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.

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?

If You Build It, They Will Come

Posted on Nov 19, 2013 at 2:13 PM

One-thousand, eight-hundred sixty-three miles. That’s the distance from Central Iowa to the overwintering grounds for monarch butterflies in the Michoacan Mountain range, just west of Mexico City.  That fiery fleeting monarch you caught a glimpse of this fall wasn’t just a butterfly, it was a ‘superbutterfly’  in mid-journey of thousands of miles of travel from Canada to Mexico,  on one of the longest migrations known to any animal on Earth, passing right through our backyards in Iowa on its way.

This month in November, millions of monarchs have arrived and are huddled together in massive colonies, covering every inch of Oyamel fir trees, gently bending its branches like a blanket of orange snow in the Michoancan Mountain range.  Layer upon layer of delicate paper-thin wings brave the cool winter at these high elevations, conserving energy by going into a type of hibernation called diapause, only stirring on the warmest of sunny days to flutter to the nearest water source for a drink. 

In early spring, the warming temperatures will awaken their senses and turn on their desire to mate.  Starting only as a trickle, the monarchs soon beginning flooding away from their roosting sites en masse in a visual spectacle unmatched in the natural world.  They swirl overhead, find a mate, breed and then head northward after a long winter.  Females, now ready to lay their eggs, are in search of one thing:  milkweed.  The only plant on which they can lay their eggs and the only food monarch caterpillars can consume.

All spring and summer, and spanning two to three generations, the monarchs follow the milkweed bloom from Texas to Canada.  Next fall, at the northern limits of milkweed, the last generation of the season will hatch, become voracious caterpillars and then metamorphosize into ‘super’ monarchs that are destined to journey all the way back to Mexico, often times flying over a hundred miles a day.

This ancient and fascinating migration of the monarch butterfly is one of the wonders of our natural world.  But monarchs, like many of our lesser-known native butterflies and pollinators, responsible for pollinating more than 1/3 of all the food we eat, are in steep decline in this rapidly changing world.  They are disappearing due to many reasons including climate change and some modern agricultural practices.  But we can do something right now, right here in Iowa to help our pollinators thrive.

Blank Park Zoo is embarking on a new project in collaboration with other Midwest zoos as well as local and regional organizations to encourage the public to provide much needed pollinator habitat in their yards.  These specialized butterfly gardens will provide the resources needed for our beautiful butterflies and essential pollinators to once again thrive in Iowa’s landscape.

Stay tuned for more information on how you can join Blank Park Zoo in this important conservation initiative.  Contact conservation coordinator, Jessie Lowry at jrlowry@blankparkzoo.org for more information.

The Zoo from you – A great holiday gift

Posted on Nov 12, 2013 at 2:55 PM

The Zoo from you – A great holiday gift

Searching for that perfect gift and just can’t seem to find what you’re looking for? Sometimes, the big-box stores just don’t seem to have the creative, thoughtful gift that you have in mind. 

Sound familiar?

If you’re looking for a fun, unique holiday gift this season, consider making it an experience. A gift of a Blank Park Zoo membership gives (free admission!) all year long – and for a limited time, you get a free gift with your membership. Use the promotion code RHINO13 by Dec. 19+ to receive a plush rhino!*

Benefits members receive include free admission all year long, discounts at the gift shop, Safari Grill and on classes and activities. And, members receive reciprocity of free or 50% off admission to more than 170 zoos and aquariums across the country.

There’s a membership for everyone on your list:

• For the young adult or single, the one plus one membership provides free admission to events like Zoo Brew, and they can enjoy it with a friend.

• The family membership is great for your sibling, best friend, or that person on your list you want to give a one-of-a-kind family experience for them to enjoy together, again and again.

• For grandparents, the grandparent membership gives them the opportunity to enjoy quality time out with the grandkids, all while enjoying the animals of the Zoo.

• The family plus membership allows two extra guests with the family or grandparent option – for only $10 more, it’s perfect for those with additional friends or family to enjoy the membership.

To buy a membership, you can purchase three ways:

1. Online at www.blankparkzoo.com/membership
2. Visit the Zoo’s membership desk
3. Call 515-974-2600

Receive your holiday rhino with any membership purchase now through December 19+ – simply use the code RHINO for your plush.**

If you’re looking for that creative, thoughtful gift that gives all year long, buy a one-year Blank Park Zoo membership. As a member, every day is free!

**Additional $5 fee for shipping, or can be picked up at Blank Park Zoo. Cannot be combined with any other offer.
+ Last day memberships will be mailed. Purchases may be done at Blank Park Zoo 10 am to 4 pm through December 23, 2013. Please allow an additional week to process long-distance purchases.


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