Wednesday, February 24, 2010

KCZoo - Orangutan Update

Catching Up with Kalijon

As many of you know, our female orangutan “T.K.” gave birth to a baby around 9 months ago. Although keeper staff worked hard to train T.K. to perform various maternal behaviors, providing her with the skills necessary to raise her own infant, T.K. did not adequately care for her baby.

Zoo staff set out to raise the infant female, named “Kalijon”, until she became old enough to introduce to a surrogate orangutan mother. Thus began four and a half long months of caring for Kalijon. Staff and volunteers worked with Kalijon 24/7 taking turns staying at the orangutan building night and day so she would grow up completely familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells of other orangutans.

When Kali was old enough, she was introduced to our female “Jill” who is an experienced mother and was already trained to bring an infant to the stall mesh so keepers could provide bottles of milk. To make a long story short-surrogate mom and baby are now inseparable!

I have to say, no one would ever imagine that these to are not biological mother and daughter! They stay in close contact with each other the majority of the time. However, as Jill is a very experienced mom, she is willing to allow Kalijon a lot of freedom to climb around and play like she loves to do. Kali has a mouth full of bright white baby teeth now so her grins are extra special to behold. Those choppers are also allowing her to eat lots of produce and primate chow biscuits, so it won’t be too many more months before she is done with milk all together. Hard to believe!

Her bushy red hair just keeps getting longer and crazier. Her arms are still very small, so she can reach out through the mesh to examine her keepers. She especially likes to pull up the cuffs of our shirt sleeves to feel around inside them. And if you are wearing glasses or a hat, she will try to snatch them! If Jill comes over and tries to stick her fingers out towards us, Kali will sometimes tug Jill’s hands back from the mesh as if she doesn’t want to share our attention with her mom.

If you haven’t yet been out to see Jill and Kalijon together, you REALLY should. They can be seen in the dayroom (their indoor exhibit) on Tuesdays and weekends until 12:30. Jill is very good about bringing Kalijon to the viewing windows where all can see what a good mom she is to her beautiful adopted daughter. Our hard work combined with Jill’s mothering skills will give Kalijon the best possible chance of being a successful mom herself someday!

Heidi, Animal Supervisor

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Possible Love Connection

We have a new addition to our Austral-Asia family. Her name is Wen-Dee and she is our new red panda female. Wen-Dee comes to us from the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska. She has had cubs in recent years and she is here to find that love connection with our male Fagan.

Red pandas are endangered in the wild from predation and habitat destruction. The red panda breeding process also makes it difficult for them to increase their numbers. Red panda females only cycle one time per year. This means that they only have that one chance to get pregnant. Red panda breeding season can happen December until early March depending on the pair. So keep your fingers crossed that sometime this summer we will hear the patter of little “paws”. You can find the red pandas on Tiger Trail.

Cinnamon, Austral-Asia Animal Supervisor

Ed Zoo Cation

This week the Director of Education and I are heading to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in San Diego, California. Scientists from all over the country will be in attendance in addition to fifty teams of informal educators from zoos, museums and libraries around the country. We were invited to attend as part of a campaign to expand public literacy about climate change.

The evidence concerning climate change can be a challenge to communicate due to the intense debate surrounding the issue, but with the new polar bear exhibit coming this summer the Kansas City Zoo is committed to the challenge. Informal educators are the focus of the AAAS campaign because, compared to formal school educators, we can more readily reach out to adults directly.

Bryan, Youth and Family Programs Coordinator

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Each day, as Zoo Education Programers, we learn too!

Kids are so clever. We were at a school in the Kansas City area presenting the program “Fur, Feathers, Scales and Slime.” In the program we talk about the different coverings that animals have, like mammals have fur, birds have feathers, etc. The instructor asked the students if birds had to be able to fly if they were called a bird. The kids answered together “no.” So the natural next question asked by the instructor is “what birds cannot fly?” There was one student who was waving their raised hand excitedly. The instructor called on him certain he had the correct answer and he replied “dead ones.”

Kelly, School & Outreach Coordinator

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kansas City Zoo Animal Insights

Welcome to the new Kansas City Zoo blog. This will be a great place for zoo enthusiasts to learn a lot about the animals here at the zoo, and the people who work with them. I am the supervisor over the African Savannah area, and since I have the honor of kicking of the animal department’s contributions, I thought I would share a little bit of what we are looking forward to in 2010.

If you are at all familiar with our African Plains exhibit you have surely noticed our large herd of scimitar-horned oryx. This species has been extinct in the wild for almost 25 years now, but has a very large captive population, and we have been working with them here in Kansas City since 2002. Between then and 2007 we had 21 oryx births, and many of those offspring are now scattered in zoos around the country in breeding herds of their own. One of our crowning achievements with this species was to be able to send one of our animals to Tunisia to be part of a re-introduction project in 2006 (pictured here as it released into a boma in Africa). Now, after a 3 year hiatus, we are breeding oryx again. A new male was acquired according to Species Survival Plan recommendations last summer and was introduced to our herd in August. With 12 breeding-age females in our current herd, there should be plenty of calves to watch on exhibit starting as early as May of this year.

We are hoping for a few more exciting events as well, including another zebra foal later this summer and possibly endangered black-footed cat babies in our kopje area. We are looking into adding another species to our plains exhibit but will have to wait and see what happens. In any case, the African Savannah has always been a pretty dynamic area, so come on out and see what’s new all year long.

Tim Wild
Animal Supervisor-Savannah