Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 1, Page 9
Interaction at a small zoo

     Zoos today build their foundation on conservation and education
programs, says Nancy Falasco, Delaware '75, director of the Brandywine
Zoo in Wilmington, Del. At the Brandywine Zoo, this can mean breeding
exchanges with other zoos to preserve the gene pool of such endangered
species as the Siberian tiger or golden lion tamarin, a small South
American primate. Or, it can mean incorporating behavior enrichment
into the exhibits. For example, a block of ice studded with fruit can
be floated in the river otters' pool, entertaining both animals and
visitors as the otters tumble, roll and pry fruit out of the block.
     Falasco, who received a bachelor's degree in animal science from
the University, focused on laboratory animals, pathology and
diagnostics as a student in the College of Agricultural Sciences. She
joined the zoo in 1976 as a caretaker and became director in 1981. Her
educational background comes in handy, she says, when she acts as the
zoo's liaison with veterinarians. "It helps me understand the
diagnosis and treatment procedures," she says.
     The Brandywine Zoo, which is part of New Castle County Parks and
Recreation, boasts its own hospital, where veterinarians can perform
procedures on animals that range in size from a 15-ounce marmoset to a
275-pound jaguar. In addition, the hospital is designed to hold new
animals in a 30-day quarantine before they are introduced to the
     With 150 specimens, the zoo's collection focuses on North and
South American and Asian temperate species. Falasco says the zoo's
master plan includes not only making the animals more comfortable but
also improving the exhibits for the more than 83,000 visitors each
     The new coati exhibit is an example of how to make the zoo animal-
and visitor-friendly. A South American raccoon, the coati is adept at
climbing and hanging upside down, so the exhibit was designed with a
huge intertwined mass of branches. The branches make a natural jungle
gym, encouraging the coati's acrobatics to entertain visitors.
     The Brandywine doesn't compete with larger zoos, Falasco says.
     "With a small zoo, we can provide an up-close and intimate
experience," she says. "We can show people the habitat and proper
behavior of the animals. And, because children are less tired out by
coming to a small zoo, families and school groups find the visit more
                                         -Claire McCabe, Delaware '85M