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.

Creature Feature: Red Pandas

Posted on Jan 28, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Walking through Blank Park Zoo you are bound to hear some oohhs and aahhs at the sight of these cute creatures. What most visitors do not know, however, is that Red Pandas are far from being considered a domesticated creature. In fact, Red Pandas can be very aggressive when provoked or surprised by someone that they are not familiar with. Blank Park Zoo keepers spend time analyzing their behavior, as well as working with the animals to form familiar habits.

While Red Pandas are often thought of as a small bear or raccoon, they are actually part of their own independent family, Alivridae. They are found in in dense forests and the mountain ranges of Southwest China and their diet consists largely of insects and bamboo. The Red Pandas at Blank Park Zoo also enjoy a variety of monkey biscuits and fruit!



Fun Fact: The reason there are so many nesting spaces within the exhibit is so that females can have a private space during nesting periods (typically winter months). Females can be very aggressive if others Red Pandas try to occupy the same space.





Fun Fact: The oldest Red Panda at Blank Park Zoo is the 15-year-old female, Kitar! You can tell her apart from the other Red Pandas in that her fur has more of a white coat on her face.

While several animals at the Zoo cannot always handle Iowa’s harsh temperatures, Red Pandas can be seen outside during the winter months.  Since insects are not as prevalent during the winter months, Red Pandas are known to lose body weight during this time of year. Their tail and slow metabolism keep them from losing the energy they need to perform daily functions. This is a large difference between Red Pandas at the Zoo versus in the wild, since those that live in the wild have a more steady diet year-round.

Be sure to visit Blank Park Zoo to explore more facts about our Red Pandas and to see what other animals enjoy the winter months! You never know what you will find at Iowa’s Wildest Adventure!

Behind the Doors of the Administration Building

Posted on Jan 21, 2014 at 1:10 PM

A lot goes on behind the doors here at Blank Park Zoo! From crafting cozy behind-the-scenes homes for the animals to administering medicine to providing food and enrichment, the animal world here at the Zoo is always a busy and interesting one. However, there is another world that exists here at the Zoo that is often unspoken for… the world that pays the bills, prints and processes your membership cards, and helps coordinate wedding plans and company outings.

Right outside the perimeter fencing of the Zoo sits the Administration Building that houses a number of different departments including:
- Accounting
- Animal Records
- Conservation
- Development, Membership & Events
- Education & Volunteer
- Facilities & Grounds
- Marketing
- Operations & Human Resources

As soon as the snow falls each year, a common question that is asked by many folks is, “What do you do all winter long when there’s nothing going on at the Zoo?” There is always something going on at the Zoo (since we are year-round) and all of us in the Administration Building stay rather busy in the winter months, and some departments are busier than ever!

The accounting team spends a lot of the winter months preparing information for the year-end audit, financial numbers and taxes. The development and membership team spends time processing gift memberships around the holidays, year-end donations, as well as preparing the Zoo’s annual report and writing a number of grant reports. While the event calendar slows down a bit in the colder months, the events department conduct evaluations on past events, generate new ideas for the upcoming year, seek out potential sponsors, and put together the Zoo’s upcoming events calendar! In addition to the Zoo’s public events, many rentals are booked in the winter months, leaving the team to host a number of tours and prep for weddings, company outings, bridal showers, baby showers, anniversary parties and more!

Education, volunteer, and operation team members revisit the past summer and prepare for another peak season, starting interviews for summer positions and internships in January. The Zoo hires on approximately 125 additional full-time and part-time employees for the months of May through September, so there is a lot of paperwork to fill out and orientations to conduct! Take a look at the seasonal opportunities here. Education is prepping for their many educational programs including summer camp, Zoodlers, Zoo Tots, home school classes and more! The education staff traveled 39,681 miles to 202 libraries around the state in 2013. WOW! So as you can imagine bookings for outings such as these are in full swing!

The Administration Building is a world all of its own, staying busy to make sure your experience at the Zoo is a fun and exciting one! Be sure to stop in and say hello!

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….

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