Posts Tagged With: Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo

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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A new (and really big!) window on the world

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Children's Zoo interpreter, Gerald Bogan, magnifies a Gulf fritillary butterfly under the new microscope.

Children’s Zoo interpreter, Gerald Bogan, magnifies a Gulf fritillary butterfly.

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Did you know that a butterfly’s wings are full of tiny hairs? Or that the veins of a leaf look a lot like the ones in your body? Or that the richly colored eye spot on a polythemus moth’s rear wing is used to confuse predators?

Henry David Thoreau had an eye for nature, but he couldn’t have dreamed of this type of detail.

A new state-of-the-art microscope is taking nature discovery to another level at the Nature Exchange in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo. Purchased with grant money from the M.R. and Evelyn Hudson Foundation, the $4,600 microscope has been on our “wish list” for many years. Now, children can see the natural world clearer and closer than ever before.

“We wouldn’t have been able to afford it without the grant,” said Children’s Zoo supervisor Melody Wood. “This microscope lets children develop a connection to their environment. In turn, we hope they’ll grow up to become stewards of the natural world.”

The Nature Exchange is a natural item swap shop, where children bring in things they’ve found in their yard and trade up for cooler natural items.

When the kids bring their items in, now they can see them magnified with the microscope and beamed up onto a 48-inch LED Smart HDTV.

“We use the microscope to magnify things like snake skin, insects, rocks, micro fossils and more,” said Ryan Wies, Children’s Zoo specialist. “This makes it more fun, because they’re part of the discovery process and they take more away from it.”

If your children don’t have natural items to swap, we highly suggest checking out all the neat things we already have. We’ll put anything you want under the microscope, if it fits!

 

 

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Naked sheep roaming at the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo

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With bikini season in full swing, our four resident sheep have shed a few pounds – 8 pounds of wool, to be exact.

Mary, Matha, Alice, and Herbert look a little lighter than usual in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo farmyard. To keep them cool and comfortable during warmer months and to prevent their hair from covering their eyes, they are carefully sheared twice a year. Summer temperatures have been known to get as high as 110 degrees in Dallas, and that’s too warm if you’re wearing a wool coat.

But it’s not as easy as getting a haircut. Each sheep was bathed with a special lanolin shampoo a day before so its thick wool could dry completely before shearing. With the help of our Junior Zookeepers, all of the dirt, pine shavings, and hay that had hibernated into their wool was removed. The next day, one by one, the sheep were brought into the barn for a gentle trimming with electric clippers. Unlike commercial farms, where shearing is done quickly, our staff takes their time to ensure that it’s a good experience for the animals.

Ours also don’t have as much wool as other species of sheep, because they’re one of the smallest breeds, often called miniatures. Known as Babydoll Southdown sheep, they’re one of the oldest English breeds, originating in the South Down hills of Sussex County, England. And they produce some of the best wool — their fleece is so fine, it’s put into the class of cashmere.

Of course, we never want to see anything go to waste. “We give the wool to other animals in the Zoo as part of enrichment,” zookeeper Sarah Brys said. “They can smell it, play with it, just get a sense of another animal’s coat.”

Sheep Mary relaxes after her shearing; Alice waits for her turn.
Sheep Mary relaxes after her shearing; Alice waits for her turn.
Dallas Zoo/Ashley Allen
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Categories: Children's Zoo (Lacerte Family), Enrichment, Exhibits and Experiences, Mammals, Volunteers, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Family of 11 hits the jackpot by winning Instagram #ZooHoliday photo contest

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It’s been eight months since the Rowland family won a one-year Zoo membership, and they can’t stop visiting.

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The Rowland family: Becca, 15; Abby, 14; Elizabeth, 12; Anna, 10; Daniel, 9; Naomi, 6; Leah, 4; Esther, 2; and Lydia, 10 months.

In our first Instagram photo contest last December, we asked guests to tag us with a holiday photo shot at the Zoo. We couldn’t help but choose this family of 11 as the winner after they gathered around our iconic bronze giraffe statue, then creatively added a winter scarf around her neck to make their photo picture-perfect.

The family membership couldn’t have gone to a more appreciative family. Matthew and Jane Rowland homeschool their nine kids, ranging in age from 10 months to 15 years. It’s a special day when they can take their children out to our interactive classroom.

“Several of our children have participated in the Junior Zookeeper program,” Jane Rowland said. “They’ve learned so much about science and taking care of farm animals. It is so awesome that we can make learning fun and an adventure whenever we come to the Zoo.”

A typical day at the Zoo for the Rowland family starts with rides on the carousel, followed by a stop at their favorite exhibit, the Giants of the Savanna.
They like to finish the day by cooling off at the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo. “The little ones especially love dipping their feet in the pond,” Jane said.

Our #ZooHoliday contest was the first Instagram contest the Rowlands have ever entered. And they’re loyal Dallas Zoo guests, having had a membership for the past 12 years. We appreciate that the Rowlands are active members, and that they help spread the word about the great things we’re doing.

And this spring, we had nearly 250 guests enter our #DallasZooStatues Instagram contest, tagging their favorite photos posing with our bronze animal statues found across the zoo. Congratulations to Teresa Miranda for her winning photo!

Watch our Instagram feed at @dallaszoo for more contests, and you may win something cool, too.

Categories: Children's Zoo (Lacerte Family), Education, Media, Membership, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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