Katrina the Crocodile’s Pre-Ship Exam

Last week, Katrina, our female Nile crocodile, was examined by the GSC’s veterinary team in preparation for her upcoming move to a fellow Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facility, Zoo Boise. Katrina came to the Greensboro Science Center in 2009 from Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. She has shared the exhibit with Niles, our male crocodile, since then.

With the capacity to grow up to 16 feet in length, the time has now come for our crocodiles to go their separate ways, giving them the space they need as they continue to grow. Katrina will likely be making her move to Idaho in May. At that time, two keepers from Zoo Boise will come to North Carolina to accompany her on her FedEx flight out of Piedmont Triad International Airport.

When animals are moved from one facility to another, it is standard procedure for the receiving facility to acquire up-to-date medical information. In order to provide the most accurate information possible, our veterinary team gave Katrina a full physical exam. So, how does one go about giving a crocodile a physical?

Our team of animal care professionals met prior to beginning the exam to discuss the method they would employ to restrain Katrina as well as to determine the role of each individual involved. Additionally, the pool inside the exhibit was drained, and all tools and supplies were gathered and placed within easy reach.

The temperature at the time of the exam was relatively cool for a cold-blooded animal, at 63 degrees. While the cooler weather could mean Katrina had a little less energy than usual and wouldn’t pull quite as much, our team never takes any chances when it comes to safety. With such a strong, alert animal, every precaution was taken.

Inside the blockhouse, a team was responsible for catching Katrina by fastening a rope around her head and one arm. Once secure, the team pulled her outside into the grass (where there is less of a chance of injury if the animal rolls). A rope was carefully slipped around Katrina’s jaws and tightened to cinch her mouth shut.

Katrina Croc Exam 2019 DSC_8816

The animal care team moves with precision to stabilize Katrina’s powerful jaws.

A warm, wet towel was placed over her eyes before two members of the animal care team simultaneously moved in to hold her still. Her mouth was then taped shut.

During the exam, our veterinary team drew blood, checked her eyes and tested the movement of her joints. They inserted a microchip, took a fecal sample and updated x-rays. They also used the opportunity to take measurements (she’s now 7’ 2” in length!!!) — not only for her medical records, but also for logistical planning purposes as she prepares to fly to Idaho.

Katrina Croc Exam 2019 DSC_8862

The team prepares to insert a microchip.

Katrina Croc Exam 2019 DSC_8865

From the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail, Katrina measures 7’ 2”.

Katrina Croc Exam 2019 DSC_8906

Our portable x-ray generator allows the team to take – and quickly review – x-rays on exhibit, which is less stressful for the animal and less dangerous for the keepers.

Other than a small abrasion on her foot, our vet team tells us Katrina is in great shape! We will certainly miss her here at the Greensboro Science Center, but we are excited for her future at Zoo Boise where she’s sure to continue educating and inspiring guests with her strength, power and beauty.

Katrina Croc Exam 2019 DSC_8911

 

Keepers Use Night Vision Cameras to Spy on Maned Wolf Pups

At just over three months old, our four maned wolf puppies, Stella, Luna, Betts, and Cieza, are fully weaned. Keeper Lauren has been providing them with “grown-up” food, but since they’re still shy around people, she hasn’t been able to see them actively eating on their own. In order to determine whether the pups are eating by themselves or still relying on mom, Anaheim, as their main source of food, Lauren installed night vision cameras in their blockhouse.

Here are a few clips of what she’s seen:

The puppies are eating the same food that their mom eats: 30% ground beef mixed with 70% pureed fruits and veggies, plus supplements. The fruits and veggies are pureed and mixed with the meat because, while meat is their favorite, as omnivores, fruits and veggies are vital to their health. Mixing everything together ensures they are motivated to eat their veggies!

Mixing the meat with fruits and veggies also helps keep their meat intake in check. If maned wolves eat too much meat, they can get cystinuria, a condition in which crystals form in their urine. Cystinuria can be deadly, so keepers work hard to ensure our animals eat a well-balanced diet!

You may be wondering why the pups are coming inside so late at night to eat! Our maned wolves are given the choice to come and go as they please after hours. On nicer days, they tend to sleep in their outdoor den boxes, which are heated to stay above 50 degrees – for those cool nights! If it’s especially cold outside, they often opt to sleep inside the blockhouse, where temperatures are heated to a nice, warm 73 degrees.

As you can see, our maned wolf pups are growing up quickly under the faithful care of our dedicated animal care staff. Be sure to stop by the maned wolf exhibit the next time you visit for a chance to see these playful pups in action!

Milk Snake Enucleation

Earlier this week, our veterinary team removed the right eye of our milk snake, Milkshake, due to serious issues stemming from a blocked tear duct. Read more below to learn about Milkshake’s condition, the surgery that followed, and his recovery.

Warning: this blog post contains photos of surgical procedures and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Last month, keepers noticed that Milkshake’s right eye was swollen. Further examination revealed that the snake had a blocked tear duct. Because snakes’ eyelids are fused together, it couldn’t drain on its own, which means pressure was building up between the eyelid and the patient’s eye. This pressure could lead to extreme pain and discomfort and ultimately blindness in that eye. Following their discovery, our animal care staff did a weekly draining of the tear duct using a fine needle, each time removing about 0.1 mil of fluid; this went on for a month.

In an effort to relieve the snake’s discomfort more permanently and reduce the stress caused by weekly draining, our animal care team made the decision to remove the eye. Milkshake was placed under anesthesia during the procedure. He received both numbing and pain medications, as well as epinephrine post-surgery to constrict blood vessels and slow bleeding.

Milk Snake Eye Removal DSC_8205

Milk Snake EnucleationElectrical probes inserted into the animal measured the conductivity of the heart, allowing our veterinary team to monitor Milkshake’s cardiac activity throughout the surgery and recovery.

Milk Snake Eye Removal DSC_8159An operating microscope capable of showing details as small as red blood cells moving within the eye vessels was used during the procedure.

Milk Snake Eye Removal DSC_8186The eye was removed with extreme care.

Milk Snake Eye Removal DSC_8220After the eye was removed, a gel foam sponge was inserted into the socket, helping to clot the blood and fill in the space. This will stay in place for the next 1-2 weeks.

We are pleased to report that surgery went well, and Milkshake is expected to make a full recovery. If you visit the GSC in the near future, you may notice his exhibit is lined with newspaper instead of soil. During recovery, this will prevent any debris from entering the surgical site as it heals.

Conservation Creation: Animal Valentines

At the Greensboro Science Center, one of the most important things keepers do for our animals is provide them with enrichment. Enrichment is defined as “improving the quality of”, and we apply that principle to the lives of our animals. Two of the primary things to keep in mind with providing enrichment are: provide the animals with choices; and stimulate natural behaviors, both physically and mentally.

Enrichment can be created in a variety of ways, depending upon the type of animal it’s intended for. For example, penguins have excellent eyesight, so providing them with brightly colored decorations in their exhibit can spark their curiosity and encourage them to investigate their habitat. As another example, it’s enriching for our fishing cats when keepers scatter their diets throughout their habitat so that they have to forage like they would do in the wild.

For pet owners, there are many ways to provide enrichment for the animals (dogs, cats, birds, etc.) in our homes without breaking the bank. Check out some of our DIY enrichment ideas below, or get creative and see how many different ideas you can come up with!

What you’ll need: Cardboard or paper materials from your recycling bin + your pet’s favorite treats (we’re using Cheerios)!

1

Enrichment Item 1: Forage Box

Step 1: Place your treats in the middle of a piece of paper, then crumple the paper into a ball. Make as many of these as you would like.

2

Step 2:  Place your treat-filled paper balls in a small box (like a shoe box), then give the box to your pet and watch them forage through to find their treats. For an added challenge, only put treats in a few of the paper balls so that your pet has to investigate more thoroughly.

3

Enrichment Item 2: Treat Tubes

Step 1: Make a small paper ball and stuff it into one end of a toilet paper or paper towel tube.

4

Step 2: Place some of your pet’s treats into the tube, on top of the paper ball you just made. Next, place another paper ball on top of the treats. You can give your pets the tube at this point, or continue on to step 3 for an added challenge!

5

Step 3: Fold the outsides of the tube inward so that your pet has to manipulate the tube more thoroughly to reach the food. This will be especially useful for birds or high-energy dogs. Give the enrichment item to your pet, or hide a few of them around the house for your pet to find!

6

Please remember: Every animal may interact with enrichment items differently.  For safety, items should be monitored to ensure your pet’s safety.

Goodbye, Nazca

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Nazca, our male maned wolf and the father of the four puppies recently born here at the GSC. Nazca was just shy of his 11th birthday and was considered a senior, as the lifespan of maned wolves in captivity is typically 10 – 14 years of age.

For the last few weeks, Nazca had exhibited a cough that caused our animal care team concern. Over the weekend, staff observed some swelling in his neck. In an attempt to identify the cause, he was brought to our on-site animal hospital where our veterinary team performed an exam. Crackles, wheezing, and wet sounds were observed when listening to his lungs. An ultrasound-guided aspiration biopsy revealed concerning cells. Fluid was found in his chest cavity.

nazca

Due to his age, the advanced state of the illness, and his rapidly declining quality of life, the decision was made to humanely euthanize him. Although the results of a necropsy are pending, Veterinarian Dr. Sam Young says Nazca had an advanced lung cancer. His mate, Anaheim, was given the opportunity to say goodbye and her behavior will be closely monitored in the weeks ahead. Decisions like this are not taken lightly and are vetted through a committee of GSC experts trained in animal welfare. A number of factors are evaluated through our welfare process and include questions such as “how much pain do we believe the animal is in?”, “what is their likelihood of recovery?”, and “how progressive is the disease process? Can we even treat it?”

Nazca will be remembered by many of us at the GSC not just as a truly magnificent animal, but also as a fantastic father. During his time with us, he sired nine beautiful pups through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). He and his first mate, Lana, had three pups in February of 2011. He was then recommended to breed with Anaheim, who has been his mate since 2015. Together, they produced two successful litters, a boy and girl in March of 2016, and the four pups (two males and two females) born in December 2018.

Breeding recommendations are made based on the best genetic match-ups to ensure a healthy and sustainable population throughout AZA institutions. Nazca carried the most valuable genetics for both of his recommended pairings. His involvement in the SSP has assured that his genes would be passed on to future generations (as evident by last year’s successful birth from one of his daughters). Our staff is comforted greatly by the knowledge that his legacy will continue to live on even though he is no longer with us.

image3 (2)

The maned wolf exhibit has been closed since early December in preparation for the puppies’ birth. The exhibit is scheduled to reopen February 11, when the puppies are a little older. We are grateful for all of your thoughts and prayers as we mourn the loss of our beloved Nazca.

Maned Wolf Pups Born at the Greensboro Science Center

On December 11, 2018, the Greensboro Science Center’s (GSC) 5-year-old female maned wolf, Anaheim, gave birth to four puppies. This is the fourth time she and 11-year-old Nazca (the GSC’s adult male maned wolf) have been recommended to breed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Maned Wolf Species Survival Plan. This litter, comprised of two males and two females, is the second successful litter from the pair.

The maned wolf exhibit has been closed since early December as keepers began “pup watch”. During this time, Lauren Davis, the GSC’s Wolf String Lead Keeper, has worked to ensure that Anaheim’s four den boxes (two inside and two outside) are well-heated and filled with appropriate bedding. She has also installed Bluetooth baby monitors in the outside den boxes so she can monitor the mother wolf from a distance. Closing the exhibit to guests has provided Anaheim with a quieter, calmer environment in which to give birth and raise her new family.

Davis says, “Sometimes, we are able to observe the breeding behaviors, which allows us to count the days and determine a solid window for when Anaheim will give birth. For the last two years, though, the wolves have been very secretive, so it’s up to me to be observant of her body condition and behaviors.”

As a part of their ongoing care, the wolves are weighed once each month. If Davis sees Anaheim exceeding her normal weight range, she begins weighing the animal weekly to get a more accurate estimate for a potential due date. Davis says Anaheim also becomes very pushy when pregnant. During the last half of pregnancy, Davis looks for a round belly and visible teats as milk develops.

“This year, I was about 2 weeks off,” Davis says. “I thought she would have Christmas babies, but when that huge snow storm was rolling in, she started to look very, very round. It is not unusual for animals to give birth during bad weather, so I knew it would be that weekend — and I was right!”

Davis says Anaheim is currently doing well taking care of four hungry mouths and Nazca is a fantastic father. She says, “He is protective and does a very good job supporting Anaheim. Once the pups get older, he will regurgitate for them and play with them, but for now his job is to stay out of the way and make sure I don’t mess with his family.”

The pups received their first veterinary exam on Thursday, January 10. Each wolf was thoroughly examined, microchipped and weighed, and all received a clean bill of health from the GSC’s veterinary team. The pups will receive their first vaccines in about two weeks, followed by routine exams every three weeks until they are 12 – 14 weeks old.

The maned wolf exhibit will reopen to the public on Monday, February 11. The pups may or may not be visible immediately after reopening, as they will continue to spend much of their time in their den boxes until they get a little older.

ABOUT THE SSP

The mission of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) cooperatively managed Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program is to oversee the population management of select species within AZA member institutions (i.e., AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, Conservation Partners, and Certified Related Facilities (CRFs)) and to enhance conservation of this species in the wild.

News From Seattle

A couple of weeks ago, our Leadership team traveled to Seattle, Washington to participate in the annual Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) National Conference. There, they attended a hearing with the AZA Accreditation Commission, in which the group addressed critical questions about the present and future of the Greensboro Science Center. This was the final step in a series of many steps to earning AZA accreditation again. With that said, we’ve got great news to share… but first, you’ll need some background information.

Leadership at 2018 AZA Hearing

GSC representatives attend the AZA Accreditation Hearing.

What is AZA?

AZA has been around since the early 1970s. In response to growing concerns over the animal care being provided in zoo and aquarium settings, AZA established a set of scientifically-proven best practices as applicable to aquariums and zoos. The standards, available for review by the public at any time, apply to all aspects of an organization’s operations, including animal welfare, governing body, conservation, education, guest services, facilities, safety, staffing, veterinary care, and finance. AZA standards are considered the national benchmark in the eyes of many U.S. agencies, including the USDA, USFWS and OSHA.

How It Relates to Us

The GSC was first accredited back in 2008 with the opening of Animal Discovery Zoo. Before this year’s efforts, our last application and inspection took place in January 2013. With a new application due every five years, we’ve been in the process of applying for accreditation again. The application steps are outlined next.

The Accreditation Process, Simplified

inspection 06

The GSC Leadership Team performs a mock inspection to prepare staff for the upcoming AZA inspectors’ visit.

First, a written application must be submitted. In order to complete this application, staff will spend roughly a year evaluating and updating the necessary information, including protocols, reports and supporting documentation such as records of safety drills or program animal handling procedures.

After the written application is submitted, an on-site inspection will be conducted by a team of AZA inspectors. Teams are made up of voluntary professionals – including a veterinarian, an operations representative and an animal program representative – from within the AZA community. For facilities with elephants and/or marine mammals, an additional inspector with expertise in those specific areas is assigned. To assure the most thorough inspection possible, AZA does its best to match inspectors to facilities that are similar to their home facilities. Once the inspectors arrive at their inspection site, they spend approximately three to four days taking photos and gathering information to determine whether or not the facility is practicing what it described in its application. Not only will they examine the grounds and amenities; inspectors also spend time interviewing various volunteers and staff members as well as the facility’s Board of Directors. Questions can range from “What is your organization’s mission?” to “What is your department’s safety procedure during a tornado?” No stone is left unturned.

The next step is for the inspectors to report back to AZA. Any comments inspectors make regarding items of concern must be tied to a documented standard. Inspectors cannot focus on past or perceived future issues and must focus only on what is happening presently. Although there is a separate section of the inspection report in which inspectors can share their opinions, opinions cannot be used as cause for a write-up. Additionally, although the inspecting team can make a recommendation regarding accreditation, they cannot make that decision.

Following the inspection team’s reporting step, the applicant will receive a resulting document detailing all concerns, if any, and will be provided with three to four months to address those concerns. After this time, the facility will send a representative or group of representatives to a hearing (the one mentioned at the beginning of this writing) with the accreditation commission, and this is where they will find out whether or not their facility has met AZA’s standards for accreditation.

How It Relates to You

Zoo Trek DSC_7430

One of our priorities as an AZA accredited institution is to educate the community about our animals and their wild counterparts. Pictured above: a guest meets and learns about red pandas on an Inside Tracks: Zoo Trek.

If all of that sounds intimidating, it’s because it is! But it’s worth every bit of the work that goes into it. AZA accreditation means recognition, but more importantly, it means that we can work better and smarter for both our animals and our visitors. Being a member of a group of hundreds of other facilities means that we have access to great networking and resources, which translates to constant learning and improvement for us. Accreditation is synonymous with community, and all that we do is interconnected and for a greater purpose. Each animal we house serves as an ambassador of its species, telling stories of conservation and science. We want to provide the best education possible for our community, and AZA accreditation makes it possible.

Finally, for the great news. Executive Director Glenn Dobrogosz emailed the team the morning after the hearing to announce that the Greensboro Science Center has once again received AZA accreditation!

DSC_2956

A GSC volunteer guides a guest on how to safely touch one of our stingrays.

Less than 10% of the approximately 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the Department of Agriculture are accredited by the AZA. This means that if you’re visiting a zoo or aquarium and spot the AZA logo, you can rest assured that the place you’re visiting is living up to the highest standards in its industry. Don’t get us wrong – this is not to say that a given non-accredited facility does not abide by high standards! Since accreditation is optional, organizations may choose not to apply for AZA accreditation, even if they meet or exceed AZA’s benchmarks. What we mean is that we are certainly proud of our status as an AZA-accredited aquarium and zoo, and you should be, too! Thank you for helping us to rise to the occasion once again.

Greensboro Science Center (1)-page-001

The official certificate!