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Who’s new at the zoo

May 6, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

It's that time of year again. Animal lovers can coax a coatimundi, pester a porcupine, watch a wallaby, or maybe even encounter a capybara, all without leaving town.

The Oleson Park Zoo is open for the summer again.

Zoo Manager Scott Groat said this year there will be some new animals in the zoo.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
“He’s really playful,” Groat said of this coatimundi. “He likes to grab you as you walk by.” This South American animal is related to the raccoon, and like a raccoon it can grab things with its paws. It’s a great climber, even hanging upside-down from the bars on the ceiling of its cage. While the zoo’s female coatimundi is shy, Groat said the male loves to come out and be with people.

"We try to change out some of the things people see year after year, just to switch things around a little bit," said Groat. "I figure if I haven't heard of it, it's unusual enough that it will give the kids something else to look at, something new to learn."

Groat regularly visits Macon, Mo., where people from all over the U.S. and Canada come to buy, sell and trade exotic animals, he said.

"Last time they had a giraffe that was so tall I could walk underneath it without touching my hair," he said. "We can't have anything like that at our little zoo."

Instead, Groat brought back some Patagonian cavies, large rodents from South America that look a little like a cross between a capybara and a jackrabbit.

There are capybaras at the zoo too. They're the largest rodents in the world.

Also new are a pair of wood ducks and some call ducks, which look like miniature mallards though they're full-grown.

"They're a designer species," Groat said.

Groat, like all the other zoo workers, is a volunteer. The zoo is supported by a volunteer organization, the city, and help from local businesses.

"It's a whole community thing, not just a small group keeping it running," he said. "Lots of people doing a little bit goes a long ways."

Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or



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