A New Home for Eastern Indigo Snakes

Our eastern indigo snakes have slithered their way into a new behind-the-scenes habitat designed to encourage breeding behavior for this imperiled species. Tucked behind the Sulawesi aviary, this four-stall structure replaces the previous breeding habitat, which had only two stalls and lacked vertical space for perching.

Eastern indigo snakes are solitary animals, and each individual has his or her own stall when they are not breeding. In the coming weeks and months, the snakes will be paired based on Species Survival Plan recommendations. Animal care professionals will closely monitor the reptiles’ behavior to ensure they are a match.

Buried in each stall is a cooler connected to a plastic pipe meant to simulate a gopher tortoise burrow, which eastern indigo snakes naturally use to lay their eggs and seek refuge on chilly days. These snakes are among more than 300 native animal species that utilize gopher tortoise burrows, which can be up to 52 feet long and 23 feet deep.

Animal care professionals will periodically check the coolers for eggs and, if any are found, they will be placed in an incubator to maximize the chances of hatching.

Found throughout Florida and the southern regions of neighboring states, the eastern indigo snake is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act due to habitat loss. In 2018, five snakes cared for by ZooTampa were released in a protected area in southern Alabama through a partnership with the Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation and other conservation organizations.

This project was made possible by a gift from Bob Bunting and Beverly Blucher. Keep an eye on our social media channels for updates on the snakes!

International Sloth Day 2020

International Sloth Day

Many people know that the adjective “sloth” means very lazy, but are the creatures that bear the same name lazy or just misunderstood?

Today is International Sloth Day, and we want to show you that while sloths are slow, they aren’t lazy. Here are a few things you may not have known about the leisurely lives of sloths.

Slow and Steady

Not only do sloths move extremely slow, but so does their metabolism. A sloth’s sluggish metabolism is one reason why they don’t move very quickly, preserving energy for digestion. Passing through multiple chambers in the stomach, a sloth’s digestive process can take around a month from the initial ingestion of a sloth’s meal to final excretions. This also means they have one of the slowest digestion rates of any mammal!

Life in the Trees

Sloths are arboreal animals, which means that they live in the trees. They reside throughout the trees in Central America and north of the Amazon River in South America. With trees offering them ample protection from predators, sloths spend their entire lives above the ground except when giving birth or defecating.

Avoiding Predators

By only leaving the trees around once every 5 days to defecate, sloths protect themselves from being noticed by predators. Their only form of self-defense is camouflage, so they have to be extremely slow to avoid the hungry gaze of predators.

3-toed sloths even have extra neck vertebrae that allow their heads to turn without moving their bodies!

The most threatening predators to sloths in the wild are big cats like jaguars or snakes; however, habitat destruction is the most prominent human-imposed threat. Sloths have also been known to be hit by moving cars.

Conservation Efforts

Though all but Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth are considered Least Concern by IUCN, we still have to take precautions to ensure they stay that way.International Sloth Day 2020 - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

If you want to help protect sloths, look for the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal on your grocery store goods like coffee, chocolate, or bananas. You can also look for responsibly-sourced lumber and wood products to ensure you aren’t buying products that contribute to deforestation and the destruction of sloths’ natural habitats.

Check out more about Rainforest Alliance’s mission and how this little green tree frog represents sustainability here.

You can also visit ZooTampa’s Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth in the main aviary to get a first-hand view of life as a sloth! Your visits to ZooTampa allow us to continue our conservation efforts and care of magnificent animals like the sloth.

Howl about those Red Wolves

Red Wolf

Of all the endangered species that call ZooTampa home, none is rarer than the Red Wolf. Declared extinct in the wild in 1980, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) began the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan to help increase genetic diversity and population numbers.

With a wild population found only in a small subsection of North Carolina where their numbers are estimated at less than 30 individuals, they are extremely endangered. Without the Species Survival Program and close wild observation, they will once again be at risk for wild extinction.

Our hope is for our red wolves at ZooTampa to be a part of the breeding process one day themselves, and contribute to the population.
Meet the Wolves
The 3 red wolf brothers we have here at ZooTampa are named Yule (pronounced Yu-lee), Redington, and Connor. Like any dog, they love to nap and can usually be found snoozing in their den, the three of them are most active in the morning and can occasionally be heard vocalizing together.

As carnivores, these guys only eat meat. Like you would expect of any wild wolf, they enjoy rabbits, birds, and other prey animals.

Of the 3, guests of ZooTampa can usually get a great look at Yule because he’s the bravest of the bunch. If you want to tell him apart from his brothers, he has the largest and widest head. If he’s not napping in their den, you may even find him relaxing close to the glass viewing area of their enclosure. Redington and Connor are also pretty easy to tell apart because Connor is the smallest of the 3 boys and Redington has a more elongated head than Yule.

While most of the animals at ZooTampa get training and enrichment to keep them on their toes, the red wolves get very minimal human interaction. This is because their animal caretakers want to keep them as close to their wild roots as possible.

As an extremely endangered species, the continued protection and preservation of Red Wolves is essential to their survival as a species. If you want to help protect Red Wolves like Yule, Redington, and Connor, you can do a couple of things.

First, visit the Zoo! Your support helps us provide the care they need to survive and spread awareness about the conditions of their remaining wild habitat.

Though extremely unlikely, if you come to see a red wolf in the wild, keep your distance and report sightings to redwolf@fws.gov.

World Migratory Bird Day

World Migratory Bird Day - ZooTampa at Lowry ParkWorld Migratory Bird Day - ZooTampa at Lowry ParkWorld Migratory Bird Day - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

October 10th is World Migratory Bird Day, a day dedicated to migrating species of birds across the globe. Birds provide vital services to our environment, from seed distribution to pollination to pest control. Without our respect for and protection of this animal, many essential functions of natural habitats would not flourish.

In Florida, we see our fair share of migratory birds as they “fly south for the winter”. Ducks, geese, and cranes are all examples of migratory birds.

If you want to find out how you can contribute to the conservation of migratory birds, here are 3 ways you can help.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
One of the most common threats to birds is plastic. If it’s made of plastic, it has most likely found its way into Florida waterways at some point in time. Unfortunately, birds often eat plastic when looking for food, or become entangled in it and trapped.

You can help birds by reducing your use of single-use plastic and always recycling plastic trash. Also, make sure to stay updated on local recycling rules and regulations for your area.
Keep an Eye on Your Pets
Domestic cats and dogs kill over 2 billion birds a year. By leashing your pet outside, you can ensure that they don’t harm native or migratory bird species.

If you do come across an injured bird, notify your local FWC Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators for further information.
Watch When Driving
Car collisions cause between 89 million and 340 million bird deaths a year. To protect birds from cars, always drive carefully and watch for low flying birds.

Some birds are more prone to being hit by cars such as seabirds, owls, and ducks. Always be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to birds in the road.
ZooTampa’s Migratory Birds
You can witness ZooTampa’s migratory birds up-close in our aviaries, flamingo habitat, and at our sandhill crane habitat!

Located on the Florida boardwalk, our sandhill crane habitat is home to 2 of this native Florida species. Flamingos, also located in the Florida area of the park, are one of many species protected under the Migratory Bird Act.

Migratory birds are located all around our park and are an essential part of Florida’s and our country’s ecosystem. Protecting these birds for years to come is critical to ZooTampa’s mission for animal protection, preservation, and conservation.

National Iguana Awareness Day

An iguana is a large species of lizard, and they come in all shapes and sizes! Did you know there are approximately 35 species of iguana? These different species make their home in habitats like rocks or trees.

These large lizards can be found anywhere from northern Mexico and the southern United States, to South America and its surrounding islands. There are even iguanas like the Galapagos Marine Iguana, found off the coast of Ecuador, that can swim underwater!

Introduced to Florida in the 1960s, iguanas have since become quite comfortable here. The humid and often extremely warm climate helps to keep their body at an ideal temperature. Most iguanas must be between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit at any given time.

However, southern Florida’s occasional cold weather can put iguanas into a state of hibernation. As cold-blooded reptiles, also known as ectothermic animals, they need heat from the sun to stay warm.

For a lizard, these reptiles can get pretty big. Iguanas can grow anywhere from 7.5 inches for the Fiji Banded Iguana to a whopping 7 feet long for larger species like the common green iguana. Fiji Iguanas are typically only found on the small island of Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean, but you can see one of these special little lizards in our Manatee Tunnel.

While you’re there, be sure to check out some of our other star species like the Florida Manatee and Sandwich, our Cuban Iguana.

Though the Green Iguana is thriving, several species such as the blue iguana and Cuban rock iguana are endangered. As its name suggests, the Cuban Iguana originates from the rocky coast of Cuba. Habitat destruction and invasive species have threatened their survival.

Thankfully, recent efforts to protect the population have been successful and their numbers are growing. If you want to get an up-close look at one of these guys, you can also find Sandwich, ZooTampa’s very own Cuban iguana in the Manatee tunnel.

Sandwich, a stowaway on a boat departing from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, found his home here at ZooTampa when he was rescued by United States Fish and Wildlife Services. Unable to return home or live on his own in Florida, ZooTampa established a permanent home for him in
2015, only a few months after he hitched a ride over.

You can usually find Sandwich hanging out on the tallest branches in his habitat, basking in the heat, or on the ground munching on leafy greens. Get to know more about Sandwich before you visit us here at ZooTampa! You can also meet him on Season 2 Episode 4 of the series, Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa, on Nat Geo WILD.

Inca Tern Chicks

Inca Tern Chicks - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Spring was in the air for our Inca tern colony! Back in April, our two pairs of Inca terns had a total of three chicks- two males and one female! The male chicks are named “Lemmy” and “Sushie” and the female chick is named after one of our Human Resource Team Members, Candy Caldwell (“CeeCee” for short) as a thank you for all her help with observing them during their development! The chicks are now starting to fledge, or learning to become independent from their parents and learning to fly.

Inca terns are medium-sized sea birds that are related to gulls, terns, and auks.  Adult Inca terns are mostly grey, with red-orange beaks and feet. One of the most striking characteristics of the Inca tern is their mustache! The white mustaches that are on each side of their beak are actually made of feathers and signify maturity in adults. The chicks lack the white mustaches and will start developing them closer to two years of age, along with changing from a purple-brown color to grey.

The Inca terns are a colonial species which form large flocks of up to 5,000 birds when feeding! Inca terns are found on the coastlines of Peru and Chile, restricted to the Humboldt Current.  The terns usually nest on rock cliffs, in burrows, caves, cavities, and even use old Humboldt penguin nests- they’re not too picky! When nesting, the adult female will lay one or two eggs and both parents will take turns incubating for about 24-27 days.

At ZooTampa, we made special nest boxes for them to lay their eggs and feel comfortable raising their chicks.  While not endangered, the Inca tern is listed as near threatened due to overfishing of their favorite fish. ZooTampa also participates in the Inca tern Species Survival Plan to ensure the survival of this unique species. You can spot the Inca tern families in our Main Aviary!

World Parrot Day

Did you know parrots are among some of the most threatened groups of birds worldwide? Out of 398 species, 111 are classified as globally endangered on the IUCN Red List. The most widespread threats to these fascinating animals are habitat destruction, fragmentation and wildlife trafficking for the pet trade. Between 1990 and 1994 alone, nearly 2 million parrots were traded on the world market.

Since World Parrott Day began in 2004, the World Parrot Trust championed a petition to ban the trade of wild birds in Europe through the EU and in 2006 the petition was successfully passed. This has saved an estimated 30-40 million parrots that would have otherwise found themselves in the pet trade! Here at ZooTampa you can visit over a dozen different species of parrots and learn about their many unique adaptations.

Meet Ernie, a Palm Cockatoo. Male Palm Cockatoos use sticks to “drum” on trees to attract females.  They are the only animal species known to deliberately create a rhythm and use a tool to do so. You can visit Ernie, in the Wallaroo realm of the Zoo.

World Parrot Day - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

ZooTampa is the only facility in the United States to house Red-browed Amazon parrots, an endangered species endemic to east Brazil. These large, curious birds are often found exploring their habitat. You can visit the Red-browed amazons in the Main Aviary and if you’re lucky you will hear their distinctive ‘laughing’ call, particularly just before a big rain storm.

World Parrot Day - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

ZooTampa is also home to 5 species of macaws. These colorful and bright birds are considered endangered due to deforestation and illegal pet trade. You will be able to find Magoo, one of our animal ambassadors during animals mingles.

World Parrot Day - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

While there are many threats to parrots around the world, there is also hope! More research is continuing to be conducted to help scientists and conservationists learn more about issues to parrot survival and troubleshoot solutions.

Ways you can help at home:

Parrots are popular pets, but they have very specific needs that take a lot of work to care for.

  • Do you research: Make sure you and your family are fully prepared to care for these long-lived and complex species.
  • Adopt, don’t shop: Instead of buying from a breeder or pet store, consider adopting a parrot from a shelter or rescue organization.
  • Support parrot conservation: World Parrot Trust and American Bird Conservancy are great organizations to support
  • Visit the Zoo: By visiting the Zoo you are helping us in our mission to preserve and protect wildlife.

Seahorse Family

ZooTampa seahorse

By Tyson Facto, Animal Care Professional

Did you know that just like penguins, seahorses are monogamous and mate for life? Their love connection all begins with a dance.

Every day, the male lives in a small area of seagrass beds, patiently waiting for a female to find him. Once they make a connection, they will begin each day with a courtship dance that involves spinning around and twirling together, while interlocking their tails.

When they are ready to mate, the female impregnates the male with up to 1000 eggs! The male will stay pregnant for about two weeks, sometimes holding onto the same piece of grass the entire time. When ready, he will open his pouch and release all 1000 tiny fry into the ocean currents to settle throughout the seagrass beds. These little fry look and act just like their parents, except at about ¼ of an inch tall.

The pair of seahorses will then once again meet up to begin their courtship of dance.

ZooTampa is home to 2 out of the 45 different species of seahorses found around the world- the Dwarf seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae, and the Lined Seahorse, Hippocampus erectus. You can soon find our families of seahorses in Manatee Mangroves realm of the Zoo, in their newly renovated home. It's easy for your family to come back again and again with a Family Plus Membership - 2 adults, all dependent children + 1 free guest!


Tapir Family

Tapir Family - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Known as “living fossils”, tapirs are the most primitive large mammal in the world, dating back to 20 million years ago! Although sometimes confused for an anteater or pig, tapirs are actually related to rhinoceros and horses.

Four months ago, we welcomed the Zoo’s 12th Malayan tapir, Tiga. When a tapir calf is first born, they will have a distinctive coat pattern made up of a series of spots and stripes similar to a watermelon that helps camouflage the baby.  This coat pattern will slowly change over 6 months to the black and white pattern of the parents.

A calf is born with their eyes open, can stand one or two hours after birth, and can begin to swim at a very young age! Naturally the mother is very protective of their new calf. The animal care team developed a strong bond with mom, Ubi, which is why she trusts the team to be around Tiga.

Tapirs are also solitary by nature, which is why you will find dad, Albert by himself out on the habitat. Ubi and Tiga will stay together for a few years until Tiga is ready to move on to another zoo as part of the Species Survival Plan.

Sadly, Tapirs are considered endangered due to hunting and habitat loss. There are less than 50 Malayan tapirs in human care in North America, which is why Tiga’s birth was critical to securing a safety net for this species.

A Family Plus annual Zoo membership makes it easy for your family to visit our Malayan tapir family in the Asia realm of the Zoo! You can learn more about memberships here.

You can even symbolically adopt Tiga and join us on our mission to protect wildlife, here.

Save The Frogs Day

Written By: Spencer Schultz

Panamanian golden frogs, Atelopus zeteki, are highly important cultural representatives in Panama, somewhat of a national symbol; they are as valued as the Bald eagle is to the United States. Their likeness is culturally lucky, displayed on pottery and shown even on their lottery tickets; they even hold deep roots in local mythology.
The historic range of Panamanian golden frogs is around El Valle De Anton and Cerro Campana in Panama. They were found around sloping streams and waterfalls in Cloud forests of Panama, roughly 1,100 to 4,300 ft above sea level. Atelopid frogs (golden frogs and their relatives) are highly unique and secrete a skin toxin known as Zetekiton, which is named for the Panamanian golden frog specifically.
Living so close to the loudness of waterfall and fast moving rivers, they have done away with calling for main communication and have developed a hand waving motion known as semaphore. This hand wave is done on top of rock or along bare banks to maximize visibility. They use this as a warning to defend territory, as well as to attract mates.

Golden frogs are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list, but there has not been a sighting reported since 2009. While many conservationists hold some hope that there are still undiscovered populations, it is most likely that these gorgeous creatures are extinct in the wild. This is thought to have happened mainly in 2008 when a pathogenic fungal disease known as chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) came through Panama and caused most, if not all, of the frogs to die off. The fungus attaches itself to the semi porous skin of amphibians causing many health issues. Habitat loss has also contributed to population decline, mainly from farming and logging polluting their waterways. These frogs are considered a warning of what may happen to all frogs and other amphibians worldwide.

We are honored to be working with many other facilities in the Panamanian Golden Frog Species Survival Plan (SSP). This plan acts as an ark of sorts for the species. We work to develop the most genetically diverse frogs possible with the hopes of releasing them back into their native range. However before this is done, they need a healthy home to go back to.  This is something that can be done by working on preventing habitat loss and learning how to overcome chytrid.

Simple ways you can help are by not releasing pets into the wild, thus preventing disease spread, as well as preventing pollution by recycling and keeping our home waterways clean. Another idea is to join a citizen scientist program, such as FrogWatch, where you can help take surveys of native frogs in your area.