Exhibits and Experiences

Dallas Zoo, city unveil new elephant-statue gateway

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Connecticut-based artist Peter Busby stands with his sculpture Two Elephants Greeting at the Dallas Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016.

Visitors will now receive a taste of Africa before stepping on Zoo grounds with Two Elephants Greeting, a new steel sculpture unveiled today at the corner of Marsalis Ave. and the I-35E frontage road.

The sculpture joins our iconic 67-foot giraffe sculpture greeting visitors entering the Zoo’s main parking lot.

The sculpture shows two larger-than-life African elephants with intertwined trunks – a symbol of a solid, loving bond, and a greeting often seen expressed by our elephants. The elephants stand on a berm surrounded by drought-tolerant native grasses and plants.

“It will greet all visitors that come to the Zoo in a monumental way,” said Kay Kallos, Public Art Program manager for the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs.

The sculptures weigh 1,800 pounds each and are the work of Connecticut-based artist Peter Busby. The installation is part of a City of Dallas Public Art Program contest that received more than 200 sculpture designs from all over the world vying for the space, which formerly housed a used car lot.

“It seemed as a friendly introduction to the zoo,” said Busby. “Like what you hope to see inside.”

Busby created the elephants at his Connecticut workshop before hauling them to Texas in September for the installation, but this isn’t his first time bringing massive sculptures to the Lone Star State. He also designed and installed two 16-foot-tall longhorn sculptures at the Cypress Waters office park in Dallas and a pair of supersized horses at a ranch in Plano.

Thank you to Busby and the City of Dallas for giving us such a life-size representation of love between African elephants. We look forward to enjoying the statues for decades to come.

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Miniature longhorns and new experiences replace pony rides

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We’ve got some big news about some little things to share. Well, kind of little, anyway.

Our Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo has welcomed longhorns – miniature ones! This is Texas, after all, and longhorns are as Texas as it gets.

The change also means that this Sunday (Oct. 30) will be the last day for pony rides in the Children’s Zoo.

Next month, we’ll transform the pony stalls into a cattle yard for the five-month-old male babies. Despite their small stature, these miniatures will eventually rock a full set of horns, like their full-size counterparts, and will only grow up to four feet tall.

Also coming in November, the former Pony Trek will transform into an immersive and interactive Nature Play area that will bring children closer to the outdoors. In this space, kids can climb on boulders and logs; build secret hideaways with natural materials; and play in our mud kitchen.

And starting Thanksgiving weekend, we’ll debut our new “Life at the Ranch” presentation, showcasing Texas’s role in ranching and helping to change the face of the American West. This new interactive, daily presentation will feature trained animal behaviors starting with our goats, and eventually chickens and pigs.

Our sweet girl, Cleo, has an important job ahead working with special-needs children.

Our sweet girl, Cleo, has an important job ahead working with special-needs children.

Rest assured, our ponies are in good hands. Cleo, one of our sweetest and most popular ponies, has moved to a horse therapy ranch, where she’s working with special-needs children.

The other four ponies – Gunner, Arrow, Gracie and Epona – soon will move to Furry FriendZy Animal Rescue and Wildlife Rehabilitation, another non-profit organization like the Dallas Zoo. Some of our other horses have retired there, too, and we know they take great care of their animals.

This weekend, come by and say farewell to our beloved ponies – and be sure to check out our new experiences debuting next month! Stay tuned for more additions coming as we implement our long-term plan to revamp our 15-year-old Children’s Zoo. We can’t wait to share!

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Kunekune piglet siblings make us squeal

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Q. What’s fat and round, and has a name that means “fat and round?”

A. Kunekunes!

In June, the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo welcomed two baby kunekune pigs to the big red barn. Adorable siblings Oliver and Penny quickly became a favorite of guests and employees alike.  (Jordan, the Children Zoo’s 17-year-old Vietnamese potbelly pig, is unimpressed with the youngsters next door. But she tolerates them, and all the extra visitors to the pig pens – very well.)

“Penny and Oliver have not only been one of the cutest additions to the Children’s Zoo, but they are one of the smartest as well,” zookeeper and lead trainer Jennifer Lim said.  “During short training sessions, using their favorite produce of grapes, apples, sweet potatoes, and carrots, these young piglets have already learned how to target, station, and crate on cue!”img_0279-kune-kune-piglets-cs

The only true “grazing pig,” kunekune (pronounced “koon-koon” or “kooney-kooney,” either is correct) are a breed of domesticated pigs that are native to New Zealand. The name does indeed mean “fat and round” in Maori. It wasn’t so long ago that they almost went extinct, with only 50 known purebred kunekunes in the 1970s. The breed came back from the brink thanks to the efforts of devoted wildlife preservationists, and today they are no longer considered endangered.

Penny and Oliver have the trademark kunekune short legs and short “smooshed” snouts, and are reddish brown with black markings. However, it’s easy to tell them apart – Oliver has one black ear, and Penny has wattles (also called “pire pire”) that hang down from her jaw.

Right now, at four months old, Penny and Oliver weigh about 30 pounds each. By the time they’re mature, however, they may weigh as much as 100 pounds.

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Quick-thinking mechanic saves koi pond

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_MG_2864-Ruben Pacheco-Water FeaturesIf fish could talk, the 40 koi that call the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo home would be singing the praises of water features mechanic Ruben Pacheco. His quick thinking kept them alive after a recent water filter break.

The 7,500-gallon koi pond is one of more than 30 different water features at the Zoo, but it’s the only one that is life-sustaining.

The koi pond’s multiport, an essential part of the sand filtration system, broke in early July and a shipping mishap left the Zoo without the correct replacement.

The previously crystal-clear pond was looking like a swamp without the correct multiport.

“The water was so green, you couldn’t see below the surface,” Pacheco said.

With time ticking and the ammonia levels rising, it quickly became a life-or-death situation for the beloved koi, until Pacheco took action on a sweltering Saturday.

He and assistant Danny Baker installed a working replacement multiport – one they built themselves! Using parts from non-working multiports and other random parts they found in our warehouse, they “frankensteined” a replacement.

The quick fix cleaned the pool, kept the koi swimming and gave the Zoo time to order the correct part.

“Ruben is fantastic. He’s a lifesaver,” zookeeper Stephanie Evola said.

For Pacheco, who’s been a Zoo employee for more than a decade, it’s all in a day’s work. It’s all about keeping the animals safe.

“I love the challenge,” he said.

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Arty for The Planet: Teens turn conservation into art

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Art met nature in a big way recently at the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo’s “Arty for The Planet” event honoring Earth Day. Fifteen young “Arty-ists,” along with Dallas Zoo staff members Jamiee Golden and Sina Ogunleye, created a sidewalk chalk crazy-quilt of nature art throughout the Children’s Zoo.

The theme was simple: what inspires you about nature? The artists responded with intricate scenes of sea life and endangered species, as well as a colorful, powerful message about the importance of bees. There were parrots and lions, flamingos and giraffes, pandas, tigers, and more. Zoo visitors as well as Zoo staff were wowed by the quality of the work.

“I was not only amazed at the sheer talent of our volunteer artists, but the effect their work had on our visitors,” said Melody Alcazar, Children’s Zoo supervisor. “A sense of calm blanketed the Children’s Zoo as guests explored the work of our gifted artists and even tried their hand at creating their own nature chalk art.”

IMG_3680Volunteer artists included Maddie Olson, Alix Burn, Anna Czyzewski, Zen White, Lauryn Shaffer, Gabriela Noriega, Emily Henderson, Maya Endsley, Brennan Nichols, Robert Swofford, Leah Lara and Shelby Linker from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts. They were joined by Cameron Johnson, Seena Berryman and Katarra Smelley from the Dallas Zoo Youth Volunteer Program, who came in on their day off to participate.

“The art was a conversation piece for the entire day for our zoo guests, and for us, too,” zookeeper Stephanie Evola said. “My personal favorite was the fennec fox [drawn by Dallas Zoo member Emily Henderson, who attends Arts Magnet]. It was so gorgeous and detailed. She even included the scientific name, Vulpes zerda.”

For Shannon Linton, educational supervisor for the Zoo’s Youth Volunteer Program, the event was gratifying on two levels.

“Arty for The Planet” was a perfect example of the Zoo’s mission, actions and animals coming together for a greater cause,” Linton said. “And to see Cameron and Seena, both of whom started out as junior zookeepers, mature into these young women making such a powerful impact on so many people with their artwork… It was just incredible.”

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