(FORT WAYNE) - The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo opens for the 2015 season on Saturday, kicking off a summer-long 50th birthday celebration filled with new exhibits, special events, and an adorable baby Sumatran orangutan.
"With so much to celebrate, 2015 will be a milestone year for the zoo," says Zoo Director Jim Anderson. "We can't wait to share it all with our guests."
Sumatran Orangutan Baby
Asmara the baby Sumatran orangutan is sure to capture hearts when she makes her public debut this season. Born at the zoo in November, Asmara represents a critically endangered species on the brink of extinction. "This little orangutan will help connect people to our important conservation work," says Anderson. "Our guests will be able to watch her grow and develop all season long."
Phase 2 of the Australian Adventure renovation opens this season. The former aquarium exhibit is reborn as The Reef, and will open in late May. The renovated display features new theming, new fish including venomous lionfish, and a completely renovated 17,000-gallon coral reef tank. "We drained the tank, rebuilt the artificial coral, and buffed decades of tiny scratches off the 27-foot-long acrylic window," says Anderson. "The result will be a sparkling showcase of this diverse ecosystem."
Hundreds of pilchards, a Pacific schooling fish, and black-tip sharks will move into the 50,000-gallon Shark Tank later this season.
Later this summer, Stingray Bay will bring this popular aquatic species to the zoo. Housed in the former Nocturnal Building, Stingray Bay will feature a wide 20,000-gallon pool teeming with two-foot-wide stingrays. A July opening is planned for Stingray Bay.
The zoo turns 50 years old this summer and many special activities will mark this milestone. A Birthday Party on July 1 will be a highlight. The zoo is the theme of the Three Rivers Festival parade on July 11, and will feature a one-of-a-kind animal-themed float designed by zoo keepers. Special activities, promotions, and events will celebrate the zoo's 50-year history all season long.
Guests can continue to enjoy old favorites like Croaky the Frog, the Lion Drinking Fountain, and Monkey Island, all of which have been at the zoo since it opened on July 3, 1965.
"The zoo was built by the community, and continues to be generously supported by our community," says Anderson, noting that the non-profit zoo receives no tax funding. "Our birthday gives us a chance to thank our members and friends for 50 years of support."
Guest Amenities and Programs
"With more than 540,000 guests each season, we devote significant resources to providing excellent guest experiences," says Anderson. In 2015, guests will enjoy expanded seating at the renovated Tree Tops Café in the Indonesian Rain Forest, as well as new menus in the zoo's three restaurants.
New VIP Experiences take guests behind the scenes to help zoo keepers feed the animals. For additional fees, guests can step onto the beach to feed the penguins, toss fish to the pelicans, create treats for the giraffes, or feed the jellyfish.
The new Parkview Physicians Group Pavilions will open for business this spring. The facilities can be rented for group picnics and outings.
By participating in cooperative management programs for more than 90 species and taxa, the zoo is helping to preserve genetic diversity in endangered and threatened animals from around the world, including Sumatran orangutans, reticulated giraffes, African penguins, black-breasted leaf turtles, and Sumatran tigers.
"Our Kids4Nature program invites every guest to participate in conservation at the zoo," says Anderson. Guests receive a recycled metal washer at the ticket booth, and use it to "vote" for their favorite conservation project. "Last year, our guests helped direct more than $80,000 toward important conservation projects around the world," says Anderson.
News, updates, and zoo events can be found on the zoo's website, kidszoo.org.
About the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo:
The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo's mission is to connect kids and animals, strengthen families, and inspire people to care. The zoo is northeast Indiana's largest tourist attraction, hosting more than 540,000 guests annually. The zoo received the 2014 TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Award, was voted Indiana's #1 "Gotta-Do Summer Attraction," and is consistently named one of the nation's Top Ten Zoos for Kids by national media outlets.
The zoo is a conservation leader, contributing more than $80,000 annually to local, regional, and international efforts to protect wild animals and habitats, and participating in cooperative management programs for 91 endangered species and taxa. The zoo was named Northeast Indiana's Sustainable Business of the Year in 2014.
As a self-supporting facility, the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo receives no tax dollars for operations. The zoo's operations are funded entirely by earned revenue and donations.
The zoo opens for the 2015 season on April 25, 2015. Hours are 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM daily; last admission 5:00 PM; exhibits, rides, & buildings close at 5:30 PM; grounds close at 6:00 PM. The zoo is open seven days a week through October 11, 2015. Admission is $14.00 for adults; $10.50 for seniors age 60+; and $9.00 for children ages 2-18. Babies age 1 and under and Zoo Society Members are admitted free.
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