Zoo Blog - Blank Park Zoo

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

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.

What’s with the Point: Rhino Horns and Poaching

Posted on 10/28/2015 at 9:45 AM

What’s large, gray, looking powerful with two horns - the front one longer than the other behind it, and walks on four stubby short legs? You probably guessed it! There’s no mistaking it. It’s a rhino. 

When thinking of a rhino most people think of the White Rhino with two horns and lips that are rectangular. They are the classic light earl gray, perhaps enhanced with mud to keep their skin moisturized and cool. Or maybe it’s the Black Rhino, like seen at Blank Park Zoo, that comes to mind who also has two horns but is a darker gray, their top lip coming to a point like an additional hand that can search around and help move food into their mouths. But these aren’t the only looks that rhinos have. Some may have one horn or have skin that look like plates of armour, like they are warriors. 

As you can guess, there’s more than two species of rhinos, but not as many as people may think. There exists only five rhino species today, and of those, four are closely threatened with extinction due to poachers who kill rhinos for their horns. Particularly in trouble are the populations of the Javan and Sumatran (which the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) believes has less than 100 members each), and the Black Rhino. But just because the White Rhino currently has the greatest number in population, it still isn’t safe and is still threatened. 

In South Africa alone, poachers will kill three or more rhinos per day due to the popularity of rhino horn for the black market. So what’s the big deal about the horns? What makes them in demand and worth the risk of poaching - which ultimately leads to almost 800 rhino deaths just this year already?

Rhino horn is made of tightly compressed keratin which is what makes up hair and fingernails. Except instead of being lightweight like what we are used to, it’s heavier, bigger, and denser. Rhino horn is used in China to cure any number of ailments, and in Vietnam it is used as a status symbol as well as to treat ailments despite having NO scientific evidence or proof that it can do any of those things.  

Fighting poaching isn’t simple, but IRF has determined 10 ways to try to decrease, and hopefully eventually stop, the poaching. 

With limited resources, IRF does what it can for the rhinos, and Blank Park Zoo is proud to contribute financially to the foundation to help them with their resources and make a greater impact to save the rhinos. 

Luckily intense anti-poaching efforts have been able to help keep the population of some species from decreasing (though the Javan and White Rhinos are considered potentially stable) and has even allowed some to increase in population - though slowly (which include the Black and Greater One-Horned Rhinos). One country, Nepal, has even been able to say that no poaching occurred in 2013 and 2014 (according to IRF)!

But the efforts don’t stop here. A very real danger still exists for rhinos, but with the help of Blank Park Zoo and you, we can make a real impact. 

To learn more go to the International Rhino Foundation website at www.rhinos.org and come visit Blank Park Zoo’s very own sweet Black Rhinos Kiano (male) and Ayana (female)!

And don’t forget that a visit to Blank Park Zoo can help since a portion of every admission goes to save animals in the wild!

Family Nature Club

Posted on 10/14/2015 at 4:48 PM

The leaves are changing colors and it’s almost time for our Family Nature Club’s first outing! Family Nature Club is a new program here at the zoo. We are collaborating with Polk County Conservation to encourage families to explore parks in and around Des Moines. It is important for children to play and delve into nature, not only for their own well-being and developmental needs, but also to feel more connected and inclined to protect nature and wildlife as they get older. Family Nature Club meets once a month to give children and families the opportunity to discover and learn more about the wild world around them.

This month we are meeting at Brown’s Woods, where a naturalist will be leading us on a hike. In November, we will be meeting back at the Blank Park Zoo, to walk some trails on the outskirts of the zoo. We will make our way around the wooded area behind the giraffe and rhino enclosures to discover what kind of wildlife lives there. To learn more about Nature Club or to sign up for upcoming excursions, click here.

Congrats to PGF Photo Contest Winners

Posted on 09/28/2015 at 11:19 AM

Congratulations to Jamie Lamb! She is our first place winner of the PGF gardener's photo contest! Taken in her PGF garden: James Talbott Memorial Garden!


Congratulations to Carlin Peer! She is our second place winner of the PGF gardeners photo contest! Taken in her PGF garden: Payton Pollinating Station!

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