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.

A big birthday and a big focus on conservation!

Posted on Jan 14, 2014 at 11:59 AM


Falala the lion turns 17 today! In honor of her big day we would like to raise lion conservation awareness. The National Geographic Society has a Big Cat Initiative that includes the Cause an Uproar Campaign. Part of this campaign is the Build a Boma Project that encourages people to donate on any level towards the goal of funding a living wall to protect livestock from lions.

Communities in Tanzania will hunt and kill lions that have predated on their livestock. Dr. Lacey Lichentenfeld and her husband have been involved in lion conservation in Tanzania for 13 years. They help build bomas from living conifera trees and chain link that allows people to sleep easier at night knowing their livestock is safe. The lions are benefiting from this action since they are no longer being tempted to harvest the livestock. The numbers of lions in Tanzania ranged from 600-800 animals in 2004. Dr. Lichentenfeld reports there are half that many in the area today. By raising $500 we can fund the building of a boma. For $25 it can be maintained yearly. Contributions can be made by texting LIONS to 50555. Visit causeanuproar.com for more information!

A big thank you on behalf of Falala and Deuce!


Introducing Tuya and Nicolai: Blank Park Zoo’s Bactrian Camels

Posted on Jan 7, 2014 at 2:11 PM

The Zoo’s two new Bactrian camels, Nicolai (male) and Tuya (female) were recently introduced to their new exhibit, just inside the entrance of the Zoo! Often times, you will find the two of them very close to each other standing right outside of their building. Nicolai and Tuya are acclimating to their new exhibit very well and are exploring their exhibit a little bit more each day.


As an accredited zoo by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Blank Park Zoo is able to acquire animals from other AZA zoos. Tuya, about 2 years old, was brought to Blank Park Zoo from the Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, Kansas. This same process was also used to get Nicolai, about 5 years old, from the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, North Dakota.

These domestic Mongolian camels, unique by their two humps, can endure the extreme temperatures of Iowa’s summer and winter months. As you can see from the pictures, they are enjoying the snow! They can survive the change in temperature due to the fat stored in their two humps. On average, Bactrian camels are 7 feet tall (at the top of their humps), and the males can weigh over 2,000 pounds (females are a little smaller).

The new camel holding features inside and outside stalls, a heated rubber floor and a large exhibit yard for them to roam. The holding also has a sand pit for the camels to take dust baths, two cement pads for feeding hay, and a year-round drinker, which is water that has a heating element.


In the upcoming months, Blank Park Zoo will be obtaining a new young Bactrian camel, which will be joining Nicolai and Tuya out in the new exhibit.  Long-term plans for the exhibit include adding a new animal, likely a large bird, in addition to breeding Nicolai and Tuya as part of the Species Survival Plan – it will be in a few years when they are both of breeding age.

We are excited to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for you to enjoy the camels year-round. Thank you to our generous donors for enabling this to happen. Next time you visit, make sure to say hello to Nicolai and Tuya!


Happy New Year!

Posted on Jan 2, 2014 at 9:21 AM

Sure hope that everyone had the opportunity to stop by for Santa at the Zoo this past month! Our animal friends and visitors had an exciting time! Santa visited the Zoo with two of his many reindeer friends, Comet and Cupid!


The New Year has arrived and we are excited to share the Zoo experience with you! This year will be full of wild adventures and sure hope that you will tag along!

Becoming a member of Blank Park Zoo has its perks, which include Member Mondays, free year-round daytime admission, reciprocity to nearly 200 zoos and aquariums, discounts to WildThings Gift Shop and Safari Grill, Member’s Wild Card and more! The best perk of all is exploring Iowa’s wildest adventure with your family and friends any day of the year!

Earn Zoo bucks with your Blank Park Zoo visit now through February! Special for Blank Park Zoo members, this membership advantage allows you to earn Zoo Bucks with each visit, up to five Zoo Bucks through the winter. These can be redeemed at the gift shop! And don’t forget, Member Mondays continue – you can bring a guest for free!

From the Zoo family (especially Kiano) to yours….

It's that time of the year again!

Posted on Dec 23, 2013 at 9:29 AM

As the holidays draw near and family and friends travel to be with one another, you might ask yourself, “What happens to the animals at Blank Park Zoo?”  The animals at Blank Park Zoo are taken care of 365 days of the year. They require food, water, exhibit cleanings, and attention from the keepers that know them best. While the animals may not know it is a special time of the year, they do receive special treats around the holiday season. The tigers dug into presents with their favorite food inside, as the tortoises enjoyed a tree of lettuce during our Santa at the Zoo event this past weekend.

Although not every animal at Blank Park Zoo enjoys the snow, many of the animals are still out on exhibit during the winter season. The animals handle seasonal changes in their own way, which is why it is so important for keepers to understand behavioral changes in the animals, as well as how they adapt to the weather.

Carnivore and Primate Area Supervisor, Bonnie Van Ellen, had quite a bit to share about these winter creatures…




Pictured above is a Japanese macaque. They are able to survive winter by utilizing hot springs when possible, while their thick coats protect them from the harsh, Iowa weather. Although a door is left open to their indoor holding this time of year, many macaques still prefer to play outside. The youngest of them all, Miya, enjoys eating the snow!

The rocks within the lion exhibit are heated so that they can stay cozy during the cold months. Deuce, who turned three on December 18, loves to run and play in the snow. Snow leopards are most active in the winter months as they use their tail as a scarf to cover their nose when needed. The keepers often notice the snow leopards climbing up in their tree to enjoy the fresh air or watch the seal & sea lion training sessions!

The animals of Blank Park Zoo would love to get a gift from you this holiday season! From listening to music, to grooming themselves, to hunting for treats, the animals have a lot on their holiday lists this year! Visit www.blankparkzoo.com/wishlist to check out their lists today, and keep your favorite animals busy this winter! All gifts are 100% tax-deductible.



Celebrating The Vision With Your Support

Posted on Dec 17, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Connecting… Captivating… Inspiring…

Fifty years ago there was a vision to captivate the hearts and minds of Iowans leaving them feeling inspired and connected to the animal world in a way they had never felt before. This December, Blank Park Zoo celebrates the 50th anniversary of the very first plans to build Iowa’s first, and still, only Zoo.

What may be the most noteworthy thing to commemorate is the vision that leaders and citizens embraced as they sat down to plan, strategize and build: a vision to provide one-of-a-kind experiences that capture the hearts of young and old alike, connect them to the natural world, and inspire them to take part in caring for our planet.

As this year comes to an end, we look back and want to thank our generous members, donors and friends for their continued support of Blank Park Zoo.  It is because of you that the long standing vision of Iowa’s only Zoo still remains.

Let’s take a look back at the highlights of the last 50 years!
1963: With the help of civic leaders and passionate citizens, the City of Des Moines signs an agreement to build a children’s zoo on December 23.

1966: The Des Moines Children’s Zoo opens on May 8.

1986: The all-new, 22-acre Blank Park Zoo opens May 17. Now featuring a zoogeographic theme with spacious, naturally landscaped outdoor environments for animals and people, it is no longer just a “children’s zoo.”

2001: The Myron and Jackie Blank Discovery Center opens, featuring indoor exhibits – a vision for a year-round visitor experience is adopted making Blank Park Zoo a “zoo for all seasons.”

2003: A new era in the history of Blank Park Zoo is reached when operations and management are transferred from the City of Des Moines to the Blank Park Zoo Foundation. Expansion plans begin.

2013: The largest capital expansion to date opens on May 4 with Gateway to Africa. Attendance, education programs and events are at an all-time high.

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