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Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Zookeeper Kierra Klein hangs a branch for a bird perch in the Australian Adventure aviary at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on Saturday.

Despite warm temps, no early zoo opening

Many tasks left; baby animals await visitors

Zoo maintenance crew workers Kevan Mensch, left, and Mike Ryan collect the winter detritus in preparation for opening day April 21.

It’s been a bit like summertime this spring at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

Many animals have been out and about, basking in the sun within their outdoor enclosures.

The one thing that’s missing, of course, is their admiring visitors. But animals of the human sort won’t be let in early this year, officials say, despite the unseasonably warm weather.

“There’s a lot more to opening the zoo than just swinging open the gate and letting anybody in,” Education and Communication Director Cheryl Piropato said. “Getting the zoo open is a big job. There are thousands of details to take care of.”

The zoo opens for the season April 21. But if visitors were to peek in now, Piropato said, they might find a disappointing version of the children’s attraction.

The zoo’s train doesn’t have an engine, she said. Concessions stands have been torn down so they can be replaced; the sea lion tank is drained and no water fountains work. And several animal enclosures don’t have their boundaries up – so some animals, like the penguins, could easily mingle with visitors.

“Every time people come to the zoo, they see this beautiful tableau laid out for them,” Piropato said. “When they come at a time when it’s less than perfect, it’s not as good of an experience. We like to wait until we have everything ready to go until we invite our guests in to enjoy it.”

When the zoo does open its doors later this month, Piropato said there will be plenty to look forward to. In addition to new menus, visitors will also be discovering some baby animals.

Seven kangaroo joeys were born last spring but have only recently been out of their mother’s pouches, Piropato said. Since January, the Australian Adventure has been home to seven dingo puppies. The puppies’ parents, Mattie and Naya, are one of only about 75 pairs of pure dingoes worldwide, according to the zoo’s website.

The zoo has posted pictures of the puppies and video up on its website – and they hope the new additions are worth the wait.

“I think most people are excited about the puppies,” Piropato said. “Since they’ve been born, they’ve gotten a lot of attention.”