Education Intern Field Guide: June

We love summer! We are so excited for the warm weather and fun activities that come with it. The second monthly field guide is here to give you some tips on what’s happening in June at your favorite Wildlife Park, Tanganyika!

Lexie, Alyssa, and Bijou will be sharing their thoughts about how they are spending this glorious time of year, and how you can spend a day at the Park just like them!

Everyone loves the koi fish!

It’s not just the lemurs at Lemur Island that make it so much fun – the koi fish (found swimming throughout the moat) keep everyone entertained while waiting to feed the ring-tails. Koi fish (or nishikigoi, literally “brocaded carp”) are colored variants of the Amur carp, originating from breeding that began in the Niigata Prefecture, Japan, over 200 years ago! The word koi is a homophone for another Japanese word meaning “affection” or “love,” and they often symbolize friendship, good fortune, prosperity, ambition, and longevity. In recent years, the price of high-quality carp has risen proportionally with an increased interest of hobbyists around the globe. In 2018, one carp was bought by a collector for about $2 million USD, the highest ever recorded price! Can you imagine spending $2 million on a single fish?!

Koi can be many different colors, including white, black, red, orange, yellow, brown, and cream. They are generally between two and three feet long, although some “jumbo” varieties can reach four feet in length! Our fish do not all have names (there are over 90 total), but there is one exception: Rudolph! This fish is larger in size, mainly white, and has a perfect red circle on the tip of his nose. Keep an eye out for him around the lemur bridge, as he is most often found amidst the feeding craziness.

“We had such a great time at the park! My daughter’s favorite activity was feeding the fish!” – Jill Wahl, 5/1/2021

Speaking of the koi fish, you may have seen some birds in the vicinity that resemble ducks. They are not, in fact, ducks – they are egyptian geese! Alyssa is here to expound upon them … 

Are those ducks? No!

We have a few feathered friends around the park that enjoy the fish food just as much as the koi. In the past, you may have seen Mallards and Canada geese, and now you can add Egyptian geese to that list! These guys have free range of the park but often hang out by lemur island, begging guests for food from the koi fish feeders. Egyptian geese are native throughout Africa south of the Sahara, and throughout the Nile River Valley.  In the wild, they can be found in meadows, grasslands, and agricultural fields, with most of their time being spent  in rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. They feel right at home in the water around Lemur Island! We got our four geese as juveniles, and they just reached sexual maturity last year. If they eventually choose to pair up, their territoriality may keep some of the Canada geese from nesting in the park. Next time your kid begs to go feed the fish at the park, remind them to save some of the food for these special geese! While your kiddos are feeding, have them look closely at the geese’s legs and they might notice that each goose has a different anklet. These brightly colored ankle bands help us tell them apart! They are named after the Pac-man ghosts: yellow is Blinky, blue is Bashful, pink is Speedy, and orange is Clyde.

June is a very special month at Tanganyika, and at zoos around the US!

National Zoo and Aquarium Month (every June!) is the perfect time to plan a visit to your favorite zoo or aquarium. About 175 million individuals will visit a zoo or aquarium per year – why not come during June to celebrate with us? At Tanganyika, you can learn about vanishing habitats and conservation efforts, as well as breeding programs being undertaken by us and many other zoos around the globe. Zoos, like us, often aim to promote conservation awareness in addition to allowing the public to see rare and endangered animals. There are various school tours, education programs, birthday parties, summer camps, and other fun activities available for the whole family at Tanganyika. Summer camp includes teaching children about the animals within the park, most of whom are not native to North America. Children have the option to play games, create crafts, and see the park through a different lens. This may include behind-the-scenes tours, visiting animal encounter stations, and more!

Visiting Tanganyika is a great way to contribute to sustaining endangered animal populations. You might see our nursery as you walk inside; catch our three melanistic Amur leopards, which are critically endangered. There are only 50-100 Amur leopards left in the wild, and only six are known to be melanistic. Since Tanganyika does not receive any state or federal funding, the continued patronage of guests significantly helps the park in its day-to-day operations. In other words, the park consistently promotes conservation in order to help sustain viable wild and captive populations, and you all support the park by visiting and participating in everything we have to offer!

Karen Randolph, carnivore keeper, holding half of the world’s known melanistic Amur leopards!

World Giraffe Day is comin’ up fast, although we like to celebrate our giraffes every day!

There are four main species of giraffes (Masai, Northern, Southern, and Reticulated), though here at Tanganyika you will find our herd of Reticulated giraffes as you walk through the gates. Perhaps the most optimal time to view the herd is in the morning when they first enter into their outdoor habitat. Starting during the summer season (memorial day weekend!), there will be a new $10 early admission wristband available, which will allow guests into the park an hour earlier than regular admission. With this wristband, you can enjoy the park in its natural and serene state. You will be able to watch as keepers let the giraffes outside in addition to receiving a behind-the-scenes view of staff preparing the park for a busy day filled with guests and animal experiences. This is also a great chance to catch one of our keepers out and about, and they are always happy to answer any personal questions about the park!

World Giraffe Day is coming up on June 21st this year. Most of our Reticulated giraffes at the park are shy, but several of them still enjoy coming up to the stand for the lettuce feeding. This includes Kenzie, who is currently pregnant and due very soon! Giraffes usually have one calf, though some giraffes can have twins in rare cases. You can spot Kenzie by her white face and shorter neck compared to other giraffes in the herd. She loves lettuce and becomes impatient if she is not being constantly fed. Occasionally, she will even walk away from the stand until staff call her back!

Jackson and Rebecca Shaw (pictured below with Kenzie) loved feeding the giraffes last time they visited the park. Jackson’s favorite animal is the giraffe, and he even wore a special giraffe shirt for feeding Kenzie! He liked the feeding experience so much that he did it twice (and Kenzie loved it, of course!). 

Be sure to visit the park to see Kenzie and her friends on Giraffe Weekend, which is June 19th and June 20th this year! You will want to visit in the morning when they are more active, compared to at 3 or 4pm when they are ready for their keepers to let them inside their indoor habitat to eat. 

Some exciting stuff on the horizon …

The highly anticipated Splash Park at Tanganyika Wildlife Park will finally be open on May 29th during Memorial Day weekend! It is located between the penguin building and the playground and is 500 square feet of pure fun! It has a variety of cool areas to explore, like the giant giraffe that sprays water and the colorful slides. The Splash Park will be open daily and does not require any extra reservations other than those to enter the park. In other words, it is included with park admission! 

Tanganyika prides itself on being named the most interactive zoo in the midwest, which also includes swimming with penguins! This special experience will allow you to swim with a small group of African Penguins, with a keeper standing nearby to help and give some fun facts! The keeper will tell you how to best interact with each individual penguin so that the experience is as enriching for them as it is for you! Some like to be pet, some like to play, and some simply enjoy being held by you. A staff member will take pictures of your experience, which will be available to you at no additional cost. Children need to be 7 years or older in order to participate in this Wildly Different Experience. The experience costs $200 per participant;  If you love penguins, this experience is definitely worth doing!

Who wouldn’t want to swim with this precious penguin?

Monica’s 7th Birthday is here!

One of our Indian rhinos, Monica, is turning 7 this year! Her official birthday is June 5th, and she is extra special because she was the first female Indian rhino born from AI (Artificial Insemination). Her father passed away ten years before she was even born!

Keeper Sierra says that Monica’s favorite activities include rolling around in the mud, butt scratches, and doing zoomies in the rain. Every so often, park guests can catch Monica jumping and eating the leaves off the taller trees in her habitat. According to Sierra, Monica is Tanganyika’s most confident rhino, as she loves people (especially compared to Tanganyika’s other rhinos, Stacks and Dubya), and does not hesitate to try new things! 

Join us on Saturday, June 5th to celebrate Monica’s 7th birthday! There may be special festivities planned for her throughout the day. Make a rhino feeding reservation online or through gift shop to reserve your spot from 11:00-11:30 A.M. This includes tossing carrots into Monica’s mouth and getting the chance to pet her nose. Guests ages 8 and older also have the option to participate in the Hoof Stock Painting Experience for $67 per person. This experience allows you to watch the animals paint and then take home the creative piece they’ve made! There can be up to six individuals booked for this unique experience and is available on every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2pm. 

You may have also noticed our other Indian rhino, Stacks, has found a new home in the Black rhino exhibit. Your eyes are not deceiving you; there is an Indian rhino in the Black rhino habitat! The Black rhino, Dubyah, is extremely shy around new people so he is off-exhibit while Stacks is enjoying the tall grass and exploring his new habitat. So don’t fret – the rhinos are living happily here at Tanganyika Wildlife Park. You may even find that a rainy day will make our almost-seven-years-old Monica a very happy rhino!

Monica with a “friend” during Cinco de Rhino!

Spotlight: Karen Rudolph and the carnivores!

Last month you may have heard about a California family’s appreciation for our many awesome cats. This month I decided to ask one of the keepers who helps care for the cats and other carnivores here how everyone can best experience them all during their visit. She told me a lot about the animals she takes care of, some of which she has helped raise, and what she loves about them!

To best experience most of our cats, you gotta catch them early in the morning when they are most active or later in the evening. Like most cats, according to Karen, “they do a lot of napping during the heat of the day.” So if you want to see them when they are more active this summer you should take advantage of our early entry times!

“They are definitely more active when the temperatures are cooler than when it is really hot out.”

As far as a favorite feline of Karen’s, she couldn’t exactly say one and I don’t blame her! 

“I have a hard time saying which cat is my favorite. I have had quite a few over the years! I can say my favorite thing about each species. My current specific favorite cat changes when I am in front of each of them! I secretly tell them all they are my favorite. Zane and Kafue, two cheetahs that I have raised from birth here, are definitely favorites! Also Nemean our male lion is a big contender!” 

If you want to meet Nemean, one of Karen’s “favorite” big cats here at Tanganyika, sign up for our Origins tour where you get to feed him!

This is Nemean, fresh from waking up from a nap!

Here is what Karen has to say about our other carnivore species:

Snow Leopards are fabulous because they chuff (an amazing greeting sound) and they have their extra long glorious fluffy tails, and they can jump so high and far that it seems like they can fly!” 

Maybe if you visit often enough our snow leopards will greet you by chuffing!

Cheetahs are so special to me because I have helped develop the breeding program here, and we have had eight successful litters so far since we started in 2016, which is a huge deal! And their purrs are just amazing.”

Amur leopards are the most endangered of all the big cats and it is an honor to be able to work with their breeding program. Currently we are lucky enough to have four of the six melanistic Amur leopards in the world here at Tanganyika.” Come stop by our nursery to see half of the world’s melanistic amur leopards for yourself!

Lions are so majestic,  powerful and amazing. Our three lions have such fabulous personalities.  Nemean is so goofy and sweet, and the girls Valkyrie and Ellie are so mischievous and ornery.” 

If you manage to get a spot on one of our Origins tours you might just get to feed one of these amazing big cats!

“The Jaguars are also both very majestic and goofy all at once,  and are a pleasure to work with.“ Jaguars are another big cat you get to feed on our very special Origins tour.

“We house more Clouded leopards than any other facility in North America, we have been a very successful pioneer facility with their very important breeding program. They are also chuffing cats (that amazing greeting sound again). Chuffing is one of my favorite sounds in the world. Clouded leopards are the most closely related to saber toothed tigers of all the cat species alive today. They also have some amazing arboreal adaptations. They can turn their ankles sideways and hang upside down in trees to catch prey.“ 

Honey Badgers are the coolest because they just don’t care!  Lions don’t even mess with them in the wild. They are so smart and active!” Don Juan and Desi are indeed very active in their habitat here.

Bat-eared foxes are so cute and interesting to work with! They are mainly insectivores!”

Binturongs are such neat animals! They smell like popcorn, and their tails are prehensile, which means they can hang from their tail! They are arboreal and want to spend all their time up high.”

Servals: Jade is such a great ambassador for her species! We are working on training some behaviors to show off her amazing adaptations: her amazing hearing and her jumping skills.”

Eurasian Lynx: Hazel is very special to me!  She was born here and I have worked with her since birth. She is a great ambassador for her species also and we can’t wait to train her with some more behaviors to help show her amazing adaptations. “

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