International Orangutan Day

Written By: Katherine Burton


Happy International Orangutan Day!  

Zoo Tampa is home to eight Bornean Orangutans who inspire staff, volunteers, and guests every day. You can easily spot these red-haired, great apes in the primate section of the zoo and learn more about them at our daily keeper chats.  

Let me introduce you to our Orangutan family.  

First up is Goyang. At 20 years old, he is the only adult male in the group. You can easily identify him by his large body size (315 lbs!), long hair, cheek pads, and throat sac. These characteristics are specific to males, making him stand out.  

Next up we have DeeDee, RanDee, and Dira. DeeDee is the oldest member of our group at 39 years old. She is mother to 11-year-old RanDee and 20-month-old Dira. At 11 years old, RanDee is in the adolescent stage of her life. She is learning how to be a mom through observation, and she spends much of her time playing with the younger members of the group. Dira is the youngest member of our group and spends most of her time holding on to mom or practicing her climbing skills while mom watches nearby.  

And finally, we have Josie, Hadiah, Gojo, and Topi. Josie is 34 years old and is both a mother and grandmother. Josie is mother to 13-year-old Hadiah and 3-year-old Gojo. And Hadiah is a first-time mother to 3-year-old Topi. Both moms have their own parenting styles and their kids spend much of their time playing with each other and interacting with other members of the group. 

Each individual has a unique personality, and all are wonderful ambassadors for their species. Today, we celebrate all three species of Orangutans (Bornean, Sumatran, and Tapanuli) and hope to encourage everyone to take action to protect the world’s largest tree dwelling mammal.  

Found in the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia, all species of Orangutans have suffered from decreasing populations resulting in a critically endangered classification. This is largely due to deforestation by the palm oil industry. Palm oil is a vegetable oil that can be found across a wide range of products such as food, cosmetics, household goods, and more. When it is grown unsustainably, new areas of forest are cut and burned, destroying the Orangutan’s habitat. However, sustainable palm oil is grown by re-using the same land for production.  

As consumers, we hold the power for change! Supporting sustainable palm oil will encourage more companies to make the change to sustainable production. You can download the Sustainable Palm Oil app on your smart phone and scan items while you shop. This will show you which products use sustainable palm oil, allowing you to make informed decisions while you shop.  

Together, we can ensure the survival of this species and that is what International Orangutan Day is all about! 

Action Indonesia Day

Action Indonesia Day
Action Indonesia Day

Written By: Marie Filipek

Today, ZooTampa will be celebrating the first ever “Action Indonesia Day”, joining over 38 organizations worldwide in the fight to save three important species: anoa, babirusa and banteng. Each of these species are only found in Indonesia and are an important part of their ecosystem. Unfortunately, all three of these species are threatened with extinction. By joining forces on “Action Indonesia Day,” we hope to raise awareness for these three incredible species, two of which call ZooTampa home: the anoa and the babirusa. We feel incredibly lucky to get to care for these species because only 7 AZA zoos care for anoa, and less than 20 AZA zoos care for babirusa, making them (in my opinion) some of Indonesia’s most mysterious animals!

One reason I like to think of anoa and babirusa as some of Indonesia’s most mysterious animals, is because there are still physical and behavioral characteristics of them that have scientists stumped! A babirusa’s most striking and defining feature are those curved tusks that grow through the top of their skull - but why that grow that way remains a mystery to scientists. They do have a couple ideas as to why, but neither has been proven quite yet. Do they grow that way to protect them in combat, like a football player wearing a helmet? Or are they used as display to court a female? As for anoa, these animals are so mysterious that not much is known about their day to day behavior in their natural environment. They tend to live in dense forests, so are quite elusive and hard to observe. It also remains a mystery as to whether or not there are two separate species of anoa. Scientists just aren’t sure!

Another reason these anoa and babirusa are some of Indonesia’s most mysterious animals is the fact that they are incredibly rare - there aren’t that many of them! Like I said earlier, not many AZA zoos have these two species, so not many people know about them. Also, these animals are naturally only found in Indonesia, no where else in the world, and their numbers are declining. There is an estimated 10,000 babirusa left and they have been categorized as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). As for anoa, there are estimated to be less than 2,500, classifying them as Endangered. Habitat loss and hunting are a source of decline for both species. Without our help, these animals could go extinct and all these mysteries would go unsolved.


However, what we can do to help is not a mystery at all - and that’s what “Action Indonesia Day” is all about! In 2006, the Action Indonesia Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) was created to bring together worldwide zoos, governments and conservation organizations to work together to save the anoa, babirusa, and banteng. By working together as a team, the GSMP can work toward creating healthy populations of animals in human care, share data and research between ex-situ (animals under human care at zoos, sanctuaries, etc) and in-situ (in the field) programs, and raise local and worldwide awareness for the conservation work being done to save these species. If you want to help save the anoa, babirusa and banteng you can visit ZooTampa to learn more about them and then simply spread the word about these amazing animals! If you’d like more information On August 18th, be sure to use #ActionIndonesia to share what you learned with your friends. Let’s do our part to make sure animals like anoa and babirusa are no longer a mystery!

Meerkat Family

Written By: Madison Underwood, Animal Care Professional

Meerkat families, also known as mobs, have a fascinating family dynamic. Meerkats are one of the few mammal species that take on specific roles to ensure the well-being of their family. Meerkat society is comprised of a hierarchy with females being at the top. Alpha females are the only member of the mob that may become pregnant. Thus, she is the heart and soul of the family. Below the alpha female is her mate, the alpha male, and the rest of the family act as betas. Furthermore, several meerkat families may live together in a large community, which then is called a manor.

Each meerkat plays a specific role in ensuring the survival of their family. While some members act as hunters and gathers to bring back food, others act as lookouts. These lookouts, or sentries, will watch the skies for birds of prey, such as hawks and eagles, that could steal them from the ground. While these few lookouts guard the group, others busy themselves foraging for food. Meerkat’s diet consists of insects, lizards, small rodents and various fruits. The last of the meerkat family act as burrowers. Meerkats utilize an extensive tunnel system to make up their home, with many of the tunnels being many feet underground to escape the heat.

Here at ZooTampa, we are home to four male meerkats: Peabody, Ranger, Sam and Ralphy! Our family dynamic is quite unique in that we do not have an alpha female. However, our meerkats do not seem to be affected as they still display all of the characteristics of a normal meerkat family. They can be seen foraging for their favorite waxworms, digging new tunnels to expand their home or lounging in the sun. Guests will often times comment on the lookout, as our meerkats love to stand on logs to get a better look at the sky!

You can find our meerkat family in the Africa realm of the Zoo. 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!

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.

Going Batty on International Bat Appreciation Day

By Tessa Giannini, Animal Care Professional 

There are over 1,300 species of bats in the world which means there is an amazing variety in how they live, eat, and reproduce. The vast majority of bats are immensely beneficial to humans by providing free pest control from insects, pollinating and/or dispersing seeds for over 300 plants! At ZooTampa we have two species of bats: African straw colored fruit bats and Malayan Flying foxes.

Here are my top batty facts:

African straw colored fruit bats:

  1. They have the largest mammal migration of any species in the world and the furthest migration of any African mammal.
  2. The females will undergo delayed implantation which basically means after breeding in April/May the fertilized egg doesn’t implant in the bats uterus until several months later to coincide with increased food sources found during migration in October. The pup is then born February/March of the following year.
  3. They are the second largest bat species in Africa, after the hammer head bat.
  4. They get their name, “straw colored,” from the ring of golden yellow fur around their necks.
  5. They have a wingspan of 2-2.5 feet wide.

Malayan Flying foxes:

  1. They are one of the largest species of bats in the world, with a wingspan of 5-6 feet wide!
  2. Although they are large and may look intimidating, these bats eat only fruit, nectar, and flowers. They provide important ecosystem services by pollinating or dispersing the seeds of many different plant species.
  3. They do not use echolocation to find their food, but instead rely on their excellent vision and sense of smell.
  4. This species often makes a variety of vocalizations to communicate with one another.
  5. Malayan flying foxes are considered Near Threatened by the IUCN, although in certain parts of their range they are Vulnerable. Much of this has to do with humans and clearing of the bats native habitat and food sources.

The more you know:

  1. Insect eating bats can eat up to 1200 mosquito sized insects in just one hour!
  2. There are 41 different species of bats in the United States, and of these nearly half are either endangered or threatened.
  3. One of the largest threats to bats is white-nose syndrome (a disease that affects hibernating bats and is caused by a fungus).
  4. The smallest bat in the world (and also the world’s smallest mammal) lives in Thailand and is called a bumble bee bat. It is only as big as a thumbnail and weighs less than a penny.
  5. The Florida Bonneted Bat is Florida’s largest bat species, but it is also Florida’s most endangered bat.
  6. Pups are often 1/3 of moms size, this is equivalent to human mothers giving birth to 40 pound babies!

All bats are protected species and it is illegal to kill them. If you find bats in your home you can hire a pest control company to humanely exclude the bats.

In Florida exclusion may not take place between April 16-August 14 because this is prime “maternity season.” Moms leave their babies while they hunt for food and if an exclusion device is put up while the babies are too young to fend for themselves, they could starve without their mother. Florida Bonneted bats breed year round, so make sure the bat species is properly identified before putting up an exclusion device. If you find a bat that needs help call a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility to help out.

You can visit our bats during your next visit in Wallaroo!

World Elephant Day

World Elephant Day - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Written By: Christi Reiter

Happy World Elephant Day!

Elephants are incredibly intelligent and strong, but did you know they also play a huge role in the African savanna ecosystem? Elephants are known as a "keystone species", which means they shape the ecosystem that other African animal friends, like bird, monkey and hoofstock species rely on for survival.

Elephants can knock down trees easily which provides necessary resources to smaller animals who can't clear the trees themselves. They can also cut paths into thick forest habitats with ease, transform landscapes and use their tusks to dig wallows which provide food and water to other animals. Without elephants in Africa, a lot of other animals living there would struggle to survive!

Right now, due to illegal hunting and human conflict in Africa, our elephant friends really need your help! There are lots of ways you can lend a hand (or trunk):

  • Be a smart shopper- do not purchase ivory!
  • Recycle
  • Educate others
  • Visit your local zoo
  • Donate time and/or resources to elephant conservation.

Organizations like are great because they help support elephant-friendly initiatives. These initiatives include, funding beehives or solar powered lights for farmers who frequently have conflict with wild elephants raiding their crops, they also help provide monitoring systems and support to rangers on the ground.

Do your part and #BeHerd. For more information visit

Gift Shop Finds

Did you know that every purchase at the Zoo, from an annual Membership to a souvenir at the Gift Shop, helps us in our mission to preserve & protect wildlife? We are proud to offer guests innovative, environmentally-friendly products that will leave your family & friends jealous! Each month, we're giving you the top 3 hottest gift shop finds. All items are available for purchase at Nature's Kingdom Gift Shop.

Ditch the plastic:

Plastic is the number one pollutant in our waterways, but you can do your part by purchasing a bamboo straw. One small switch to a reusable bamboo straw can make a huge impact!

Gift Shop Finds - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

More than just a shot glass:

These colorful shot glasses are not only unbreakable, but they are multipurpose! Use these at your next cocktail party or as a wine topper for that unfinished bottle of wine. Best part? They are BPA free and made 100% out of food-grade silicon!

Gift Shop Finds - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Pick your favorite:

Take your favorite zoo animal home with you! We have over 30 different plush species to choose from that are eco-friendly. All plush are made with recycled water bottles!

Gift Shop Finds - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Our retail team works hard in choosing products for all our gift shops that are sustainably made, palm oil free, and spark the eco-warrior in all of us. Stay tuned for next month’s hottest retail picks!

Have a Green National Battery Day!

Energize your day! Today, February 18th, is National Battery Day and in celebration we’d like to share some tips on how to recycle your old batteries. Did you know that only 10 to 12 percent of the 70 million pounds of batteries sold yearly in North America are recycled?

What should you do with those dead batteries just laying around?

For lithium-ion and other rechargeable household batteries:

  1. Prepare your batteries: place each battery in its own clear plastic bag before placing it in a storage container. Avoid taping the terminals, but make sure the terminals don’t touch during transport.
  2. Bring your ID and individually-bagged batteries to your local disposal site.
    1. For those of us in the Hillsborough County area, we have four options (listed here:

For single-use batteries (such as AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt), the best option is to recycle them through Call2Recycle’s battery recycling kits as most local locations don’t accept these. For information on this, visit:

An even better option is to use rechargeable batteries. Nearly one in five dry-cell batteries (like those single-use batteries listed above) purchased in the United States is rechargeable. Each rechargeable battery may substitute for hundreds of single-use batteries.

When it comes to battery recycling, channel that pink bunny we all know and love and just keep going, and goi- well, you know the rest!

Oh deer, it’s a blue duiker!

By Amanda Wright, Animal Care Professional

Oh Deer - well not quite! This Bambi look-a-like is actually a blue duiker and not related to a deer at all!

Duikers are African antelopes, and blue duikers are the smallest of all duiker species. The main difference between deer and antelopes involves the protrusions on their head. While deer have branched antlers that are shed and regrown annually, antelopes such as the blue duiker have non-branched, permanent horns.

Oh deer, it's a blue duiker! - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Blue duikers stick to forest environments where they can use the trees and vegetation to easily hide from predators. In fact, the word “duiker” is derived from the Afrikaans word meaning “diver”. This name is suitable because as a defense mechanism, duikers dive into vegetation whenever they feel threatened.

Here at ZooTampa, you can find blue duikers in the Hornbill Aviary, which is located in the Africa section of the Zoo. If you look closely, you might even see a smaller duiker running around. Your eyes are not deceiving you. Emerald, our female blue duiker, recently had a calf! Blue duiker calves are very precocial, and can run within 20 minutes of being born! They spend their first few weeks hunkering down in safe spots, but as they get older, they also become more playful and inquisitive. Soon, you will be able to see this little calf running, jumping, and chasing after mom as she explores the world around her.

Deer or not, there’s no denying how cute these little antelopes are! Next time you’re at ZooTampa, be sure to swing by the Hornbill Aviary and see if you can spot our elusive blue duiker family.

2018 Year of the Bird Campaign “Wrap-up”

Written by:  Julie Tomita, Animal Care Manager


It is hard to believe that we have reached the end of the 2018 “Year of the Bird” campaign celebrating the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This was and continues to be a pivotal bird-protection law making it illegal to hunt, take, capture, kill, or sell birds listed as migratory birds. It protects nearly all native birds in the U.S, covering more than 1,000 species.

The “Year of the Bird” campaign may be ending but our work in raising awareness about their challenges in the wild is far from over. Birds are facing new and serious threats all over the world with over 200 species listed as critically endangered worldwide. Listed below are some examples of ways in which you can help!  It's easy to get involved in bird conservation and some of your most helpful actions begin at home.


2018 Year of the Bird Campaign “Wrap-up” - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

2018 Year of the Bird Campaign “Wrap-up” - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

2018 Year of the Bird Campaign “Wrap-up” - ZooTampa at Lowry Park


10 Simple Ways to Help Birds:

1. Be a Citizen Scientist: Many conservation projects need helpers to gather data on birds and  their habitat.  Contact your local Nature Center or conservation organization to volunteer.

2. Prevent Bird Collisions with Your Windows: Some scientists estimate that birds flying into  windows that reflect the scenery around them may be second only to habitat loss in accounting for bird deaths each year.  Putting up curtains or window decals helps make the window visible to birds. Switching off the lights in your house at night not only helps prevent birds from colliding with your windows but also shrinks your energy bill!  Hang bird feeders away from windows.  Awnings can also shade your windows and reduce the reflections that birds mistake for trees and forests.

3. Buy Bird Friendly Products:You can help preserve bird habitat in Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean by purchasing shade-grown coffee and chocolate. Shade coffee farms, which imitate native forests, provide food, shelter and nesting sites for more bird species than sun coffee farms.

4. Protect Birds from Pets: Keeping your cat indoors and your dog from straying saves millions of birds each year.

5. Plant Native Plants and Trees:Native plants provide food, nest sites, and cover for birds. You can talk to someone at your local garden center to find out which plant species are native to your area.

6. Say “No” to Plastics: Replace plastic bags with reusable grocery bags; replace plastic drinking bottles with reusable bottles and eliminate the use of plastic straws by purchasing a reusable  metal or bamboo straw.  Plastic trash on land and in our oceans can look like food to birds and  other wildlife.  Avoiding plastic bags, bottles and straws reduces plastic pollution, conserves  resources and can save animal lives.

7. Teach Others about Birds: Share your love of birds with someone else in your life. That could mean going for a bird walk together or posting some of your favorite bird photos online. Talk to your friends about birds and teach people about the challenges that so many birds face. The more knowledge they have, the more empowered they are to help!

8. Avoid Chemicals: Birds may accidentally eat pesticide and herbicide pellets or prey that has been poisoned.

9. Support Conservation: Join a bird club or other conservation organization to learn more and contribute to protecting birds. Volunteer with organizations that preserve habitat and help birds and other wildlife.

10. Enjoy Nature: You don’t have to go far to enjoy and observe nature. You can go to a city, state or national park, a zoological park or your own back yard.



The Aviary team is fortunate to work with 145 species of birds ranging in size from finches measuring only a few inches to a 6 foot tall Emu named “Elaine”!  Look for these birds and other amazing species the next time you visit ZooTampa at Lowry Park.  And, if you happen to see any members of the Aviary team, feel free to ask questions.  We love to chat about the birds!

I hope that you have enjoyed the monthly bird species profiles written by different members of the Aviary team at ZooTampa, and if you were not already a fan of our fine feathered friends, I hope you have gained a new love and respect for this incredibly diverse class of animals!