FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Snakes, spiders and frogs, oh my! In a special Halloween Wild on WANE, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo shares why some animals some people think are scary aren’t so spooky after all.
Reticulated Python Bo:
The reticulated python is a type of constrictor species. Bo is 16 feet long and 103 pounds. The zoo thinks he’s around 19 years old. The python can live to be 25 to 30 years old.
Bo was originally an illegal exotic pet in Michigan and was rescued before coming to the Fort Wayne zoo. Now he’s target trained to know when the keepers are feeding him. The next step will be to train him for medical behaviors.
“Just within the last few years we’ve been able to do the training and and relationship building and fix some bad behaviors,” Sam Sanders, an animal care specialist, said. “It’s taken a lot of work and energy to do it, but it’s been exciting and so satisfying and to be one of the very few facilities that are actively training this type of animal and a snake of this size.”
The snake uses his tongue to smell.
“They actually have a specialized organ in their mouth. They’ll stick their tongue out and it will pick up the scent particles and they’ll put it into this organ called a Jacobson’s organ and that will tell them what the smell is and how far away it is and the fork feature of the tongue allows them to decide which direction the smell came from,” Sanders said.
Bo is primarily fed large rats once a week.
“The kids love it. We turn it into a keeper chat and make it educational. I’m up here for the full time that he’s eating and explain what he’s doing,” Sanders said.
Many people are not big fans of snakes, but Sanders says it’s based in a lack of understanding.
“In my experience people seem to have a fear of snakes because they can’t read their body language and can’t read their behavior. They come off as an unpredictable animal. I think that’s one of the reasons I like them is I like that challenge of learning their behavior and learning how to read them,” Sanders said. “Once you know their what their behavioral cues are, you can read them super easy just like you can your cat or dog at home. Another thing I get from people is it’s just that they don’t have legs and it creeps people out. It’s fun to learn about their types of movement. They have several different types of movement depending on what their goal is, depending on the terrain that they’re on. So, learning about the movement and how they do it is always fun and educational.”
Mexican Red Knee Tarantula: Charlotte
The Mexican Red Knee Tarantula is from southwest United States and in Mexico. Charlotte at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is 12 years old.
“Based on her age, we think she’s a female. They’ll live up to about 25 to 30 years, while males will only live about five to eight,” Animal Care Specialist Jenny McFarland said.
Instead of spinning a web to catch food, the tarantula spins a web to make a bed. They lie in wait for their prey to walk by.
“They’re definitely more scared of use than we are of them. They don’t want to be noticed. They just want to hide and if there’s food that comes by, then hey, that’s all they want,” McFarland said. “They’re very important for all the bugs they eat and keeping those out of our homes are really important and catching all those flies that would carry other diseases that we don’t want.”
Spiders are also often the source of fear for many people. They’re also the center of some folklore.
“If a spider is seen on Halloween that means that there is a soul that is watching you. I can neither confirm or deny that, but I’d probably say that’s not true,” McFarland laughed.
African Bullfrog: Foxtrot
The African Bullfrog is the largest type of frog in the world. The males are so large, in part, because they guard the eggs once the female lays them.
“They’ll eat crickets several times a week and they’re so big they do eat mice,” McFarland said. “Here at the zoo, they will get one mouse every month, but in the wild they’ll eat mice opportunistically as well as eggs and lizards and even other frogs.”
Not everyone is a fan of frogs and toads.
“People think they’re slimy, which they are covered in a protective mucus to keep their skin hydrated when they’re not in the water. But there’s also the misconception that if you touch a toad you’ll get warts. That’s not true,” McFarland said.
Still, you shouldn’t touch frogs or toads in the wild.
“There are little bumps called glands on their skin and they do have little poisons or toxins in them and that toxin can make our skin really itchy,” she said.
Frog and toads are also an important part of the ecosystem.
“They eat a lot of bugs that otherwise would bring diseases into our people populations,” McFarland said.