baby alligator

It was announced May 13, that the Indianapolis Zoo named their four juvenile American alligators Champ, Chomp, Snapper, and Swamp. 

The Zoo’s Facebook fans were responsible for choosing the names; they had the opportunity to choose from three preselected name themes. These names are based on the lyrics from the Zoo’s new “Reptile Rhyme,” which was written about the Zoo’s new exhibit Alligators & Crocodiles: The Fight to Survive which opens May 29.

The voting began on Thursday, April 29 and ended Wednesday, May 12, and almost 4,100 votes were cast during the two-week poll. While there were votes cast across the United States, 75 percent of the voting took place in the Hoosier State. The announcement was made on the Zoo’s Facebook page.

The new exhibit will give patrons the ability to see crocodiles and alligators closeup and there will even be an interactive element.

“This outdoor habitat will highlight two different crocodilian species, the American alligator and the Orinoco crocodile," says Carla Knapp, the Zoo’s public relations specialist.  "As adults, these reptiles can grow up to 15 feet long, yet remarkably the vulnerable hatchlings are only around 6-8 inches long. As part of the Zoo’s new exhibit, visitors can see the massive adult animals and then meet — and even touch — juvenile alligators up close and personal during daily Wild Encounter interactions.” 

Down the street from where live ‘crocs and ‘gators are moving into their new home, the DNR, [Indiana Department of Natural Resources] invited kids to give their stuffed bears an outing, “Because even stuffed animal friends need a break,” said Amy Borland, Architectural Historian, Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology.

“This pre-summer camp will give teddy bears, and other stuffed animals belonging to kids age 5–12 who live in Marion, Hamilton, Hancock, Shelby, Johnson, Morgan, Hendricks, or Boone counties, a chance to relax and unwind before their child owner is out of school for the summer,” explained Borland.

 The DNR Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology (DHPA) will host its inaugural Teddy Bear Camp, May 16–22. [Registration is now closed.]

“This pre-summer camp will give teddy bears, and other stuffed animals belonging to kids age 5–12 who live in Marion, Hamilton, Hancock, Shelby, Johnson, Morgan, Hendricks, or Boone counties, a chance to relax and unwind before their child owner is out of school for the summer,” explained Borland.

During the camp, DHPA staff will take the stuffed animals to visit a variety of sites to learn about history, architecture, and historic preservation. Photos of the visits will be posted to DHPA’s Facebook page  (Facebook.com/INdhpa) during the week, and, after the camp, a photo album will be emailed to the adult contact designated on the registration form. For participating, all stuffed animals and their child owners will be certified as an “Indiana Junior Preservationist.

Here’s more with Amy Borland:

RITA KOHN: Whatever prompted you at IN-DNR to venture into this totally fun activity? Is there any precedent for this activity?

AMY BORLAND: I’d love to be able to say that it was all my ingenious idea. However, I can’t. Several of us in the office follow Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Facebook when they do their “Fat Bear Week” every fall. I noticed that earlier this year, Katmai did a teddy bear camp where they planned to take stuffed animals on airplane rides over the park, campfires, and all kinds of fun Alaska adventures. Clearly Indiana is VERY different from Alaska, but it got me thinking about all of the cool history and architecture that we do have to offer. People thought it sounded fun, so we decided to give it a go.

KOHN: Will all this become a follow up story in the DNR Outdoors magazine, video, documentary, picture book, a song that might "borrow" from 'the teddy bear's picnic'?  Any plans for bears belonging to adults who also happen to favor Indiana craft beers? 

BORLAND: I’m not aware of any plans for Outdoor Indiana to cover camp, but maybe they will in the future. Right now we will be doing daily posts on our Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/INdhpa) about what the stuffed animals are up to during camp (May 16th-22nd). Just a reminder: camp is just for the stuffed animals, not the kids too. Please don’t plan on dropping off the kiddos at any of our three partner locations (Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana State Museum, and the Artcraft Theatre in Franklin).

Right now we’re limiting it to stuffed animals belonging to kids ages 5-12 in the Indy metro area, but maybe next year we’ll have a special camp for stuffed animals for those 21+. There are a lot of breweries in historic buildings.

KOHN: What outcome are you anticipating?

BORLAND: Several of the sites we’re going to visit have asked how many stuffed animals we expect. Given that this is our first time holding camp, that is a complete unknown. I do know that I have an SUV so I can cart a bunch of stuffed animals around to all of our camp locations—hopefully that’s the case.

Overall, there is such a focus these days on STEM. The Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (DHPA) thinks it’s really important to show kids that the arts/humanities are fun and interesting too. Maybe we’ll take the stuffed animals to places where the kids have already been and they’ll get excited about “Hey, I’ve been there”— establishing history as a local experience/connection. Hopefully there will also be new places that will generate some curiosity in the kids to learn more. We’re always looking for ways to engage kids to generate that spark and interest in history/architecture/preservation. Plus we all think what we do is cool, so we want to share our enthusiasm.

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