News

Zooper Hero Day and FOTAZ Family Nite

May Events at Alexandria Zoo

Celebrate the end of the school year with family fun at Alexandria Zoo's Lagniappe Series: Zooper Hero Day and FOTAZ Family Night this May.

Lagniappe Series: Zooper Hero Day
Enjoy a little something extra Saturday, May 18 from 11 am – 2 pm at Zooper Hero Day, part of our Lagniappe Series. Discover more about how Alexandria Zoo helps save species and simple everyday actions we can take to protect wildlife and wild places. Come dressed as a super hero and receive a free train ride.

FOTAZ Family Nite
As a valued part of our zoo family, current FOTAZ members are invited to join Friends of the Alexandria Zoo for this free, exclusive event on Friday, May 24 from 5 – 8 pm. FOTAZ Family Night guests can tour the Zoo after hours, visit with zookeepers, ride the train, get up-close with some cool creatures at special animal encounters, and enjoy a free hot dog meal and sweet treat! Sponsored by Pelican State Credit Union, Red River Bank, and Kona Ice of Cenla.

Must be a current member at the time of the event to attend. Only those individuals included on your card may attend with you. Membership cards and photo IDs will be checked at the entrance gate. RSVP here.

Tourism Award

Alexandria Zoo Receives Tourism Award

Alexandria Zoo was honored Wednesday with the Arts, Culture, Heritage and Education Award at the Tourism Awareness & Awards Luncheon at the Randolph Riverfront Center.

Lee Ann Whitt, zoo director, accepted the award from Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Sherry Ellington, executive director of the Alexandria-Pineville Convention and Visitors Bureau. Alexandria Zoo, one of only two AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited zoos in the state, was honored for excellence in providing cultural and educational programs. "We are very honored to be recognized by the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” said Whitt. "We strive to provide our community with a range of quality events and programs, which not only entertain, but also encourage a love and appreciation of nature."

Some of the zoo activities mentioned during the presentation include educational programs such as keeper chats and Summer Safari and community-wide events such as Party for the Planet, Zoo Brew & Wine Too and Holiday Light Safari.

cougar

Research: Alexandria Zoological Park Delivers Missing Information Critical to Sustaining Biodiversity

Despite volumes of data currently available on mankind, it is surprising how little we know about other species. A paper published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) – using data recorded by Alexandria Zoological Park in collaboration with other zoos and aquariums worldwide - confirms that critical information, such as fertility and survival rates, is missing from global data for more than 98 percent of known species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

It's a gap with far-reaching implications for conservationists seeking to blunt the impact of mass extinctions. At a minimum, scientists working worldwide on behalf of IUCN Red List, IUCN Species Survival Commission, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), TRAFFIC, Monitor, and others require more complete data to make informed decisions.

That changed when researchers added data from a previously untapped source, the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS). Across classes of species, key blanks fill with salient data. Alexandria Zoological Park records their animal data in ZIMS, which is curated by wildlife professionals working within zoos, aquariums, refuge, research, and education centers in 97 countries. It is maintained by Species360, a non-profit member-driven organization that facilitates information sharing among its nearly 1,200 institutional members, and is the world’s largest set of wildlife data. Alexandria Zoological Park has been contributing data on their animals since 1982. Since then, they have added data on 2141 birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals of 358 species, making a huge impact on the understanding of those species’ life histories.

"It seems inconceivable. Yet scientists tasked with saving species often have to power through with best-guess assumptions that we hope approximate reality," said lead researcher and Species360 Conservation Science Alliance director Dalia A. Conde.

A multidisciplinary team led by Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, with participants from 19 institutions, believes we can substantially increase what we know by applying new analytics to data that has been long overlooked – using data contributed by Alexandria Zoological Park and other zoos and aquariums around the world. "Providing that missing data – filling in those gaps – is game-changing for these species," adds Alexandria Zoo director Lee Ann Whitt.

Predicting when species are at risk, and how best to bolster populations, requires knowing at what age females reproduce, how many hatchlings or juveniles survive to adolescence, and how long adults live. To understand what data are currently available, and to measure the void, researchers developed a Species Knowledge Index (SKI) that classifies available demographic information for 32,144 known species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

"The demographic knowledge of species index provides significant information that, in conjunction with genetic data, allows estimations of events that affect population viability. Severe population declines, sometimes called genetic bottlenecks, influence the sustainability of populations, as we have found in studying endangered rhinos,” said Oliver Ryder, Ph.D., Director of Genetics, San Diego Zoo Global.

Turning first to go-to global sources of information, the index registers comprehensive birth and death rates for just 1.3 percent of these major classes of species. The map, which illustrates demographic knowledge for individual species, shows that many remain blank.

"Adding ZIMS was like turning on the lights in an otherwise very dim room,” said Conde. “Class by class, from mammals through amphibians, we saw large gaps fill with fundamental data needed to help conservationists assess populations and advocate for threatened, endangered, and vulnerable species."

Incorporating ZIMS boosted the Species Knowledge Index eightfold for comprehensive life table information used to assess populations. Information on the age of first reproduction for females, a key piece to estimating how a population will fair in coming years, grew as much as 73 percent.

The study, “Data gaps and opportunities for comparative and conservation biology,” suggests a value far beyond the data itself. As Conservation Science Alliance and other researchers apply analytics to data aggregated across global sources, including ZIMS, they glean insights that impact outcomes for species in danger of extinction. Moreover, this can provide key insights for comparative and evolutionary biology, such as understanding the evolution of aging.

The team of 33 scientists including data analysts, biologists, and population dynamics specialists developed the first Species Knowledge Index to map just how much we know about species worldwide. The index aggregates, analyzes and maps data from 22 databases and the IUCN Red List of Threatened species.

About Species360
Species360, a non-profit NGO and global leader in wildlife care and conservation, mobilizes a network of more than 1,100 zoo, aquarium, university, research and governmental members worldwide to improve animal welfare and species conservation. Our members address today’s most urgent wildlife issues, including establishing best practices in husbandry, enrichment, medical care, welfare, reproduction, population management, and biodiversity.

Together, Species360 members curate the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), the world’s most comprehensive open database of knowledge on more than 22,000 species. ZIMS vastly increases what is known about thousands of species, and is instrumental in identifying sustainability strategies for many of the species assessed as vulnerable, endangered, and extinct in the wild.

From data to applied conservation
Species360 Conservation Science Alliance researchers provide conservationists with evidence-based findings integrating the full scope of global data, including IUCN Red List, CITES, TRAFFIC, EDGE, AZE, ZIMS, and more. Research led in collaboration with IUCN Species Survival Commission, CITES, and others, drives insightful decisions on many levels, from enforcing illegal wildlife trade laws to calculating viability of insurance populations.

River otter pups

Otterly adorable!

On February 28, Alexandria Zoo welcomed three new additions. Mack and Emmy, the Zoo’s North American river otters, became parents to their second litter. The pups have been spending their first few weeks behind-the-scenes with mom Emmy.

At birth, otter pups are born with their eyes closed and are completely dependent on their mother. The pups will remain behind the scenes until they are old enough to venture out into the otter habitat later this spring.

Join the Alexandria Zoo on Saturday, April 27 at Party for the Planet presented by Walker Kia for the babies' gender reveal. Gender reveal cakes will be provided by Atwood’s Bakery with cookies for guests to sample while supplies last.

Logo Party for the Planet

Party for the Planet rescheduled for Saturday, April 27

Due to the rain forecast for Saturday, April 13, Party for the Planet presented by Walker Kia has been postponed until Saturday, April 27 (11am - 3pm).

Learn More

Double-wattled Cassowary

Five fascinating facts about the cassowary

For many guests, Roscoe the double-wattled cassowary is one of the most intriguing animals that calls the Alexandria Zoo home. The brightly colored, prehistoric looking bird is native to Australia and a relative of ostriches and emus. Here are five fascinating facts about Roscoe and his cassowary cousins.

1. Big Bird. The double-wattled cassowary is one of the heaviest birds in the world, second only to the ostrich. They can also grow up to six feet tall.

2. Helmet Head. Cassowaries have a casque (also called a helmet) on the top of their heads. The outer layer of the casque is made of keratin, which is the same protein found in human fingernails.

3. "Be Cass-o-wary". Double-wattled cassowaries have a razor-sharp claw on the inner toe of each foot that can cause serious injury to potential predators. They can also sprint up to 30 mph.

4. Father Knows Best. Cassowaries are mostly solitary and territorial, except during breeding season. After mating, males build the nest and incubate the eggs. After hatching, the male raises the chicks, teaching them to find food and protecting them from predators.

5. Keystone Species. The fruit-loving double-wattled cassowary usually swallows fruits whole – seeds and all. As it travels, the cassowary disperses the semi-digested fruits and seeds through its excrement, which germinates the ground for the new growth of over 100 species of rainforest plants. Some trees depend entirely on the cassowary to reproduce and spread its seed, because this bird is the only animal capable of eating the fruits.

Summer Safari and Teen Trek

Set off for adventure this summer

Experience the amazing world of animals this summer at Alexandria Zoo! Summer Safari is an exciting opportunity for kids to dive into the natural world in a safe, hands-on environment. Campers of all abilities and learning styles can enjoy a fun, action-packed week where they will go on adventures through the zoo, encounter animals up close, visit with zookeepers, meet new friends, play games, and express their creativity.

Under the guidance of educators and zoo staff, children explore nature through fun and exciting conservation activities with the goal of fostering their love and appreciation of wildlife while encouraging teamwork and friendship.

Summer Safari classes are weekly themed camps available in June and July. These camps are offered for children who have completed Pre-k through the 6th grade and run Monday through Friday throughout the summer. Class fees are $95 for current FOTAZ Members and $115 for non-members.

Class descriptions and registration information are available on our website.

Teen Trek
Teen Trek is a fun, interactive week-long exploration for young wildlife enthusiasts looking for the next-level experience at the Zoo.Through engaging topics, hands-on activities, up-close animal encounters, behind-the-scenes tours, and assisting animal care staff, teens can explore their interests in the natural world while learning to positively impact wildlife and wild places.

Teen Trek is for children completing 7th and 8th grade in May 2019. The camp runs June 24 – 28 from 9 am to noon.

Registration
Registration for Summer Safari and Teen Trek will begin Monday, March 25 for FOTAZ members, and Monday, April 1 for non-members. Registrations are accepted online, in person, and by mail.

Summer Safari Teen Trek

Zoo Brew & Wine Too

Tap into your wild side

It's a night of great brews, great music and amazing animals at Alexandria Zoo's Zoo Brew & Wine Too presented by Walker KIA.

Guests 21-and-over can sip on a variety of Louisiana craft brews and wine from Huckleberry Brewing Co., Cane River Brewing Co. Twenty 8 West Brewing, Crying Eagle Brewing Company, Tin Roof Brewing Co., Bayou Teche Brewing, and Amato's Winery.

Rock out at Cenla's wildest outdoor music venue with live music by Mojo Killjoy. Get your game on with classic video games, ping pong and more, and meet some of the Zoo's animal ambassadors.

Satisfy your taste buds with tasty food truck fare available for purchase from Debbie’s Meat Pies, Uncle Willie’s BBQ, and Big Belly’s. Additional beer and wine available for purchase.

First 250 General Admission tickets sold include a souvenir glass.

Guests (including Designated Drivers) must be at least 21 years old and present a valid photo ID. Babies or children are not allowed. Guests without a valid photo ID will not be permitted to enter the event. Zoo Brew will be held rain or shine. All sales are final; no refunds or exchanges. Please consider your unused ticket as a tax-deductible donation.

Learn More Buy Tickets

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff: Paige Boshears

My passion for animals began when I was just a little kid. I was obsessed with watching every nature documentary on television at the time, and knew from that moment I had to care for these amazing creatures.

My favorite group of animals to work with are the carnivores, specifically felids. The cats hold a very special place in my heart, and I hope to continue working with them and growing my knowledge for years to come.

The best part about my job is having the ability to create a connection with the animals I work with. Understanding them on a personal level allows me to provide them with enrichment that I know they will engage with, as well as a general feeling of love and care for every single one of them.

Zoos are instrumental in wildlife conservation for many reasons, but most importantly, zoos fill the role of education. When guests come to visit Alexandria Zoo, we encourage them to attend our keeper talks or ask questions to a staff member nearby. Education allows people to make informed choices and help spread the word about conservation to make our world and all the animals that live on it, happy and healthy.

Red Wolf

On the Brink

Imagine being one of only 14 individuals left of your species. For the red wolf, the only canid solely native to the United States, this became reality. Once common in the Eastern and Southern regions of the United States, the red wolf (Canis rufus) was declared extinct in the wild in 1980.

AZA-accredited facilities and partners began working together to increase the number of wild red wolves through reintroduction programs implemented by AZA’s Species Survival Plan® program and partnerships with government agencies, non-profits, and research institutes. With the arrival of two red wolves in 1983, Alexandria Zoo became a participant in this effort.

From those 14 founders, the red wolf wild population peaked at 130 individuals about a decade ago. Red wolves were successfully released into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, becoming the first-ever restoration of an officially extinct species back into the wild. The wolves successfully established packs and reproduced in the wild, supported by continued releases of zoo-born animals, helping to build the new population.

However, due to loss of habitat, human hunting, road mortality, conflict with landowners, and hybridization with coyotes, the red wolf’s future is again in jeopardy. According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the red wolf’s wild population has dipped to only 20 – 30 mature individuals.

The red wolf is now part of AZA’s SAFE initiative (Saving Animals From Extinction). SAFE combines the power of zoo and aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of AZA members and partners to help save vulnerable wildlife species from extinction and protect them for future generations.

Today, Alexandria Zoo is one of 44 approved zoos and wildlife centers throughout the U.S. that manage red wolves in human care.

Mardi Gras Party

Mambo over to Alexandria Zoo for the Mardi Gras Party

The animals are askin' for you at Alexandria Zoo! Don your purple, green and gold and parade over to the Zoo for the Mardi Gras Party.

Sink your teeth into a delicious slice of Atwood’s Bakery king cake, enjoy live music by the LaCour Trio, and visit with costumed characters.

Regular Zoo admission. FOTAZ members are free with card and photo ID. Sponsored by Friends of the Alexandria Zoo, City of Alexandria, Atwood's Bakery, and Walker KIA.

Valentine Adoption

Be a Wildlife Champion this Valentine's Day

Looking for the purr-fect gift for your special Valentine? Alexandria Zoo has a wild way to bring joy to that special someone while supporting our quality animal care and conservation efforts.

The Wildlife Champion program offers two symbolic adoption packages, Advocate ($25) and Guardian ($50). As an added Valentine’s special bonus, receive two train ride tokens with the purchase of either adoption level package.

Guardian level packages include a cuddly 12” plush, personalized Wildlife Champion certificate, gloss photo of your animal, and a species fact card.

Valentine’s Special valid through February 14, 2019.

Lee Ann Whitt

Zoo Director Lee Ann Whitt honored with prestigious Dunbar Award

On January 18, Zoo Director Lee Ann Whitt and 11 other Louisiana civil service employees were honored with the Charles E. Dunbar, Jr. Career Civil Service Award.

The Dunbar Award is the highest honor classified state employees can receive for their service to the citizens of Louisiana. Bestowed by the Louisiana Civil Service League, the award recognizes local, state and municipal civil service employees who distinguish themselves through unselfish service over and above the call of duty.

From zoo volunteer to Education Curator to Director, Whitt has played a crucial role in developing Alexandria Zoological Park into a treasured community attraction and a partner in global wildlife conservation.

With the philosophy that "a zoo is never finished," she has worked every day to continually improve Alexandria Zoo's animal care, facilities, employee work environment, and guest experience in order to provide the citizens of Alexandria and Central Louisiana (as well as visitors to our community) with a quality recreational and educational facility they can be proud of.

Throughout her 30-year career, Whitt has been committed to connecting people to nature and cultivating their love of animals into a desire to save wildlife and wild places for future generations. She has overseen the design and development of new and renovated exhibits and facilities on campus, and as Education Curator, she built the Zoo’s Education Department from the ground up.

Always working to find innovative ways to enhance the guest experience, she has developed and implemented countless special events, on-site classes and activities, and outreach programs that provide all ages and abilities in our community with recreational, educational, and cultural opportunities.

Under Whitt's leadership, Alexandria Zoo has remained continuously accredited by the AZA since 1986 and is one of only two accredited zoos in Louisiana.

The award, named after the founder of the League, Charles E. Dunbar, Jr., has recognized over 800 classified public employees in Louisiana since its inception in 1958.

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Open Daily 9 am - 5 pm

Closed only Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year's Day

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Address

Alexandria Zoo
3016 Masonic Drive
Alexandria, LA 71301
P: (318) 441-6810

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