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Every year, ZooAmerica celebrates Earth Day- but 2013 will elevate Earth Day to a new level in Hershey. Party for the Planet will be true celebration with green vendors from all over PA joining us.

We are excited for Art of Recycle- they will help visitors create their own finger puppets from recycled materials. Their staff will also be putting on puppet shows throughout the day.
art of recycle puppet show

Visit with the Penn State Master Gardeners to get some tips on your gardens, composting and more. They are always a plethora of information. The Farmer’s Market in Hershey and Prescott’s Patch will also have tables to exhibit your local options for farm fresh local food.

Hershey’s Chocolate World will be bringing their electric car- right into the zoo!

Sidewalk chalk will be available for kids to draw or write how they can be green at home. Stop and listen to musical entertainment while enjoying a snack or lunch from Timber Treats.

Home Depot will help you make a bird box and Giant will have reusable bags to hand out while supplies last.
zoocamp making boxes

Naturally, you’ll also learn about our behind-the-scenes conservation projects with barn owls and butterflies. There will be animal feedings at 11am and 3pm, along with a station to discover how we use recycled materials to introduce our animals to new things.
Lori working with the barn owl

Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company will showcase its environmental practices and recycling efforts including its Food Waste Program between ZooAmerica and The Hotel Hershey, where the animals receive left over food as part of their diets. Guests also can learn how the company’s 2012 recycling efforts have a positive impact on the earth through its saving of packaging and raw materials. For example, recycling efforts helped conserve 8.2 million gallons of water and 126,250 gallons of oil that would provide enough energy to heat and cool more than 619 homes for one year.

We cannot wait for this year’s Party for the Planet and hope to see YOU there!
Hershey Green Logo


Most zookeepers love Spring- for the warm weather, plant growth, but most of all- the changes they see in their animals. Here at ZooAmerica, we see Spring in many ways: prairie dogs finally emerge from their burrows, reptiles get their appetites back, courtship rituals among paired animals, nest building, loud vocalizations and many more! 

Today, one of the red-tailed hawks was trying to build a nest on the ground. Wild red-tail hawks usually build their nests in trees, on cliffs or artificial ledges. There is an excellent tree for nesting in their exhibit, but they may have chosen the ground because they are not able to fly. There are branches leading up to the tree, so they can still perch. Each bird came to the zoo because of injuries sustained in the wild.

The hawks were given a variety of materials to help them build a more complete nest (their favorite is pine branches):




A good nest could take a week to build, and these birds are well on their way! For more signs of Spring at ZooAmerica, check out our Facebook page:



The Eastern Indigo displayed in the Southern Swamps building is a favorite among Zoo Staff.  He is extremely active and fun to watch.  “Snakey” came to us as a donation in 2009, weighs 4 pounds, and is about 9 years old. When you visit him, you may notice that one of his eyes is a bit cloudy. He was recently diagnosed with bilateral cataracts. This means he is most likely only seeing shadows. Snakey is still active, even with his vision problem; we just have to be a bit more cautious at feeding time!


These snakes are named for their blue-black color, and are not constrictors like most non-venomous snakes. Instead, these snakes are “crushers.”  They crush their prey with powerful jaws.  Careful, you don’t want a bite from these snakes!

Eastern Indigo Snakes are threatened for many reasons- habitat loss, collection (many people want these beautiful snakes for pets), and destruction of gopher tortoise burrows (where they call home!).  The only places you can find an Eastern Indigo now is in southern Georgia and Florida. The Endangered Species Act has protected this snake since 1978.

Two rambunctious young coatis (kə-ˈwä-tēs) are now capturing the hearts of our visitors! We received these boys from the Staten Island Zoo, where an employee hand-raised them in her home. Coatis are intelligent, destructive, and mischievous—yet some people keep them as pets! It’s difficult enough “puppy-proofing” your house- imagine coati-proofing. They are excellent jumpers, very strong and they get their noses into anything.

Cody and Jasper are foraging for mealworms in their exhibit.

Cody and Jasper are gobbling up mealworms in their exhibit.

Our coatis are Cody and Jasper and will be 2 years old in April. Their exhibit includes many climbing structures, such as trees, vines and high branches. It is easy to keep them active, because they play with everything. We try to bring out their natural behaviors by hiding food to encourage foraging. They love many different scents, so we often use perfumes or spices to interest them as well. Since they were hand-raised, they love squeaky toys. The boys spend a lot of time playing and fighting- like any two young brothers do! Visitors have noticed they are very interested in people. Many times per day we see coatis and children eye to eye or hand to hand with just glass in between them.

Cody is ripping a new squeaker toy down that was hung in his tree.

Cody is ripping a new squeaker toy down that was hung in his tree.

White-nosed coatis are adaptable to many habitats. They range as far north as southeastern Arizona and New Mexico, and as far south as Ecuador. Our two boys are living in the nocturnal hall of the Great Southwest building. While coatis are typically diurnal, they often adjust their habits to accommodate their lifestyle. If their goal is to raid a human settlement for food, they will become nocturnal. ZooAmerica’s coatis have been very active during the “night hours,” because of feedings and playtime. During the “day hours,” when the lights are on, they sleep.

Now is a great time to see them up close since there are fewer people in the zoo during the winter. Their most active times are around 10-11am and 2-4:30pm.

The boys spend a lot of their time in the tree and climbing on their vines.

The boys spend a lot of their time in the tree and climbing on their vines.

ZooAmerica is a big advocate of making room and good habitat for wildlife, so here’s an excellent example from our partner, the Hershey Nursery.  This interesting article was written by John Carricato.

The Hershey Nursery plant yard at 25 Northeast Driveis our “holding yard” for trees, shrubs, and perennials we buy for our landscape and maintenance jobs, as well as a holding area for the planted pots placed around our Hershey Entertainment & Resorts properties. The aisles and areas around our plant beds are a crushed limestone base.

A beautiful small bird called a killdeer has claimed ourfenced-in stone-covered plant yard as a perfect place to raise their young.

A shorebird of the Plover family, the killdeer make a small indentation among the stones and lay their well camouflaged eggs – usually four – on the ground. They rely on their tan and white coloring to blend in with surroundings, but when a nesting killdeer feels threatened by another bird or human in close proximity to its nest, it swiftly moves away from the nest and drops a wing and flutters around the ground like a wounded bird to lure the intruder away from her clutch of eggs.


When the eggs hatch, the chicks can walk almost immediately. They “imprint” to the parent birds as they hatch, and begin to follow them around as the parents show them what to eat. Birds that can walk right after hatching are called “precocial chicks.” Baby ducks and geese are also in this group. Killdeer are voracious insect hunters, and the bird can be seen running a short distance and stopping to look around for insects it stirs up, then quickly moving again.

We have often noted six to ten clutches hatch in our yard each year. Since building the plant yard in 1995, this one species has raised between 400 and 500 young.

Other species of songbirds, like robins, catbirds and sparrows, have claimed our trees and shrubs for nest building sites. Our plant yard is not a traditional nursery because we don’t raise the plants here. However, our created habitat has become a wonderful “bird nursery” that benefits our plants as they devour insects all day. And it has become another reason I enjoy coming to the plant yard each day.

Last month, our director and one of ZooAmerica’s naturalists drove out to Wisconsin to pick up two very special birds.  The Raptor Education Group, Inc. gave us two Sandhill Cranes- Ichabod and Peanut.  Both of these birds were hand-raised, and therefore unable to survive in the wild.  They have been a delight for the zoo staff and we are excited to add them to our collection.  The birds have been very calm around us and have adapted well to their new enclosure.  These birds could live up to 80 years in captivity, so it’s great for us that they have such wonderful personalities!  You will realize we have new animals before you see them, since their loud calls can be heard in every part of the zoo. Image

Sandhill cranes are the most abundant of the world’s cranes, as well as the oldest known surviving bird species that dates back 10 million years ago.  In the wild, sandhill cranes live in the same habitat as whooping cranes- an endangered species.  These two species are the only cranes native to North America.  It is important to conserve the sandhill cranes’ natural habitat to protect the whooping crane from becoming extinct.


A few fun facts about Sandhill Cranes:

1. Worldwide, there are 15 species in the crane family Gruidae.

2. Crane chicks grow very rapidly up to an inch per day some days, or five feet in three months, depending on the species.

3. Cranes live approximately 20-30 years in the wild and up to 80 years in captivity.

4.  Crane chicks are also known as “colts.”

5.  Sandhill Cranes are the most abundant of the world’s cranes. They are widely (though intermittently) distributed throughout North America, extending into Cuba and far northeastern Siberia. The three migratory subspecies (Lesser, Greater and Canadian) are distributed across a broad breeding range in the northern U.S. and Canada as well as eastern Siberia, with wintering grounds in the southern United States and northern Mexico. The three non-migratory subspecies (Mississippi, Cuban, and Florida) have restricted ranges in the southern United States and Cuba.




On Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day, the zoo is closed.  Most businesses shut down, and employees go spend time with their families.  For zookeepers, the zoo animal family comes first on the holidays!  At least 2-3 workers come in for a few hours to make sure all the animals get fed.

Today, we cooked up double the food for the animals and stored the extra in the fridge- all labeled to ensure each animal gets the right diet.  Most of the zookeepers agree that the holidays are some of the best days to take care of the animals.  There’s very little traffic on the way to work, a peaceful calm to the zoo, and one day that you’re not scooping poop!  I imagine the animals enjoy getting us out of their fur, scales, or feathers for most of the day, too.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, many of the animals get special treats with their diets.  It’s a day of feasting for us; the animals should join in the fun too!  Besides special treats, they’ll all get a bit of pumpkin pie spice.  Many animals enjoy different scents in their homes- something to spice up their life!  Since pumpkin pie is not veterinarian recommended, we’ll try the next best thing.

If you’re on Facebook, be sure to look up ZooAmerica.  Our marketing friends made a special video just for Thanksgiving that will be posted Thursday morning.  Included in the video is a clip of a rattlesnake eating a rat.  In order to get the footage, the camera had to tape overnight since our Western Diamondback is a very shy eater. 

Have a wonderful holiday!

September 26, 2011 is a very significant day for animal conservation.  This coming Monday marks the 30th Anniversary of Black-footed Ferrets being rediscovered in the wild.  This Sunday, at ZooAmerica, we will be having our own celebration to mark the occasion!

In 1979, biologists considered the black-footed ferret to be extinct.  Then, in 1981, a ranch dog in Wyoming brought a dead ferret home to his owners.  The ranchers took the carcass to a taxidermist who identified it as a black-footed ferret.  The taxidermist contacted wildlife authorities who then surveyed the area to discover the last remaining population of ferrets.  The remaining ferrets were brought into captivity to attempt to breed them for future release.  Over 7,000 kits have been born at breeding facilities since the rediscovery and 1,000 black-footed ferrets are estimated to now live in the wild. 

A black-footed ferret being released into the wild. Photo Credit: K. Tamkun/USFWS

ZooAmerica houses 2 male black-footed ferrets that were given to us from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, VA.  Both of the ferrets are retired breeders.  The ferrets are rotated on exhibit because black-footed ferrets are solitary animals.  Be sure to look for one of our ferrets (either Godzilla or Yum!) when you visit the Great Southwest building in the zoo.

When you come to the zoo on Sunday, there will be many opportunities to learn more about the black-footed ferrets.  We will have enrichment activities for both of our ferrets at 10:30am and 2:30pm.  This is a great opportunity for guests to see natural behaviors of these animals, provoked by items we introduce (different scents, animal fur or snakeskins, insects, etc).  There will also be 2 presentations in our education room about the efforts put forth by many scientists to successfully breed this animal.  There will be craft areas and an informational table where you can see and touch artifacts from the ferrets, along with getting a close-up look at a domestic ferret- a cousin of the black-footed ferret.  Besides learning about these fascinating weasels, guests will have the opportunity to help the effort by donating money to the Black-footed Ferret Species Survival Plan which helps to fund captive breeding and field research. 

A sleepy captive bred ferret kit. Photo credit: K. Tamkun/USFWS

The staff at ZooAmerica is excited for this special event- we hope you can join us on Sunday to support black-footed ferret conservation!  Remember to bring your best friend with you for a special admission coupon:

The characteristic ferret dance- we often see this on exhibit when they get excited! Photo Credit: M. Lockhart/USFWS

For more information about black-footed ferrets, check out

ZooAmerica would like to thank the public for such an incredible response of support and concern during this difficult time.  Each day since the flood, staff from the Zoo, Hershey Nursery, and HersheyPark have been rigorously working to clean up and repair damage.  While much has been accomplished, there is still much to do.  We will let you know as soon as we are ready to open our doors again.  Since you are unable to stop in to see how our animals are doing, we snapped a few pictures this afternoon.  The sun is shining, and many of the animals are out lounging and enjoying nicer weather.

Unaffected by the noise of construction, Roy takes a nap on his favorite high branch.


Sally the bear resting in her den on exhibit


Our three deer laying in the grassy shade.

Patrick holding Louie, our green iguana. She typically resides in the Zoo Outpost shop in the Park, but lives at the Zoo when the Park is closed.


Prairie dog up and at attention

 The wolf exhibit was badly damaged by the flood.  All four wolves were safe and secure in their holding areas during the flood.  The wolves will remain off exhibit until the exhibit fence is repaired.  For now, all of the wolves have access to kennels and exercise yards.  Here are a few pictures of them out in their yards since the flood.

Custer, our 4 year old male wolf


Kara, one of our female wolves

Sioux (4 year old female) is towards the back, while Dakota (alpha male) is up front checking out the camera

Sioux (4 year old female) is towards the back, while Dakota (alpha male) is up front checking out the camera.


A closer look at Sioux


We very much appreciate many of your wishes, thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. We realize that just like our staff, many people are emotionally connected to every member of our Zoo family. Because of that connection, we fully understand why some have questions regarding what happened to our bison.

For those who didn’t have a chance to view it, last evening we did post on this page describing what happened.**

We’d like to try and answer questions that some have raised and give as much correct information as possible. While we don’t think this will lessen the feeling of loss that we’re all experiencing, we do hope it will create a common understanding around what happened.

Question: Has a bison at ZooAmerica ever drowned or been euthanized in the past?
Answer: We’ve never lost or euthanized a bison, or any large animal, due to flooding at any time – even including the flooding that occurred during hurricanes that have struck Hershey. Suggestions that bison were lost during Hurricane Ivan are incorrect.

Q: Are there any other animals that have perished from the flooding?
A: There have been no other losses reported at this time. Reports that our wolves passes away are incorrect. All of the wolves were relocated to the highest portion of their enclosure during the storm. All four wolves are fine and the flood waters have currently receded from their enclosure.

Q: Did you have a plan in place and did you feel that it was effective?
A: We do have a flood response plan, which we began implementing on Monday. Based on our past experience and during other milestone storms, our plan to first remove animals to higher ground and then, if necessary, relocate the animals has always been effective in securing their safety.
This, however, was truly unprecedented flooding. Such unforeseen acts of nature are difficult to plan for – as all public and private entities within Derry Township discovered.

Q: Why didn’t you tranquilize and move the larger animals earlier in the week?
A: Tranquilizing and moving large animals is stressful on them – and we only do it when absolutely necessary, not in the instance of every flood warning. Based on more than three decades of experience, the practice of moving the animals to higher ground would have given us enough time to tranquilize the bison and relocate them, should flooding become severe. But, again, the speed and ferocity of this storm was unlike any we’ve ever encountered. When the bison enclosure flooded so quickly, tranquilizing them become impossible, for once they were tranquilized they would have immediately been submerged in the flood water and drown.

Q: Were the bison moved to higher ground?
A: Yes. They were moved to the highest ground within their enclosure earlier in the week.

Q: Why did you wait to close until noon on Wednesday?
A: The fact that we were open to the public did not alter or impede our animals’ safety. Animal relocation did not begin once we were closed; it had been ongoing throughout the week. The safety of our animals, employees and guests is our top priority. It always has been and always will be. We were working to ensure that our animals are in a safe conditions, according to the plan we have in place, throughout the week.

As we said last evening, this has been a very emotional and trying time for those at the Zoo – both our animals and employees. While we are all saddened by the loss of the bison, we must acknowledge the heroic efforts of the Zoo staff – some of whom have been working without sleep on behalf of the animals. Many willingly put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect and rescue the animals in their care (even rescuing wild animals that were in distress at the same time). We are extremely proud of the efforts of the Zoo staff, and share this loss with them.

** Hersheypark’s correction to last evening’s post: A single bison was euthanized after unsuccessful attempts to rescue the first bison resulted in that bison drowning.