Conservation Creation: Terrific Turtles

Ever wonder what the difference is between a turtle and a tortoise? To answer this, you must first know that all tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises. This is because all tortoises and turtles belong to the Testudine family, meaning they are reptiles with a hard shell. However, turtles break off into other smaller families (dependent upon their traits). The most obvious difference is that tortoises only live on land, while turtles will spend at least some of the time, if not a majority of their life, in the water. Another distinguishing characteristic is that tortoises are herbivores (vegetarians), while turtles are omnivores, eating both plants and living creatures like insects.

While there are several differences between tortoises and turtles, one thing they have in common is their need for protection. Due to their hard outer shell, these animals are well equipped to protect themselves from the natural predators who see them as a potential meal. However, they are not prepared to save themselves from human threats (like habitat loss). This is why it is important to make sure that we don’t disturb wild turtles or tortoises when we see them and make sure to keep pets like cats and dogs inside so that they don’t become a potential predator for one of our shelled friends. We can also help by being cautious drivers. Many turtles have an internal homing sense and desire to stay close to their original home. This sometimes means crossing roads to find food or potential mates, then returning home. If you do see a turtle in the road and want to help, make sure that you move them to the side they are trying to get to, and only do this if you are safely able to do so.

Now… for some fun! This month, we will show you how to use bottles to make a turtle bank! If you want to take an extra step to help turtles and tortoises, consider donating to the following organizations, which we also support here at the Greensboro Science Center:

The Orianne Society: Nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of reptiles, amphibians, and the lands they inhabit.

The Turtle Survival Alliance : Nonprofit dedicated to conserving struggling turtle and tortoise populations through a variety of techniques including breeding programs and habitat protection.

 

DIY Steps

What you will need: plastic bottles, scissors, glue, fun foam or craft felt, a marker, craft supplies of your choice, and an X-ACTO knife or sharp blade (using adult assistance).

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Step 1: Using the X-ACTO knife, cut off the bottom of a plastic bottle, then use scissors to smooth out the edge.

Step 2: Place the bottom of the plastic bottle on top of your foam or felt, then use your marker to trace a circle around it.

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Step 3: Use your marker to draw a tail, a head and feet on to the circle, then cut out your turtle shape.

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Step 4: Put glue on the rim of the plastic bottle bottom from earlier and place it on top of your turtle base. Allow it to dry.

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Step 5: Use your X-ACTO knife to make a small slit in the bottom of your turtle.

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Step 6: Get creative! Add your own decorations to your turtle’s shell. If you use glue to adhere your embellishments, make sure to allow everything to dry before using your bank. You can also use your creation to store small household items such as buttons, screws or headphones!

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Conservation Creation: 180 Steps Around the World

Summer is right around the corner and it’s once again time to take a tour around the world – all from within our very own Jeansboro Junction (located in Friendly Farm)! On this tour, you will get the chance to learn about our farm animals and their natural histories, as well as earn a souvenir to take home with you.

While commercial farms tend to focus on a single crop or species of livestock, smaller family farms tend to have many different plants and animals, which is what you will see in our farmyard here at the Greensboro Science Center. When farmers are setting up their farms, they will often think about the relationships between their herds and their gardens. For example, horse manure is a great crop fertilizer and can be used to help grow vegetables for people as well as hay for livestock. Free-range chickens are great for keeping pests out of gardens while also providing eggs to sell or eat.

During the farm planning process, farmers need to be aware of the needs of both their animals and their gardens to ensure an efficient and healthy farm. For our activity this month, you will be planning and creating your own farm diorama! Below, you will see an example of a farm that we created, as well as how to make a horse for your farmyard.

What you will need:a box, craft supplies and a creative mind! Running short on craft supplies? Visit Reconsidered Goods to stock up on donated materials without breaking the bank!

Step 1: Figure out what kinds of animals you want on your farm and what they will need to live happy and healthy lives. To get started, remember that the three essential needs for any living creature are food, water and shelter. If you’re using the internet, search for animal care sheets (ex. Horse Care Sheet) to find out what each animal needs.

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Step 2: Make your cork horse! Start by breaking 3 toothpicks in half. Use the pointy ends to add legs and a neck to your horse. You will have half of a toothpick left over.

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Step 3: Attach a smaller cork to the neck area of the horse; this will become the head. Use glue to attach string for hair and googly eyes (if you would like) for the finishing details.

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Step 4: Create your diorama with the animals you want on your farm! For our farmyard, we decided we wanted to have a garden, free-range chickens with a chicken coop, a fenced-in pasture for sheep and horses, and a well to make providing water easier on our farmer. For an added challenge, try using only recyclable materials or materials from your yard!

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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.

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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.

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The team prepares to insert a microchip.

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

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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.

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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.

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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)!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.