Wednesday, March 26, 2014


This was part of a 3-story package, but this one was the best.


Date: Sunday, August 3, 2008 Section: Metro Page: A1 Edition:
Source: JACOB BENNETT, Courier & Press staff writer
464-7434 or

Photo by MOLLY BARTELS, Courier & Press staff photographer

The tree frogs came in the mail, shipped overnight in a plastic butter dish with air holes and a moist towel to keep them alive.

The jaguar arrived via plane to Chicago, then made the six-hour ride to Evansville in the back of a van driven by Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden zookeepers Stacey Ellis and Jill Remington.

"The director at the time, Dan McGinn, he gave us a hammer and nails and said if we thought she was about to break out of the crate, just hammer the lid back down," Ellis said.

Was he serious? "Surely not. We don't know."

Deciding on an Amazon rain forest theme was only half the task in readying the new multimillion-dollar exhibit at Mesker Park Zoo. Finding the animals to fill it, securing them from other zoos, and getting them here was often a challenge.

The more delicate the animal, the better it probably is to pack it up and ship it overnight, said Erik Beck, the zoo's general curator.

Insects and frogs and even some small snakes can be mailed almost like medical equipment or samples, with labels that say "fragile" and "do not put near excessive heat or cold."

It cost about $30 to mail the new exhibit's giant waxy monkey frogs. Most animals smaller than monkeys can be shipped just like dogs or cats, and picked up at the ticket counter.

Shipping challenge
Many of the animals in Amazonia were picked up in vans, usually by one or two zookeepers looking for a chance to get out of the office, so to speak.

Those that came by air still faced a van ride as well, since only certain airports allow big animals to be shipped by freight.

It cost about $1,000 in February 2007 to ship Beliza, the then 1-year-old, 80-pound jaguar, from Boston to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Beck said.

Airport workers offered to use a forklift to move Beliza's crate into the van, but Ellis and Remington thought that would be too rough and scary for the big cat. Instead, they helped a couple of workers lift the crate into the van.

Beliza was quiet the whole ride, Ellis said.

Once they arrived in Evansville, most of the animals were quarantined in the vet building, which underwent a $540,000 renovation.

It had been one big room, designed to hold elephants, with a single air-changing unit for the whole building.

Now there are several rooms with separate air units, so if one group of animals is sick, the illness won't spread. Beliza got her own space - two big stalls with two yards, one of which had a pool.

Zookeepers began moving the animals into Amazonia two months ago. The ones that were due for physical exams, such as the howler monkeys, were sedated before the move.

Beliza was awake for her move, made in a wooden crate that had once been used to transport a warthog.

Zookeepers put it in her stall, then added meat, and later a toy. Curiosity didn't kill the cat, but it did get the best of her.

"We got the door ready, guillotine-style, with a rope, and I acted all nonsuspicious," Ellis said. "She knew something was up. She paced for a little bit, then she went right in."

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