What is Wieland Wildlife Home?
You might find yourself asking this question as you scan your Zoo map or walk past our boardwalk. Well, this building is nestled behind the Splash Fountain, or just past the current meerkat habitat depending on which way you travel, and is home to the Zoo’s largest population of ambassador animals! What can you find in Wieland? I’m glad you asked, because we have some wonderful animals who live in the building. These animals help to educate, or as we like to say, be ambassadors for their species. We have approximately 45 individuals encompassing 24 different species, ranging from birds to reptiles to mammals to amphibians to invertebrates! So let’s walk down the boardwalk and meet some of our ambassadors.
When you walk up the steps, take a left because we have two different rooms available to view from right outside our front doors. To the left is our Tortoise Room, which is home to various reptiles, invertebrates and a salamander, but mostly tortoises! From this window you see Maui and Te Fiti the American alligators. Most of their time is spent in the water under hides, but occasionally they can be seen basking on their rocks. To the right is our Small Mammal Room, which is home to our smaller mammals. From this side you can see the domestic rabbits Aria and Diesel best. Depending on the time of day, Aria and Diesel could be enjoying one of their meals. While only Zoo team members can enter the building, don’t be discouraged because there are still plenty of animals to see! So let’s keep walking down the boardwalk.
Around the corner is the best view of our Small Mammal Room. Here you’ll see small signs letting you know who lives where. Lesser Madagascar hedgehog tenrecs will be hard to spot, as they are nocturnal and may only come out for dinner around 3:30 p.m.! The chinchillas and rats who live in the room are easiest to see. Even though both species are primarily nocturnal, they are also on the care team’s schedule, as the chinchillas get their meals during training sessions, and the rats are always interested in what we are doing in the room.
As we keep walking down the boardwalk, you’ll see our office and kitchen areas. This is where our team will prepare diets, prep for training sessions and animal presentations, assist the Veterinary Team with routine physicals and health checks, and work on records. We will even sit down to enjoy lunches together at our counter! But the coolest thing you guys might get to catch a glimpse of is what we refer to as floor time. This is when we put approved animals on the ground and let them walk, run, hop, or sniff around the ground. You might see large tortoises making very slow laps around the office and kitchen, or rabbits hopping around enjoying breakfast. Armadillos like Finnegan and Violetta will sprint around the kitchen and sniff at our shoes, whereas the opossums Maple and Magnolia will move slowly around before finding an excellent sleeping spot. Both species will use their amazing sense of smell to navigate around floor time. We have also added a large pool of mulch for all the animals to dig in and explore. Just the other day, we let our “Star Wars rats” explore the mulch! Rats are very curious and have a great sense of smell, so the care team climbed in the fenced-in area to watch them explore up close and make sure no one climbed out of reach. All four of them sniffed in the mulch, climbed on the fencing, ran on rocks, and used their tails to help them balance as they stood on two legs sniffing the air. The four rats even took time out to investigate me where I was seated!
I know I could sit and watch rats be cute all day, but we should keep going down the boardwalk to see more of our ambassador animals. The next room is called the Reptile Room, as this is home to most of our reptiles such as snakes, lizards, our smaller red-footed tortoise Little Foot, and our Chilean rose-haired tarantula Sparkle Muffin! This room has four window boxes that we can put all the lizards and snakes into, and what’s so great is that on any given day you visit, these animals might not be the same ones you saw on a previous visit. Just past our reptiles is the pied pigeon Squit, who you can sometimes catch doing flight and kennel training with us. And last, but certainly not least, two of the Virginia opossums, Maple and Magnolia, live in the other two outdoor areas.
The animals who live here in Wieland get to participate in a variety of different types of encounters, including presentations at our Amy’s Tree Theater, informal encounters out on Zoo grounds, paid encounters off grounds, after-hours programs, and even small segments for the news. If you’ve got kids in school who visit the Zoo, they may have met some of these amazing ambassadors!
So the next time you’re at the Zoo, swing by Wieland Wildlife Home and take a peek at the wonderful ambassador animal population we have here. Who knows what fun training or floor time sessions you might get to see!
Keeper II, Ambassador Animals