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.

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!

Conservation Partner Spotlight:  Fishing Cat Conservancy

Last year, the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) donated $5,000 to the Fishing Cat Conservancy (FCC), an Arizona-based nonprofit organization whose mission is “to promote the long-term survival of fishing cats in the wild through public education, capacity-building, and community-based research and conservation.” Part of the GSC’s mission is to support global conservation efforts, and with two fishing cats in our care, supporting the FCC is of great significance to us.

We recently reached out to FCC’s president, Ashwin Naidu, for updates from the field. Here’s what he shared:

  1. We enabled a ‘community-managed’ monitoring program for fishing cats, wherein the training we provided to our field team and community members is translating into them sharing their knowledge with the local people and tribal communities that live next to fishing cats and their habitats. Now, these local people and tribals are taking an interest in protecting their backyard wetlands, mangroves, and locally endangered species like fishing cats and smooth-coated otters.
  2. We educated close to 1,000 school children in various government schools and local people in villages located next to mangroves (especially mangroves outside protected areas). We talked about the importance of protecting fishing cats and mangrove ecosystems for the benefit and long-term survival of local communities.Santosh_FCC_EduProg_SchoolKids_SAM_Apr2017 (1)
  3. We constructed a solar-powered Conservation Education Center, which is currently two cottages as it stands, to be openly used by the local community and visitors to educate about fishing cats, mangroves, and wetland biodiversity and support efforts to study and protect them. More information and photos about this are in a recent post on our Facebook page.FCC_CEC_SolarPanels_Aug2017
  4. We presented and shared all our data to date on fishing cats occurring outside protected areas (esp. in mangroves in revenue lands) with the Krishna District’s Vigilance Department. This Department is now looking into getting revenue lands with mangroves established as protected areas.
  5. From our partners, Gal Oya Lodge in Sri Lanka, we obtained a new record of fishing cat near the Gal Oya National Park – outside its known (mapped) range in Sri Lanka.

We are proud to support Ashwin and the FCC. With $0.25 from each general admission ticket sold earmarked for donation to our general conservation fund, our visitors make supporting these efforts possible…so thank YOU!ARao_FC_TrackCasts_Apr2017_FCC (1)

Why We Support Penguins

With our annual Tuxedo Trot 5K and Kids’ Fun Run just weeks away, you might be asking yourself “Why African penguins?”

Well, first of all, we love African penguins! African penguins are charismatic birds, each with their own personality that you just can’t help but adore. Have you met our colony? They’re a riot!

Secondly, these feathered folks are truly in jeopardy of extinction. The species has declined over 90% since 1900 — they are even listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species which means immediate conservation action is required to prevent further declines. African penguin populations are decreasing for several reasons: food shortages, egg and guano removal from beaches, and displacement from breeding sites by other native species. However, knowing why the species is in decline also means we can work to preserve the population and hopefully expand it in coming years!

So, every year, we host the Tuxedo Trot (link) in order to raise money for these beautiful tuxedo-trot-logobirds. 100% of the proceeds from the race go to SANCCOB to support their conservation efforts. SANCCOB is an internationally recognized non-profit organization whose work helps to reverse the decline of seabird populations with a large focus on African penguins. They rescue abandoned chicks and hand rear them, they rehabilitate injured or oiled birds, they educate the locals about the importance of African penguins and they research ways to permanently reverse population declines. Tuxedo Trot funds help SANCCOB to sustain and expand their African penguin conservation efforts.

Want to help us save penguins?

If you haven’t already, please consider registering for the 2017 Tuxedo Trot and help us save these beautiful birds! If you can’t attend, please consider making a donation. Both registrations and donations are accepted online at www.tuxedotrot.com. We’re grateful for your help!

 

 

Gift Idea: Inside Tracks

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for that special someone in your life, consider giving him or her an experience instead of a “thing” this holiday season! With three awesome behind-the-scenes experiences to choose from, Greensboro Science Center Inside Tracks programs make a great gift for any animal lover in your life!

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Looking for a memorable experience sure to make the penguin fan in your life smile? How about an engaging experience where they will actually be within wings-width of our penguins? Inside Tracks: Penguin Encounters are the perfect gift for anyone six years old or older!

Give the gift of discovery and let your animal lover come nose to beak with one of our engaging African penguins! Participants get to go behind the scenes, talk with our experts and watch and take photos as a couple of our penguins investigate the encounter room and enrichment items. Each penguin personality is different, just like each encounter!

This “Inside Track” offers penguin lovers the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of our favorite feathered friends. This unique experience starts in the food prep area to see what’s on the menu for our whole colony; you also pick out an enrichment item for the birds that the participants will meet. Then the group will catch up with our keeper and watch a few minutes of our afternoon feeding before stepping behind the scenes to learn more about penguins in our encounter room. As the keeper wraps up the afternoon feed, he or she will join participants to interact with our penguin.

The birds that work with us in the encounters are generally well-behaved around people, but everyone has an off day. Touching the penguin is likely, but not guaranteed. Make sure the recipient of this special gift doesn’t forget the camera! This photo opp may be worthy of next year’s holiday card!

Penguin Encounters can accommodate 8 participants and cost $45 per person in addition to general admission or membership.

Inside Tracks: Aquarium Adventure

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Do you have a fish lover or aquarium enthusiast in your life? Give them an Aquarium Adventure gift certificate and show them what lies behind the scenes of an amazing aquarium! This gift is perfect for anyone eight years old and older.

The recipient of this one-of-a-kind gift will get to go behind the scenes of our aquarium, visit our animal holding areas and learn how we care for our animals and exhibits! Participants will get to see what’s on the menu for our aquarium animals, check out our maze of pumps and filters, and visit the top of the shark tank. Plus, as we await the opening of our aquarium expansion, participants will be among the first to see some of the awesome animals we’re caring for behind the scenes for these amazing exhibits!

Each Aquarium Adventure can accommodate up to 12 people, and costs $15 per person in addition to general admission or membership..

Inside Tracks: Zoo Trekzoo-trek-dsc_7446

Does the special someone in your life prefer learning about our zoo animals over our aquarium animals? Purchase him or her an Inside Track: Zoo Trek experience that will give him or her the opportunity to participate in enrichment activities and learn from zookeepers in an exclusive, behind the scenes setting!

Being an outdoor experience, Inside Tracks: Zoo Trek is only offered March – November, so the excited anticipation of what’s to come will last at least a few months! Activities on a Zoo Trek may include a face-to-face red panda encounter, sprinkling or feeding our giant Aldabra tortoises, giving our tiger or lemurs a treat, or other wonderful – and memorable – experiences! This is an active walking experience, so be sure your gift recipient is up for a bit of activity!

Zoo Trek participants will start in the food prep area to see what’s on the menu for our whole zoo and also pick up some enrichment treats to share with the animals. Then they will walk to four different animal exhibits, where they will meet a keeper and step behind the scenes. Participants will have the opportunity to  learn more about individual animals who live here and about important conservation issues surrounding their species in the wild.

Don’t forget to bring a camera or cell phone for pictures – this is another experience that just might make it on next year’s holiday card!

Zoo Trek can accommodate up to 8 individuals and costs $50 per person in addition to general admission or membership.

How To Purchase

Gift certificates for each Inside Track may be purchased online. You can either email the certificate to the recipient or download a gift certificate to give in person. If the recipient is not a member, general admission can be purchased online as well to accompany the gift.

These experiences are not set up for a party, but small groups can celebrate special occasions (like having the family together for the holidays!). All participants under 16 must be accompanied by a paying adult, with a maximum of 2 children under 16 per paying adult, making this experience perfect for the whole family!

Buy the animal enthusiast in your life the experience of a lifetime with one of our Inside Tracks experiences. It is sure to bring a smile – and plethora of memories – for years to come!