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.

Sign your teen up for Zoo Crew!

Posted on Feb 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 Feb 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 Feb 4, 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.


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!

Copyright © 2014 Blank Park Zoo. All Rights Reserved.