Archive for April, 2009

Pico wants to remind you that the Bloomin’ Zoo Garden Festival is only a week away! The 2009 plant list has been posted. Members, don’t forget your special preview sale on the morning of Saturday, May 2nd!

Update: we raised over $11,000, one thousand more than last year!


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Pico was checking in on the baby sitatunga when I heard a very loud racket behind me. And I’m talking louder than my friend Rojo the scarlet macaw screaming. It was a pair of red ruffed lemurs vocalizing. Red ruffed lemurs have a name that basically says it all: they have an overall red coloration with a ruff of fur on their necks and they are lemurs. Pico likes those kind of names!

Lemurs are a type of primate some people call Prosimians. They have a large, wet rhinarium (AKA nose) and a tapetum lucidum (AKA the thing in animals’ eyes that make them reflect when you shine a light on them at night) to help them see in the dark. They also have procumbent lower inscisors (AKA their lower teeth stick out) for use as a dental comb and the presence of a grooming claw on one digit of their foot. These are just some of the ways to tell lemurs from monkeys and apes. The Zoo exhibits several other types of Prosimians including galagos, ring-tailed lemurs, and pygmy slow lorises.

Red ruffed lemurs, like all lemurs, are found only on the island of Madagascar. Their primary diet is fruit. At the Zoo their favorites are bananas and grapes, two things Pico highly approves of as well. Ruffed lemurs are unusual among primates in that they do not carry newborn young with them. Instead they leave them in a nest-like area until they are old enough to follow. Also unusual is the number of young they can have at a time, up to 6.

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The white storks in the sitatunga yard are busy building a very large nest. The female joined the Zoo collection in 2007. She and the male did not get along initially. He tried to build her a nest near one of the public walkway entrances, but she would have nothing to do with it or him. Over the winter when the storks had to be kept inside, keeper Mary Ann made sure they kept in close contact. Apparently this worked because this year the pair are doing bill-clattering displays and nest building together. White storks are native to Europe and Africa and typically lay 3 to 5 eggs.

"Check out my nest!"

"Check out my nest!"

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"I could really go for some watermelon right now."

"I could really go for some watermelon right now."

Pico’s newest pals are giants! Geochelone gigantea or Aldabra tortoises are native to the Seychelles, an island chain off the east coast of Africa. Aldabras are the world’s largest tortoises even bigger than the famous Galapagos tortoises. Our male, Kelly, has been at the Zoo since 1988 and weighs 400 pounds. His exact history is vague. He was donated by a family and his age is estimated between 75 and 100 years. Our female, Kera, has been at the Zoo since 1990 and weighs 200 pounds. We don’t know an exact birthdate for her either because she was wild caught, but we estimate her age to be around 40 years. The record for a tortoise is a Galapagos that lived to be over 175 years!

Kelly really likes people. He is one of the few Zoo animals that will bypass food for human contact. He will vocalize when he sees his favorite people. He likes being scratched on his neck. Kelly will rise into a standing position to give people better access to him. Some people say this behavior is similar to wild tortoises allowing birds to pick ticks off of them. Kera is a little more reserved. She startles easily probably because she hasn’t been around people as long. But once you start scratching her neck, she too rises up.

They eat greens, vegetables, and a commerical pellet for tortoises. However, they love fruit especially melons. Kelly also enjoys soaking in the pool several times a week. The Aldabras are currently housed next to the hippo in the lower Kley Building, but will soon move outside for the summer. New permanent quarters will soon be built for them in the upper Kley building.

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All of the animals in the Children’s Enchanted Forest received special Easter-themed enrichment today! The macaws and red-handed tamarins received miniature egg-shaped pinatas to tear up. The coati received dyed eggs and egg-shaped pinatas scented with grapefruit lotion which they enjoy rubbing on their tails. The North American river otters also received dyed eggs to eat. The colobus monkeys received browse held up in egg-shaped pinatas. The grey gibbons and the DeBrazza’s monkeys both had Easter egg hunts. Special treats inside the plastic eggs included cherry tomatoes, blueberries, peanut butter, and mealworms.

Photos courtesy of the Zoo’s Education Curator Diana Barber, PhD.

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"I just woke up from my nap and I am ready to go!"

Pico’s newest pal is from his own home turf of AMAZONIA. You’d never guess four ounces of fluffy cuteness was actually so tough. Sort of like me. You’d never guess someone so perfect could also be so modest.

Short-tailed opossums are found mainly in Brazil. They have prehensile tails like Pico’s pal the skink. Our male will use it to dangle from keepers’ fingers. Their lifespan in the wild is around 2 years, for captive animals it’s 4 to 8 years. Wild STOs eat insects, rodents, and even scorpions. At the Zoo, our male eats mealworms, crickets, a commercial insectivore diet, and a small piece of produce. STOs are nocturnal, which is why visitors normally spot our male snoozing curled up on his favorite branch. However, he will wake up when keepers service his exhibit usually around 9 AM.

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Pico was up at the front gate recently harassing, I mean, chatting up the employees when I noticed someone with a very friendly smile.

Pico: Hello. Who are you and what do you do?

Robin: My name is Robin. I’ve been a Visitor Service Attendant for about a year.

Pico: How exactly do you attend to visitors?

Robin: I work at the front gate handling admissions and memberships. I help with Zoo clean-up. I also work in the gift shop and I host birthday parties on the weekends.

Pico: Birthday parties? You mean like the party Splish and Splash the otters had last weekend?

Robin: Sort of. The Zoo hosts birthday parties for children. We do a short tour of the Zoo, feed various animals like the giraffes or Donna, touch some of the education animals, and then eat cake! More information can be found at www.meskerparkzoo.com/birthday.

Pico: I am impressed that you have that web address memorized. Also, I want to have my own birthday party. But I don’t care about feeding the giraffes, I want to feed the toucans… so do you have any grapes?

Robin: Sorry, fresh out.

Pico: You are not providing very good visitor service.

Robin: You’re not technically a visitor.

Pico: Touche. Okay, who is your favorite animal?

Robin: I like Franklin the Bactrian camel. He’s so goofy-looking it’s cute.

Pico: What do you outside the Zoo?

Robin: I paint sets for local theaters. I’m actually going to be attending grad school soon to get my MFA in scenic design. And I have a boxer/lab mix named Mabel.

Pico: You should paint a mini-Pico into your next background. That would be some excellent visitor service.

Franklin goes bald in the summer.
Franklin goes bald in the summer.

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