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.

Blank Park Zoo's Walking Club Starts May 1!

Posted on 04/22/2014 at 12:19 PM

What better way to get fit than to do so while in the presence of some of the world’s most captivating animals? Walking Club is one of the many perks that comes along with being a Blank Park Zoo member. Designed specifically for Zoo members, Walking Club is a fun opportunity for you to get outside and move among Iowa’s wildest creatures.

Participate in Walking Club on the Zoo paths throughout the week and log your distance any time during the Zoo’s business hours throughout the summer. You can also enjoy early entrance to the Zoo on Thursday mornings at 8 am, before the Zoo opens and becomes crowded with visitors. This allows for a peaceful walk in a quiet setting, although you may hear the animals as they wake up in the morning!

Learn more and register for Walking Club today!

Walking Club is in session May-September and the kickoff for our 2014 season will be Thursday, May 1 at 8 am. Come and meet zoo staff and other walking club members while enjoying small snacks and refreshments.  

Take a walk on the wild side and get fit at Blank Park Zoo!  

Conservation in Action: Prairie Chicken Translocation

Posted on 04/18/2014 at 2:41 PM

Because of the Blank Park Zoo’s partnership with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Zoo staff recently had the opportunity to spend a few days assisting with the trapping and translocation of greater prairie chickens from western Nebraska to southern Iowa and northern Missouri – conservation in action!

This is part of a multiple-year program to support the disappearing wild prairie chicken population still remaining in Iowa, with the goal that this unique “symbol of the prairie” could become self-sustaining. The species was once found across the state, but was extirpated at the turn of the century due to land-use and habitat change, along with over-hunting. In the 1980s, the IDNR translocated hundreds of birds to Iowa, but by 2010 it was estimated that less than 30 remained.

The prairie chicken translocation project is a local project and is part of the Zoo’s Coins for Conservation. Did you know that a portion of your daily admission or your membership goes to support Blank Park Zoo’s Coins for Conservation projects?

Since 2010 when the prairie chicken translocation project began, Blank Park Zoo has partnered with the Nebraska Fish and Game to relocate prairie chickens from Nebraska to southern Iowa. The Zoo has bought GPS tracking devices to track the chickens to monitor their movements and conduct research on prairie chicken populations. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has permission from Nebraska Fish and Game to trans-locate 50 males and 50 female chickens to Iowa.

This year’s trapping project ran from April 1-11, with two groups of staff traveling to Nebraska. The prairie chickens were caught and driven back to Iowa the same day of their capture. 

“The focus on re-establishing a population of Greater Prairie Chickens in Iowa is also beneficial to other grassland dependent species…and it is a local conservation project we can physically participate in,” says Kevin Drees, Director of Animal Care and Conservation at Blank Park Zoo.

This “in the wild” conservation project is one way that the Blank Park Zoo can be intimately involved in assisting wildlife, part of the mission of a modern zoo.

Home School Earth Day at Blank Park Zoo!

Posted on 04/11/2014 at 11:51 AM

On Tuesday, April 22, Blank Park Zoo will host our first ever Home School Earth Day! In conjunction with the launch of Plant.Grow.Fly., Home School Earth Day will give children the opportunity to help pollinators like butterflies and bees thrive. This event will be fun for the whole family to enjoy!

For nearly a decade, Blank Park Zoo has offered one-of-a-kind learning opportunities for home-school families with our unique drop-off program for children of all ages. With hands-on experiences and up-close encounters with Zoo animals, the Zoo offers science-based curriculum that incorporates a broad range of themes about animals and their environment.

The Zoo offers home school classes for children ages 5-12 with about 15-20 kids per class.  For older children, the Zookeeper class is for those interested in working with animals someday. This popular class is limited to eight children, giving them the opportunity to help with the daily care and feeding of the Zoo animals.

The Zoo reaches nearly 300 children per year with our home school education programs. They are such a hit that kids return year after year!

Blank Park Zoo Education Specialist Amy Kopatich says that Home School Earth Day will be a fun, new opportunity to get the entire family involved with the Zoo’s home school classes.

“This is a great way for the whole family to enjoy spending time at the Zoo and doing Plant.Grow.Fly. activities together. And, it will be a great way for the parents to meet and talk with some of their children’s teachers,” Amy says.

The activities on Home School Day will be centered around pollinators, like butterflies and bees. Stations will be set up around the Zoo for families to explore, with educators helping facilitate activities like showing children how to plant their own pollinator gardens at home. You’ll also get to see some of the Zoo’s education animals, attend keeper chats and more.

Plant.Grow.Fly. believes no effort is too small and that each and every one of us can do our part to help pollinators thrive just by planting butterfly gardens in our yards. At Home School Day, you will get a chance to learn all about this project and potentially register your garden and become a part of the butterfly mission.

Register your family for Home School Earth Day today!

Interested in learning more about home school opportunities? Find out more about Home School Earth Day, our classes or setting up your own private program around a specific theme by contacting Amy at amkopatich@blankparkzoo.org.

Education Specialist Amy Kopatich with
Amborro, the Zoo's macaw used for
education programs


National Volunteer Week at Blank Park Zoo

Posted on 04/08/2014 at 10:44 AM

Next time you see one of our amazing volunteers at the Zoo, be sure to thank them for all they do!

Sunday, April 6 was the start of Volunteer Appreciation Week here at Blank Park Zoo and there is much to celebrate. From the painting of the break room to our Volunteer Luncheon and everything in between, volunteers should definitely be highlighted during such an exciting week at the Zoo.

Nationwide volunteers spent several days in March coming out to the Zoo to help paint and spruce up the break room for Zoo employees. The room went from bare and basic to brightly colored and inviting—the perfect place for office staff and animal keepers to eat and relax during the day! Zoo staff are excited about the change and appreciate Nationwide taking time out of their day to make ours a little brighter. 

Becky Klingston poses during National Volunteer Week celebration at Blank Park Zoo

Volunteer Appreciation Week is the perfect way to give back to those that have spent several hours at the Zoo, making sure our guests are receiving the ultimate Zoo experience. On Sunday, April 6 volunteers were able to bring out family and friends to experience behind the scenes tours, including the giraffe barn, big cat holding area, rhino holding area, and the service building, which is where all of the education animals are held. From there volunteers had the chance to ride the carousel or explore the gift shop with their guests. 

Left: Roxanne Kucharski, one of the Zoo’s beloved volunteers, poses with her flamingo pin in February after earning over 75 hours of service in 2013 at Blank Park Zoo. 

Volunteer Fact: In 2013, we had over 480 volunteers dedicate 15,000 hours of volunteer service at the Zoo!

Volunteers participate in several activities throughout the year, including Night Eyes, Zoo Brew, and our upcoming event on April 12 and 19, Eggstravaganza. “On behalf of all the staff here- Thank you volunteers for your support, dedication, and hard work to make Blank Park Zoo Iowa’s Wildest Adventure!”- Chris Eckles

Interested in becoming a Zoo volunteer? Contact Chris Eckles at cneckles@blankparkzoo.org.

The Zoo Volunteer Pride is an essential part of promoting our mission; “to inspire an appreciation of the natural world through conservation, education and recreation.”

Eggcellent Fun at Blank Park Zoo's Eggstravaganza

Posted on 04/01/2014 at 10:27 AM

Bring the entire family out to Blank Park Zoo to enjoy an egg-cellent day filled with fun and eggs!

Featuring egg hunts for children and the popular, golden egg hunt for adults, Eggstravaganza has become a spring tradition for families to enjoy. Where else in Central Iowa can you hunt for eggs among nature’s wildest creatures, have your photo taken with the Easter Bunny and make Zoo-themed Easter crafts? This popular event will be two Saturdays this year - April 12 and April 19.

Check the full detailed schedule to see what special springtime fun the animals are having.

Eggstravaganza 2014 Schedule - April 12 & April 19

10:00 am – Golden Egg Hunt

10:30 am – Tiger Enrichment

11:00 am Debbie Doo Wop & Dynamite Dan

11:30 am Seal & Sea Lion training (weather dependent)

12:30 pm Debbie Doo Wop & Dynamite Dan

1:30 pm Tortoise enrichment

2:00 pm Macaque enrichment

10:00 am to 2:00 pm Easter Egg Hunt

10:00 am to 2:00 pm Easter Bunny Photo Time

10:00 am to 2:00 pm Craft time

Spring is finally on the way and bringing the Easter Bunny along. Enjoy taking your photo with the Easter Bunny, and continue down the path to see what else is in store. Dance your way down to the Banker’s Trust Classroom pad to enjoy live entertainment by Debbie Doo Wop & Dynamite Dan. After stopping by to join in the fun, head up to participate in the annual Easter Egg Hunt and enjoy a spring-time craft. Hint: it includes using popular suckers for edible fun!

Be sure to ‘Like’ us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/blankparkzoo) and follow us on Twitter (@blankparkzoo) so you can participate in our Golden Egg Hunt! There will be clues each day of the week leading up to Eggstravaganza pointing you in the right direction of the eggs. The first guest to find one of the five golden eggs on April 12  & 19 will be rewarded with a prize. Can you solve our riddles? Find out starting April 12 & April 19!

Blank Park Zoo’s golden egg hunt is supported by Adventureland, Iowa Cubs, Monkey Joe’s & Sky Zone. Thank You to our supporting partner New York Life Insurance!

Eggstravaganza is free with regular Zoo admission and free for Blank Park Zoo members. Get your baskets ready and hop on over to Blank Park Zoo for Eggstravaganza 2014!


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