Animal Highlights

Keeper Secrets and Fun Facts.

Discover some of what the Zoo Keepers know about the animals in their care as they share enrichment and training tidbits, diets, conservation facts and interesting anecdotes!

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African Elephants

Kimba (female, DOB 08/24/78, weight 10,000 lbs.)
Lucky (female, DOB 03/01/80, weight 8,000 lbs.)
Maliaka (female, DOB 1986, weight 9,000 lbs.)
Jambo (female, DOB 1983, weight 7,800 lbs.)

Enrichment & Training:

Kimba has a gentle personality and is very food motivated.  She is known for her love of eating, especially bananas, watermelons, pumpkins and cabbage. Lucky is very enthusiastic at training time. One of her favorite enrichment activities is painting, and she has become famous for her beautiful works of art, which are proudly displayed in many homes and offices around the area. 

Malaika is the dominant elephant. She is a gentle and good-natured elephant who loves attention from her keepers (in fact, she demands it!) and particularly enjoys enrichment items like puzzle feeders.

Lucky is an accomplished painter and "signs" her paintings with her trunk print. Click here to learn how you can purchase one of Lucky's paintings or other elephant art masterpieces!

Jambo is still getting to know Malaika, Kimba, and Lucky, but her outgoing personality will likely change the current social structure of the group. Jambo is a very energetic, eager-to-train elephant and is known for double-checking the locks in the barn with her trunk. She’s always looking to stay busy with animal care staff and enrichment activities.

The elephants' favorite enrichment activities include playing with plastic barrels and tires and exploring new foods like pumpkins and melons. They also love to play in water.

All of our elephants train daily. Most of their behaviors, learned through positive reinforcement, help the keepers take better care of the elephants. Our elephants know approximately 35 verbal commands. Discover more about where the elephants are at the Zoo by going to Encounter Africa.

Zoo Diet:

Our elephants eat mainly grass (brome) and oat hay along with produce and bread during training sessions. All three elephants love cabbage, bananas, bread and melons but turn their trunks up to green beans and tomatoes.

Water is also an essential part of their diet. Each elephant can consume up to 50 gallons of water a day!

Conservation:

For African elephants, it's al about the ivory. Pressure on the ivory trade and improved protection from poachers has helped to restore numbers in some areas. Efforts are currently underway to secure larger elephant reserves that include areas stretching across migratory routes. Visit our Elephant Conservation page to learn more.

Social Life:

African elephants live in matriarchal groups of pre-pubescent males and females of all ages. The oldest female in the group guides the family unit. Elephants are the only animals in Africa that dig deep holes in search of water. The holes, excavated using the trunk, can be several feet deep and it's thought that the locations are learned from social interactions. Elephants are also very fond of bathing.

Interesting Facts:

The Zoo's elephants are not related but Lucky and Kimba are very strongly bonded. Kimba is the matriarch of the two and will try to steal Lucky's food sometimes pushing Lucky around a bit. Neither of these elephants have had offspring. Maliaka and Jambo are new to the Zoo, to Lucky and to Kimba.

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Golden Lion Tamarins

Ricardo (male, DOB 1998
Graciela (female, DOB 08/5/06)

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to two Golden Lion Tamarins, one male and one female.

Enrichment & Training

The tamarins keep guests and each other happily entertained by demonstrating natural behaviors like climbing and rope balancing.

Zoo Diet Golden Lion tamarins enjoy a diet of grapes, apples, bananas, various vegetables, yam, carrot, canned marmoset diet, eggs and insects. Their favorites include cucumbers and crickets.

Conservation

This species was first listed as endangered in 1982, rising to critically endangered in 1996. By 2003 the successful establishment of a new population at União Biological Reserve enabled downgrading the species to endangered; but, the IUCN warns that extreme habitat fragmentation from deforestation means the wild population has little potential for any further expansion.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is considered to be extremely successful in its conservation efforts.

Social Life

In zoos, Golden Lion Tamarins are kept in family groups. In the wild, groups are small (two to nine animals) and usually consist of one breeding male and female along with younger animals.

Interesting Facts

Tamarins ring out a particular alarm call when large birds fly overhead. When that call is made, they head for tree trunks or sometimes just let themselves fall to the ground. The alarm call and the response seem to be genetically "hard-wired." Zoo born animals that have always lived inside make the call and respond appropriately when birds fly over.

Births are usually twins. Infant care is cooperative. All members of the group will carry an infant, with the adult male commonly doing the largest share. The mother only takes the babies to nurse them. Since a set of twins might weigh as much as 15 to 20 percent of the mother's weight, she can use the help.

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Lar Gibbon

Schanee (female, DOB 10/06/80, 6.68 kg)
Tembeling (male, DOB 07/22/96, 6.3 kg)

Enrichment & Training:

Both gibbons understand and present a large repertoire of husbandry behaviors. These behaviors aid keepers with important medical tasks such as taking an animal's temperature.

Tembeling shows his agility through various natural ape behaviors and is one of many stars of the Primates in Motion Show, which can be seen daily at 11:00 and 2:30 at Monkey Pavilion,

For fun, our gibbons play with T-Shirts, Kong balls, and ice treats.

To experience gibbons in action, catch the "Primates in Motion," show at the Zoo - expand the New Animal Shows section of this Animal Happenings page for dates and times.

Zoo Diet:

Schanee and Tembeling eat mainly browse along with fruit, leafeater chow, mixed greens, banana, yam and carrot. Favorite treats include peanuts, sunflower seeds, berries, melon, peanut butter, jelly, honey, cereal and raisins. Tembeling has been known to toss a bad banana peel!

Conservation:

Recently declared extinct in China, the gibbon is primarily threatened by the loss of their forest habitat as well as illegal wildlife trade and poaching.

Social Life:

In the wild, gibbons live in nuclear families consisting of a mated pair and their dependent offspring. The family unit occupies a territory, and they defend its boundaries by a vigorous vocal and visual display. The vocal display consists of a spectacular, bird-like duet between the mated pair, with the young occasionally joining in.

Interesting Facts:

Gibbons are excellent brachiators (arm-swingers). Their agility in the forest tree tops has long fascinated both scientists and lay people.

Tembeling lost his left hand due to an injury received as a baby. The hand became infected and had to be amputated. His disability does not affect his behavior at all; in fact he dazzles visitors with his active swinging, back flips and natural agility.

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Nile Hippopotamus

Zambezi (female, DOB 12/14/92)
Kasai (female, DOB 09/28/99)
Wicket (female, DOB 1968)

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to two Nile Hippo sisters, Zambezi and Kasai and another female named Wicket. The hippo sisters were born at the Denver Zoo. After loosing their matriarch and grandmother, Maggie, these girls are still working to figure out their new roles. Zambezi will most likely take on the matriarchal role. Learn more about the newest hippo addition, Wicket.

Enrichment & Training:

The girls are most active in the morning and late afternoon when they are eating or training. 55 gallon barrels and large boomer balls are the girls' favorite enrichment items.

They all love their keeper's attention and enjoy daily training sessions which include practice at following targets and retrieving objects in addition to a daily teeth brushing!

For Hippo Training Demonstrations show times at the Zoo, expand the Animal Feeding Shows section of this Animal Happenings page.

Zoo Diet:

Together these animals eat nearly 100 lbs of food per day which includes a mixture of grass hay, herbivore grain and produce such as carrot, cabbage and fruit. Hippo favorite foods include veggies and fruit, although our girls aren't picky.

Conservation:

Hippos are considered vulnerable. There are an estimated 125,000 to 150,000 hippos remaining throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. They are threatened by habitat loss and poaching for their meat and ivory canine teeth.

In 2008 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo donated $1000 to Virunga National Park in an effort to assist Congo Rangers with protection programs. You can help by learning what is happening to hippos in Africa and by visiting Atamato's blog to stay up to date on how Congo Rangers work to protect our world's hippos.

Social Life:

In the wild hippos are territorial only in water. A bull presides over a small stretch of river, on average 250 meters in length, which generally contains about ten females. The largest pods can contain up to 100 hippos. Within the pods, the hippos tend to group by gender. Bachelors will lounge near other bachelors, females with other females, and the bull is on his own. When hippos emerge from the water to graze, they do so individually.

Interesting Facts:

Neither of the Zoo's hippos has birthed any calves because they have not been housed with males.

Hippos are very territorial animals. Each year they cause more human deaths in Africa than any other mammal.

Despite their physical resemblance to pigs and other terrestrial even-toed ungulates, their closest living relatives are cetaceans (whales, porpoise, etc.).

Adult hippos can stay underwater for up to five minutes. Sleeping hippopotamuses can rise to the water's surface to breathe.

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Orangutans

Sumatran Orangutans

Baka (male, DOB 06/15/1990)
Sumagu (female, DOB 10/10/1987)
Godek (male, DOB 2/19/2009)

Enrichment & Training

Sumatran orangutans enjoy daily training and readily approach keepers when their names are called to begin a training session. Baka and Sumagu open their mouths and present their tongues for inspection and will turn a shoulder to the keeper to allow for medication or vaccination injections. The orangutans also climb and swing around on structures in their enclosures, displaying their fascinating brachiating talents and athleticism.

Baka, Sumagu and Godek stay busy playing with sheets, boxes and other enrichment items and love frozen ice treats in the summer.

Enjoy the "Orangutans are Cool" Animal show! For show times at the Zoo, expand the New Animal Shows section of this Animal Happenings page.

As part of the animal enrichment program at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, our orangutans paint! Each art piece sold contributes to wild orangutan conservation. Visit Orangutan Art to find out how you can help!

Zoo Diet

These apes eat a Zoo diet consisting of greens, primate biscuits, yam, carrot, banana, and their favorite treats – fruits and nuts. The Zoo’s orangutans do not care for mealworms.

Conservation

Sumatran orangutans will soon be extinct in the wild if the palm oil industry, deforestation and burning of peat forests does not change. Click HERE to read more on this complex and time sensitive issue.

Social Life

Sumagu and Godek are closely bonded, just as a wild orangutan mother and infant would be. He always clings to his mom when he sleeps.  During the day Godek is starting to venture a few feet away from Sumagu for short periods of time; he is often seen hanging in midair near her.  Godek is also becoming more interested in interacting with Baka, and has even touched him a few times.  In the wild, an infant would have little or no contact with his father.  Unlike the other great ape species, orangutans are semi-solitary in the wild due to the amount of territory they need to cover in order to find enough food.  However, orangutans are very adaptable, as shown by their more social tendancies when the opportunity arises (like at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo).  Baka is a good father who respects the boundaries set by Godek's mother, Sumagu. 

Interesting Facts

Sumagu has a wonderful maternal instinct and Godek likes to be tickled by his keepers. The Zoo’s three Sumatran orangutans are very intelligent.

Wild orangutans build two nests a day; a light nap nest and a stronger sleeping nest constructed from leaved branches, 40 to 60 feet above the ground. The sleeping nest looks like a giant birds nest and on average, only takes about 5 minutes to construct.

Bornean Orangutans

Tujoh (male, DOB 04/30/1994)
Hadiah (female, DOB 6/8/1996).

Enrichment & Training

Bornean orangutans enjoy daily training sessions. Tujoh and Hadiah know many husbandry behaviors and willingly present body parts such as a shoulder or the tongue. Training demonstrations allow these primates to show off their fantastic swinging and stretching abilities.

These orangutans’ favorite enrichment items include frozen juice treats, t-shirts and “fishing boxes” made by filling a box with juice or oatmeal that must be “fished” out with special tools like sticks or branches. The orangutans also use the t-shirt cloth to “fish” out the juice by soaking the cloth over and over again.

Enjoy the "Orangutans are Cool" Animal show! For show times at the Zoo, expand the New Animal Shows section of this Animal Happenings page.

As part of the animal enrichment program at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, our orangutans paint! Each art piece sold contributes to wild orangutan conservation. Visit Orangutan Art to find out how you can help!

Zoo Diet

Tujoh and Hadiah eat a variety of foods including green vegetables like lettuce and cucumbers. Peppers, onions, bananas, yams, carrots and “primate biscuits” are favorites as well. 

Conservation

Bornean orangutans will be extinct in the wild in the next 10 years if the palm oil industry, deforestation and burning of peat forests does not change. Click HERE to read more on this complex and time sensitive issue.

Social Life

In the wild, two or three orangutans with overlapping territories may interact for small periods of time. Males and females generally come together only to mate. Tujoh and Hadiah are a pair that have had one offspring, Mahal. Raised by keepers when Hadiah’s maternal instincts lapsed, Mahal now resides at Milwaukee County Zoo. Hadiah is more interactive and “friendly” with Zoo guests than a lot of orangutans, this may be a result of hand-rearing with people during her infancy. 

Interesting Facts

Tujoh loves water play and is constantly clogging his water source to flood his exhibit.  Both are very interested in the guests and interact frequently with people at the glass. 

 

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Spectacled Bear

Osito (male, DOB 11/09/98, weight 354 lbs)

Osito was born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo on November 9th, 1998. He grew up with his father, Miguel, who passed away the summer of 2006.

Enrichment & Training:

Most active in the morning hours, Osito enjoys swimming laps in his pool – especially on hot days. A true bear at heart, he loves climbing trees, licking ice treats and tearing into boxes or bags.

Osito knows behaviors that will aid keepers should the need for medical care arise. He can present his tongue, stand up, sit down, present a paw, open his mouth, and he willingly climbs onto the large mammal scale.

Keepers find amusing ways to entertain him such as hiding peanut butter on various trees within his enclosure and providing all types of tree branches for him to strip and chew. Donated Christmas trees make fun toys for Osito.

Zoo Diet:

For breakfast, Osito dines on carrots and omnivore chow and munches on yams, bananas, apples and chow for dinner. Extra chow is offered in the fall months to help Osito add bulk to prepare for Colorado's cold winter.

Osito will NOT eat fruit peels and does not care for fish or mustard.

Conservation:

Time is running out for the Andean bear. The tranquil cloud forests of the Andean mountain ranges, where these bears live, are rapidly disappearing. Andean bears are the largest South American mammals and are considered threatened. If the current rate of loss continues, Andean bears will be endangered within the next 30 years. The Andean Bear Conservation Project in Ecuador is one of the six projects Cheyenne Mountain Zoo supported through the Quarters for Conservation program in 2009-2010.

Social Life:

Andean bears are solitary animals, rarely coming into contact with other bears. They do interact with each other to a certain extent and leave "scratch messages" on trees for other bears.

Interesting Facts:

When swimming laps in his pool, Osito often grunts as he paddles.

His bottom lip pokes out as he sniffs the air or greets keepers in the morning. We like to think this is his way of smiling.

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Wallabies

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo houses two wallaby species, Parmas (smaller) and Bennetts (larger). The Zoo's group of wallabies, called a mob, is made up of all young adults or adults with the exception of two joeys, Yoshi (5 months) and Odessa (8 months).

Wallabies are part of Macropodidae family found in Australia, New Guinea, and on nearby islands. Macropodidae means "big feet." Wallabies are typically small to medium-sized mammals, but the largest can reach 6 feet from head to tail. They have powerful hind legs used to bound along at high speeds and jump great distances.

Enrichment & Training

The wallabies explore their spacious walk-through exhibit on warm days and spend their nights in a safe, cozy indoor enclosure. Through positive reinforcement, our wallabies train to shift in and out of their exhibits. Other training includes learning to take treats from a medical syringe to prepare for medical care.

Zoo Diet

Like all of their kangaroo relatives wallabies are herbivorous, mainly grazing on grass and leaves. A hearty zoo menu consisting of macropod chow, yams, carrots, lettuce, grass and browse makes up our wallaby's diet. Although lettuce and browse are wallaby favorites, they turn their noses up to stems.

Conservation

IUNC Redlist lists both species in good standing. Bennett populations are doing very well; however, Parmas are listed as threatened in some areas and vulnerable in other areas. Main threats to wallabies include predation by feral cats and foxes, habitat loss, and vehicle accidents.

Social Life

Some kangaroos live in social groups and others are completely solitary. Within a group, called a mob, the individuals are safer. In general, the larger animals and animals living in open grasslands are more social.

In a mob the dominant male competes with the others to become the father of most of the offspring, called joeys. The dominant male is generally larger than the other males (called boomers), and considerably larger than the females (called does).

Interesting Facts

Parma wallabies tremble when another wallaby or person approaches. This behavior, called "tintibulation", is a perfectly normal wallaby form of communicating submissiveness. It's a wallaby's way of saying, "You're the boss!".

Wendel and Nigel are the Zoo’s largest wallabies. Wendel is always searching for food, while Nigel likes up close photo opportunities.