Zoo Blog - Blank Park Zoo

Bookmark and Share Zoo Blog

Zoo Blog

Find out about the animals, events, behind the scenes information and more from the staff of Blank Park Zoo.

First Nature Club Excursion

Posted on 11/06/2015 at 3:41 PM

Our first Nature Club excursion was a success! In October, we ventured out into Browns Woods, where a naturalist showed us around the park. After our hike, we painted some mini pumpkins for Halloween. 

We had a blast, and we hope that you did too!

For the month of November, our Nature Club will be exploring the nature nooks you can find almost anywhere, including your own backyard! We will be playing in the area behind the large pavilion in the zoo.  Afterward, we will head up to the wooded area behind Africa where there will complete a scavenger hunt and all sorts of hiding places to find! After the scavenger hunt, we will head back to the ZooPlex, where we will collect pinecones and make bird feeders* to hang up at home. If you would like to register to attend this event, please click here!

*This activity will involve SunButter, which is made from sunflower seeds rather than peanuts. We will also be using birdseed. Please let us know about any allergies or concerns.

If you are interested in learning more about nature play and want ideas on how to incorporate nature into you backyard play area, please check out some of the links below!




A Partnership for Pollinators!

Posted on 11/05/2015 at 8:12 AM

Native prairie seeding continues at Blank Park Zoo in partnership with Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and People for Pollinators! This is a continuation of our partnership formed around our pollinator conservation program, Plant.Grow.Fly.

Several pounds of native prairie seeds were donated to the Zoo to help restore areas around the train tracks to create much needed wildlife habitat. In spring, these flowers and grasses will attract a variety of native pollinators, helping to boost local populations of bees and butterflies, like the iconic monarch butterfly. 

This native planting will take a few years to mature. Some say prairie plantings “sleep” the first year, “creep” the second year, and “leap” the third year. We are excited to teach our tens of thousands of train riders how to identify native prairie plants and the pollinators that depend on them.

To learn about how you can join Blank Park Zoo, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, People for Pollinators and all of our partners in Plant.Grow.Fly., go to www.blankparkzoo.com




Old Souls Come Back for Annual Visit in Mexico for The Day of the Dead

Posted on 11/03/2015 at 2:24 PM

While the U.S. wraps up their Halloween celebration on the evening of October 31st, in Mexico, the celebrations for Dia De los Muertos, also known as The Day of the Dead, are just beginning. The Day of the Dead is a three day long holiday of Hallow’s Eve, all Saints Day, and All Souls Day. Every year, it is between October 31st and November 2nd that millions of monarch butterflies flood into Mexico’s skies and into remote forest sanctuaries. It is awe-inspiring as the blue sky is dotted all over with orange specs when you look up. These little creatures are welcomed in with a celebration as they fly through, an endless moving sky of orange and black.

So what happens for The Day of the Dead? 
Much like in the U.S., people dress up in various costumes such as ghouls, skeletons, mummies, and ghosts, but instead of going around town for candy, they walk through the village with smiling faces. It is a large parade that is a pretend funeral procession. The streets have alters with pictures of the deceased of each family that is displayed with food, items, and candles that are lit to honor those who are no longer able to be with them. 

Why the Butterflies?
These beautiful black and orange butterflies have migrated a long way (over 2,000 miles!) to get to Mexico and once arriving, they become the centerpiece of the festivities. Monarchs, small and free and able to fly where they want, are ideal for this celebration, showing that spirits aren’t held down by Earthly problems or sadness, they are simply free. 

Legend has it that the monarchs are the souls of ancestors who have passed away but have returned to Earth to visit and check in on their relatives every year during The Day of the Dead. It is a dialogue between the dead and the living where family roots, identity, and that exploration of whatever may come next is explored. 

The migration starts for the monarchs as they leave the northeast U.S. and southeastern Canada. From there, no one knows how these creatures get to the specific isolated oyamel trees in Mexico - this is considering that the monarchs never have been there before! The monarchs will clump closely together for warmth, their wings folded together. Soon, there are so many on each branch that their own combined weight will pull the branch down. But, it isn’t just the branches; the monarchs will also cover the trunks of the trees, making the tree look alive with each individual stretch of their wings. They also will fly to and fro, from one tree to another, both by flapping and riding the air breeze, looking carefree. This further supports the idea that monarchs are free spirits, able to do what they please and oversee the festivities. 

Monarchs have become an important part of Mexico’s culture for hundreds of years, and they will continue to be celebrated as free souls coming back to visit and say “hola.” 

Blank Park Zoo is excited to say that we have started a new conservation initiative to help protect monarchs and other pollinators! With Plant. Grow. Fly. We can continue to support these gorgeous creatures and others in our own region so this special migration will happen for years to come!



Photo Credit: Mark O'Brien

There are so many monarch butterflies that gather on the branches of oyamel trees that they actually weigh down the branches!



From Iowa to Uganda

Posted on 11/02/2015 at 11:45 AM

Blank Park Zoo is proud to partner with a team of Ugandan Conservation Ambassadors. This team, part of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT), is at the forefront of wildlife conservation on private land, with special attention to monitoring chimpanzees and their habitats, in addition to promoting sustainable usage of natural resources within the landscape including conservation farming and forest based enterprises.

These Conservation Ambassadors come from within the communities they work with, to conserve the remaining chimpanzee habitat in the Albertine Rift Landscape. The Chimpanzee Trust's Executive Director, Lilly Ajarova shared the donated items to the Ambassadors on September 10, 2015 at their Hoima Field Office.

Katende Denis, a Conservation Ambassador from Kiryanga Sub County, Kibaale District notes; "The support we are getting from Blank Park Zoo and its partners is contributing to the conservation of chimpanzees and their habitat in Uganda, and I am proud that the work, we are doing is being recognized worldwide."

Blank Park Zoo provides donations of needed gear and equipment to ensure success of this program on an annual basis. Blank Park Zoo would like to thank Bass Pro Shop in Altoona, Office Depot on Merle Hay, Betts Army Post Surplus, New Bridge Church and many individual donors who contributed to this program. Email conservation@blankparkzoo.org if you would like to contribute to this program.

And don’t forget, each time you visit Blank Park Zoo, a portion of your admission and membership goes to save animals like these chimpanzees, in the WILD.

Go to http://ngambaisland.org/ to find out more about the work of CSWCT.



Tigers Can Get Hungry, and They Can Get Sick Too

Posted on 10/30/2015 at 9:44 AM

Welcome to the true big cat of the wild, the king of the jungle, the inspirational and largest feline in the wild, the tiger! While lions are known for being the big cat of the world, tigers, on average, are actually larger than lions. So, of the tigers, who is the largest of them all? The largest tiger is the Amur Tiger with the Sumatran Tiger being the smallest.
There once was a time, in the last 100 years in fact, that nine different subspecies of tigers existed and roamed Asia. There used to be over 100,000 of them, but that is no longer the case. Today, there is an estimated 3,200 left in the wild (five subspecies remaining), with one only one of them – the South China Tiger – that exists only in Chinese Zoos. 
While poaching and habitat loss are two of the biggest threats to tigers, they are also affected by loss of their prey, having Human-Tiger Conflict, and tigers - much like you and me – can become sick.
The prey of tigers aren’t disappearing into thin air. Rather humans can hunt their prey (tigers need about a whopping 50 wild pigs, deer, antelope, or other hoofed animals a year to survive, and that’s per animal!) and cause conflict (Human-Tiger Conflict). As humans come more onto their land or live nearby, the tigers can become hungry and may travel into where humans live. By coming closer to the humans, some get ensnared or caught in traps that are laid out for other animals such as the wild pigs that they hunt.
Only recently have researchers begun to look into the fact that tigers can get sick in the wild. There have been wide reaching, and fatal, epidemics of the canine distemper virus that has been affecting tigers (and other wild cats like the lion), but it has especially made a negative impact in the population of Amur tigers. Since the focus in the past was not explored, today, the Tiger Conservation Campaign is working on gathering resources, research, and information about the diseases that affect tigers and are trying to find way to prevent disease outbreak.
Not only is the Tiger Conservation Campaign doing that, but they are working on anti-poaching efforts, tiger-themed education and outreach, trying to combat wildlife crime – including habitat loss, and are working on reducing the human conflicts.
Blank Park Zoo is happy to support the campaign by financial means as well as helping with education efforts right here at the zoo so we can keep tigers around for many years to come.
And don’t forget, each time you visit Blank Park Zoo, a portion of your admission price goes to save animals in the wild!

Photo Credit: MN Zoo Tiger Conservation Campaign

Tiger walking through the tall grasses.

Copyright © 2015 Blank Park Zoo. All Rights Reserved.