What's in a name

What's in a name?

"Leave It To" beaver. "Monty" python. "Harry" otter. Ever wondered how an animal gets its house name? Sometimes the motivation behind the name is as unique as the animal itself.

Inspiration can strike in all kinds of places. Choices may be influenced by a favorite movie, book or song. Other options may stem from the region the animal is native to. Then there are some names that are just off the wall.

It may seem unusual to name a spider monkey "Gorilla," but many animal names are tied to their personality. The 34-year-old spider monkey got his name because he sometimes aggressively hops up and down like his much larger ape cousin.

"Maderas" the jaguar’s moniker emanated in much the same way. She was named for a volcano in Nicaragua due to her fiery disposition. Then there's the serval with some Southern soul. "Booker T." the serval was named after musician Booker T. Jones of the R&B/funk band Booker T. & the M.G.'s.

Pulled right out of Greek mythology, "Apollo" and "Athena" the Andean condors and "Zeus" the ocelot's names hail from mount Olympus. "Rio" the golden lion tamarin’s name came with a much simpler explanation. The endangered golden lion tamarin is native to Brazil, home to Rio de Janeiro.

Now that we've uncovered the mystery behind these creatures' names, we have one question for you. Do you know how you got yours?

Tab Benoit

Why you don't want to miss Alexandria Zoo’s Les Fest featuring "Cajun Bluesman" TAB BENOIT

Is there a better combination than the blend of blues and nature? On Thursday, September 22, the soulful sound of blues will be flowing among the hoots, howls and roars of the animals at the Alexandria Zoo.

Les Fest is the Zoo's signature adult untamed evening filled with live music, delicious food and fun in an inviting outdoor atmosphere. The event celebrates the late zoo director Leslie "Les" Whitt, who dedicated his life to serving the citizens of Alexandria and promoting the conservation of the world's wildlife. Two of Whitt's great loves included the Alexandria Zoo and music, both of which take center stage at Les Fest.

For the first time, musician and wetlands preservation advocate, Tab Benoit, will bring his acclaimed bayou blues sound to Alexandria Zoo. Benoit, a Houma, Louisiana native, is an American blues guitarist and singer. Winner of multiple Blues Music Awards including the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Contemporary Blues Male Artist, Benoit was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2003, he co-founded Voice of the Wetlands, a volunteer-based non-profit organization "focused on driving awareness about the loss of the wetlands in southern Louisiana."

In addition to music, the evening will feature a superb lineup of silent auction items and food available for purchase. Local area restaurants and caterers will be donating their culinary talents to compose an enticing menu of both savory and sweet creations. Vendors will include Atwood's Bakery, Back Woods Catering, Copeland's, Julia's Mexican Restaurant, Mi Tierra, Panaroma Foods, Southern Creations, Spirits, and Tunk's Cypress Inn.

Gates will open at 6:30 pm. Admission is $20. Tickets are available in advance on the zoo's website and at the Alexandria Zoo office. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate during Les Fest.

Proceeds from Les Fest help advance the zoo's conservation mission, with a portion being donated to whooping crane conservation, a species the Zoo hopes to soon provide a home to. Other funds raised will be used for projects designed to enrich the lives of animals at the zoo.

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Mike the Black Bear

Alexandria Zoo mourns loss of beloved black bear

The Alexandria Zoo family is mourning the loss of beloved, long-time zoo resident “Mike” the American black bear. Mike passed away Friday, July 22 at the age of 21.

Mike had been under medical treatment for a little over two years for chronic renal disease. "He responded well to medications and treatments over that time period," said zoo veterinarian Dr. Clint Harper. A recent dramatic decline in health prompted the decision to humanely euthanize him "once all therapy options were exhausted."

Mike was a sub-adult when he arrived at Alexandria Zoo in February 1997. He had been confiscated by Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, & Parks in Pearl River County, MS and briefly stayed at a temporary holding facility until finding a permanent home at Alexandria Zoo.

Mike's charismatic personality and playful antics quickly won the hearts of both zoo staff and visitors. He and Emily, the female black bear, spent many happy years together in Louisiana Habitat. While Mike can never truly be replaced, in time, a new companion animal for Emily will be located.

Mike will be greatly missed by all.

Bebu & Maderas

A Roaring Celebration

Alexandria Zoo is throwing a birthday bash during Zoo Day on Saturday, June 11 from 9 am – 4 pm. Visitors are invited to join the party filled with music, activities, animals and fun in celebration of the Zoo’s 90th Anniversary. To help mark this incredible milestone, admission to the Zoo is free on June 11.

Rock and roar at the Festival Plaza with live music featuring local and regional bands. The Side Men kick off the music at 10 am followed by Reverend Charley’s Patent Medicine Show at 11:45 am. Headlining the day is Feufollet, which plays from 1:30 - 3 pm. The young and vibrant Southwest Louisiana band takes the traditional Cajun, honky-tonk, and string-band music and gives it a twist, finding equal expression in blues, old-time, country ballads, and rock'n'roll. The Hoochie Digs close out the day on stage from 3:15 - 4:15 pm.

What's a birthday party without cake and presents? The animals will be treated to birthday-themed enrichment items, and visitors can enjoy a slice of cake while supplies last. The lion-themed cake created by Atwood's Bakery will be cut at 1:15 pm at the Festival Plaza.

In addition to touring the Zoo, visitors can enjoy a variety of activities scheduled throughout the day. Activities include keeper chats, animal-themed crafts, interactive education stations, face painting, obstacle course, and bounce house. Guests can also visit with the Zoo’s mascot Roary the Lion and journey through the Zoo's wild past with historical displays.

Learn More

Time Location
9:30 Animal Presentation Zoo Entrance
9:45 Keeper Chat White Tiger
10:00 Live Music: The Side Men Festival Plaza
10:30 Animal Presentation Zoo Entrance
10:45 Keeper Chat Aldabra Tortoise
11:30 Animal Presentation Zoo Entrance
11:45 Keeper Chat Cassowary
11:45 Live Music: Reverend Charley's Patent Medicine Show Festival Plaza
12:30 Animal Presentation Zoo Entrance
12:45 Keeper Chat Cougar cubs
1:15 Birthday Cake Festival Plaza
1:30 Live Music: Feufollet Festival Plaza
1:45 Keeper Chat Spider Monkey
2:30 Animal Presentation Zoo Entrance
2:45 Keeper Chat River Otter
3:15 Live Music: The Hoochie Digs Festival Plaza
3:30 Animal Presentation Zoo Entrance
3:45 Keeper Chat Red River Hog
Bebu & Maderas

On the prowl with Bebu & Maderas

Alexandria Zoo is home to a pair of young, energetic jaguars. Bebu, the male, was born in October 2011. Maderas, called Maddie by her keepers, was born in April 2012. "Maddie was actually named after a volcano because of her fiery personality," said Wes Horton, the jaguars' primary zookeeper. Horton has been a zookeeper at Alexandria Zoo since 2013, having previously worked at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo in Monroe. Horton takes care of several species in part of the Land of the Jaguar, and Bebu and Maderas are among his favorites.

Jaguars are the largest of the cats in the Americas and the top of the food chain when it comes to South America. "When you take a stroll through the Land of the Jaguar, you’ll see all the prey that the jaguar would hunt," said Horton. The cavy, capybara, tapir, and caiman are among just a few of the numerous species that are in the jaguar’s diet. "Jaguars have a tremendous biting power. They can pierce through skulls and the thick hides of species like the crocodile and caiman."

While jaguars are one of the apex predators of South America, Maddie is the ruler of Bebu and her shared habitat. "Maddie is the boss of the yard. With her fierce attitude she keeps the male in check," said Horton. When she challenges him, Bebu will submit, roll on his back, put his paws up, and open his mouth to show Maddie he knows she’s in charge. Once she recognizes the behavior, she'll walk away.

Like many large predators, jaguars face threats from habitat loss and human persecution. Alexandria Zoo participates in over 50 Species Survival Programs (SSP), which are cooperative endeavors among zoos and aquariums in North America to help ensure the survival of selected wildlife species. Through Friends of the Alexandria Zoo (FOTAZ), Alexandria Zoo also contributes funds to support jaguar conservation in the wild. "I am very fortunate to have a career that I am passionate about," said Horton. "I love working with animals and knowing what we do at the Zoo plays a part in the bigger conservation picture."

Zoo Grass

Pack a picnic and head to the Zoo on April 9

Gather your family and friends, pack your picnic basket and get down with your favorite roots music at Alexandria Zoo's ZOO GRASS on Saturday, April 9 beginning at 6 pm.

"We have some great music lined up with the Cat Head Biscuit Boys of Lafayette and Cenla's own Reverend Charley’s Patent Medicine Show," said Angele Ehlers, Media Specialist. "They'll be playing some great folk, bluegrass, Cajun and country music."

Guests can tour the Zoo while listening to the music or sit back and enjoy a relaxing evening.

With face painting and over a dozen backyard games, there will be plenty for the kids to enjoy. Play ring toss, ladder ball, horseshoes, and kerplunk to name a few. Alexandria Zoo's mascot Roary the Lion will also be making an appearance.

"Each year at Zoo Grass we highlight a different grasslands species," said Heather Betz, Education Curator. "Alexandria Zoo is continuing its commitment to wildlife conservation efforts by supporting exciting field conservation projects both locally and internationally." Kids can stop by the giant anteater interactive conservation station presented by the Zoo Education Department to discover fascinating facts about this grassland species and the wildlife conservation project the Zoo is supporting. "Visitors can help the largest of the anteater species by enjoying a cold drink from the Zoo's drink stand," said Betz. Proceeds from the drink stand will go to giant anteater conservation.

Visitors can pack a picnic or stop by the concessions for a cool drink or a bite to eat. To protect the family atmosphere, no outside beverages are allowed. Beer, wine, soft drinks, water and food items from the Palm Cafe and Chick-fil-A will be available for sale.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 4 to 12 years. Ages 3 and under are free. FOTAZ cards and other zoo passes are not accepted.

"Zoo Grass is a wonderful opportunity for families to unplug and get out and play while listening to some great roots music," said Ehlers. Feel free to bring a blanket or lawn chair, then sit back and relax at ZOO GRASS!

Mike & Emily the Black Bears

Get to know Mike & Emily

Louisiana Habitat is home to two American black bears named Mike and Emily. "I love taking care of the black bears," said Louisiana Habitat zookeeper Laura Yerby. "I’ve had the opportunity to work with them for several years now."

Fellow zookeeper Jessi Ryan said the black bears are also two of her favorites. "The black bears are great to work with. They have very different personalities," said Ryan. Mike, who arrived at Alexandria Zoo as a sub-adult in 1997, has a laid back personality. Emily, who arrived two years later, is a little more protective of her territory. "The female, Emily, has quite an attitude, but we love her, too," said Yerby with a smile.

One of the ways zookeepers keep the animals engaged is through enrichment, which is achieved in many different ways including toys, food, and their exhibit environment. "We like to encourage natural habits, foraging in particular," said Ryan.

To mimic the natural hunting and foraging of food, zookeepers will scatter or hide the animals' diet, encouraging them to search for it. Food is also hung from trees or frozen in popsicles, challenging the animals to work for the food and interact with their environment.

"It's interesting for people to learn that Mike and Emily's favorite foods are fruit such as watermelon and pineapple, because black bears are classified as carnivores," said Ryan.

In areas where there is a consistent food supply and warmer weather during the winter, bears may not hibernate at all. "Mike and Emily don't go into a true hibernation as some other bears do. It's more of a slow down," said Ryan. "When it starts to get warmer in the spring around March they do start moving around more," said Ryan. Both Mike and Emily love to swim.

"When you're a primary keeper you work with the same animals every day. You get to know those animals, and get attached to those animals," said Yerby. "Taking care of the animals is the best part of our job. That’s what we love to do."

Party for the Planet

It's a Week-Long Party for the Planet!

Wear your green as you celebrate Earth Day at the Alexandria Zoo’s week-long Party for the Planet! Alexandria Zoo feels that the Earth is indeed something to celebrate, and we are inviting our community to come out into nature and learn how to protect and save it!

Tag along with our Zoo's conservation mascot, Roary the lion, as he learns how to appreciate and protect the nature around us! The Zoo will host keeper talks, highlighted animal enrichment, animal encounters, fun-filled activities and tools from several conservation and environmental organizations around the region who will share their expertise and resources about being good stewards to the environment.

The celebration runs from Monday, April 11 to Friday, April 15 from 10 am to 2 pm each day. All Party for the Planet activities are free of charge with paid admission into the Zoo. Topics during the week include: local and international conservation, wetland preservation, water conservation, recycling and we end the week with an animal-style party celebrating the Zoo's animal ambassadors!

Educators can schedule their field trip today!

Monday: CENLA Beekeeping Club | Louisiana Native Plant Society | USDA Forest Service
Tuesday: Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries; Chimp Haven, Inc. | US Department of the Interior | Fish and Wildlife Service
Wednesday: City of Alexandria Dept. of Environmental Compliance | USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service | US Army Corp of Engineers
Thursday: City of Alexandria Dept. of Urban Forestry
Friday: Zoo's Celebration

Mardi Gras Party

They all ask for you at Alexandria Zoo

The animals are askin' for you at Alexandria Zoo! Following the Children's Parade on Saturday, February 6, boogie woogie over to Alexandria Zoo for the Mardi Gras Party from 2 - 4 pm.

Beginning at 2 pm, take a nostalgic journey through World War II-era musical classics performed by the National WWII Museum's charming vocal trio, the Victory Belles. Their spirited performances of such hits as Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, Chattanooga Choo Choo and I'll Be Seeing You, are all sung in a rich, three-part harmony. The LaCour Trio will perform from 3 - 4 pm.

Enjoy complimentary sweet treats baked and donated by Atwood's Bakery. Visitors will also get their first chance to meet Roary the Lion, Alexandria Zoo's new official mascot. He’ll be making appearances throughout the event.

The Mardi Gras Party is sponsored by City of Alexandria, Friends of the Alexandria Zoo, Atwood's Bakery, and the Alexandria / Pineville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Regular zoo admission. FOTAZ Members are free with card and photo ID.

Roary the Lion

There's a new lion in town

There's a new lion in town and he likes hugs and high-fives. His name is Roary and visitors will get their first chance to meet him at Alexandria Zoo’s Mardi Gras Party on Saturday, February 6. Roary the Lion is Alexandria Zoo’s new official mascot and will be helping the Zoo celebrate its 90th Anniversary during 2016.

The mighty lion roar has been echoing throughout City Park since the Zoo’s early days. Roary represents a long line of beloved felines. Alexandria’s love affair with the lion has spanned across generations of zoo-goers, each with a favorite pair and their own treasured memories.

Which twosome do you remember? Is it Gus and Belle, Elvis and Elsa, Tuffy and Tanya, or Gunther and Tallukah? Today’s generation will get to grow up with the newest lions on the block, Taj and Angalia.

Roary is not only here to celebrate the Zoo’s past, but also to serve as a conservation ambassador for his furry, feathered, and scaly friends, along with their wild counterparts.

Roary will be making appearances at Zoo special events and activities during the year.

AZA Quarter Century Award

Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Announces Recipients of Quarter Century Award
Award recognizes 25 years or more of continuous AZA accreditation

Silver Spring, Maryland (January 6, 2016) – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the primary accrediting body for top zoos and aquariums in the United States since 1974, announced today the recipients of the Association’s Quarter Century Award. Established in 2015, this new award acknowledges facilities that have maintained AZA accreditation continuously for 25 years or more, highlighting their commitment to animal care, welfare, conservation, education, and more. The inaugural group of 119 awardees includes many facilities that have successfully achieved AZA accreditation well beyond the 25 year mark.

"AZA is dedicated to ensuring that the highest standards in the zoological profession are met, and this means that the accreditation process is therefore quite rigorous," said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “The fact that these aquariums and zoos have maintained continuous AZA accreditation for 25 years or more is an extraordinary achievement that deserves to be celebrated," said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy.

To be accredited, AZA-accredited facilities have completed a thorough review to ensure that they meet and will continue to meet rising standards, which include animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association.

The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution's operation, including animal care; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and other areas. Finally, top officials are interviewed at a formal hearing of AZA's independent Accreditation Commission, after which accreditation is granted, tabled, or denied. Any institution that is denied may reapply one year after the Commission's decision is made.

Recipients of AZA's Quarter Century Award will receive a plaque honoring their achievement. The list of facilities continuously accredited by AZA for 25 years or more is as follows:

Institution Year of Initial Accreditation
Abilene Zoological Gardens 1985
Akron Zoological Park 1989
Albuquerque Biological Park 1981
Alexandria Zoological Park 1986
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum 1983
Audubon Zoo 1981
Bergen County Zoological Park 1986
Binder Park Zoo 1983
Blank Park Zoo 1987
Brandywine Zoo 1986
BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo 1977
Bronx Zoo 1979
Brookfield Zoo/Chicago Zoological Society 1986
Brookgreen Gardens 1983
Buffalo Zoo 1981
Busch Gardens (Tampa) 1985
Caldwell Zoo 1985
Calgary Zoo 1978
Cape May County Park Zoo 1989
Central Florida Zoo 1986
Central Park Zoo 1989
Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Park 1983
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden 1978
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo 1982
Clyde Peeling's Reptiland 1987
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium 1980
Como Park Zoo and Conservatory 1986
Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo 1987
Dallas Zoo 1985
David Traylor Zoo of Emporia 1985
Denver Zoological Gardens 1976
Detroit Zoological Society 1985
Dickerson Park Zoo 1986
El Paso Zoo 1980
Ellen Trout Zoo 1983
Erie Zoo 1985
Fort Wayne Children's Zoo 1976
Fort Worth Zoological Park 1977
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center 1986
Fresno Chaffee Zoo 1979
Gladys Porter Zoo 1978
Greenville Zoo 1988
Henry Vilas Zoo 1976
Henson Robinson Zoo 1986
Honolulu Zoo 1986
Houston Zoo, Inc. 1985
Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. 1981
International Crane Foundation 1987
Jackson Zoological Park 1989
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens 1987
John Ball Zoological Gardens 1983
John G. Shedd Aquarium 1978
Kansas City Zoo 1984
Knoxville Zoological Gardens 1984
Lee Richardson Zoo 1986
Lincoln Park Zoo 1976
Living Desert, The 1983
Los Angeles Zoo 1979
Louisville Zoological Garden 1980
Maryland Zoo in Baltimore 1980
Memphis Zoo 1981
Miller Park Zoo 1978
Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens 1976
Minnesota Zoological Garden 1980
Monterey Bay Aquarium 1986
Mystic Aquarium 1984
National Aquarium 1984
National Aviary 1984
New York Aquarium 1984
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher 1990
North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores 1990
North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island 1990
North Carolina Zoological Park 1984
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park 1985
Oakland Zoo 1988
Oglebay's Good Zoo 1986
Oklahoma City Zoological Park 1981
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium 1983
Oregon Zoo 1974
Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park 1989
Peoria Zoo 1981
Philadelphia Zoo 1974
Phoenix Zoo 1981
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium 1983
Potawatomi Zoo 1987
Potter Park Zoological Gardens 1986
Racine Zoological Gardens 1986
Reid Park Zoo 1983
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden 1979
Roger Williams Park Zoo 1986
Roosevelt Park Zoo 1988
Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park 1987
Sacramento Zoo 1979
Saint Louis Zoo 1977
Salisbury Zoological Park 1976
San Antonio Zoological Society 1975
San Diego Zoo 1977
San Diego Zoo Safari Park 1977
San Francisco Zoological Gardens 1977
Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens 1982
Seattle Aquarium 1979
SeaWorld Orlando 1983
SeaWorld San Antonio 1990
SeaWorld San Diego 1981
Sedgwick County Zoo 1982
Seneca Park Zoo 1979
Smithsonian National Zoological Park 1977
St. Augustine Alligator Farm 1988
Staten Island Zoo 1988
Sunset Zoological Park 1989
Toledo Zoological Gardens 1976
Tulsa Zoo 1976
Utah's Hogle Zoo 1979
Vancouver Aquarium 1975
Virginia Zoological Park 1987
Wildlife Safari 1986
Woodland Park Zoological Gardens 1982
Zoo Atlanta 1987
Zoo Miami 1984