Latest Zoo News

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

​​​• Zoo Announces Two-Year Executive Transition Plan

To address the planned retirement of President & CEO Mike Crowther in January 2020, the Zoo's Board of Trustees announced recently it will split the role of President and CEO into two positions for 2018 and 2019. Crowther remains CEO, and Zoo Director Dr. Rob Shumaker becomes President. After Crowther retires, the president and CEO position will become one.

"We've had extraordinary success under Mike's leadership on all fronts over the past several years," said Jim Powers, chairman of the Zoo's Board of Trustees. "Our primary goal is to continue that trajectory without losing momentum. Our Transition Committee included some of our region's most accomplished leaders, and they developed an outstanding path forward."

Chaired by Stifel Nicolaus & Company Managing Director Mike Bosway, the Transition Committee also included Citizens Energy President & CEO Jeff Harrison, OneAmerica Senior Vice President Kelly Huntington, and E&A Companies President & CEO Devin Anderson.

Shumaker has been with the Zoo for eight years and holds bachelor's, masters and doctoral degrees from George Mason University. He's also held positions at Smithsonian's National Zoo and the Great Ape Trust. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife, Anne; son, William; and daughter Carly.

All departments of the Zoo will report to Shumaker under the new structure, and he will report to Crowther. 

Crowther will oversee the Master Plan which will ensure the Zoo remains a beloved community destination, create fun and exciting experiences for guests and invent new and innovative ways for the Zoo's animals to make choices and lead enriched lives. [close]

• Welcome Greater Kudu Calf Born in Plains Area

Have you herd? Our greater kudu herd has recently expanded! A male calf, Hasani, was born on Sept. 28, 2017, to mother JoJo and father Bakari. An experienced mom, JoJo is caring and attentive to her calf. On nice days this fall, you may see the herd outside together in Plains​, and the youngster has enjoye d exploring his new surroundings.  

Greater kudus are native to eastern and southern Africa. These woodland antelopes can weigh up to 600 pounds, however females are noticeably smaller than males. Their tan coats marked with thin, white stripes offer great camouflage on the arid African savannas.

In the wild, female kudus will form groups of mothers and calves. Moms will give birth in areas of tall grass that provide the babies with protection from predators, which is especially important during the first few weeks. During that time, kudu mothers spend most of their time grazing and only tend to the calves for short periods to nurse. When the calf is a little older, mom returns and the two spend the next several months together bonding. 

Zoo Babies are presented by Hendricks Regional Health. [close]

• Tiny Chuckwalla Babies Just Hatched in Deserts

We have some tiny new arrivals in our Deserts Dome! Five chuckwalla babies hatched in the Dome in mid-September, and guests can now see them in a new exhibit in the snakes hallway. At birth, they weighed less than 10g each and easily fit into the palm of a keeper's hand. Right now, they look very different than our adults, with zebra-striped tails and bright orange bands on their backs that will fade as they grow, slowly changing to the gray and brown tones that are characteristic of adults.

Native to the western United States and into northwestern Mexico, these reptiles like to live in desert regions around lots of rocks that provide basking spots as well as shelter and protection. Females lay 5-10 eggs in a clutch, hidden in rocky crevices. While they will protect the eggs until they hatch, the juveniles are left to fend for themselves after hatching.

Thanks to our friends at Hendricks Regional Health for presenting Zoo Babies! [close]

•​ Macaques Will Make a Splash in 2018!

The new species coming to the Indianapolis Zoo is going to make a splash in 2018!

Work is already under way to create a brand new habitat for a troop of long-tailed macaques. These incredibly curious primates are highly adaptable to different habitats and climates, though they generally live near water. They're also very adept swimmers, which makes this species a good fit for the Oceans area.

When it's complete, the macaques' habitat will feature pools surrounded by open, grassy areas as well as a few raised platforms that extend over the water. Not only will this design reflect the architectural styles found in Southeast Asia, we hope it will encourage the macaques' unique — and very fun — natural diving behaviors that guests can watch through multiple glass viewing windows.

Widespread throughout Southeast Asia, the long-tailed macaque is the smallest of about 20 macaque species and grow to roughly the size of a house cat. Also called crab-eating macaques, these primates are highly social, typically living in groups of about 20-30 individuals led by the females.

With one of the largest geographic ranges of any primate, there are many areas of the world where humans and macaques live side-by-side. While some cultures hold these animals as sacred, others view them as pests that disrupt urban spaces. Like all animals at the Indianapolis Zoo, our macaques will be ambassadors for their species, highlighting an important conservation message about how humans and animals can coexist. [close]​

• ​​Sweet Baby Rays Make Way in Oceans

We have three tiny additions to our Oceans exhibit! Three cownose ray babies were born June 30, July 23 and July 31. The babies, all of which we believe are female, are already exploring their new home. It's easiest to spot the newcomers when they're next to the adults because they are so much smaller, and they'll still remain that way for a while. 

Found from New England all the way down to South America, cownose rays can swim in schools of up to 10,000 in the wild, migrating up and down the coast while they hunt for fish along the ocean floor. Also known as cowfish, it's easy to see how these rays get their names because their foreheads look like a cow's nose. 

Although the babies start out in eggs, they hatch out while still inside the mother, and she gives birth to a live pup following nearly a year-long pregnancy. The babies are born tail-first with their wings folded over their bodies almost like a taco shell. Newborn rays are independent from the start, and our babies are already munching on fish just like the adults. 

Although U.S. populations of cownose rays are stable, the species is near threatened in South America, which makes the births here all the more exciting! [close]​​

•​ Baby Orangutans Mila and Max Find Friendship​​

The Indianapolis Zoo's two youngest orangutans, 1-year-olds Mila and Max, are growing fast. And since they were recently introduced to one another, they're also forming a great friendship as they play and explore together.

The Zoo celebrated its first-ever orangutan birth when Mila was born on March 23, 2016, to mom Sirih and dad Basan. While Mila stayed close by her mother's side for the first few months, it didn't take long for the curious youngster to begin exploring on her own. Zookeepers say Mila is an incredibly independent and fearless ape. She's also picking up many of Basan's mannerisms — like somersaulting, putting her feet on the mesh and using the ground to scratch her back.

Max and his mother, Kim, came to the Zoo in the fall of 2016 and moved into the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center a few months later. While Max was delayed developmentally when he first arrived, he has made spectacular progress with the support of our expert animal care team. Recently, Max has started eating more solid foods — bananas seem to be a favorite. Like Mila, Max is very curious and playful. He is becoming more independent and enjoys climbing and crawling everywhere. He also spends lots of time playing with big sheets of paper, plastic buckets and cardboard boxes.

Keepers said Mila and Max were a little hesitant upon first meeting each other, but they've warmed up to each other and are now great playmates. They often chase each other, roll around and wrestle together. The babies also seek out Sirih, "Auntie" Knobi and other adult females to join in the fun.

As you watch the two young apes play together, you can tell them apart by their hair — Max has darker hair that sticks up on both sides while Mila has lighter locks.

Having two orangutans who are so close in age is wonderful, Beckett said. Like human siblings, Max and Mila have lots of energy, and playtime doesn't have to end when the adults need a break.

Since female orangutan go seven to nine years in between pregnancies, it's also very unique to see 1-year-olds together the way Mila and Max are at the Center. [close]

• ​Indianapolis Zoo and St. Vincent Health Announce New Partnership​

The Indianapolis Zoo is pleased to announce a new 10-year relationship with St. Vincent Health as the naming partner for both the St. Vincent Dolphin Pavilion and the St. Vincent Dolphin Gallery.

"This new collaboration combines the strength of two non-profit organizations dedicated to the health of the world – both human and wildlife" said Zoo President and CEO Michael Crowther.  "We have expanded on what was already a strong partnership between two leading organizations in our community."

The new commitment will help engage, enlighten, and empower Zoo guests about personal responsibility and action, and the role each person plays in ensuring a healthier world for all.

​St. Vincent already supports the Zoo's playground and Christmas at the Zoo's LED Energy efficient lights, both of which are presented by Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent. Zookeepers, Zoo Educators and dolphin Trainers also visit Peyton Manning's Children's Hospital at St. Vincent to spend time with the patients and teach them about wildlife and conservation.  [close]​

•​ Indianapolis Zoo Awards Grants for Global Conservation

As the world's wildlife faces ever-increasing peril, the Indianapolis Zoo has elevated its commitment to conservation efforts across the globe. Through a grant program and initiatives on grounds, the Zoo is dedicated to partnerships with researchers and organizations protecting animals in crisis.

Zoo support for projects fund equipment, research and increase awareness, changing hearts and minds of the Indianapolis community and those far beyond.

"The advancement of wildlife conservation is our mission, and building long-term partnerships with conservation organizations that have proven successful allows us to maximize the resources entrusted to us by our supporters and generated by our operations," said Mike Crowther, Zoo President and CEO. "We are committed to sharing our strength with those working locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally to save species."

Over the years, animals from the savanna to the sea have benefitted from the Zoo's involvement in these initiatives, including elephants, tigers, macaws and many more. 2017 funding recipients include some of the Zoo's long-standing conservation partners as well as several organizations and projects that are new to the Zoo. Learn about all the projects and how you can meet some of the incredible men and women making a difference. [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]​​

•​ Presentation Highlight Connection to Dolphins in the Gulf

As a global conservation organization, the 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.