The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was packed with families and friends who bid farewell to their favorite animals Sunday on the last day of the season.
Shane Linder and Alyssa Bilyu of Huntington used a family pass to bring their three children to see the animals again. They had already been to the zoo four or five times.
“It’s a big family outing,” Linder said. “Today’s the last day to use our pass, and the weather is beautiful.”
The children, Tyler Linder, 15, Jessie Bilyu, 5, and Levi Bilyu, 4, crowded around the tiger exhibit.
The zoo got two new tiger twins this year who turned 2 this summer, said Christine Gamble, weekend education supervisor for the zoo.
The tigers, Buara and Indah, have been more active than previous tigers at the zoo, Gamble said, because they were raised by Cameron Park Zoo staff before they came to Fort Wayne.
Even so, about noon on Sunday, the cats crouched in the back corner of the cage.
The lions were lazy on the sunny afternoon, too. Ina, the female lion, sat atop the hill in her cage, and Bill, the male, sat at the foot of the hill in front of her about 5 feet from the glass.
There was more action in the orangutan exhibit where Kaylee Peters, 4, of Fort Wayne watched the large monkeys swing through the trees as she sat on the front of little sister Kyla’s stroller.
Jessie Peters of Fort Wayne brought her daughters out on Sunday with her mom and grandparents to see the animals. The family had already visited the zoo three times this season, and they plan to come back for the Wild Zoo Halloween when the zoo reopens Oct. 18-20 for kid-friendly festivities.
Preparations are underway for the Zoo Halloween with pumpkins and gourds scattered throughout various exhibits and two large pumpkin patches near the gift shop.
The zoo has welcomed more than 500,000 visitors this year, and officials expect the Halloween event to bring in about 20,000 more, Gamble said.
Robin Hart of Ossian plans to attend the Wild Zoo Halloween for the first time in four years when she brings her granddaughter Allison, 2.
On Sunday, Hart stood behind Allison’s stroller on a dock over the giraffe exhibit to watch Jelani the giraffe strut back and forth over the grassy hills.
When the giraffe walked within inches of the wood enclosure, Allison sat up a little straighter.
“Last time we came she was scared of the giraffes, so I’m not sure how she’ll do this time,” Hart said.
She brought Allison to the zoo about a month ago. Hart said she used to bring her own children all the time when they were young, but now that they are in their 20s and 30s she comes with her grandchildren and grandnephews.
“It’s changed a lot since my kids were here,” Hart said. “Now you can get so close to the giraffes. I love it. ... We’re excited to come back.”