Latest Zoo News

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Click on any of the headlines below to learn more about today's hot topics:​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

•​ Mila is Turning 1 and You're Invited to Celebrate!

The first great ape ever born at the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center is about to turn 1, and everyone is invited to help celebrate! Join us on March 23 for special birthday activities to honor our youngest great ape, Mila.

The Atrium, the orangutan's main space inside the Center, will be decked out with party-themed decorations and other festive enrichment. Watch as our birthday girl arrives around 10am to get the party started with her mom, Sirih, and our other apes. Plus, share personal messages to Mila on her birthday card and make your own "Mila Moment" at our fun photo op. You can also check out unique animal artifacts and learn more about orangutans from our staff.

From the announcement of Sirih's pregnancy through Mila's first year, the community has followed along with her story, enjoyed updates about her milestones and fallen in love with this adorable little ape. Thousands of Zoo fans voted to name this adorable newcomer, and Mila translates to "dear one" in Indonesian.

At 1-year-old, Mila is an active youngster and you won't believe how much she's grown! She enjoys climing and exploring throughout the Atrium, though she's always under the watchful eye of Sirih as well as "aunties" Knobi and Nicky. 

Orangutan mothers spend seven to 10 years actively bringing up a baby. Sirih will model what life as an orangutan looks like for her daughter, as the youngster learns to climb, build nests and interact with surroundings including the other apes, Keepers and Zoo visitors.

Sirih and first-time father Basan were recommended as a breeding pair through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan, a program ensuring a sustainable, genetically diverse and demographically varied AZA population. Thanks to our friends at Hendricks Regional Health for presenting Zoo Babies. [close]

•​ Butterfly Kaleidoscope Returns to White River Gardens​

Surround yourself with swirls of living color as Butterfly Kaleidoscope presented by Citizens Energy Group returns to the Hilbert Conservatory after a one-year hiatus. We've transformed the indoor gardens into a tropical paradise to bring you more than 40 butterflies in an extraordinary way! This one-of-a-kind exhibit is now open and continues through Sept. 10.​

As you walk through the warm, aromatic indoor garden, more than 40 species of butterflies will flit nearby — and one might even land on you! Each day, newly emerged butterflies, like the blue morpho, zebra longwing and giant owl butterflies, will be released from the Emergence Chamber near the center of the Conservatory. Come to one of our scheduled releases and watch them take their first flight!

Butterfly Kaleidoscope is free for Zoo members and included with regular Zoo admission. You can purchase your tickets online in advance to save money. Discover all the beauty of critters big and small![close]​

•​​ Toad-ally Unique Animals Join our Deserts Family

New bumpy, green amphibians have arrived in our Deserts Dome! Two Colorado River toads, also known as a Sonoran Desert toads, recently came to us from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and are the Zoo's first amphibian species since 2013, so we're excited to have these cold-blooded vertebrates back! ​

North America's largest native species of toad, these desert dwellers are native to the southwest United States and northern Mexico, and they often beat the heat by living and hiding near streams, springs, canals and ditches. These carnivorous critters will eat insects, lizards and other smaller amphibians, but they can also become prey for some birds and mammals, including raccoons and skunks. So if the toad feels threatened, it will secrete a toxin that can be deadly to small animals and pets. However, they're typically not harmful to humans.

Now in their new home on the right side next to the Meerkat exhibit, you may need to look closely to find our newcomers — they often rest under the shade inside the pipe! The Deserts Dome is open year-round so guests are always welcome to stop in to meet these amazing amphibians! [clo​​​​se]

•​ ​Get Wild About Learning with Zoo Education Programs​

Guests of all ages can discover a love of wild world with the Indianapolis Zoo's education programs! ​

The Zoo offers both three-day and five-day summer Zoo Camps for children ages 5-14, so the possibilities are endless. Not only do children get to experience remarkable animal presentations, but they'll also be able to create craft projects and enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of the Zoo and White River Gardens. Summer camps allow kids to dive deeper into fun animal-related topics and understand different aspects of Zoo animals and conservation. Younger children can learn about basic animal features, like animal environments, protection strategies and eating habits, while older children will learn how to save endangered species and how to study the ecosystem, plus much more!

Students have the chance explore the countless opportunities of zoo careers. Career Tours are great for older students looking enhance their future and possibly consider zookeeping and beyond! Go behind the scenes to meet with keepers and learn about their jobs working with animals. For a more in-depth look at some of the most incredible career opportunities, Zoo Explorer Camps are a once in a lifetime opportunity. Choose between Zoo Keeper Science or the Dolphin Trainer camp.

For those just starting to discover a love of the natural world around us, our Saturday Science Programs​ are perfect for kids to investigate the animal kingdom and practice the scientific method. Three hours of knowledge, three hours of excitement and a lifetime of memories!

The Zoo provides family fun as well, like an overnight adventure! Twice a year, the Zoo invites families to spend the night and participate in a variety of games, crafts, animal stories and an after-hours special Zoo tour. Don't forget your sleeping bags!

There are so many education programs to decide from, so if you can't just pick one, choose two or three! Plus, use your Zoo Membership to receive discounts on many of our programs. [close]​​

•​ Updates Under Way Inside​ our Oceans Building

Exciting changes are on their way as we're starting renovations on the front end of Zoo, specifically in our Oceans building! Areas of our Oceans building will be temporarily closed for renovations. ​Many of the key sea life exhibits inside Oceans will remain open, including our reef exhibit and penguin areas.​

Plus, there's lots of other animals to see during your wintertime visit. Guests can experience a free dolphin presentation in the St. Vincent Dolphin Pavilion, come face-to-face with tigers in our Forests area and visit baby Mila in the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. Visitors can also enjoy a tropical paradise inside the Hilbert Conservatory. There are many exciting things happening here at the Indianapolis Zoo, so come visit and enjoy your experience! [close]

​​•​ New Feathered Friend Joins our Plains Flock

A new feathered friend has arrived in our Plains area! Rudy is a common ostrich, hatched in 2015 in Tennessee. He came to us from the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend and will be 2 years old in March.

Ostriches are the biggest of all birds, growing up to 9 feet tall and weighing as much as 320 pounds! Although Rudy is a bit undersized for a male ostrich, he is very healthy and doing well. Though these large, powerful birds don't fly, they can still move — running at speeds up to 40 mph for short distances.

Native to the savannas and woodlands of Africa, ostriches eat a mixture of plants and seeds as well as insects and even small reptiles.

The Zoo has had ostriches off and on dating back to August 1979. Although these birds haven't been a part of our Plains family for about four years, with Rudy's arrival, guests will again be able to enjoy the species in the spring and on warmer days this winter. [close]

•​ A New Home for Mom and Baby

Just before the fall season moved in, the Zoo's orangutan population grew by two. Kim, a 38-year-old orangutan and her baby Max moved to the Indianapolis Zoo from the Jackson Zoo in Mississippi. At 9-months-old, Max was showing signs of slow development and Indianapolis was selected to provide a new home for mom and baby. The decision was based on the strength of the Zoo's state-of-the-art facilities, expert veterinary staff, skilled ape caretakers, and management philosophy.

Since arriving, Kim and Max have lived in the former orangutan facility with indoor and outdoor access. Kim was overweight when she arrived and has steadily lost weight over the last 10 weeks and her mobility has increased drastically. The vet staff has also worked diligently to care for Max and he is responding well with a marked increase in his appetite, activity and coordination. Everyone is very pleased with his progress.Soon, the two will move into the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. You probably won't see them right away. What will happen first are some behind-the-scenes introductions to other orangutans like Knobi, who is known for her ability to jump in as an Auntie and help care for a baby, like 8-month-old orangutan Mila. As Kim is comfortable, she'll make her way out into the Atrium with baby. Watch for more updates on when you can meet Kim and Max.​


•​Wild Changes are Under Way With the Bicentennial Pavilion

​An innovative transformation is happening at the Zoo. Construction has started on our new Bicentennial Pavilion, which will become an all-seasons destination for family experiences and wild encounters.

When the Bicentennial Pavilion opens to the public in the summer of 2017, guests will also have the chance to experience brilliant birds in a brand new way. Seven species of macaws — 60 birds in all — will join the Zoo's flock and take part in the Magnificent Macaws presentations. Guests will see the macaws' in-air artistry in action as they soar high above the Pavilion from destinations all over the Zoo. 

While work continues on the new Pavilion, activity will be focused near the front of the Zoo where foundations are starting to form. This spectacular structure, which will take the place of our existing Party Pavilion, will​ provide opportunities for a new Zoo experience in the colder and wetter months. The 40,000 square foot pavilion will off​er unique animal programming and a community events space surrounded by beautiful landscaping. 

During the transition, all of our exhibits will stay open, though guests will need to use the north pathway between the Sea Lion and Walrus exhibits or take an Oceans adventure before heading to Forests and the rest of the Zoo. 

​The Bicentennial Pavilion, which is funded through a Lilly Endowment grant, will greatly enhance our guests' experience, and we're excited to break ground on this new part of our Zoo. As this project develops through the winter and into next year, watch our website and social media for updates. [close]​​​

•​ Rocky's Vocalizations Gain Worldwide Attention​​​

Groundbreaking data from the Indianapolis Zoo's Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center gives clues to the evolution of human speech. 11-year-old Rocky revealed a previously unknown level of vocal learning for orangutans.​​

The research, conducted at the Zoo in 2012 by scientist Dr. Adriano Lameira, was published today in Scientific Reports, and provides key insight to understanding how speech in humans evolved from the time of ancestral great apes.

The results showed that Rocky not only learned new sounds, but controlled the action of his voice in a "conversational" context as he took turns exchanging utterances with a social partner. In an imitation "do-as-I-do" game, Rocky copied the pitch and tone of sounds made by researchers to make vowel-like calls. Prior to this research, many researchers still presumed that great apes' sounds were driven only by reflex.

England's Durham University's Dr. Lameira, the lead author on the research, analyzed Rocky's ability to exert fine and precise vocal control, giving the orangutan a unique capacity to learn new vocalizations — a historic first. Dr. Rob Shumaker, the Indianapolis Zoo's Director, is a co-author on the publication.

"This important work fundamentally alters our understanding of the capabilities of orangutans. It also reveals the significant value of carefully conducted studies with apes living in highly enriched, behaviorally naturalistic zoos," said Shumaker. "Research that expands our awareness of orangutan intelligence inevitably leads to a greater commitment for their conservation in the wild."

Want to learn more? Check out our blog. [close]​​

•​ New Presentation Will Highlight Connection to Dolphins in the Gulf

As a global conservation organization, the Indianapolis Zoo often reaches beyond the borders of Indiana to preserve a future for wild things and wild places. And beginning this summer, Zoo guests will learn how they, too, can help animals and an ecosystem hundreds of miles away.​​

The Indianapolis Zoo and The Nature Conservancy, both known for leadership in protecting wildlife globally, are partnering to increase awareness for conservation efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, which has lost huge portions of its wetlands, sea grass beds and oyster reefs. When guests come to the Zoo's Dolphin Pavilion to connect with our Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, they will also learn about the role Indiana plays in ensuring a healthy Gulf and be empowered to help make a difference for dolphins.

Dolphins living in the Gulf face many threats, including oil spills and pollutants. Living upstream, Hoosiers have a lasting impact on the health of the Gulf and the dolphins that make it their home. Indiana's Wabash River contributes 11 percent of the nutrients that create dead zones in the Gulf, leaving large areas where marine life cannot live, thrive or eat.

To help highlight the connection, the Zoo and TNC have worked together during the last year to bring the story back to Indiana with new Zoo programs and an incredible new dolphin presentation. With images filmed on location in the Gulf and displayed through an enhanced video-and-sound experience, we'll take guests on a trip through Indiana and down to the Gulf to meet people committed to making a difference for dolphins hundreds of miles away from Midwest.

Come celebrate the world we share together and see how the blue thread of water connects us all.

​​​​•​ Indianapolis Zoo Earns AZA's Quarter Century Award

The Indianapolis Zoo is pleased to announce it has earned the Quarter Century Award, recognizing 25 years or more of continuous accreditation through the 

Association of Zoos and Aquariums​. Initially accredited by AZA in 1981, the Zoo was accredited most recently in 2015, marking 34 years of continual accreditation for the Zoo and renewing its commitment to the advancement of animal conservation. Additionally, the Zoo was selected as the recipient of the AZA's 2015 Exhibit Award for Innovation for the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, which opened in May 2014.​​

The Quarter Century Award was established in 2015, and the Zoo joins a group of 119 of the nation's top zoos and ​aquariums in receiving the award. For the Zoo's accreditation, it underwent a thorough review by the AZA's independent Accreditation Commission to ensure the Zoo has and will continue to meet rising standards, which include animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, safety and other areas. The AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this extensive process every five years to remain accredited.​ Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium to know you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things.​

The Zoo, which is home to nearly 1,400 animals and 31,000 plants, was the first in the nation to be triple accredited as a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden. It's also one of the largest zoos in the U.S. that receives no direct tax support. In addition to being a leader in global conservation, the Indianapolis Zoo is one of the state’s largest attractions, hosting more than a million visitors annually. ​[close]​​​​