Rob Evans - Melinda Arnold joins us live at the zoo this morning. (watch the attached video to see our visit with Melinda)
Melinda - Good morning! We're here in our Tropical Asia area with one of our endangered species at the Zoo, and a fairly new animal for us.
We have two Siamangs. Siamangs are the largest of the gibbon species. We've had gibbons before, but we've never had Siamangs.
And these are pretty impressive animals. They can be 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall. But their arm span is quite amazing. Their arms can be 5 feet long. And they use their powerful arms to use that hand over hand motion to swing through the trees.
Rob - You say Siamangs are endangered. How many of these are left in the wild?
Melinda - I'm not sure of the actual population numbers in the wild. But the biggest threats to them are the expanding human population and deforestation. These animals live in the rain forest and we've simulated their natural environment with a lot of branches and ropes that would be like vines they would swing on in their native habitat.
Shannon - Melinda, what can people see them do when they are swinging around their cages?
Melinda - Well, this is a little early for them and they're a little suspicious, I think, of what's going on. This is kind of new for them to have equipment like this set up. It's cool this morning, they've gone up to the top of the tree. Siamangs have extremely close-knit family groups. In fact, the closest knit of all the gibbon species. They tend not to get too far away from each other in their home ranges.
So here at the Zoo, you're going to see them foraging for food. We give them containers with food in them, so they are actively searching for food or having to actively manipulate objects to get their food out. Here we feed them a leaf-eater bisquit, which is a processed grain-type diet as well as fruits and vegetables to go with that. In the wild, they would eat fruits and leaves and that would be their primary diet.
You'll also see them swinging around, but probably the thing that makes them stand out the most is their calls. They have the most amazing vocalization, and a throat sac that will inflate and gives them a very booming call. It can be heard in the forest up to two miles away. Here at the Zoo you can hear it all over the park when they're singing.
Rob - How often do they sing/ Do they perform for the people?
Melinda - They don't necessarily perform on-cue. But they will sing occasionally, throughout the day, no real set schedule for them yet. We have brought these two in from different zoos. We're introducing them together to form a family group. And that introduction has gone very well. They're doing very well together. And they have started to create their own duet of songs they sing.
Summer Zoo Hours are now in effect:
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, April-September including all summer holidays
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, October-March (closed if walkways are covered with ice or snow)
Guests may stay in the park for one hour after the admission gate closes. Dickerson Park Zoo is closed on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Pets are not allowed inside Dickerson Park Zoo. Service animals are permitted.
General Admission Fees
The zoo admission gate accepts cash, local checks and credit cards (VISA, Mastercard and Discover).
Adults and teenagers - $8
Children (age 3-12) - $5
Seniors (60 & older) - $5 (discounted admission)
Children age 2 and younger and Friends of the Zoo members are admitted free.
Group discounts apply to groups with 15 or more paying adult/teen or child admission.
Group Adult/Teen - $5
Group Child - $3