Holiday Light Safari

Tis’ the Season for Holiday Light Safari

‘Tis the season for Holiday Light Safari at Alexandria Zoo. Each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in December, enjoy one of Cenla’s most beloved holiday traditions.

Soak in the sights and sounds of the season with a casual stroll through the zoo transformed with thousands of sparkling lights and whimsical lighted animal figures. Want to see even more lights and displays? Hop aboard the Holiday Express Train for a festive ride with holiday music. Each evening, the first 100 guests will receive a free train ride courtesy of Walker Kia.

Share your wish list with Santa through December 23, visit with costumed characters, and stop by Atwood’s Merry Creations to decorate an Atwood’s Bakery sugar cookie and make a craft. There will also be tasty treats available for purchase and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping.

Holiday Light Safari is a separately-ticketed event, held December 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, and 26-28 from 5:30 to 8:30 pm with the last entry at 8 pm. The zoo closes early each evening of the event at 3:30 pm (last admission 3 pm) and re-opens as Holiday Light Safari at 5:30 pm. Admission is $8 per person, ages 4 and older; FOTAZ members (with card and photo ID) $6 per person, ages 4 and older. Ages 3 and under are free.

Please note that Holiday Light Safari does not feature the Zoo’s animals. While you may spot a few night owls, most of our residents will be catching some zzz's.

Whether you’re looking for a date night or a fun night out with family and friends, Holiday Light Safari is the perfect activity to enjoy during the holiday season.

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Train Driver

Last Ride

After 27 years, George Simmons will be making his last ride as Alexandria Zoo’s full-time train driver at the end of November. However, it won’t be the last chance to hear “A-A-A-ALL ABOARD!”. George isn’t ready to hang up his engineer hat for good. He will continue serving as a relief driver during Holiday Light Safari and on other occasions.

On Saturday, November 23, the Zoo will be celebrating George Simmons Day with cake from Atwood’s Bakery (while supplies last) and other special recognition. Guests who wear a train cap or overalls on November 23, 2019 will receive a free train ride.

George’s love of trains began early. “I’ve been a rail fan and model railroader since I was a young child,” said George. “I would listen to my dad talk about the trains when he came home; he worked as a conductor and a brakeman.”

It was George’s hobby as a model railroader that led to his job as zoo engineer. “One day I was at the hobby shop in town, and the owner said the zoo was looking for a train driver and he gave Leslie Whitt my name,” said George. Bayou Le Zoo Choo Choo made its golden spike run in May 1992, and by July, George became the new permanent engineer.

George has taken great pride in providing a positive and fun experience for guests throughout his long tenure at the zoo. “The best part of my job is getting to interact with the people. Getting to see the excitement on the face of the kids… it makes you feel good about what you do,” said George. “It’s very rewarding to know that guests enjoyed riding so much as kids that they are coming back now and bringing their children to ride with them.”

Lights for Lions

Recycle Lights. Save Lions.

Alexandria Zoo and Friends of the Alexandria Zoo (FOTAZ) are partnering with Cleco to launch a “Lights for Lions” holiday lights recycling campaign Nov. 18 – Jan. 13.

The purpose of the campaign is to support the zoo, help protect the environment and conserve energy by recycling broken or unwanted holiday string lights.

“We’re grateful for Cleco’s interest in recycling and their support of innovative initiatives like this to help us save endangered species,” said Lee Ann Whitt, director of the Alexandria Zoo. “The timing couldn’t be better as holiday decorating will soon be under way. If you don’t know what to do with your broken or burned out strings of lights and extensions cords, bring them to the zoo.”

“This is a great community project with multiple benefits,” said David Melancon, events coordinator at Cleco. “We get to support our local zoo, dispose of lights that no longer work or that we don’t want, reduce the amount of waste being dumped in our landfills, as well as save energy and raw materials.”

All the holiday string lights collected will be sold to a local recycling company. Cleco will match the total amount paid to FOTAZ dollar for dollar up to $1,000.

Part of Alexandria Zoo’s mission is to support various conservation projects each year with financial contributions made through FOTAZ. FOTAZ will donate the proceeds from Lights for Lions to the Wildlife Conservation Network Lion Recovery Fund (LRF). The LRF invests in projects across Africa to mitigate conflict between farmers and lions, increase monitoring of the lion population and distribution, and address habitat loss. Their goal is to double the population of wild lions in Africa by 2050.

Today, lions only occupy about 8 percent of their historic range with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 lions remaining in the wild of Africa. According to the IUCN Red List, African lions are classified as critically endangered in West Africa and vulnerable elsewhere in Africa.

Recycling bins labeled are located at the main entrance of the zoo and will be available Nov. 18 through Jan. 13. Broken, old and non-LED string lights, extension cords, and power strips will be accepted. Items can be dropped off without entering the zoo. Please do not bring bags, boxes, loose bulbs, light clips or other types of lighting.

Alycat Book Series

Book Signing Event Nov. 23

Alexandria Zoo will host an Alycat Book Signing Event with multi-award winning author, Alysson Foti Bourque on November 23 from 11 am - 2 pm at the Zootique Gift Shop. Bourque and her lovable main character, Alycat, will be present to meet readers and autograph her books.

Bouque won the Mom's Choice Award for all of her Alycat books, Alycat and the Thursday Dessert Day, Alycat and the Monday Blues, Alycat and the Friendshop Friday, and the forthcoming, Alycat and the Tournament Tuesday. She is also the recipient of theBenjamin Franklin Digital Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), a finalist of the Best Book Award and a Louisiana Book Festival and Southern Festival of Books Featured Author.


Cool Cats

Meet Cesar and Dominique, the newest cats on the block at Alexandria Zoo. These pretty kitties are caracals, medium-sized cats found across Africa, the Middle East and into India.

Caracals are named for their most notable feature, the long black tassels on their ears. The word caracal is from a Turkish word that means “black-eared.” These striking cats have reddish-brown fur, and lack any spots or stripes. Caracals are also called desert lynx, but are not actually members of the lynx family.

These agile cats can leap up to 10 feet. Caracals are carnivores and hunt a variety of birds, rodents, and small antelopes.

Cesar and Dominique can be found temporarily in the Land of the Jaguar next to the giant anteater habitat. They will be moved to their home near the Palm Café once the renovation of the bobcat habitat is completed.


5 Sloth Facts for International Sloth Day

Want to know what it’s like to experience life in the slow lane? Take a lesson in leisure from the sloth. To celebrate International Sloth Day on October 20, we’re highlighting five facts about one of our favorite slow-moving mammals.

1. Sloths eat, sleep, mate, and even give birth in an upside-down position. Their strong, curved claws hook around branches, helping them safely hang, and even sleep upside down.

2. The two-toed sloth is one of the slowest mammals in the world. The three-toed sloth is the slowest.

3. A sloth’s leafy diet is low in nutritional value, so they don’t move a lot. Sloths sleep up to 20 hours a day.

4. Sloths have the slowest digestion of any mammal. Some food items can even take an up to a month to fully digest! They only have to go to the bathroom about once a week because of their slow metabolism.

5. The health of sloth populations is dependent on the health of their forest habitats. Without an abundance of trees, sloths will lose their shelter and food source. How can you help sloths and other forest dwelling species? Use your power as a consumer to choose forest-friendly products.

Hang out with Mojo our two-toed sloth and learn more about these cool creatures at the sloth keeper chat on Sunday, October 20 at 1 pm.

brazilian tapir

What animal is that?

Although the Brazilian tapir looks like a weird cross between an anteater and a wild hog, these unusual-looking mammals are most closely related to horses and rhinoceroses. Tapirs have a prehensile snout, are the largest terrestrial mammal in South America, and also play a vital role in their ecosystems.

Tapirs dine on a variety of plants. As they roam the tropical forests, they play the role of gardener in their habitats. When they defecate, they deposit (well fertilized) seeds they have consumed, which promote future plant growth. A recent study of Brazilian tapirs in Peru revealed over 100 different seed species in their dung!

Tapirs have been a part of Alexandria Zoo’s family since J.J. and P.J. arrived at the Zoo in the mid 1990’s. The Zoo not only participates in their Species Survival Plan program, but the tapir is among the Latin American species Friends of the Alexandria Zoo supports financially through contributions to Zoo Conservation Outreach Group (ZCOG) field conservation projects.

One of these projects is the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative (LTCI), a nation-wide, long-term research and conservation effort led by Brazilian conservationist Dr. Patrícia Medici. Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, Brazilian tapirs face threats from loss of habitat through deforestation, hunting for meat, road-kill, and competition with domestic livestock. The overall goal of the LTCI is to have tapir research and conservation programs carried out in all four Brazilian biomes where Brazilian tapirs are found – Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, Cerrado and Amazon – and to develop and implement biome-based Tapir Action Plans.

You can help us protect species like the tapir by supporting Friends of the Alexandria Zoo. Together we can help save vulnerable wildlife around the globe.

zoo boo

Four Nights of Spooktacular Fun

The witching hour’s almost here, so get your favorite family-friendly costume ready for the biggest Halloween extravaganza in Central Louisiana! Zoo Boo, Alexandria Zoo’s merry-not-scary Halloween event, is October 18, 19, 25 and 26 from 5:30 – 8 pm.

The wickedly fun celebration begins along the Shutterbug Trail when you enter the Zoo. You’ll meet many of your favorite movie and storybook characters at boo-tiful themed photo ops.

At the Festival Plaza, discover a fresh spin on interactive kids’ activities that will have you howling with excitement. Test your skills on the agility course, snap a photo with pet and barn yard characters, and enjoy games and activities. All Festival Plaza area activities can be enjoyed in any order and at your own pace.

When you’re ready for the sweets and treats, pick up a treat bag and head down Trick-or-Treat Lane, which leads through the rest of the Zoo to the exit. Children 12 years and younger can gather up goodies as you travel from station to station. Guests of all ages will receive a soft drink courtesy of Coca-Cola of Alexandria.

ADMISSION: $7 per person, ages 1 and older (cash only). Since Zoo Boo is the Zoo's largest fundraising event, FOTAZ memberships and other zoo passes are not accepted. Tickets cannot be purchased in advance.

COSTUMES: Family-friendly costumes are encouraged, but not required. Ages 14 and older may not wear masks or heavy make-up that covers the face or conceals their identity.

PARKING: Parking is available in the Zoo's main parking lot on Masonic Drive. There is additional parking at the Youth Baseball Complex and down Babe Ruth Drive. Carpooling is encouraged.

QUEUE LINE: The queue line will be located in Bringhurst Baseball Field with live music to entertain you while you wait.

TRICK-OR-TREATING: Trick-or-treating is reserved for kids ages 12 and younger. There are lots of decorations, photo ops, music, and activities for all ages to enjoy.

ANIMALS: While you may spot a few night owls during Zoo Boo, most of our residents will be off-exhibit to catch some zzz's.

red river hog piglets

Hog Wild

Alexandria Zoo is hog wild about its newest arrivals! Red river hogs, Hagrid and Rosie, welcomed five new additions on September 11, 2019. The precious piglets are being well cared for by their extremely attentive first-time parents.

Red river hogs are known by their beautiful red hair and long tufts of white hair along the back and on the ears. Piglets are born with yellow stripes along the back and sides of the body, which helps them blend into their environment. Also called bush pigs, these gorgeous hogs live in central and southern Africa. They prefer to live in wet habitats, roaming in forest and swamp areas.

Alexandria Zoo participates in Species Survival Plans for over 50 species, including the red river hog. Through these programs, AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums) accredited zoos and aquariums work together to save threatened and endangered species.

The playful piglets may be seen with their parents in their habitat, located near the Palm Cafe.

king vulture

Valuing Vultures

Here’s to nature’s clean-up crew. Taking care of animal carcasses may be a dirty job, but we’re glad vultures are around to do it.

These specialized scavengers perform a vital service for humans, animals, and the environment. Their extremely corrosive stomach acid allows them to consume carrion (dead animals), which could potentially spread contagious diseases.

Tragically, these underappreciated birds are under threat around the world. Many vulture species are in decline due to persecution, poisoning, habitat loss and changes in farming practices.

To celebrate International Vulture Appreciation Day on September 7, spread the world about the value of vultures and learn more about how accredited zoos and aquariums are focusing their collective expertise to save vultures and other species around the world.

Discover more about Alexandria Zoo's vultures: King Vulture, Turkey Vulture

BB King Blues Band

Alexandria Zoo's got the Blues

At Alexandria’s wildest outdoor music venue, wildlife and starry nights create a habitat for music to resonate. From blues to rock to creole and Cajun, Les Fest’s featured performers have touched across the musical landscape.

Set against a backdrop of amazing animals, national and internationally renowned acts have graced the stage at Les Fest over the years. Music lineups have included Tab Benoit, James Boogaloo Bolden, Bonerama, Walter Wolfman Washington, Roddie Romero and more.

Les Fest is Alexandria Zoo’s signature untamed evening for adults 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.

This year, Alexandria Zoo’s got the blues. James Boogaloo Bolden is back with fellow members of The B.B. King Blues Band featuring Claudette King and Michael Lee from NBC’s The Voice. For over half a century, B.B. King and his band defined the blues to the world with classics like "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Every Day I Have The Blues." Now B.B. King Blues Band members have teamed up with Michael Lee to continue touring in remembrance of the blues legend, helping keep B.B. King’s music legacy alive.

Great music isn’t the only item on the menu at Les Fest. An enticing selection of savory and sweet creations are available for purchase from area restaurants and caterers. Guests can feast on flavors from Atwood’s Bakery, Back Woods Catering, Spirits Food & Friends, Panaroma Foods, Southern Creations, Tunk’s Cypress Inn, Walk On’s, Outback Steakhouse, Johnny Carino’s, and 2 Reign Catering.

Whether you’re looking to hit the dance floor or just kick back, experience the soulful sounds of blues at its best live at Alexandria Zoo on Thursday, September 26.

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Trail of Animal Tales

Trail of Animal Tales

Set out on the Trail of Animal Tales on Saturday, September 14 from 11 am – 2 pm. Children can hop, soar and slither into reading with animal-themed stories at stations around the Zoo.

Visit with costumed character Clifford the Big Red Dog, get hands on with unique animal artifacts and crafts, and get up close with some of Alexandria Zoo's animal ambassadors! Louisiana authors Brenda Farrington (Swamp Diva), Sandie McNabb Knox (The Traveling Zoo Goes to School), and Brooks Byrd (If You Give a Cat a Kolache) will be at the Zoo signing their books, which are available for purchase at the Zootique Gift Shop.

All activities are included with regular admission; FOTAZ Members are free with card and photo ID.

green iguana

5 Fun Facts About Lizards

Lizards can be found on every continent except Antarctica. These reptiles are most closely related to snakes, and generally have a small head, short neck, and long body and tail. In honor of World Lizard Day, here are five fun facts about some of Alexandria Zoo’s scaly residents.

  • The aptly named blue-tongued skink uses its bright blue tongue to defend itself against predators. The sudden flash of color may startle the predator long enough for the skink to get out of harm's way.
  • Tegus are large carnivorous lizards found in tropical South America. red tegu, common tegu
  • The green iguana is not only a good swimmer, but can stay under water for up to 30 minutes.
  • The arboreal (tree-dwelling) prehensile-tailed skink is the largest known species of skink.
  • The African fat-tailed gecko’s large rounded tail is filled with fat reserves allowing the gecko to survive days without a meal in the harsh arid desert where it lives.
male African lion

Protect the Pride

It’s easy to see why lions have captured our hearts and imaginations. However, these magnificent cats are facing a number of threats.

A combination of habitat loss, loss of prey, coming into conflict with people, and poaching has caused Africa’s largest feline to suffer a steep decline in both range and numbers across the continent. One century ago there were 200,000 lions, but today there are likely just over 20,000.

Zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are helping to ensure a future for African wildlife, including lions. The African Lion SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) Program’s goal is to increase the number of African lions in the wild through public engagement and partnering with those working on the ground in Africa.

Alexandria Zoo participate in AZA’s Species Survival Plan for the African lion, and supports field conservation efforts for the species. A portion of every Friends of the Alexandria Zoo membership sale goes directly to conservation efforts like this. Just by being a member, you’re making a difference for lions and many other species around the world!

As apex predators, lions are integral to the health of their ecosystems. When we protect lions, we protect the savanna, its wildlife and the communities who live alongside them.

Click here to find the next scheduled Lion Keeper Chat.

clouded leopard

International Clouded Leopard Day

The beautiful and elusive clouded leopard is a unique species among the cat family. Very little is known about these mysterious felines despite being officially recorded as a species nearly 200 years ago.

Clouded leopards have several adaptations that set them apart from other cats. These cats have the longest tail and biggest canine teeth in relation to body size compared to other felines. Those two-inch long canines are the same size as those of a tiger, even though a tiger is 10 times larger in body size! They also have oblong pupils, unlike a big cat’s that can get fully round and small cat’s that shrink to vertical slits. They are one of the few cats that can fully rotate their ankles which allows them to climb down a tree head first and even climb upside down.

Clouded leopards, like many species that share their Southeast Asian habitat, are facing population declines due to deforestation from industrial logging and agricultural development such as palm oil plantations. They also face threats from the illegal wildlife trade.

International Clouded Leopard Day is Sunday, August 4. Alexandria Zoo, along with zoos, governments and conservation organizations from around the world are working together to save clouded leopards from extinction. Alexandria Zoo supports the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for clouded leopards and has successfully raised cubs in the past. SSPs are cooperative efforts among zoos to manage threatened or endangered species.

As consumers we can use our purchasing power to help wildlife and wild places. Click here to learn more how you can find products that are forest-friendly and support sustainable palm oil practices. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.

Stop by the clouded leopard habitat on Sunday, August 4 for a keeper chat at 3 pm to learn more about these amazing cats.

Bush dog & tayra habitat renovations

Renovations begin on tayra and bush dog habitats

Construction has begun on renovations to the tayra and bush dog habitats in Land of the Jaguar.

As an AZA accredited facility, Alexandria Zoo maintains the highest standards for animal care, and strives to continually improve animal welfare and husbandry. The renovation will expand the animals’ outdoor space and incorporate new den areas. Both exhibits were originally constructed in the early 1970s, with the outdoor areas receiving an update in 2006.

Tayra and bush dogs are native to Central and South America. The tayra is a member of the weasel family, which also includes otters, skunks, and minks. Bush dogs are small canines that have partially webbed feet, which aid in swimming.

A small section of walkway will be blocked off as crews work in the area. A short detour next to the American crocodile will lead guests to the entrance of Louisiana Habitat. All animals except the tayra will remain viewable through the duration of the renovation.

Safari Supper Club

Marc & Ted Broussard to perform at Safari Supper Club

Join Friends of the Alexandria Zoo for a sensational evening at Spirits Food & Friends complete with a delectable seated dinner and intimate performance featuring the creative talents of Marc Broussard. He will be joined by his dad, Ted, who is an inductee in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and a past member of The Boogie Kings.

Marc Broussard is an artist with a unique gift of channeling the spirits of classic R&B, rock and soul into contemporary terms. His father nurtured Marc’s musical gifts at an early age, and the vibrant Lafayette, Louisiana music scene gave Marc the opportunity to practice his craft consistently from childhood through early adulthood.

Proceeds from Safari Supper Club will benefit Alexandria Zoo's mission-critical education efforts. As advocates for wildlife and wild places, Alexandria Zoo not only strives to make an impact for the animals in our care and around the globe, but to also inspire the young and young at heart to love animals and nature.

Tickets are available for purchase in advance online or at Alexandria Zoo. Tickets will not be available for purchase at the door.

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June Special Events

June Events at Alexandria Zoo

Zoo Brew & Wine Too presented by Walker KIA
Tap into your wild side at Alexandria Zoo's Zoo Brew & Wine Too presented by Walker KIA this Saturday, June 8. Guests 21-and-over can sip on a variety of craft brews and wine, rock out to live music at Cenla's wildest outdoor music venue, get your game on with classic video games and ping pong, and meet some of the Zoo's animal ambassadors. Additional drinks and tasty food truck fare available for purchase.

Zoo Dollar Day presented by Walker KIA
Come play at Alexandria Zoo on Saturday, June 22 for Zoo Dollar Day presented by Walker Kia. Admission is only $1 per person! FOTAZ members are free with card and photo ID. Enjoy an incredible music line up featuring Chubby Carrier, Peas and Cornbread, and the Kelli Roberts Band. Plus keeper chats, 24-ft rock wall, kids’ activities and more. Rock wall and train tickets, Gift Shop souvenirs, stroller rentals, and concessions available for purchase.

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.


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).

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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 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.

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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.