New animals find a home at the Erie Zoo

Eva Philips, Staff writer

The Erie Zoo is one of the most popular attractions in the area, and its recent addition of several new animals makes it even more appealing for visitors of all ages.

The Erie Zoo acquired a female Père David’s deer, as a companion for the other Père David’s deer that the zoo houses. The deer are named Lisa and Tai Yang. They live in the same enclosure as the zoo’s mouflon sheep herd.

While the addition of these new residents is exciting, visitors to the zoo will have to wait patiently to observe the deer in their habitat until the spring when the Safari and Train opens for the season. In acquiring these Père David’s deer, the Erie Zoo is supporting efforts to conserve the species, which has been extinct from its natural habitat in China for over a century.

Without organizations like the Erie Zoo, the species would be completely extinct. Père David’s deer are also known as the milu or elaphure. While they appear similar to the white-tail deer common throughout the northeastern United States, their thick antlers and shaggier coat set them apart.

The deer were not the only new additions to the Erie Zoo’s population. Also joining the zoo are two young red pandas, Lukas and Mikah. Lukas and Mikah are brothers and previously lived at the Seneca Park Zoo.

Their new home at the Erie Zoo is in the Asia Tower’s red panda exhibit. Lukas and Mikah were brought in to replace Neo, Joe, and Pumori, the previous group of red pandas at the Erie Zoo. These three red pandas were relocated to assist in breeding plans aimed at increasing the red panda population.

Red pandas are endangered, meaning that they face a high risk of becoming extinct in the wild. If they became extinct, the only remaining red pandas on earth would reside in zoos and other organizations. Conservationists have worked diligently to ensure the continued survival of the red panda species.

Recently, red pandas have gained extra publicity due to the release of Disney’s “Turning Red,” a movie in which the main character unwillingly turns into a giant red panda. Red pandas are known for their charming appearance, with a ringed tail, reddish coat, round face and pointed ears.

Finally, the population of the zoo grew naturally, with the births of two litters of naked mole rat pups. The naked mole rat exhibit is located within the zoo’s main building. Also known as sand puppies, naked mole rats are native to the Horn of Africa. Unlike the Père David’s deer and red pandas, naked mole rats are considered a stable species and are not in danger of extinction.

They are notable for the bald appearance that gives them their name and for their reliance on their sense of smell, as they are virtually blind and deaf. The Erie Zoo has a number of other exciting exhibits, home to exotic animals like lions, leopards, tigers, alligators and pythons. The zoo opened in 1930 and has welcomed scores of visitors ever since.

Its proximity to Mercyhurst makes it a great destination for students looking for a fun weekend activity. Though the zoo closes for the season on Dec. 1, be sure to mark your calendars for its spring opening on the first day of March — it will certainly be worth a visit.

The Erie Zoo has plenty of other exhibits besides the new animals mentioned, so make sure to see the great variety offered. Exhibits include monkeys, giraffes, elephants and lions, so there are plenty of different animals for everyone to see. The Erie Zoo is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Consider visiting these new exhibits and all the other exhibits once it reopens in nicer weather.