Amazing Animal Facts

12 Amazing Animal Facts and How We're Working Together to Save Them


The biodiversity in our world is pretty remarkable! We share our planet with millions of species, more than 200 of which are represented by animal ambassadors here at the Indianapolis Zoo. Our animals are all so unique, with different characteristics that make them incredible. And every time you come to the Zoo to connect with your favorite furry friends, you’re also helping to support these species in the wild. So let’s learn more about our amazing animals and how together we’re saving wild things and wild places!

  • The largest animal here at the Zoo is Sophi, one of our female African elephants, who weighs more than 9,500 pounds — that’s nearly five tons! And with your help, we’ve provided a ton of support for elephants. In 2012 alone, we raised $90,000 to benefit the Tarangire Elephant Project from parking during Super Bowl XLVI.
  • The smallest of all our Zoo critters is the humble honeybee. These incredible insects play an important role by pollinating many of the plants in our food chain. And in the spring of 2016, we started a bee colony in White River Gardens to support the local bee population.
  • For the tallest animal at the Zoo, we look up to our reticulated giraffes. And we’re more alike with these lofty animals than you might think. Both giraffes and humans have seven vertebrae in their necks, though a giraffe’s vertebrae can each be up to 10 inches long!
  • The cheetah — the fastest animal on land — breathes an astonishing 150 times per minute when chasing its prey! Plus, every time you Race-A-Cheetah here at the Zoo, the funds go directly to the Cheetah Conservation Fund to help save this fast feline.
  • Adult male orangutans can have an armspan up to 8 feet — 18 inches wider than the average NFL linebacker! And to make sure our orangutan friends have forests to swing through, we support reforestation efforts with the Kutai Orangutan Project.
  • Amur tigers are one of the world’s largest big cats —growing up to 10 feet in length! And simply by recycling your cell phone, you can help save these cool cats.
  • Smooth dogfish sharks can change color slightly to blend into their environments. And you can take direct part in saving ocean species like dog sharks by making informed decisions at the grocery and purchasing sustainable seafood.
  • Both male and female Pacific walrus have tusks, overgrown canine teeth that these massive marine mammals use for activities like digging and defense. You can help these large yet loveable animals by unplugging unused electronics and appliances to reduce energy consumption in your home.
  • It’s parrot pandemonium! Yes, that’s the real name for a group of these brightly colored birds. Not only do our guests see some impressive parrots — specifically macaws — in action with our Magnificent Macaws exhibit, we’ve also been helping to save species like the scarlet macaw and great green macaw through support of the Ara Project.
  • Despite being relatively slow, lionfish are one of the top predators in their native reef environments in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. They can thank their beautiful striping and coloration that provides perfect camouflage to help them ambush prey. Yet the species has become invasive in parts of the southeast U.S., and the Zoo opened a new exhibit in early 2016 to help raise awareness.
  • Originating in Africa, white rhinos were named for their wide mouths. When the name was translated to English, “wide” became “white” by mistake. And we invite everyone to help strike out extinction by participating in the wildly fun event, Bowling for Rhinos, hosted annually by our local American Association of Zookeepers chapter!
  • The bald eagle (like our Tempest!) was one of the first species placed on the endangered species list, and was at risk of going extinct. But through the success of nationwide conservation efforts, eagle populations have increased and the species has been since removed from the endangered list.
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