FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Pretty much all the animals love feeding time at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, and the Wild Encounter in the African Journey takes you up close to four different animals as they chow down.
The tour of the savannah starts with the Marabou stork. The zoo has three, but two are in an enclosure together because they are a mating pair. Nya and Mojo are in their teens and have a lifespan of 40 years in human care. The third Marabou stork, who lives in the savannah area, is currently 46 and one of the oldest animals at the zoo.
“Many people think they’re vultures when they first come up, but they’re storks. They are scavengers, so they’re similar to vultures in that they help kind of take away those decaying objects to kind of help restart that natural cycle of life,” Animal Care Specialist for the African birds and hoof stock Shannon Cooke said.
The zoo keepers feed the storks a mix of frozen mice, fish, and meat patties.
“They do like to play catch. They might not necessarily eat it right away. So when you do see them eating any fish or mice out here, they will basically eat it whole. We like to spread out their food and they do kind of like to graze on it throughout the day. It provides them with a little bit more of that natural behavior of actually foraging for food,” Cooke said. “They might look very, very big and intimidating, but they’re really sweet.”
From the storks, you head to the Ruppell’s Griffin Vultures named Wednesday, Gomez, and Igor.
“On certain days they’ll get bones as well to kind of help with those natural behaviors of cleaning bones,” Cooke said.
The day Wild on WANE was there, the feathered Addam’s family felt hanging out in the shade was more appealing than venturing out for a snack.
The next stop is Betty the Wattled Crane.
“Oftentimes, when you come over to see her, she’ll probably be grazing off the ground a little bit and she’s poking little holes in the ground trying to get at little bugs that she might see,” Cooke said.
Cooke threw corn into the field and pond for Betty to find.
“They are kind of marshy birds. So, usually, she looks like she’s wearing socks but that’s how you can tell that she’s been in the water. She’s a gorgeous bird,” Cooke said.
The final stop is feeding the Sitatunga.
“These guys are semi-aquatic exotic Bovidaes. They can fully submerge themselves underwater. They have an oily fur and skin which they’re constantly grooming to just maintain, which helps keep them waterproof. Their hooves are kind of what you would call two-toed and they kind of make a pretty big V so that kind of helps them to traverse that soft muddy ground that would be underwater. They are very curious, but also very skittish,” Cooke said.
The zoo has four female sitatungas. Shiloh is the oldest at 17 years old. She’s mom to two of the others and grandma to the third.
“Right now we just have our ladies and they’re enjoying having their girl time,” Cooke said.