Exclusive Zoological Society Members-only
Behind-the-Scenes Information

September-December 2010
By Brianne Schwantes 

[Online-only stories, social media, photo galleries, videos and special projects]

  • When is the last time you visited our Web site, It has so many great new features, including a jam-packed calendar of Zoological Society of Milwaukee (ZSM) events, videos, and exclusive Web-only stories about Zoo animals, keepers, and conservation projects. For instance, see to read a field diary by Craig Berg, the Zoo’s aquarium and reptile curator who’s studying endangered frogs and snakes in Grenada.
  • Are you on Facebook? Let’s be friends! Check out the ZSM’s new page: Stay on top of animal updates, Web-only features, events, photos, special promotions, and more.  We invite you to join the conversation by posting on our “Wall” and submitting your own Zoo photos, too!
  • Want to be even more connected? Get daily Zoological Society updates by following us on the micro-blogging site Twitter ( 
  • Plus, watch Zoo videos on our YouTube channel,


    Dr. John Scheels, Zoo dentist
    Dr. John Scheels, Zoo dentist
  • Good luck trying to get a gorilla, grizzly bear, or Amur tiger to brush its teeth. Chances are they don’t remember to floss after every meal, either. That’s why the Milwaukee County Zoo’s animals are lucky to have Wauwatosa dentist Dr. John Scheels caring for their teeth. For over 30 years, Dr. Scheels has been the Zoo’s dentist—and he volunteers his time! He has performed dental procedures on more than 70 species of animals. You can see pictures, view specimens, and read case information about Dr. Scheels' animal patients in a new dental exhibit in the Holz Family Foundation Learning Zone of the Animal Health Center, next to the flamingo pond. This display, designed by Zoological Society artists, includes five animal skulls, teeth from a warthog and a rhino, jaws of a Dall sheep, and photos of animal skulls and jaws (including that of the famous Samson the gorilla). Take a look at this display next time you visit the Animal Health Center!

[fish, frogs, snakes, lizards, moon jellies, octopus, spiders, scorpions, turtles, etc.]

  • The young redtail catfish recently was released from the "howdy net" and joined the rest of the fish in the Amazon Exhibit. The howdy net safely separates a new fish off from the rest until the newcomer and the veterans are acclimated to each other. Next time you visit the ARC, check for him on the left wall.  He seems to feel most comfortable hanging out in that general area. 
  • A frontosa cichlid was recently added to the fish collection in the African Lakes Exhibit. The building has been without a frontosa for a while, and the staff is excited to have a large and colorful cichlid back on exhibit. Cichlids are tropical or subtropical freshwater fishes that are superficially similar to American sunfishes.
  • The female green crested basilisk lizard, which starred on the cover of Alive magazine in April 2001, is dead at age 15. She had been blind for several years and did well until her health went downhill this summer. She had to be euthanized.

[elephants, hippos, rhinos, warthogs, giraffes]

  • Thanks to everyone who came out for Elephant Appreciation Day (Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010) from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. This first-ever event featured behind-the-scenes tours, a zookeeper talk, elephant artifacts, and lots more! There were also lots of fun activities for kids, including face painting, temporary tattoos, and a craft station where kids created pairs of elephant ears.  Congratulations to the Pachyderm Area staff for putting together such a great event!

APES OF AFRICA [bonobos and gorillas] & PRIMATES OF THE WORLD [Diana monkeys, colobus monkeys, mandrills, spider monkeys, orangutans, siamangs, etc.]

  • The  Zoological Society's conservation coordinator, Dr. Gay E. Reinartz, spends much of her time helping bonobos and the people who share their habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Web site recently posted a fascinating article about Dr. Reinartz’s work with the bonobos, her thoughts on conservation, and the challenges she faces in trying to save “a species in one of the world's most forgotten places.”  Read the article here:

[Asian-Himalayan black bear, red panda, camels and a few other Asian animals]

    Furlow the camel with his mom
    Furlow the camel with his mom
  • Our young male camel, Furlow, continues to grow and develop.  When Furlow turned 6 months old in August, he weighed 430 pounds! He has been busy with training, and his keepers say he’s doing really well. Furlow will be leaving the Zoo sometime before the end of the year. 

[Red kangaroos, tree kangaroos, emus, Great Barrier Reef aquarium]

  • Look carefully the next time you visit the red kangaroo exhibit in the Australia Building. You may see some of the four red kangaroo joeys making “full-body” appearances out of their moms’ pouches.
  • A butterfly fish and several clown fish have been added to the Great Barrier Reef tanks in the Australia Building. They provide some nice color to the aquarium, and the clown fish is one of the most elaborate fish at the Zoo. 


    Rhinoceros hornbills are large birds with colorful beaks
    Rhinoceros hornbills are large birds with colorful beaks
  • How to find bird exhibits: Some of the exhibits in the aviary are quite big, such as the gentoo and rockhopper penguin exhibit near the east entrance to the building. Smaller exhibits can be hard to find. Here is the order of exhibits from the east end to west end of the building:
    1. Jewel Exhibit (birds such as the sora rail, red-legged honeycreeper);
    2. penguins;
    3. East flight, a large, open-flight area where birds such as storks and terns soar over your head;
    4. These are a series of smaller exhibits called TROPIC 1 through TROPIC 8 (small signs identify each exhibit) in which you’ll find teals, tanagers, kookaburras and more;
    5. Kopje Exhibit (referring to a type of rocky hill in Africa) featuring plovers and hornbills;
    6. Termite Mound Exhibit;
    7. Shorebird Exhibit;
    8. Guam kingfisher, the most endangered bird species in the world;
    9. Borneo Exhibit (rhino hornbills); and
    10. Australian Exhibit (tawny frogmouth bird).
  • A few birds have moved around in the aviary: Two taveta golden weavers decided they would much rather live in the free-flight exhibit (known as East Flight) with their friends (including the other taveta golden weaver). Originally, they were in Tropic 3 (a smaller exhibit down the hall) but these adventurous birds made a break for it one evening or early morning. Now, all three weaver birds are living quite happily in East Flight and seem to have made friends with a crimson backed tanager there. Also, the rhinoceros hornbills, Vianna and Victor, are now in the Borneo Exhibit and are doing very well together. Look for a story on hornbills in your January 2011 Alive magazine.
  • Visit the three red-billed hornbill chicks in the Kopje Exhibit, which is about in the middle of the aviary. The chicks are a little smaller than the adults and have slightly shorter beaks.
  • Liberty the penguin chick
    Liberty the penguin chick
  • OUTDOOR PENGUINS: Fall is a great time to visit the Humboldt penguins, especially just after the Zoo opens at 9:30 a.m. They love the cooler weather and spend a lot of time swimming and playing in their outdoor pool. Mongo (identified by a red band on his right wing) has started climbing up the rockwork again, and you’ll often see him up at top. Breaking News! Mongo and Penelope are a bonded pair. Penelope traded in her purple band for a shiny red one on her left wing (where females wear their bands). Meanwhile, Farley (yellow band on right) is a widower after his mate, Lil’ Gal, passed away. Now he spends a lot more time in the pool with Mariano (blue band on right).
  • PENGUIN CHICK: Keep your eyes peeled for Liberty (born July 4), the youngest member of the Humboldt penguin flock. Liberty loves the pool and often is outside with her mom, Eva (green band on the left) and Dad Jack (green band on the right). Liberty is easy to tell apart from the adult birds because she has no band on her wing and she doesn’t have the stripes the adults do; her back is steel gray and her belly is pale gray. A sponsorship of Liberty makes a great holiday gift.

[Lions, tigers, jaguars, cheetahs, snow leopards, hyenas] 

  • We’re excited that Amba, our female tiger, is back on exhibit once again. She had been sick over the summer but thanks to some new medications and a special no-beef diet, she seems to be doing a lot better. It’s hard to believe, but this carnivore does better with a chicken diet.
  • Remember those cute tiger cubs born July 2009? Not only are they bigger than you are, but they are losing their baby teeth. Don’t get too close!

[AFRICAN SAVANNA: impalas, gazelles, vultures, stork, bongos]

  • Did you know that impalas can leap nearly 10 feet in the air? They also move from one side to the other, often leaping back and forth in front of each other. So when you visit the Holz Family Impala Country in spring, see if you can catch youngsters Cassia and Korintje in a leap. Also, did you know that the English word for impala sounds somewhat like the Swahili term:  swala pala.


  • Exciting news! By December you can visit the new Munchin Dairy Farm, sponsored by Northwestern Mutual Foundation. You’ll find it in the dairy barn, next to the cow-milking demonstration area. Children can play in the new truck, tractor, and silo, and learn how a dairy farm works. This colorful and fun area, which has been completely re-done, is designed for younger children.
  • Congratulations to our barn owl Arwen, who has now learned to perch on a glove and go on a scale.  It is much more convenient to have Arwen go on the scale herself instead of having to catch her whenever we needed to get her monthly weight.
  • Wynter, the Zoo's groundhog, spent some time exploring the ceiling of the Stackner Animal Encounter building last winter after escaping her cage through a ceiling tile. In response, zookeepers modified her cage. So, hopefully, this winter she won’t be quite so adventurous!

[Wolf Woods, moose, mule deer, elk, Dall sheep, Alaskan brown bears, grizzly bears, black bears, prairie dogs, caribou-reindeer]

  • Zookeepers have prepared the grizzly, black, and brown bears for winter. They’ve added herring to the bears’ diets to improve their body conditions for the hibernation season. 
  • Cinnamon the black bear has returned to exhibit life after successfully recuperating from not one but two root canals.
  • Tink, our camera-shy badger, has been spotted a number of times (check our Facebook page). One of the best times to see her is at feeding time (around noon). Last summer, she also made an unauthorized excursion into the moat during the first night of the Zoological Society’s campout at the Zoo.


  • During the summer, Oceans of Fun staff members organized and ran the Green Living Center, in the Otto Borchert Family Special Exhibits Building. For a minimum 50-cent donation, visitors could cool down with a freeze pop while learning about environmental issues from a variety of displays. All donations collected went to help animals affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill! To date, they have raised about $1,800! The Green Living Center is closed for the season, but thanks to the positive reception, it likely will be back next summer. 


  • While many people are sad to put away the sandals and sunscreen, one Zoo animal is looking forward to winter: Snow Lilly, the Zoo’s resident polar bear. The harbor seals nearby—in a combination predator-prey exhibit—don’t mind the cold, either.

[Otters, lemurs, bats, meerkats, black-footed cat, sugar gliders, mongoose, tayra, bushbaby, tamarins, douroucouli, springhaas, and more]

  • One of our female vampire bats had a baby. Both mom and baby are doing fine, and this makes our total vampire bat count at 22 as of September 2010.
  • Somehow, our male ringtail lemur, Gandalf (named after a character in the movie series “Lord of the Rings”), came down with a broken tail tip. Unfortunately, the tip had to be removed, and this summer his tail had a bandage (which Gandalf kept trying to pull off).  Now he has recovered. There’s no word yet on whether the missing tail tip will interfere with Gandalf’s quest to help Frodo destroy the One Ring. 
  • Sadly, our youngest male meerkat recently passed away. Veterinarians have not yet determined a cause of death. The three other meerkat brothers and their keepers miss him already.
  • A male and female fennec fox, named Duke and Daisy, arrived at the Zoo in mid-October. These are small African mammals known for their really big ears.

(Where warm-climate animals live in winter and are housed at night)

    Kudus at the Milwaukee County Zoo spend the winter indoors, off exhibit
    Kudus at the Milwaukee County Zoo spend the winter indoors, off exhibit
  • On Sept. 7, our two young greater kudus were weighed. The female, Tamu (2 years, 7 months old), weighed 357 pounds. The male, Barudi (1 year and 8 months old), weighed 494 pounds. Interestingly, Barudi weighs more than his father, Chandler, weighed at this age. 

Zoological Society of Milwaukee's Conservation Education Department

  • Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts can now earn an animal Badge-in-a-Day through classes at the Milwaukee County Zoo, thanks to Conservation Education Department instructor Chris Uitz. For more information or to register for the scouting programs, call (414) 258-5058 or visit our web site.

Specialized Zoo Tours

  • Get the most out of your Zoo visit with special maps just for what interests you. Check our Web site,, and look under Planning Your Visit. We have self-directed tours with color maps and recommendations from Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser. Pick from snowy-day tours, a route to see playful animals, tours with hands-on fun and more! You can print out tours and maps from your computer and bring them to the Zoo. Or you can purchase inexpensive specific tours and maps from the Zoological Society’s Guest Services desk when you walk into the Zoo through the U.S. Bank Gathering Place atrium.
  • Also look for our new tours called Art at the Zoo Tour and Poetry Tour. See and
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