Thursday, September 13, 2018

Snakes: Suppose to be deadly not look beautiful

eeeeeek!!! A snake!

Before you scream and walk (run) away, could you give us just a couple of minutes? Here at Wildwood Wildlife Park we are interested in what snakes do and, yes … we like them. We really do!

One of the reasons why these beautiful creatures are so misunderstood is due in part to the fact that in the wild snakes are difficult to observe without disturbing them. (Snakes on a Plane may be the other reason.)

Despite the difficulty, scientists spend a lot of time in the field when snakes are active to observe what they do and how they act and interact with each other. Thanks to the benefits of modern electronics to enhance traditional methods that allow experts to observe snakes without human presence, scientists have made a number of surprisingly discoveries.

What we have learned from these scientific studies is the previous line of thinking of snake behavior, specifically sharing a den as a place to seek shelter from the cold due to a lack of suitable places for snakes to seek refuge is not the full story. In relatively mild climates such as Arizona, scientists have discovered that rattlesnakes willingly share dens. The conclusion from remotely monitoring these dens is that Arizona black rattlesnakes are social creatures. More than just a shelter from the cold, dens may serve as a type of social hub for snake communities where these reptiles learn from each other; such as good places to bask, hunt or even give birth. Who knew that snakes had friends? 

Remote videography monitoring of rattlesnake nest sites has given scientists new insights into the lives of rattlesnake families. What have they learned? Snakes take care of their young, defend them from threats and “snake-sit” the neighbors young.

So what have you learned? Take a closer look at the photo above. How many snakes do you see? Look at how they are interacting with each other. Do you see how these reptiles appear comfortable - even friendly with each other.

The next time a snake crosses your path - take a moment to appreciate the beauty of nature. Instead of running in fear that a snake is out to get you, you now know that snake may be on its way back to take care of the little ones in the nursery.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Fun Flamingo Facts

 Flamingos are one of the worlds most recognized birds - even if you have never stepped foot in the ocean! The long curvy necks, backward-bending knees, yellow and black bills - and of course their distinctive pink color make this tropical wading bird a favorite of zoos (and lawns) everywhere. But more on that later.

There are six different species of flamingos however, it takes a expert eye to tell the species apart. The Andean, puna, Chilean and American flamingos are all residents of South America. Both the lesser and greater flamingos are found in large numbers in Africa. During the breeding season, greater and lesser flamingos regularly migrate to the Middle East. Near the Mediterranean greater flamingos can be found in the wild along the southern Mediterranean Sea.

Adult flamingos stand four to six feet tall and weigh between four and eight pounds. This surprising lack of body weight is needed for the birds to be able to take flight.

The feathers under their wings, known as flight feathers, are black however, these feathers can only be seen when the birds are flying.

Flamingos feed in muddy flats and shallow water stirring up mud with their long legs and webbed feet. Reaching down, they bury their bills (and sometimes their entire head) into the water gathering up a scoopful of mud and water. A flamingo's beak is designed to remove food before the liquid is expelled.  

One of the questions we are often asked is why do flamingos stand on one leg? Scientists have offered a number of theories but even the experts remain stumped as to why flamingos prefer standing on one leg. You can read several of the ideas here.

Did you know that a flock of flamingos is called a flamboyance? They find safety in numbers, which helps protect individual birds from predators while their heads are down in the mud. In the wild, a colony can number up to several hundred birds. You can see this on a smaller scale at the flamingo exhibit at Wildwood Wildlife Park. The different species of flamingos have their own distinct communal mating rituals. You can read about the individual mating dances here.

The flamingos signature pink color is derived from beta-carotene found in the crustaceans and plankton the birds feed on. Flamingos in zoos will turn white if their diet is not supplemented with live shrimp or flamingo chow that contains the carotenoid pigments.

Known as the seventh species of flamingos, the plastic lawn flamingo (Phoenicopterus plasticus) was introduced in 1957 by Don Featherstone and soon became an American cultural icon. In the 21st century the plastic lawn flamingo was considered endangered. Efforts continue today to revive the art form and in 2009, Madison, Wisconsin, named Phoenicopterus plasticus the city's official bird.

Phoenicopterus plasticus photo by Flickr user Kim Kruse

Monday, July 23, 2018

Arabian Oryx: Back From Extinction

The graceful Arabian Oryx is not only among the largest desert animals of the Arab region but is one of the rarest animals on earth. Among the four species of oryx, the Arabian Oryx is the smallest. 

The Arabian Oryx is an antelope that has evolved to its harsh environment in response to the intense solar heat of the deserts and gravel plains of the Middle East where these animals make their home. The bright white coat reflects the suns rays, keeping the animals cooler even during the hottest part of the day. Their dark legs, in contrast, absorb heat during the bitter chill of desert mornings. Their hooves are splayed and shovel-like, providing a large surface area with which to walk on the sandy ground.

Because the skin of Arabian Oryx lacks glare and reflection, it is very difficult to spot them even at a distance of over 100 yards. At that distance they seem almost invisible. Oryx also possess a very unusual circulation system to cool their blood in their heads, very helpful for desert dwellers.

Graceful and powerful, both male and female oryx possess straight, ringed horns as long as 27 inches; the female’s are thinner and longer than those of the male. Oryx have been known to kill lions with their lethal horns. Because of this, they are known as ‘saber antelope’. These horns play an important role when adult males engage in battle to establish their hierarchy determining the dominate male among a herd.

The mythical unicorn may have originated in part from the Arabian oryx because, when viewed in profile, they appear to have only one horn.

Due to their social nature, Abrarian Oryx usually live in large herds that can have as many as 100 members. 

Arabian Oryx are active mostly during the early morning and late evening, resting in the shade when the midday heat is at its most intense. Using their hooves, oryx dig shallow depressions in the ground so they can lie in cooler sand, surrounded with bushes and shrubs which provide some protection against the fierce desert winds.

These remarkable creatures have adapted to their environment surviving  the inhospitable climate and sparse availability of food due to its ability to go without water for a prolonged period of time; this ability can only be rivaled by that of the camel.

In the 1930’s, Arabian princes and oil company employees began hunting the Arabian oryx with automobiles and rifles. The hunts grew in size to the point that by the middle of the 20th century were effectively extinct. The last Arabian oryx in the wild was killed by poachers in 1972.

It was due to the efforts of captive breeding that succeeded in preserving the species. Wildwood Wildlife Park is proud to be part of the effective conservation efforts of captive breeding and reintroduction. Wild populations of Arabian Oryx now live in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Oman. The population is still fragile due to high mortality in the harsh environment.

In 1986 the oryx was classified as endangered and in 2011 it was the first animal to revert to vulnerable status after being listed as extinct in the wild. In 2011 populations were estimated at over 1,000 individuals in the wild and 6,000-7,000 individuals in zoos and wildlife preserves worldwide. The Arabian oryx is one of the most successful stories of conservation recovery.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memories & Experiences to Last a Lifetime!

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."

The above quote, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, sums up the mission of Wildwood Wildlife Park: to provide an exciting zoological collection and educational facility to all visitors. Promoting life-long learning by enriching minds, fostering environmental respect, while helping prepare our visitor for our conservation future. We strive to provide experiences that last a lifetime with every visit no matter your age.

A visit to the zoo is an educational experience by itself and we believe by involving our visitors in our conservation efforts we expand the circle of people who will make a difference.

Wildwood Wildlife Park is dedicated to the understanding, celebration and conservation of wildlife through the excellence in education, animal husbandry, exhibits and community relations.

It is in this spirit the park created the William E. Gardner Education and Events Center. 

Located adjacent to the Living History Center and the Dino Dig Adventure, our zoo's Educational Center is filled with amazing hands on exhibits. Visitors can see into the world of the honeybee and witness them performing their amazing duties to produce honey. 

Microscopes help you identify insects - educational stations teach identification including skulls, fur and artifacts.

There are many other displays including tarantula, lizard, frog, gecko, scorpion and finches. There are so many opportunities to learn in every corner of the center. 

Our conservation corner features videos that share the conservation efforts Wildwood Wildlife Park is involved in to help protect and preserve rhinos, sloths, lemurs, leopards, and tigers all of which our zoo actively supports.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon: What's Not To Love?

 Gibbons are members of the family Hylobatidae and though they are apes, they are known as lesser, or small, apes. The Species name:  Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys).  They are found in very small regions of Vietnam, Laos and China, although it hasn’t been seen in China since 1990.  The only known viable population 130 groups totaling about 455 gibbons living near the border of Vietnam and Laos.

These arboreal lesser apes evolved for life in the trees.  But when people cut those trees down the gibbons had nowhere left to go. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list status is critically endangered.  Their numbers have declined by 80 percent or more over the past 45 years, primarily due to habitat loss and poaching.

White-Cheeked gibbon’s appearance varies by age and sex.  All infants are a beige color but by the time they are a year to a year and a half old, their coats have become black with white cheek patches.  At sexual maturity (five to seven years), males remain black and females turn a beige color again. Adult gibbon are 18 to 25 inches tall and weigh about 15 to 20 pounds.

The adult female leads the hierarchy, followed by her female and male offspring, respectively, with the adult male coming in last.  Gibbons have an arboreal lifestyle and live primarily in forest canopies.  They are diurnal meaning they are most active during the day and sleep in the night. 

Gibbons eat mostly fruits about 65 percent of their diet and 35 percent consists of leaves.  At Wildwood Wildlife Park, the gibbons are fed a mixture of fruits and vegetables, primate biscuits and leaf-eater biscuits.

The female has a gestation period of several months, after which a single offspring is born.  The baby clings to its mother from birth up to about 2 years of age after which it is weaned.  Both parents take care of the infant.  The young become independent when they are 3 years old, and sexually mature at 6 years old.

Gibbons are territorial and mark their zones throughout the day with vocalizations.   Defense takes the form of calls. Vocalization is a major social investment.  The basic pattern is an introductory sequence where both males and females “warm-up.” Calls are often accompanied by behavioral acrobatics.

To strengthen the bond between them, male and female gibbons perform a sort of duet.  When the female starts off a tune in an increasing pitch, followed by the male who joins in, and this can last between 5 to 17 minutes.  Males can make booming calls because of their gular sacs.

Being brachiators, (use their arms to move from tree branch to tree branch) their hands are specially adapted so they don’t grasp the branches while swinging from one to another; instead they form a loose hook around the branches, which helps them in the swinging.  Their hands are also long, and the arms elongated, further facilitating the swinging motion.

Our visitors comment that they have been entertained for hours just watching the gibbons engaging in their acrobatics antics. If you are a first time Wildwood visitor we guarantee you will love watching the gibbons in action! Repeat visitors to Wildwood who are familiar with our gibbons have been know to run to the exhibit when they hear the gibbons sounding off.  

As a Zoological Association of American accredited facility we are involved in many reintroduction programs, rescue and rehabilitation work.  Sadly, modern-day conservation of threatened or endangered species cannot simply be limited to protecting or reintroducing animals in their native ranges.  For many, the “wild” is disappearing as humans encroach on their natural habitats. To ensure a species’ long-term survival, captive propagation of wildlife has become an essential part of the conversation and the only insulation against a potential collapse of wild populations. Our managed breeding program at Zoological Association of American is named the Animal Management Program (AMP).  Through the AMP our members are involved in the Gibbon Conservation Program.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Raking Weekend 2018 Reschedule

Looking as if you are inside a snow globe is pretty if:

It is December.

You are hoping for a white Christmas.

Looking as if you are inside a snow globe is NOT pretty if:

It is April and you are looking forward to the opening of the 2018 season.

With the recent weather system that is moving through northern Wisconsin adding copious amounts of snow to our recent cover of snow that amounted to a foot of snow, we have had to reschedule our Annual Raking Cleanup Weekend to the weekend of April 21st and April 22nd.

Below is our revised flyer with the rescheduled dates. You can share the flyer by attaching to an email or click on the image to print it out for distribution.

We are holding on to the hope that the weather will cooperate to allow our scheduled Opening Day of April 28th. Fingers crossed!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Bearded Dragon: The Scary Looking Gentle Dragon

Check out the photo of our bearded dragons basking in their enclosure totally oblivious to the frigid winter weather outside!

Bearded dragons are a type of lizard that originate from Australia. These friendly reptiles are yellow or tan, and they get their name from the way they can flare the skin at their throats. Natural habitat of the beardie include deserts, arid & rocky areas, dry forests & scrublands. Unlike other lizards, bearded dragons are not able to detach their tails if they need to escape from predators. If they lose or damage their tails they will be tailless for the rest of their lives.

A few fun facts about bearded dragons include:

  • The bearded dragon's tail is almost as long as its body.
  • Beardies flare their skin on their throat area when feeling threatened to make them appear more threatening to predators and other animals.
  • Males and females can be easily distinguished by a couple of features. Males have wider heads and they are longer than females. Females have thinner and more slender tails than males.
  • Spines grow on their throat, sides of the body and their head.
  • Beardies eat a variety of things: greens, leaves, fruit, flowers, and insects.

Bearded dragons make interesting pets and are fairly low maintenance however, they do require regular care and the right setup.

One important fact to consider when buying a bearded dragon for a pet is how long they live. The average lifespan is five to ten years, so purchasing a beardie is a commitment that should not be taken lightly. These reptiles make unique, friendly pets and need a minimal amount of care. However, they'll need that care for their entire lives, so be sure you're making a commitment you're prepared to live with.