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What's new at Fort Wayne Children's Zoo this season?

More Information

Zoo opens

What: The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo opens for the season.
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily from Saturday through Oct. 13
Where: 3411 Sherman Blvd. in Franke Park
Cost: $13.50, adults; $10.50, ages 60 and older; $8.50, ages 2-14; and free, ages 1 and younger and Zoo Society members.
Information: 427-6800 or www.kidszoo.org

Two Sumatran tigers, African Village improvements among the highlights

Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 12:01 am

Visitors may see a playful rumble in the jungle. They'll also find easier footing for their safari through the African Journey exhibit and Indonesian Rain Forest dome.

Those are just a few of the changes that await when the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo opens for the season Saturday in Franke Park.

The stars of the season — at least so far — will be sister and brother Indah and Bugara, the Sumatran tigers. The 1 1/2-year-old cats arrived in February from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas.

“Their reputation is they are very playful,” said Cheryl Piropato, zoo education and communications director. That also has been the experience of the Fort Wayne zookeepers who care for the pair.

The tiger siblings were hand-raised by Cameron Park zookeepers, “so they are interested in people,” Piropato said.

They also loved playing in water in the exhibit at the Texas zoo, so local zoo staff hope to see them splashing around in the water pool at the front of their Tiger Forest exhibit in the Indonesian Rain Forest area.

Indah and Bugara replace Sumatran tigers Teddy and Kemala, who were transferred to other zoos to become possible mates for other tigers.

Sumatran tigers are endangered in the wild. To maintain a healthy captive population, zoos' Species Survival Plan committee for the animals decides at what zoo they live and which animals will be paired for breeding. Indah and Bugara will not be allowed to breed with each other.

Two other big changes this year at the zoo involve walking paths — the trail through the Indonesian Rain Forest dome and the path through the African Village area in the African Journey exhibit.

The mulch trail through the rain forest dome has been replaced, with support from the AWS Foundation, with a light-brown boardwalk built with “boards” made from recycled plastic. It follows the same path as previously, but it is a little wider than the mulch trail and has small places where people can step out to let others pass them.

The zoo hopes the African Village improvements will be completed in time for use Saturday, but the rainy weather hasn't helped.

The work involves replacing the mulch path around the village with a concrete walkway, Piropato said. Construction crews also lowered the grade of the walkway, so it won't be as steep as in the past.

Because of the construction, the colobus monkey exhibit had to be moved a short distance from its previous location next to other animal exhibits, she said. It may not be completed by opening day.

One of the small ponds around the village also has been filled in to provide an area for more seating, and the concession stand has been upgraded to offer grilled food, such as brats and sausages, Piropato said.

Construction also included rebuilding the red panda exhibit on the overlook in the Central Zoo area.

Other things to look for this spring include:

Babies

*Orion the swamp monkey, a male, was born Nov. 1, so this will be his first zoo season on public display. He was the only swamp monkey baby born last year in the United States, Piropato said.

Baby swamp monkeys are always active, and Piropato expects Orion to keep things entertaining in the swamp monkey exhibit.

*Kaasidy, a female colobus monkey born Sept. 25, won't be out until the construction crews finish rebuilding the colobus monkey exhibit in the African Village area. She will be easy to identify because she still is smaller in size than the adults, Piropato said.

*At least three kangaroo joeys have been seen out of their mother's pouches around the Australian Adventure area's kangaroo yard, Piropato said. They likely were born last May or June, but only recently have grown large enough to feel comfortable climbing out of mom's pouch.

New animals

*Viper boas, which are small, non-venomous snakes, will be displayed in the Dr. Diversity's Rain Forest Research Station area at the Indonesian Rain Forest dome. These snakes are endangered in the wild, where they live on Papua, New Guinea, and other Indonesian and South Pacific islands, it says on the website www.centralpets.com.

*Crocodile skinks, which will be displayed near the waterfall in the Indonesian Rain Forest dome, are lizards normally found in Paupua, New Guinea, and a few other nearby islands, it says on the website www.pethelper.net. They are about 7 inches long and have spikes on the backs of their heads and down their backs, the website said.

When this reptile feels threatened, it can make a high-pitched yelping noise and expel waste matter from its intestines to scare away a potential predator, the Saint Louis Zoo reports at www.stlzoo.org.