Exhibits and Experiences

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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More nectar, please! Meet our loving lorikeets

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Zookeeper Amanda Barr guest-blogs on ZooHoo!

Lucy

Lucy

To most people, a lorikeet is a lorikeet is a lorikeet. They look the same, they drink nectar, they interact with visitors. But when you actually spend time in Lorikeet Landing, you’ll discover that each bird is different and unique!

Most are rainbow lorikeets, but we also have two marigold lorikeets and five dusky lories. Lories and lorikeets are similar and fall under the same family of birds. Both are known for their specialized brush-like tongues designed specifically for drinking the nectar of soft fruits. There are a few differences, too: Lories are usually larger and have shorter, blunt tails, while lorikeets are smaller, with longer tails that end in a point.

We have 30 of these birds, ranging from 3 to 18 years old. Some are named after sounds they make – such as Volt, who mimics our radio batteries – or fruit they love, like Raspberry and Blueberry. Others have names with Australian meanings, like Dag, which means funny person or goof, and Sheila, which means woman. It takes some time to get to know each bird, but eventually they can be distinguished by looks, personality, and who they like to hang out with!

Let me introduce you to a few of our most distinguishable lorikeets:

 

Apple

Apple

• One of the easiest to identify is 5-year-old Lucy. She’s believed to be a hybrid between a rainbow lorikeet and a yellow-streaked lory. She’s all green with just a little red at the top of her head, which is why she’s affectionately named after “I Love Lucy.” She’s very friendly – she loves to steal nectar cups and fly away with them and unbutton shirts and jackets!

• Another easily identifiable bird is rainbow lorikeet Apple. He has a very noticeable gray ring around his eyes that extends all the way to his beak, making him look like he’s wearing glasses. He’s always one of the first to land on visitors when they walk into the aviary with cups of nectar. His best friend is Hop – they’re always getting into mischief together.

 

Part of the Dusky Pack

Part of the Dusky Pack

• Our pack of five dusky lories are a crowd favorite. These brown-and-orange birds are larger than the others, and Joey, Melody, Valerie, Sheila and Chiclet love to land on people in a big group and make lots of noise! Since they like to stick together, if one dusky lands on you, look out for the rest of the group coming your way.

• Some lorikeets are shyer and prefer to stay on a perch to be fed, including 13-year-old Guacamole. He is easily identified by the few missing feathers at the nape of his neck. Guacamole and his mate, Gladys, love making nests and typically can be found on the ground on the back side of the aviary. Guacamole loves nectar, but he prefers to be offered the cup while he’s on a perch, rather than an arm.

Linguini is the smallest lorikeet. He’s a marigold lorikeet and has a bright yellow chest and green belly, unlike the orange chests and blue bellies of the rainbow lorikeets. Linguini loves to sit on shoulders and upper backs and play with guests’ hair. He’s friendlier than fellow marigold lorikeet Macaroni, who’s typically found with her buddy Pickle.

Pigpen

Pigpen

• Bruin is one of the biggest personalities. He’s like the high school quarterback – all of the female lorikeets want to be with him! He knows how popular he is, too, and uses that to his advantage to get the females to share their nectar cups.

• The largest bird is another hybrid lory, Pig Pen. He’s a very distinctive black/iridescent green color with yellow streaks around his neck and chest. Pig Pen hangs out with the dusky pack, getting into trouble.

Sundrop is my favorite. (Shhh, don’t tell the others!) He was one of the first lorikeets I met when I started working here. I named him Sundrop because the band used to identify him is a light yellow, kind of matching the color of the Sundrop soda logo. He’s very friendly and enjoys giving “Sundrop kisses” to his favorite people. He loves to take baths and splash around in the water bowls. He’s also one of our more vocal lorikeets, often making a vocalization that sounds slightly like “pretty bird.” When he wants some quiet time, he’ll hang out in the middle window at the end of the aviary with his mate, Conan.

These are only a handful of our lovable ’keets, so mixing all of these personalities can be very tricky. It takes a lot of time, observation and creativity to keep them entertained. Their differences in personality also keep things interesting for us keepers. We each have our favorites, but all definitely hold special places in our hearts. Next time you visit, be sure to spend some time at Lorikeet Landing meeting all of our birds and getting to know them. Our staff will be glad to help you figure out who’s who!

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