Venom Starts this Weekend!

Update 12/5/13:  This limited event has been extended through January 2014!

Just in time for Halloween, when ghoulish characters and terrifying monsters are lurking about, we’ve got our own creepy creatures here at the zoo…

Monsters and Dragons and Giants, OH MY!

Gila monsters, Komodo dragons, and a giant cane toad to be more specific, and you can see all of them starting this Saturday at 1:30 pm! Check out Venom: Nature’s Chemical Weapon.* This fascinating live event showcases venomous species in a safe, entertaining format. Featured animals include a variety of reptiles as well as a scorpion and the poisonous cane toad (neither of which are on display here at the zoo!).

Although this show introduces viewers to many widely feared species, it’s also meant to educate people on the benefits of venom, particularly in the medical field. For instance, many know the deadly effects of venom, but did you know that it is also used in several medications as a pain reliever and helps treat various heart conditions?

Venom dispels common myths, highlights the potential animal toxins offer for human medicine, and presents tips for safely enjoying nature in areas where venomous reptiles live. Visit us this weekend at 1:30 (or any weekend through December) to experience Venom LIVE!

BONUS: Get here early and witness a Komodo dragon feeding in our new Island Giants building!

*Featured as our 1:30 pm show only on weekends in November and December; all other show times feature our standard Reptile show.

National Zoo Keeper Week

In honor of National Zoo Keeper Week, we’d like to take some time to recognize all that our amazing zoo keepers do!

zoo keeper appreciation week

Many people probably think of zoo keepers as having the best, most fun job because they get to “play” with all the cool creatures in the zoo; in reality, their job is much more than that and requires lots of hard work!

Our keepers feed and care for all the animals (including hundreds of off-display animals) every single day of the year–even holidays!  This also includes cleaning up after them…and that can be a pretty messy job at times.  When they’re not caring for the animals, they’re showing them off to visitors in our Program Center, introducing them to people for special animal encounters in our exhibit gallery, or educating visitors about them throughout the zoo.  And let’s not forget about where the animals dwell: the exhibits themselves.  We do our best to keep all of our exhibit areas clean, neat, and looking good for our guests.  The staff responsible? Yup, you guessed it– ZOO KEEPERS.

Tending to the animals, exhibits areas, and visitors keeps them busy enough, but in addition to that, our zoo keepers also transport various animals for off-site lectures (assembly programs) for schools, clubs, camps, etc.  They present a 45-60 minute program with live animals, then trek back to the zoo to unload everything.  While we know they enjoy interacting with new people in new places on these little “field trips” away from the zoo, off-site lectures still involve a lot of work for our keepers.

Last but not least, our keepers travel (on a rotating basis) throughout North America to manage and maintain our various traveling exhibits.  For 6 weeks at a time they stay in an unfamiliar city, work 7 days a week, and care for the animals and exhibit while it’s on display at another institution.

Being a zoo keeper requires enthusiasm, patience, knowledge, and an unbelieveable work ethic; our keepers possess all of these traits and always fulfill their duties with a smile.  We’ve got a great team of zoo keepers here, and while we appreciate them year-round for their dedication, we’re happy to say a big THANK YOU to all of our keepers as a part of National Zoo Keeper Week!  “Keep” up the great work!

The 5 Best (or Worst) Zoo Escapes

Last Tuesday, news of the missing red panda named Rusty rocked Washington (and the rest of the country) when the raccoon-resembling mammal escaped from the National Zoo in D.C.  Twitter was ablaze with tweets from stuffy politicians to humble animal-lovers, all bearing the same “#redpanda” reference.  After hours of news coverage, social media frenzy, and the National Zoo’s frantic search, Rusty was eventually located and returned to his rightful home.

In honor of Rusty’s recent retreat, we put together a list of the 5 best (or worst) zoo escapes.  Our personal favorite is the last one, but we’ll let you be the judge.

San Diego Zoo

5.  Escape Artist Extraordinaire–  Ken Allen, nicknamed “Hairy Houdini,” was a seasoned pro at the art of escaping; starting in the 1980s, Ken successfully escaped numerous times from his enclosure.  His deft escapes were so clever (and frequent) that his orangutan friends eventually learned his tricks of the trade and began freeing themselves as well!  Because of this, Ken quickly gained notoriety and celebrity status in San Diego, complete with t-shirts, his own fan club, and bumper stickers that read, “Free Ken Allen.”

gothamist.com

gothamist.com

4.  The Long Island Takeover of 1935– Frank Buck, an exotic animal collector, had his own animal park on Long Island where 170 Rhesus monkeys escaped from in 1935.  A plank of wood was left over a moat surrounding their area, inciting their breakout; naturally, chaos ensued!  The local law enforcement received countless complaints of “monkey business” throughout the island with these creatures climbing on houses and causes minor (and harmless) disturbances.  As a token of his appreciation for anyone willing to help recapture the escapees, Buck offered a reward for the missing monkeys– a season pass to his zoo!  Read more here.

Mike Burton/The Advertiser

3. Australian Love Triangle– In 2008, Satara, a 2 ton, 18 year old rhino stormed out of his enclosure in a jealous rage when his mate Yhura “left him” for a younger male.*  Satara fathered Yhura’s first baby in 2005, but apparently wasn’t up for fathering a second, hence the pairing of Yhura with another (younger) male.  The heartbroken Satara eventually made his way back to his pen after his anger (and jealousy) had subsided later that afternoon, and thankfully, minimal damage was done to other enclosures within the zoo.  *According to reports by zoo keepers at the Monarto Zoo in Australia.  Read more details of the sordid affair here.

courtesy of Japan's Coast Guard

Japanese Coast Guard

2.  Sayonara, Suckers– Just last year, a one-year-old Humboldt penguin escaped from his harborside residence at the Tokyo Sea Life Park in Japan.  Keepers at the park went on daily searches, but were unsuccessful in tracking him down.  After three months, and several reported sightings of the flightless fugitive swimming happily in the Tokyo Bay, a keeper at the aquarium finally spotted him walking along the bay.  The brave little penguin was ultimately recaptured by the keeper, and despite fears of radiation contamination in the water, the penguin appeared to be happy and healthy upon his return to the park. Click here to read more about this penguin’s 3 month Tokyo Bay vacay!

Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society

1.  The Reptilian Recluse– Last but not least, the infamous (and nameless) naughty little Egyptian cobra that escaped from an off-exhibit holding cage at the Bronx Zoo’s World of Reptiles.  Unclear of exactly how the sneaky snake got out, the World of Reptiles was closed while zoo staff searched for the venomous reptile.  According to Jim Breheny, Director, snakes are “shy, secretive creatures” and this one “would feel vulnerable and seek out a place to hide and feel safe” upon leaving her enclosure.  Fortunately, Mr. Breheny was absolutely correct; the 20 inch snake was discovered a week later in a nonpublic area of the Reptile House coiled up under a series of pipes and other equipment.  These days, you can catch her updating her twitter account on a regular basis @BronxZoosCobra (she’s got nearly 200,000 followers, too).  Find out more about how she was lost and found.

 

The Wonders of a Zoo…After Dark

Flashlight Safari at Reptiland

Have you ever wondered what happens in a zoo after dark? You might imagine something similar to “Night at the Museum” where all the animals magically come out of their cages and begin their nightly frolics. Believe it or not, this isn’t the case. Many animals, however, are more active after the lights go out than they are during the daytime. Don’t quite believe it? A visit to Reptiland’s annual Flashlight Safari will ease your doubts.

Like a giant factory, nature works around the clock. When the animals of the day shift retire for evening, their nocturnal counterparts fill in the same niches at night. For example- think about birds and bats. Whereas you see birds during the day, bats take their place at night. In actuality there are more nocturnal animals, both in sheer numbers and in number of species, than diurnal (active during the day) animals.

Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland offers an annual event that allows visitors to see these nocturnal animals up close, viewing the habits that we typically miss. You’ll be amazed by the efficiency of most nocturnal animals. Snakes, for example are among the most efficient nocturnal predators, even thouflashlight safarigh they have poor eyesight. Their excellent sense of smell aids in detecting and tracking prey. Snakes smell with their tongue and some even have heat-sensing organs on either side of the face to detect the distance and location of the prey. Flashlight Safari offers the opportunity to venture through Reptiland’s Exhibit Gallery with nothing but a flashlight to guide you, seeing these incredible creatures at work. You will see mambas, cobras, pythons and rattlesnakes, along with aquatic turtles, poisonous dart frogs, tree monitors and crocodilians. But that’s not all–there will also be opportunities to touch certain animals. . . an American alligator, for one. Also in the lineup for up-close viewing will be Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a tarantula, emperor scorpion, and boa constrictor.

After all this, be sure to step outside and explore Dinosaurs Come to Life, our animatronic dinosaur exhibit featuring a dozen species of life-size extinct reptiles. Torches and spotlights will help guide you through this journey where you’ll see a Baryonyx waiting in the swamp, the venom-spitting Dilophosaurus, gentle Brachiousaurus, a nervous Euoplocephalus and of course the two story tall Tyrannosaurus rex!

The adventure awaits the next two weekends at Reptiland on Friday and Saturday, October 19th & 26th  and 20th & 27th  from 6-9pm. Live nocturnal animal shows  featuring a great horned owl, Norway rat, emperor scorpion, giant Indian fruit bat, rattlesnake and more will be presented at 6, 7, and 8pm each night. Groups of 15 or more people that call in advance will qualify for special discounted rates. So, leave the ghosts and goblins for another time, and this year go on a Flashlight Safari at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland for an unforgettable experience!

butterflies

Spring Happenings

It’s an exciting time of year at Reptiland, the time of year we as a staff come to anticipate. This is the time that we welcome not only warm breezes and new blossoms, but also the opening of our seasonal exhibits. The planning starts earlier than you might think; before the end of 2011 was in sight, we had committed to bringing back the dinosaur exhibit. . . and making it even more impressive than before! Along with some new dinos, we will welcome back some favorites including Tyrannosaurus rex, Dilophosaurus, Euoplocephalus, our Parasaurolophus nest, and Chasmosaurus. New dinos you should keep an eye out for: an adult Parasaurolophus photo opportunity, Baryonyx, a pair of hunting Coelophysis, and a juvenile T. rex. All in all, we’ll have twelve dinosaurs on display from April 28 through Labor Day. Several dinosaurs will even remain at Reptiland permanently, allowing visitors to view them year round.

But that’s noSpring Happenings at Reptilandt all we’ve been up to… a few months ago, we placed our annual butterfly plant order. These carefully selected plants have been raised under the special care of the gardeners at Ashcombe Farms greenhouse near Mechanicsburg. It is essential that the plants are grown free of pesticides and harmful chemicals in order to be safe for the captivating butterflies that will soon live off of their nectar. The butterfly exhibit plants were delivered, transferred and planted into our butterfly greenhouse last week. By the middle of April, we will begin receiving our first shipments of butterfly chrysalis. We work with several butterfly farms in order to exhibit many different species, all native to North America. The butterflies are sent to us in the chrysalis stage and take anywhere from 5 to 10 days to emerge into an adult butterfly. Once a butterfly emerges it will, on average, live for about two weeks. The butterfly exhibit is a very relaxing place to stroll through and has been a favorite for guests over the past several years.

The butterfly exhibit, along with Dinosaurs Come to Life will be opening on April 28, 2012. Again this year, we will treat our members and exhibit sponsors to an exclusive preview night, to be held from 4-7 pm on Friday, April 27th. The exhibits open to the general public the following day, Saturday, April 28th.

Aldabra baby tortoises

Aldabra Tortoise Babies

Being a zoo keeper can be very exciting, especially when we get the chance to acquire and work with baby animals. We care for these young, vulnerable critters and take part in their growth and development into mature healthy adults. Some animals take longer than others to get to the adult stage such as the Aldabra tortoise babies that we just received from another AZA accredited institution. These two siblings were hatched in January 2011.

Aldabra tortoise babies

 

It may be 25 years before they are considered adults of breeding age, in contrast to some snake and lizard species that can hatch and grow to breeding age in a year’s time. Until the time these young animals are big enough to be housed with our current adult Aldabra tortoises, they will be kept separate and off-display where keepers can keep a close eye on their eating habits, give them an occasional soak, and record their weights over time. Within our large collection, we are currently raising two juvenile Komodo dragons, two common boa constrictors, Aldabra tortoises, frog-eyed geckos, Malaysian leaf frogs, and numerous species of poison dart frogs.

Komodo Dragons at Reptiland

Komodo dragons are found on only a handful of Indonesian islands and are rarely exported to other countries. North American zoos cooperatively manage a captive population of dragons as an SSP (Species Survival Plan), but in recent years, the US population suffered the loss of many adult females and the breeding program stalled. In 2010, the Los Angeles Zoo successfully hatched a large clutch of eggs, breathing new life into the dragon population. Reptiland received two of those offspring and joined the Komodo Dragon SSP.

Komodo dragons at Reptiland
The Peeling Productions team installing a perimeter fence around what will become the home for our Komodo dragons.

We committed to building a facility to house and breed these giant lizards in Central PA, and work on a new 3,000 square foot building has begun. Komodo dragons are unlike other lizards—they are active and need lots of space. Our new facility will include a 1,300 sq ft indoor exhibit, a large indoor holding area with shift facility, and a lush outdoor exhibit for warm weather viewing. Because dragons like it hot—95 degrees everyday, year-round—the building will need to be very well insulated. With that in mind, we have incorporated a living roof into our design, a first at Reptiland.

*6/14/13 Update: The Komodo dragon exhibit, Island Giants, is now open to the public!