Apr 23

Adopt A Takin

How would feel about having someone in your family who’s considered one of China’s national treasures and has been compared to goats, antelope, cows, sheep, wildebeests, moose and bison – sometimes all at once?

Well, here’s your chance to find out. The takins that will soon take up residence in the Asian Highlands exhibit at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium are already in Nebraska (at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari in Ashland) and available for adoption through our Zoo Mama and Zoo Daddy program.

“They’re something out of Star Wars,” says Katie Terrazas, a keeper at the park who helps care for and train the takins. “They’re really fun and unusual.”

Our takins, one male and three females, came to Omaha from different zoos, but they’ve already bonded to each other really well. “They seem to love each other,” Terrazas says. “When we’ve had to separate them for training, they can’t wait to be back together as soon as we’re done.”

They’ve also developed a cautious bond with their trainers, who had been warned by keepers at other zoos that, although herbivores, takins could be aggressive – as zoo Executive Director and CEO Dennis Pate once said, “A takin won’t start a fight, but he’s sure going to be the one to finish it.”

Terrazas says that the lead keeper at the safari park visited the Red River Zoo in Fargo, N.D., where they’ve had a takin for more than ten years, and the Ashland team has implemented similar techniques such as brushing the takins’ coats and touching their noses to desensitize them to human touch, as well as rewarding positive behavior with treats. “As soon as they hear the bag open, they go straight to their station to get a treat.”

The takins won’t ever have direct contact with zoo visitors -- or keepers for that matter. As a “code red” animal, there is always a barred wall between takins and humans at the safari park, and the design of Asian Highlands provides for natural (but impenetrable) barriers. Still, they’ve had the opportunity to get used to guests via the private tours that visit the park.

And they’ve really taken to their new environment. “They love to climb on things so we put their browse way up high so they can climb to reach it,” says Terrazas. “And they love to investigate different smells, like pine shavings. They’re naturally curious animals so it’s fun to watch them enjoy and explore their surroundings.”