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.

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.

A Summer Blast

Posted on Dec 10, 2013 at 11:50 AM

This blog post was written by Etty Rahmawati of Health in Harmony, an organization BPZ supports.
Etty is a teacher who travels around from village to village teaching the local people about the beautiful biodiversity right in their backyards.  Find out more about this organization at the link: http://www.healthinharmony.org/asri/

BPZ funded her trip to the ZACC conference (from Borneo) and she made very good use of it by traveling around and participating in teacher's workshops and other training opportunities.


After 21 hours in the air, I touched down on my second trip to the US. A sunny day and the smiling face of Kathy Krogmeier welcomed me at the Des Moines airport. After dropping my luggage off at the hotel, I joined Kathy and her husband for my first experience miniature golfing. My excitement over having finally arrived in the US overpowered my travel-related tiredness, and we had a fun time avoiding the water and traps at the golf course. Later, I satisfied two of my cravings when we enjoyed bowls of spicy pepper jack cheese soup for dinner. Cheese is hard to come by in Sukadana, Borneo!

Before the conference started, I met Colleen Chisman, received a warm welcome from Patty Weeks, and went shopping for ASRI Kids supplies with Kathy and her sister – all activities that added to my enjoyable stay in Des Moines.

On the first day of the ZACC conference I was excited to reunite with people I met at the conference two years ago. The continued networking and cross-pollination of ideas has been one of the most valuable parts of my ZACC conference experience. I enjoyed all aspects of this year’s conference, and especially benefited from the education roundtable discussion. Participating in this forum allowed me to meet fellow educators, share ideas, and learn new tools to support the ASRI Kids project in my home country.

After five days in Des Moines, I continued to Cedar Falls to visit a couple who recently volunteered at ASRI. After a cozy weekend at their home, I headed west for my first trip to Portland. In Portland, I visited Health In Harmony’s (HIH) office, completed an internship at the Oregon Zoo, and fundraised for ASRI Kids.

For me, conservation education is a new and exciting field. During my internship, I both improved my skills as an educator and benefitted from learning innovative teaching methods, media, and curriculum to apply back at home. For example, the ‘Footprint’ lesson has a lot of parallels with the basis of our ASRI Kids program.

On the weekends, friends and former ASRI volunteers spoiled me with trips to Washington State, where we hiked on Mount Rainier, camped at Olympic National Park, and met with a veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo who was x-raying a monkey’s broken arm.


After two and a half weeks in Portland, I headed south to California with Health in Harmony Managing Director, Michelle Broussard, for two successful fundraising events. We took the ‘scenic route’ via Westphalia, camping at Diamond Lake, visiting the crystal blue waters of Crater Lake, seeing the Redwoods, and enjoying Michelle’s family’s hospitality when we attended their family reunion.

Before I knew it, I realized that five weeks had passed! I flew to the East Coast, staying with former ASRI volunteers in Boston, New Haven, and Manhattan. Their love, support, and hospitality never ends! Kayaking at Long Island Sound, rock climbing at Ragged Mountain, and conquering the tricky routes of New York subway made my stay in the East Coast challengingly fun.

As the plane departed, I looked out of the window at New York’s receding skyline and thought back to a special moment from the 2011 ZACC Conference: during the roundtable discussion about starting education projects, I was inspired to start a similar program back at home and blurted out my idea. After the discussion ended, a young woman, Jessie Weeks (Lowry), gave me her business card and offered her support. It was a huge gift for me and ASRI.

Today, ASRI Kids is nearly one and half years old. I’m so thankful to the Blank Park Zoo team for their support and funds to travel to the U.S., especially Jessie Lowry, for their time, energy, and positive thoughts. I feel so honored to have attended the ZACC Conference and completed an internship, and greatly enjoyed seeing more of the world and meeting wonderful people.

Santa is visiting the Zoo this December!

Posted on Dec 3, 2013 at 1:56 PM

10:00 AM: Santa’s Reindeer arrive!
10:00-2:00 PM: Visit Santa in the Bankers Trust Classroom – be sure to bundle up!
10:00-2:00 PM
: Holiday crafts in the Discovery Center
11:30 AM: Seal & Sea Lion Demonstration (weather dependent)
12:00 PM: Watch the Tigers & Snow Leopards open their presents & Lions enjoy their Christmas tree!
12:30 PM: Tortoises enjoy a special holiday treat!

Come out to Blank Park Zoo and enjoy this festive holiday event!

Bundle up for this wonderful holiday tradition! There will be plenty to do around the Zoo on December 7 & 14. Santa and his reindeer will arrive at 10:00 AM and depart back to the North Pole at 2:00 PM. Make sure to say hello to two of Santa’s reindeer upon entering or leaving the Zoo. Stop by the Discovery Center Meeting Rooms to enjoy some fun, joyful crafts to help decorate your home for the holiday season. Venture through the indoor exhibits and search for the special treats Santa’s elves left for our bird friends.

After visiting Santa down in the middle of the Zoo while enjoying hot cocoa and cookies, head over to see some of the animals enjoy holiday treats! Watch the snow leopard and tiger open the gifts the Blank Park Zoo staff has left for them. Head on over to the lions and Japanese macaques to see if you can spot the extra festive trees. Can you tell what the ornaments on the trees are made out of? While venturing into our new Tortoise & Penguin Building, be sure to see the special treat Barnaby and his tortoise friends will be feasting on. Make sure you catch the show at Hub Harbor Seal & Sea Lion Pool (weather dependent).

Let Santa know what you want for the holidays! Write a letter to Santa and drop it in the mailbox that will go directly to the North Pole. Bring your letter already written or stop by the craft station at the Zoo to ensure your letter will be sent. Santa wants to double check his address book so be sure to write your address on the envelope! You may even receive a response from Santa himself!

A special thanks to our supporting sponsors - Community State Bank and DIRECTV!

If you have questions or would like more information about this event, email events@blankparkzoo.org or call 515-285-4722.

Happy holidays from the staff and animal friends of Blank Park Zoo!

The list could go on and on...

Posted on Nov 27, 2013 at 9:28 AM

We are thankful for so many things here at Blank Park Zoo so we thought we’d share with you just a handful of things (since the list could go on and on). As a Zoo, we are thankful for…

1. Our staff. The Blank Park Zoo staff includes zoo keepers, veterinarians, conservation specialists, education experts and an administrative crew that works hard each day to make the Zoo a safe and fun environment for all. Without each department and animal area, we would not have clean exhibits or one-of-the-kind care for our animal family, and we would not have successful events or education programs that reach over 100,000 individuals each year. We are thankful for the dedication, the hard work and the odd hours put in by our staff that allows the Zoo to be Iowa’s only accredited Zoological Park.

2. Our volunteers. We are thankful for the hundreds of people who come and lend an extra hand with animal care, special events, educational trips, and our conservation projects! The Zoo had over 1,100 volunteers take part in our annual Halloween event, Night Eyes! Our volunteers assisted in the setup of lighted displays, the distribution of candy and teardown of all the merry, not scary, decorations. For more information on how to become one of Iowa’s wildest volunteers, click here link to volunteer page.

3. The expansion of Iowa’s only zoo. Countless additions have been made to our Zoo this year. Some of the highlights include the opening of Jamaa Kwa Africa exhibit, the Tortoise & Penguin building, and our entrance expansion with Bactrian camels. Nicolai, our male Bactrian camel, has made his way to his new home in the front – stop by the Zoo and say hello!

4. Our members. We have amazing members that enjoy and support the Zoo year- round! Without our members, we would not have the monetary backing that we can depend on year in and year out. To continue to expand our membership, consider a gift the entire family will enjoy! To purchase your membership visit www.blankparkzoo.com/membership, call 515-974-2600 or visit the Blank Park Zoo membership desk!

5. Our supporters and donors. Our animal collection cannot progress and be cared for without the generous support of our donors and corporate partners. By supporting Blank Park Zoo, you play a crucial role in the Zoo’s mission; to inspire an appreciation of the natural world through conservation, education, and recreation. Visit here to see the many ways to become involved with the Zoo.

What are you thankful for this year?

Copyright © 2014 Blank Park Zoo. All Rights Reserved.