatran orangutans – face significant habitat loss, primarily as a result of conversion for agriculture, often for growing palm oil.

Over the course of the past few months, the worst fire season since 1997 has damaged much of the island region and destroyed wide expanses of habitat.

Thousands of these peat and forest fires proved costly for humans, orangutans and the environment. National Geographic reported the fires emitted more carbon dioxide each day than the entire U.S. economy on 26 days.

According to The Guardian, tens of thousands of hectares of forest have burned as a result of slash and burn – a technique used to clear land for new plantations. This year's prolonged dry season and the impact of El Niño weather patterns have made the situation much worse than years prior.

These fires spread beyond plantations, deep into primary forests and national parks. With the burning came a lingering haze spreading to neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore, closing schools, grounding flights, and often causing respiratory issues, both for humans and orangutans.

Organizations like the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme have worked diligently to conserve viable wild populations of critically endangered orangutans, including providing habitat protection, reintroduction, education and scientific research. While their location proved not significantly affected by the fires as most in Sumatra occurred further south, Dr. Ian Singleton, Director of SOCP, witnessed the lingering haze in Medan for many weeks.

Singleton said his colleagues also reported "no direct fire impacts of the orangutans released in the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Jambi, but they've been supplementing food and vitamins due to the cloaking haze everywhere."

"In Borneo it's a different story," Singleton said. "Several centers have been affected by fires extremely close by and some of the wild orangutan field research centers have also been affected."

According to Singleton, the burning has died down currently, but predictions suggest fires will begin again soon with the potential to burn until March.

Ambassadors for the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) – including Indianapolis Prize past nominee Jane Goodall and two-time finalist Russell Mittermeier – issued a statement warning vital biodiversity is at stake.

Although these conservationists commend the Indonesian government for the efforts, they urge new measures be taken for the future, including regulations against unsustainable development and a moratorium on burning for land clearance.

The statement says, "Globally important forests like the Sabangau Forest and the Leuser Ecosystem, which is also part of the World Heritage Site, the Gunung Leuser National Park, need to be protected not only for the orangutans, but for the rich variety of species living under their canopies. The devastation these fires have wrought is proof that protection of these areas needs to extend past the simple preservation of their boundaries."

Conservation Crisis

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are less than 54,000 Bornean orangutans, and only about 6,500 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild. Unless there is a fundamental change in orangutan protection, they will be the first species of great ape to go extinct in recorded history.

But there is hope.

Through collaborative efforts and continued dedication from organizations and individuals a bright future remains for these apes.

A connection leads to care, and care to conservation. By following and sharing stories of this species, being a conscious consumer and assisting with initiatives personally, whether those efforts are on a local or global scale, you have the power to make a difference.

To learn more about orangutan conservation and sustainability visit sumatranorangutan.org and rspo.org.

Nov 17
It’s a Baby Boom at the Indianapolis Zoo

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:

African Lion

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.

Meerkat

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.

White-Handed Gibbon

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.

Sumatran Orangutan

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.

Nov 06
From Fries to Fuel

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.

Nov 05
Enjoy the Beauty of Poinsettias Year After Year

By Nina Evans
Horticulturist

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.

Oct 29
The Sweet Side of Orangutan Conservation

​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.

Taking Action

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.

Oct 07
A Pumpkin by Any Other Name …

By Nina Evans
Horticulturist

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!

Sep 10
From the Forest Floor

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.

Pak Erly, director of the national park, joined the group to discuss research and conservation efforts 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.

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