Hours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Admission: $12 Adults, $7 Child.
Find out about the animals, events, behind the scenes information and more from the staff of Blank Park Zoo.
Thank you to the Ackworth Garden Club for their support of Plant.Grow.Fly! They have nearly 100% participation from their members in the project! We appreciate your efforts to help our pollinators! Send us your Plant.Grow.Fly. story at email@example.com
“Ptera, go.” She waits a second, unsure of what to do. “Ptera, go.” The cue is given again as the keeper in front of her points to a second keeper just a few feet away. She looks to the second keeper. “Ptera,” the second keeper says as she moves the orange frisbee to get her attention. You can see it, that look in her eyes. It clicks. She immediately runs to the second keeper where she is gladly greeted with a “good” and a chunk of meat. The keeper then sends her back to the first keeper with another “Go.” Only this time, she does not hesitate. She immediately runs over to other orange frisbee to receive her reward.
Blank Park Zoo is fortunate to be home to three vultures: a king vulture, “Chulia” and two cinereous vultures, “Ptera and Virginia”. All three vultures are female and have their own personalities. Ptera and Virginia can often be seen running back and forth by the mesh during Zoo Brews trying to get the tiger, Misha, next door to follow along. Ptera, usually the ring leader, loves to hop around gathering sticks for her “corner” at the back of the exhibit as well. Virginia tries to help, but also loves to just go back and forth across the exhibit. Chulia is in an exhibit with the squirrel monkeys, and her keepers have recently discovered through the monkeys’ enrichment that she loves peanut butter. She actually stole a yogurt cup of it from them.
Vultures are intelligent and magnificent animals. It’s easy to see just how smart and quick to understand a vulture really is during a training session like the one described above. They eat a variety of deceased animals spotted while flying above. At the zoo, they get a diet consisting of a meat mixture called “Bird of Prey” diet that is balanced and provides them with the proper nutrition they need. In addition to this meat mixture, they also get a variety of deceased rodents like mice and rats. On certain days, they will receive knuckle bones or ribs in place of the rodents and meat. Because a vulture’s stomach is made to digest such decomposing meat, they play an important role in the ecosystem by removing deceased animals that may have been infected with diseases.
Tomorrow, September 5th, Blank Park Zoo is celebrating these incredible creatures with International Vulture Awareness Day by educating the public on their importance to the environment and conservation for endangered species. Come check out these awesome birds for yourself and see their intelligence in action during some training sessions and see how you compare to their 8 foot wingspan.
- Sam Gooding, Bird and Terrestrial Reptile Keeper
Last week, Blank Park Zoo’s Plant.Grow.Fly. had a wonderful opportunity to plant a new butterfly garden at the Zoo in parternship with Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge and People for Pollinators. The new garden is near the train tracks between the Trumpeter Swan and Wallaby exhibits.
This garden consists of plants native to Iowa that attract a variety of pollinators. Milkweed, the host plant of the monarch butterfly, was planted in abundance. Milkweed is the only plant monarch caterpillars eat, and the only plant on which the adults can lay their eggs. Just planting a few milkweed plants here and there can have a huge impact on monarchs!
Combining both nectar and host plants, we hope this garden will become a new oasis for butterflies and bees! You can help out your fellow pollinators by creating your own butterfly garden and registering it at ww.plantgrowfly.com!
We are excited to partner with Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge and People for Pollinators! Stay tuned for more information to come!
In the last blog, we explored some of the work of Conservation Fusion in the small village of Lavavolo on the southwestern coast of Madagascar. But there is much more to the story.
Lavavolo was the CF team’s home during their stay in southern Madagascar. They conducted activities outdoors, with tarps spread on the ground, since the village had no school or other building when their first arrived. (Since then, their “Dream School” has been completed. See my previous blog.) Small children and their parents made tortoise puppets, while older children had lessons on animal adaptations, then given the opportunity to create a painting. For many, this was the first time they had used paints and brushes, thus creating another special connection with the environment.
Other Conservation Fusion activities in Lavavolo include Project “Tsara be”. Marin Krause, CF’s student intern, learned that many of the Malagasy families do not have access or knowledge about simple hygiene. Since a healthy lifestyle is the foundation of a healthy life and environment, these inadequacies often underpin conservation action.
Tsara be means “Good Job” in Malagasy and Marin’s hygiene project was just that! A total of 130 students received a hand-sewn bag, crafted by high school sewing clubs in Omaha, that contained a toothbrush, paste, soap, washcloth, and a handwritten note from middle school students in the Malagasy language about protecting the environment and living a healthy, happy lifestyle.
But we’re not done yet! Here comes Sokake-O-Rama! In Malagasy, sokake means tortoise. Welcome to the Festival of Tortoises!
Children in Lavavolo helped create banners, costumes and original songs, to celebrate the Radiated Tortoise. Honorary costumed “tortoises” were chosen to lead the parade, held on Market Day when the entire community was out and about and could witness the songs, celebration, and hard work of the teachers and children.
The kids all showed up with their tortoise puppets and sang during the parade. They also wrote and recited poems for the local government officials. Sokake-O-Rama will no doubt have a lasting impact on the people of Lavavolo long after the parade was over.
Blank Park Zoo is proud to support the efforts of Conservation Fusion in Madagascar. Please go to their website www.ConservationFusion.org to learn more about this amazing organization. Until later!
---- Kathy Krogmeier, Volunteer
Photos courtesy of Conservation Fusion
There are approximately 70 children in Lavavolo, a small village on the southwest coast of Madagascar.
As Conservation Fusion began their work at Lavavolo, they talked with the village elders. The elders’ dream was to have a local school to provide education for their children, and a place that could serve as a foundation for their community. The majority of the villagers are unable to read and write. They simply couldn’t make the journey to the distant schools.
CF was able to make their “Dream School” a reality. CF funds were used to build the structure, build and paint the benches, and provide supplies. They will also provide partial funding for the teacher for three years. The whole village was involved in building the school. Surveys were done about needs, including conservation curriculum and sanitation needs.
Dr. Edward Louis, Jr. from Omaha Zoo is also currently working in this area. As they collared a Ringed-Tail Lemur, the children were able to get up close and personal with a lemur for the first time.
The community of Lavavolo is about protecting the tortoises. They believe the tortoises are sacred and that they bring the rain. (Sometimes it doesn’t rain for up to five years.) The people don’t touch the tortoises, but outsiders come into the area to poach them, as they are worth a lot of money on the black market for the pet and meat trades.
The children’s lessons have benefited the tortoises. In 2014, poachers came on boats along the coast. They collected hundreds of tortoises and flipped them upside down in the sand on the beach so they couldn’t get away. But their boat broke down. The children knew they needed to tell local officials, and as a result, the tortoises were rescued and returned to the wild.
This happened again in 2015 when local conservation guides discovered poachers and the tortoises were rescued.
Community pride and education are paying off for the tortoises! For more information, visit www.conservationfusion.org.
Next time, we’ll dive into some of the other activities by Conservation Fusion during their time in Madagascar. Until then!
---- Kathy Krogmeier, Volunteer
Photos courtesy of Conservation Fusion