About greensborosciencecenter

The Greensboro Science Center offers three fascinating attractions in one wild destination! We are the only facility in North Carolina that offers an aquarium, museum, and zoo. Spend the day with us and come nose to beak with playful penguins, get eye to eye with awesome otters, explore the human body, experience Mother Nature’s fury and fun, and encounter exotic animals like gibbons, meerkats, and lemurs!

Screaming Hairy Armadillos – Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air! Whether it’s love for your partner or a friend, or it’s love for your own wonderful self, you probably won’t be able to escape thinking about it for at least a few minutes (…sorry!). In the spirit of love, we wanted to use today’s blog to hone in on the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP), with a spotlight on our screaming hairy armadillos, Lenny and Rizzo.

In captivity, the screaming hairy armadillo population is dwindling. There’s a whole host of reasons for this, but the main ones are that there aren’t enough successful breeding pairs out there, coupled with low reproductive rates. Per the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), we’re crossing our fingers that Cupid’s arrow will fly and find its mark with our armadillos. Lenny, who you can find on exhibit in our Discovery House, and Rizzo, our back-of-house armadillo, are a part of a very detailed strategy for successful captive breeding.

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During Rizzo’s ovulation cycle, which occurs during only two seasons of the year, the armadillos are given up to two months together in hopes that the spark of love will ignite. Lenny will even spend his evenings in the back-of-house so that he and Rizzo can have more time together. Since gestation takes from 60-80 days, and if conception were to occur early on in her mating period with Lenny, Rizzo could give birth while still in the company of her mate. This leads to a high level of stress for the potential mother and could lead to her eating her offspring. To avoid these things, a pregnant Rizzo would have to be moved entirely out of Discovery House and taken to a low-stimulation environment in which she wouldn’t even be able to so much as smell her mate, Lenny.

When and if babies are successfully produced, litter size is small – consistently yielding twins. The two are initially quite fragile, as babies are. So along with the obstacles leading up to a successful pregnancy, keeping the babies healthy and sustained can be a trial in itself.

The odds could seem insurmountable, but our keepers are doing everything they can to ensure the possibility of a successful breeding with our screaming hairy armadillos. With the help of AZA and our partners in other accredited zoos, we are learning how best to guide this species to a better future.

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Senior Living Community for Lemurs

The Greensboro Science Center is home to a lemur exhibit made up of three lemur species: ring-tailed lemurs, red ruffed lemurs and a mongoose lemur. Both our red ruffed lemurs and mongoose lemur are considered geriatric at this point, so special attention is given to this group to ensure they remain happy and comfortable. Part of this special attention entails efforts to ensure they remain socialized as they continue to age.

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Ara and Jethys on exhibit

At 32 years old, Ara is one of the oldest known female red ruffed lemurs in North America. With lemurs having an average lifespan ranging in the 20s, Ara is very special. Such an impressive status as hers means extra love and care from her keepers, including close monitoring of the temperature in her living space as well as her eating habits. Last year, her caregivers noticed that Ara was exhibiting some health problems which led to her being taken off exhibit. Our keepers knew she could potentially become lonely without the social interaction offered by the others lemurs on exhibit, so they found a solution: Jethys.

Jethys, our second red ruffed lemur, came to us from the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. At 25 years old, she too, is a senior lemur and therefore seemed the perfect pal for Ara. Both ladies lost their original companions but are now strongly bonded together. Since Ara has been off exhibit, she has been constantly accompanied by her BFF Jethys, who has become quite protective of her elderly friend.

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Mongoose lemur, Che

Keepers are now attempting to add a third member to this seniors club, a 26-year-old mongoose lemur named Che (pronounced Sh-ay). In the past, Che spent all of his time with his daughter, Isabella. Due to a tumor that led to Isabella’s euthanization several months ago, Che is now flying solo. Our ring-tailed lemur group didn’t take to him very well, but we’re feeling hopeful that Ara and Jethys can make up for that.

Currently, keepers are helping the lemurs get to know each other via a “howdy” – a process in which the animals are placed in adjacent spaces where they can see, smell and perhaps even touch each other while still separated by a barrier. Although the protective Jethys hasn’t quite embraced this newcomer, we’re feeling optimistic that as the trio continue to become acquainted, we’ll soon see them peacefully occupying neighboring spaces. Much like humans, social interaction is important for all lemurs, providing the mental stimulation they need to stay healthy and happy. Our dedicated team of animal care experts are doing everything in their power to make our lemurs’ golden years great ones.

Project Seahorse Announces iSeahorse.org

By Regina Bestbier, Research Biologist with Project Seahorse, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and the University of British Columbia

Project Seahorse is delighted to announce the launch of our new, improved iSeahorse.org website – our pioneering citizen engagement tool who gathers information about seahorses while building a community of committed contributors that will be empowered to take action for seahorses and marine conservation.

Anyone can join. Whether you’re a diver, fisher, scientist, or just on a beach holiday, you can share your seahorse observations with a click of a button. If you’ve seen a seahorse in the wild, join iSeahorse.org or download the app to upload your seahorse observations and photos. You can also help us identify species, explore maps, beautiful photos, fun seahorse facts, and take action for seahorse conservation.

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Photo by Joshua Feingold/Guylian Seahorses of the World

Since we launched iSeahorse in October 2013, scientists from Project Seahorse and around the world have used this vital information to better understand seahorse behaviour, species ranges, and the threats they face.  Together, we use this knowledge to mobilize governments, policy makers, and ocean advocates to protect seahorses and the marine ecosystems they call home.

To date, almost 500 contributors have shared their 2400+ seahorse observations, and we now have information on 30 of the 43 recognised seahorse species.  The user-contributed observations on iSeahorse have also greatly expanded our knowledge of the known ranges of several seahorses – 15% of all iSeahorse observations are from outside of a species known geographic range!  We are also learning much about the depth ranges and habitat preferences of the species observed, which will contribute to conservation planning efforts in the near future.

We are building a community and alliance of citizen scientists, conservationists, experts and more, all working towards a common goal – to protect seahorses and expand our scientific knowledge of these mysterious and beautiful animals.  There are now ten long-term seahorse population monitoring projects established on six continents (North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia) and we have more than 25 seahorse experts and enthusiasts from 16 countries participating as iSeahorse National Seahorse Experts and program Ambassadors.  iSeahorse empowers users to take action and generate conservation change.   In fact,  the newly created 70 ha Marine Protected Area and seahorse sanctuary in Anda, Bohol, Philippines resulted from newly discovered seahorse populations reported through iSeahorse.

To learn more about Project Seahorse, iSeahorse and seahorses, and to get involved, visit projectseahorse.org and iseahorse.org.

The Komodo Dragon SSP and Dragon Conservation

By Don Boyer, Komodo Dragon SSP Coordinator

The Komodo Dragon SSP (Species Survival Plan) was established in 2002. The current AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) captive population has grown to more than 126 dragons maintained at 63 AZA institutions. We are very proud of the overall success of the program. Through the active participation and hard work of member institutions, funding support from these institutions also has been instrumental in aiding wild Komodo dragon conservation in Indonesia. The Greensboro Science Center is an active supporter of the conservation fund.

Adult Komodo on Komodo Island

Komodo dragons, exotic and fascinating in their own right, are nearly unparalleled in their ability to connect people with a strong conservation message. The wild population is estimated to be approximately 2500 animals. Current threats include global climate change, anthropogenic disturbance such as habitat alteration and poaching the dragon’s prey base. To help support the survival of these impressive lizards in the wild, the Komodo Dragon SSP maintains a conservation fund. That fund supports important and ongoing field research for long-term dragon conservation. During the past several years the steering committee has voted to approve funding to the Komodo Survival Program (KSP), a small non-governmental conservation organization that was established in 2007.

The main purpose of the KSP is to conduct monitoring activities to determine the population status of dragons, document any threats and recommend appropriate conservation measures to the Indonesian Government. Their work has provided important data in regard to demography, recruitment, dispersal and other vital information on the ecology of these magnificent reptiles. They have also worked very diligently to create community awareness of dragon ecology and conservation and the importance of the species in their ecosystem.

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Dissemination and training

The AZA institutional funding has made possible a significant amount the KSP work and helped to provide a sound foundation for future monitoring of the dragon population within the Komodo National Park by their rangers. The KSP team is training the National Park ranger staff in the scientific monitoring methodology and teaches them an in depth understanding of dragon biology ecology. The KSP is also directing on conservation efforts for the more vulnerable dragons outside of the protected areas on the Island of Flores.

The SSP fund remains a viable resource to continue this valuable conservation work. The bulk of the contributions come from AZA Zoos. The collective donations to this fund have enabled the import/export of dragons for program purposes.  Institutions have been able to satisfy the USFWS endangered species permit requirements for the enhancement through regular contributions to the fund. Most importantly the funding support to the KSP has filled significant gaps in their research funding and enabled infrastructure repair to ranger stations, the production of multilingual guide books with accurate dragon biology information and provided a science based long term population monitoring of the iconic species.

Greensboro Science Center Sadly Announces Death of Senior Tiger

GREENSBORO, NC — It is with great sadness that the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) reports the loss of its 13-year-old male tiger, Axl. He is preceded in death by his sister, Kisa, who died in July of 2016.

AxlFor nearly a year, the GSC’s dedicated team of keepers, curators, a vet technician, and a veterinarian have monitored and treated Axl’s age-related decline. Lung-related symptoms were observed and managed. A decreased appetite and subsequent weight loss were countered with high protein meats and treat options as well as medications to alleviate his symptoms. However, in the end, no level of staff attention, continuous care and monitoring could turn back the hands of time. The GSC’s professionals ensured Axl’s last few months were comfortable and filled with his favorite foods.

Rachael Campbell, Axl’s lead keeper, says, “Axl was the most laidback, spirited tiger. He enjoyed spending time with his keepers. That personality made him great to work with because not only was it easy to treat him for illnesses or have him willingly take part in his own health care, but it made him a great ambassador for his species.”

Last month, the GSC’s Board of Directors was briefed about Axl’s situation and a Greensboro Science Center blog post was shared with the public detailing adjustments to the tiger’s care routine to compensate for his declining health. Yesterday, advanced veterinary care was attempted to further diagnose Axl’s condition with no success nor conclusive results.

Working with friends and consultants at NCSU School of Veterinary Medicine, the GSC staff veterinarian and technician will send off specialized tissue samples in hopes of pinpointing a specific underlying cause of death.

Glenn Dobrogosz, CEO of the Greensboro Science Center, says, “Both Axl and Kisa were instrumental in teaching over 3.1 million visitors about the plight of endangered tigers in the wild. They will be greatly missed.”

General Curator, Jessica Hoffman-Balder, says, “Our tigers taught guests about the conservation, biology and natural history of a dynamic large cat species. However, I think these two animals played a far greater role than that in the lives of all who knew them. They took you a step further, to another place of simply being in awe of something greater in our natural world, and I think that was what made them so special – those close moments of shared eye contact, of quiet observation from viewer and animal, of bonding with another living thing and creating a desire to learn more and do more. Axl, in particular, was a perfect ambassador for this. He loved to greet guests at the windows and create those special moments. He was good-natured, playful and seemed to love watching us as much as we loved watching him. I will miss all these things about him and so much more.”

The GSC’s tiger exhibit will remain closed for several months. The exhibit and back of house living quarters will be upfitted and modified to prepare for GSC involvement with Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Malayan Tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding program.

Life as a Senior Big Cat

More than 10 years ago, the Conservators Center, a North Carolina educational non-profit dedicated to providing a specialized home for select carnivore species, had accepted the placement of 14 lions and tigers that were part of a large confiscation of animals living in unacceptable conditions. Four of the female large cats were pregnant and delivered cubs shortly after their arrival at the Conservators Center. Since the Greensboro Science Center had a new tiger exhibit with no tigers, we and the Conservators Center formed a partnership to provide a home for two of the tiger cubs – siblings Axl and Kisa.

With Kisa’s passing in 2016, Axl now occupies the exhibit alone. While this may sound like a lonely situation for Axl, tigers are typically solitary animals, and ever since his solo stint began, we’ve watched him become more active and exhibit more natural tiger behaviors than before. With Kisa having been the playful troublemaker, Axl has now had the chance to let his unique personality shine.

Captive tigers have an average life expectancy of 16-20 years, with their wild counterparts averaging 10-15 years. Our 13-year-old Axl is considered a geriatric animal, and as with all of our animals experiencing the various stages of life, our animal staff are constantly altering and reevaluating the care he receives.

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Keeper Rachael feeding Axl his morning meal

They’ve noticed that he’s become a little more resistant to eating, so to compensate, his diet has been changed over to a special higher calorie senior diet. His keepers have also been feeding him more whole prey. Some of his favorites include rabbits, beef and deer. In addition, he’s recently been receiving half of his diet in the morning and half in the afternoon, making it more likely that he’ll eat what is offered to him. He’s lost a little of his weight, but this is no cause for concern as it remains on par for tigers his age. Our team weighs him every two weeks to make sure his caloric needs continue being met.

Beyond changes in his eating habits, Axl has exhibited the occasional asthma flare-up. In response, our animal care team is keeping a very close eye on his breathing and treating him as needed. He’s also just received a physical and will continue to undergo those on a regular basis, as always. Keepers have even trained him to present his tail so that our vet staff can easily draw blood to verify continued proper functioning of his organs.

Axl Blood Draw

Axl presents his tail so vet staff can draw blood

Rachael Brushing Axl

Axl enjoying being brushed!

Unfortunately for us, wild animals tend to hide symptoms of illness until it’s too late, but Axl’s team of caregivers continues to do everything in their power to prevent issues and respond to his needs as they become evident. Meanwhile, he’s enjoying his daily brushings and continues to entertain visitors while on exhibit. Keeper Rachael Campbell, Axl’s primary keeper, describes him as “more laidback than ever!”

You can stop by Animal Discovery Zoo and visit Axl every day between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Just steer clear of the tiger spray zones!

The Greensboro Science Center Gives Back

The Greensboro Science Center’s (GSC) mission is to provide our community with a dynamic, experiential and family-focused attraction designed to inspire scientific curiosity as well as to encourage personal discovery about life and the natural world. With a zoo and aquarium fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums as well as a museum accredited by the American Association of Museums, visitors can be assured that we adhere to the highest standards for facilities of our kind.

The dollars of visitors, members and donors provide much of the support the GSC needs to adequately house and care for both our animals and non-living collections. The community has supported us for more than 60 years, so we are always looking for ways to pay that kindness forward. Knowing that not everyone is able to absorb the full admission price of a visit here, we’ve established the Group Visit Scholarship Assistance Fund, a reserve for nonprofit organizations to apply to receive financial assistance to help with offsetting admission costs.

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In just the last five years, the Fund has served more than 2,600 children and adults. During this time, more than 43 awards totaling over $17,800 have been granted. Groups served include nonprofits serving autistic children and adults, parent-child engagement initiatives, retirement communities, organizations aiding low-income families, faith-based social programs, and beyond.

The Group Visit Scholarship Assistance Fund is made possible by private donations as well as by the donations dropped in our black wishing well (currently located in Destination: Dinosaur). Visit our website to learn more about the Fund and application process.