New at the Zoo

There’s always something new and exciting happening at the Fort Worth Zoo! Take a look at what’s going on at the Zoo right now.
Junior Train Conductor Experience

YRE_Train-Conductor-Experience_607x300Become a junior train conductor and ride the rails on the Yellow Rose Express Train at the Fort Worth Zoo. Participants will work alongside the Yellow Rose Express staff collecting tickets and greeting guests, clearing the train to leave the depot and ringing the bell at crossings. Participants will also receive an official certificate, train hat and safety vest and enjoy reserved seating.

  • $60 includes two one- way train rides that begin at the Safari depot for the junior conductor and up to three additional riders. (Zoo admission tickets are not included.)
  • Payment is required when reservation is made at Guest Relations and is nonrefundable. Subject to availability.
  • The junior train conductor must be 5 to 12 years old and accompanied by an adult. No unescorted youth will be allowed.
  • The junior train conductor experience is offered daily at 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., excluding the month of January 2015 and March 7 to 15, 2015. Book your Junior Conductor Experience through the Guest Relations office. Call 817-759-7337 for more details.
  • In the event of inclement weather or a mechanical issue that prevents the train from operating, your Junior Conductor Experience will be rescheduled.

Western lowland gorillaGracie-by-Gillian-Lang-2-forweb
Gorilla gorilla gorilla

Gracie is the newest gorilla at the Zoo, arriving in August. Zoo staff hopes that Gracie’s arrival will bring about a successful gorilla breeding, a potential first in Fort Worth Zoo’s history. Although Gracie has never been a mother, she had extensive interaction with a baby gorilla in her former troop at the Oklahoma City Zoo and is believed to have mothering potential. Gracie is also a twin – a rare occurrence in gorilla births. Gracie, who is 15 years old, can be found exploring her new exhibit in the outdoor area of World of Primates.

Epaulette sharkEpaulette shark - Shedd Aquarium
Hemiscyllium ocellatum

This summer, the Fort Worth Zoo welcomed a 5-year-old male epaulette shark that joins a female currently on exhibit. Native to Australia and New Guinea, this species can be found in shallow waters where they use their slender physique to squeeze through reef crevices on their nightly prowls for prey. We all know that sharks can swim, but have you seen a shark walk? A unique feature that separates it from other shark species, the epaulette shark has a muscular pectoral fin that allows it to “walk” and wriggle on its paired fins to get around to hunt. Perhaps the most distinctive feature on these slender scavengers are the large, black dots just above each pectoral fin, which resemble the shoulder decorations on military uniforms, which are called epaulettes – hence the name. Be sure to stop by the shark tank in the Great Barrier Reef on your next visit to see our two epaulette sharks.

Panamanian golden frogPanamanian golden frog
Atelopus zeteki

Another Panamanian golden frog joins the Zoo’s existing group of Panamanian golden frogs, bringing the total collection to 14. This is particularly special because the species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is nearly extinct in the wild. This bright yellow frog is endemic to Panama, meaning it is only found in Panama in certain tropical mountain forests. The most serious threat to this species is a specific pathogenic fungus that has wiped out many amphibian species worldwide. In effort to conserve and grow this species, the Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Panamanian Golden Frog Species Survival Plan (SSP), which manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.

This frog does not have a tympanum, or ear, so instead of using vocal sounds, it communicates by hand-waving signals, called semaphores. This amphibian eats a variety of insects and will challenge any intruder by aggressive hand waving, or even wrestling. Its bright coloring also serves as a warning to potential predators. The frog secretes a toxin from its skin, which affects predators’ nerves. Unlike a frog’s common jumping movement you might be familiar with, the Panamanian golden frog doesn’t hop, but has a distinctive, ambling walk instead.

In addition to coordinating and participating in the Panamanian Golden Frog SSP, the Zoo is also coordinating efforts in Panama for their future release to the wild. You can see this species in the Museum of Living Art (MOLA).

Texas horned lizardTexas horned lizard
Phrynosoma cornutum

In Fort Worth, Texas Christian University’s mascot is the horned frog. You might be surprised to learn that the horned frog is in fact a lizard. Texas horned lizards are often mistakenly referred to as “horned toads” because the lizard’s body shape closely resembles that of a toad. Even the lizard’s genus name, Phrynosoma, means “toad-bodied.” The Texas horned lizard is gray- or tan-colored with a white stripe down its back, and as its name suggests, small horns cover the lizard’s head and body. The two horns on the top of its head are larger than the rest.

The Texas horned lizard feeds almost exclusively on harvester ants but might occasionally eat grasshoppers, beetles and other small bugs. If cornered, the horned lizard’s first defense is to simply flatten its body and remain motionless, hoping to camouflage with its surroundings. However, if this is not effective, some lizards will squirt a stream of blood from their eyes across a distance of about 3 to 4 feet in order to deter potential predators.

In 1967, the Texas state legislature provided the species with state protection, due to concerns about declining Texas horned lizard populations. It is listed as threatened in Texas and Oklahoma and leading threats to the species include collection for pet trade, pesticides, habitat alteration and fire ants, which out-compete the horned lizard’s primary food source, harvester ants. The Fort Worth Zoo is one of the few institutions in the U.S. that operates a breeding and reintroduction program in an effort to offset declining populations. The Zoo currently houses more than 50 Texas horned lizards and you can see them in the Mountains and Deserts exhibit of Texas Wild!.

Tamandua (lesser anteater)Tamandua
Tamandua tetradactyla

Gustavo “Gus” the tamandua has come to reside at the Zoo’s Animal Outreach Conservation Center (ARCC). Also called a lesser anteater, the tamandua is found in Mexico, Central and South America and is a relative of the giant anteater. With a long, narrow snout and heightened sense of smell, the animal forages the ground for food, consuming an average of 9,000 ants and termites per day with its sticky, 16-inch-long tongue. The tamandua is covered in pale, thick, matted hair that protects its skin from ant bites during feedings and it has a distinctive black marking across its back. Its large claws and prehensile tail, used like an extra arm, are ideal for climbing and allow the nocturnal mammal to split its time between the ground and the treetops of the rainforest, sleeping in hollows and forks of trees during the day. When threatened, the tamandua will ward off predators by releasing an offensive odor four times more powerful than that of a skunk from a gland at the base of its tail.

Gus lives inside the Zoo’s ARCC, which is located in an off-exhibit area of the Zoo. If you wish to visit him, consider participating in one of the Zoo’s outreach programs, like a behind-the-scenes tour or education program. He will occasionally make an appearance at one of the Zoo’s stage shows, that is, when he’s not sleeping.

Toco toucanToco toucan - Jeff Robinson
Ramphastos toco

A second Toco toucan is now residing in the stone bird house, which sits just beneath Raptor Canyon, at the Zoo. Found in several South American countries, the Toco toucan is the largest member of the toucan family. Its bright coloration helps the bird camouflage into the fauna within its habitat. Though the Toco toucan appears to have blue eyes, its black eyes are actually encircled by a thin layer of blue skin. Its prominent beak is almost 8 inches long and used primarily to forage for food. The lightweight bill is composed of thin, bony struts, giving it little solid substance. Unlike many animals, the Toco toucan does not use its tongue to swallow food. Instead, it holds food at the tip of its beak and tilts its head back so the food falls into its throat.

The Toco toucan is a highly social bird and typically lives in pairs or family groups. To replicate this natural environment, the male toucan joins a 3-year-old female toucan at the Zoo. The Fort Worth Zoo hopes to breed the two birds once they are mature. As a courtship ritual, the male and female will collect fruit to throw to one another. When it comes time to nest, this species will build in tree cavities that are often very tight; and since babies don’t leave the nest until they are capable of flight, the space gets a little cramped.

Click here to meet the Zoo’s baby Asian elephants.


Creature Features begin in March. Click here for more details.

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