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.

Experience Kids Kingdom

Posted on 02/25/2014 at 2:33 PM

Kids Kingdom is often a crowd favorite at Blank Park Zoo since this is where visitors can find animals to feed and greet! The area has animals that you might see on a regular basis here in Iowa. While visiting this specific area of the Zoo you can find a variety of goats, a pair of llamas, pigs, a donkey and Zebu. It is a must for visitors to take a look behind the playground for the Koi deck where they can feed the Koi fish. This area is special because it allows visitors to interact with the animals – you get to feed and pet them all!

Due to the extreme cold and ice this winter, many of the animals have been kept inside the barns all winter; the donkey and Zebu areas especially! We have Iowa weather to thank for that! If the temperature does reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the goat barn is open and the public is given access to feed the goats and llamas.  If you stop by the Zoo on the weekend or a holiday (and it is at least 40 degrees), look for a sign inviting you into the goat barn!

Another component of this area is the playground. Once the area thaws, the playground will be open for kids of all ages to enjoy and climb on plus the animals will be out for visitors to interact with. New to Kids Kingdom this past year is the goat bridge! This has been a nice addition to the area and the goats absolutely love it. Often times after Kids Kingdom is closed for the day, the goats enjoy lying at the top and looking out into the Zoo. The goats also enjoy running across the bridge as a group!

The Zoo staff that specializes in the Kids Kingdom area is currently prepping for the spring and taking care of all the animals on a daily basis. As you can imagine, our Zoo animals are getting antsy for the time of year that they can be outside and enjoy the warm weather every day!


Conservation from Des Moines to Uganda!

Posted on 02/18/2014 at 4:51 PM

Conservation is everywhere! Blank Park Zoo invites you to be part of our journey to save the red panda, tiger and snow leopard. As you may know, Asia encompasses millions of miles of diverse and unique landscapes. From rainforests to deserts, it is home to some of the world's most iconic species, but these species are under threat in this rapidly changing world. The first one kicks off right here on Thursday, March 6 at 6:00 pm.


Nancy Whelan is our first speaker of the series. Nancy is a member of the Board of Directors for Red Panda Network. In 2013, she created the Red Panda Network Art Contest, inviting kids around the world to pick up their paintbrushes and answer the question: "Why should we save red pandas?" She will share with us the mission of the Red Panda Network, working to save this rare and beautiful animal through education and empowering local communities.

To purchase tickets click here


Conservation also exists in Uganda. The forests of Western Uganda are beautiful places. They are the home to the densest primate population in Africa and a host of other mammals, birds and reptiles.  These forests are also, very important to the human populations who are living and raising their families there.  The constant need for firewood has been a strain on forests in Uganda and around the world.

The New Nature Foundation is on the front lines of protecting the rainforest, working with people to increase energy efficiency in sustainable, replicable ways. Founders of the Foundation, Rebecca Goldstone and Michael Stern, traveled to Des Moines in July of 2013 and attended the Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation (ZACC) Conference hosted by Blank Park Zoo. Their presentation educated the attendees on their program and the use of fuel efficient stoves. These stoves (which cost less than $2) are having a positive impact on the forests of Western Uganda and elsewhere. Families using fuel efficient stoves use 40% less fuel (forest trees) than those using traditional stoves.

In a recent update from Rebecca, we have learned that some of the items donated by Blank Park Zoo at the ZACC Conference found their way to Uganda! Each December, the New Nature Foundation sponsors a "fuel efficient stove bean cook off". Think “chili cook off” here in Iowa. One of the winners' prize packages included a Blank Park Zoo t-shirt and another included a Blank Park Zoo bag which held other prizes.   For more information on the work of the New Nature Foundation go to their website: www.newnaturefoundation.org.



Sign your teen up for Zoo Crew!

Posted on 02/14/2014 at 8:34 AM

This summer, your teen can do something fun, rewarding and different at Blank Park Zoo!

Zoo Crew is a special opportunity for youth ages 13-17 to get involved at Blank Park Zoo. As a Zoo Crew volunteer, you have the opportunity to…

  • Assist education animal presenters
  • Assist Summer Safari teachers with preschool camps
  • Help with Blank Park Zoo special events
  • Share animal artifacts with Zoo visitors
  • Help us keep the Zoo looking beautiful
  • Assist keepers in Kids Kingdom (animal contact is limited)

Here’s what you need to do to be a part of Zoo Crew:

1. Fill out an application. Applications for the 2014 Zoo Crew program will be accepted until March 21, 2014.

2. Interview for a spot on the Zoo Crew team. Interviews will be held the week of April 14. You will be contacted to set up an interview.

3. Attend orientation and training. All new Zoo Crew volunteers and an adult must attend orientation. New Zoo Crew orientation will be Sunday, May 4 from 2 to 4 pm. Returning Zoo Crew information night will be Sunday, April 13 from 2 to 3:30 pm.

4. Attend a training session. Zoo Crew volunteers will need to attend one day of training June 11-13 in order to begin volunteering.

To participate in Zoo Crew, the cost is $35 for members or $40 for nonmembers. The cost covers your T-shirt, water bottle, training and information packet.

Zoo Crew is primarily active in June, July and August; however, we will have limited opportunities for you to volunteer throughout the year. All new volunteers must commit for a minimum of 40 hours June through August. Volunteers schedule their own hours – you sign up for the shifts that fit your schedule best.

Click here to fill out your application and get started today! If you have questions, contact Christine Eckles at 515-974-2551 or cneckles@blankparkzoo.org.

Keeper Spotlight: Colleen Cassidy

Posted on 02/11/2014 at 10:24 AM

Originally from Massachusetts, Colleen started working at Blank Park Zoo in August of 2013. Her experience with Zoos and Aquariums began in 2001 when she realized her true passion for Sea Lions and other aquatic animals. Colleen’s favorite aspect about working at Blank Park Zoo is the unique way in which the Zoo allows her to work with such diverse animals.

The Aquatic Team at Blank Park Zoo takes care of the Sea Lions and Harbor Seals 365 days of the year.  Although many guests will see these animals outside throughout the year, there are two indoor pools for those days where it is just too cold to go outside! The animals can be trained both indoor and outdoor as the keepers work in all sorts of conditions to make sure they are well taken care of. Colleen and the other keepers rotate so that they get to know the different behaviors and personalities of the four animals.

FUN FACT: Pupper’s fur turns blonde when his fur is dry, which is one of the ways the keepers can easily tell the two Sea Lions apart.  


Facts about California Sea Lions you may not know!

  • They are considered pinnipeds and are actually related closer to bears than any other animal.
  • They can stay under water for 20 minutes! 
  • They are social animals and prefer to sleep in large groups 
  • During the winter the Sea Lions pack on a blubber layer, allowing them to eat more fish during this time of year. They receive special fish to help them pack on this weight.


Zoodlers - Always an Adventure!

Posted on 02/04/2014 at 12:44 PM

Zoodlers at Blank Park Zoo is a unique opportunity in which the Zoo transforms into a giant classroom.  Everyday kids engage in hands-on, interactive learning with real, live animals, right at their fingertips.  One day they might embark on a journey through Africa, visiting Kiano and Ayana, the Eastern Black Rhinos, while discussing what it means to be a mammal.  The next, they might touch the scaly skin of an alligator and talk about reptiles.

Beyond just exploring the Zoo, kids take part in other fun activities inside the doors of the Bankers Trust Learning Center.   While indoors, kids enjoy games, songs, pretend play, stories, snacks, crafts, sensory tables, and much more!

A song that is one of the class favorites every year is “Slippery Fish.”  Kids wear sea creature costumes and act out the motions of the song.  The giggles and laughter never cease. During free play each week, the sensory table is always a hit.  Kids love getting their hands messy in the dirt and sand during desert week, searching for the plastic lizards and snakes.  While learning about birds, there is nothing more fun than building nests out of paper lunch sacks, Easter grass, and plastic eggs with pom-pom chicks inside.  Kids pretend to be mama/papa bird, feeding the chicks with clothespins and pretend worms.


Every day of class holds a new adventure and the opportunity for kids to learn by exploring the animal world here at Blank Park Zoo. 

Do you have a little one at home who is antsy to get out, loves animals, and is eager to learn?  Zoodlers might just be the program for you!  Zoodlers is a drop off program for children ages 3-5 yrs.  Classes are held every Tuesday and Thursday mornings for 6 weeks in March and April.

If you are interested in learning more about this program, click here for class information or call 515-974-2588.


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