Zoo Blog - Blank Park Zoo

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Zoo Blog

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

Big Cats

Posted on 07/08/2015 at 12:18 PM

The Blank Park Zoo is honored to have two sassy senior cats on exhibit. Falala the lion is 18 years old. Her birthday is January 14. She came to the zoo in 1999 as part of the Big Cats Exhibit renovation and grand opening. She spent many years enjoying the original pride of her sister Gavivi and pride male Chacha. Her name means “a gift” and her attitude has been just that to anyone who gets to know her! 

Goldy the tiger is also 18! Her birthday is February 18. She came to Blank Park with her sisters for the grand opening. As part of the breeding recommendations her sisters were moved to other zoos so that her mate Kavacha could come to stay here in 2001. Goldy’s hips and legs don’t work as well as they used to but her spirit remains full of spunk! She often matches wits with our young female Misha who is here for future breeding opportunities. 

Big cats typically live 13 to 15 years in the wild. In captivity they can survive longer. The animal care staff and vet staff keep a close eye on our seniors. It is our goal to maintain the best care for as long as possible for our special ladies. Next time you visit, thank them for their dedication to educating our visitors. They will really appreciate it!

--Bonnie Van Ellen, Carnivore and Primate Area Supervisor


Woodlands Creek “Flutterby” Garden

Posted on 07/07/2015 at 11:38 AM

Woodlands Creek Silvercrest residents and staff are delighted with the completion of our “Flutterby Garden”.  Our adventure began with the Polk County Conservation guiding us with suggestions as to the type of plants we needed to attract butterflies in Polk County.  Next, our staff trimmed the bushes and trees in our courtyard, gathered the plants, added seating, and began our journey to creating a beautiful area for the butterflies and us. 

Our residents made butterfly feeders, butterfly puddlers, butterfly stepping stones, helped plant and water the plants, as well as decorated the courtyard garden. Additional butterfly projects are planned for our residents to further enhance our garden.

We are looking forward to watching our plants grow and our butterfly population expand. We are also thankful for our resident’s and employee’s efforts, which played important roles in this process.

Blank Park Zoo’s Plant.Grow.Fly. project is delighted to have this garden in our program! Register your garden today at www.blankparkzoo.com



Return to Madagascar

Posted on 07/06/2015 at 9:54 AM

In 1995, a group of staff and volunteers from the Blank Park Zoo purchased our Rainforest Parking Meter, which can still be found in our Discovery Center.  Funds from this parking meter continue to help purchase acres of rainforest to be added to national parks in Central and South America.

After the parking meter was purchased, we looked at each other and said, “This is good stuff.  We need to keep going.”  That was the founding moment for what was, at that time, the Blank Park Zoo’s Conservation Committee.       

In 1996 and 1997, we moved forward with our very first project – a black-and-white ruffed lemur reintroduction project in Madagascar!   Our goal was to raise enough money to pay for the veterinary care and tracking collars.  And we did - mostly through the efforts of volunteers face painting during busy weekends and events.  And averaging about $1 each, it took a whole lot of little faces to reach our $1,500 and $2,000 goals!

As one of the founding members of the Conservation Committee, I am so very excited that Blank Park Zoo has returned to Madagascar through one of our grant winners – Conservation Fusion.  

Conservation Fusion has a focus on environmental education, working with the local people to help them understand that their habitat is very unique and truly amazing.  Where else on earth would special creatures such as the Radiated Tortoise, Ring-Tailed Lemur, and Sifaka be found?  Only in their neighborhood!

In 2014, Conservation Fusion’s project was working with an existing school in Itampolo village in southern Madagascar.  In 2014 and 2015, they are building a brand new school in a new location – the village Lavavolo. This will allow many more children an opportunity to receive an education, something that seemed impossible because of the distance from the other schools.  No wonder the community members call it the “Dream School.”  Visit www.conservationfusion.org for additional information.

In the next blog, we’ll dive into CF’s projects, made possible in part by the Blank Park Zoo conservation grant.  I promise, it will bring a smile to your heart!  Until next time!

----- Kathy Krogmeier, Volunteer

Photo: Omaha Zoo


Giraffe training

Posted on 06/24/2015 at 3:51 PM

Every day we provide the giraffe with several types of enrichment objects. These objects allow the giraffe to demonstrate species-typical behaviors that enhance their psychological and physical well-being. There are many different types of enrichment we have for our animals including: dietary enrichment, manipulative items, and sensory enrichment. An example of dietary enrichment is browse, branches and leaves. These allow our giraffe to forage and eat like they would in their natural habitat. Manipulative items are anything that can be moved, licked, or even kicked by the giraffe. Our male, Jakobi, loves large buoys that he can bang his head against and boomer balls on the ground that he can kick around. Lastly, sensory enrichment is anything involving: scents, sounds, tastes, and even different tactile objects. An example of tactile enrichment is streets sweeper brushes that all our giraffe love to scratch on.

Our giraffe also participate in a daily training program. They know several behaviors ranging from targeting, body positioning, and other husbandry behaviors. The target behavior is very basic and allows us to easily move the giraffe. A target is any object that the giraffe will come to. When they touch that target object they receive a treat. Body positioning behaviors include: backing up, presenting the sides of their bodies to the keepers, and remaining steady and not moving. These are beneficial because it allows us to move the giraffe in different ways a target can’t. Lastly, husbandry behaviors are any behaviors that allow us to take better care of our giraffe without being too invasive. One of the major husbandry behaviors is voluntary blood draw. We start by de-sensing them to being touched, then poked with many blunt objects until they are comfortable with being poked with a needle for a blood draw. Thanks to training, we have had several successful blood draws on one of our females, Zuri.  

--Patrick Nepp, Large Mammal Keeper

Greater Prairie Chicken

Posted on 06/17/2015 at 9:21 AM

“Don’t Forget the Natives!”  Often people think about saving wildlife in far off places like Africa or the tropical rainforests of South America, but in reality, there are animal issues right outside your door. 

In 2010, the Blank Park Zoo (BPZ) expanded its conservation efforts by starting a "Coins for Conservation" Program. The goal was to let every guest become aware that a visit to the zoo helped animals "in the wild". Funding comes from a "conservation tax" of $.25 per admission and $1 per family membership. This, along with other fund-generating ideas, is expected to generate about $75,000 for conservation projects annually.

For the local project, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Wildlife Diversity staff was consulted as to what possible projects the zoo could partner on and participate in. One idea that came out of this conversation was an evaluation of the dwindling Iowa Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) (GPC) population. An estimated 30 birds remained on public and private lands in an area one hour south of the zoo. 

For five springs, Blank Park Zoo staff have joined forces with IDNR staff to trans-locate 100 birds from Nebraska to southern Iowa and northern Missouri. The Grand River Grasslands has the only remaining GPC habitat left in Iowa. With the conclusion of the March 2015 trapping season and documented successful hatches in the Grand River Grassland area, translocations will be discontinued while the newly revitalized population is monitored via radio telemetry, lek, nest and brood surveys. In celebration of the successes, a Prairie-Chicken Festival was held at the zoo. It included Chief Blue Star Eagle with drumming and dancing demonstrations relaying the cultural significance of the species to the Yankton Nation.

Greater Prairie Chickens were one of the most abundant game birds in Iowa. Bird numbers peaked around 1880 when Iowa was a mosaic of small grain fields, hayfields, pasture, and native prairie, ideal habitat for prairie chickens. As agricultural land use intensified, populations of prairie chickens declined. The last verified nesting prior to reintroduction attempts was in Appanoose County in 1952.

Through a guest’s visit to the zoo, not only are funds raised to support an in-situ conservation effort but the connection is made between the visit and wildlife action. In addition, BPZ staff has the opportunity to be directly involved, providing animal handling skills and improvements to animal welfare during the translocation procedure. This, ultimately, supports the paradigm of “zoos as conservation organizations”.


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