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.

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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.

Hippocampus ingens

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.

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.

Rachael Feeding Axl

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!

Volunteer Spotlight: Evan E.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Meet Evan E. Evan has been volunteering with us for about three years now:

Evan E Picture

I started volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center in 2013 as a junior curator, and transitioned into the Docent Program the next year. During my first year as a docent, I worked in the Aquarium, Zoo, and Herp Lab until I decided to primarily stay with the Zoo as my main location.

I was introduced to the volunteer program by a neighbor, and my passion for animal life motivated me to join. I have been coming to GSC my whole life, and it is a thrill to be a part of the community that continues to educate more of the public as it grows.

A specific memory I have from the science center is from the herp lab. A little girl walked in with her family, and she wanted to pet the cornsnake, Cornflake. After I let her pet Cornflake, she proceeded to ask if she could take all of the animals back to her home as pets. I laughed and told her that she could go to a pet shop if she wanted to get some animals. Moments with the public like this make volunteering a rewarding experience, and I look forward to many more memories in the future.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Michaela T.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Meet Michaela T. Michaela says volunteering at the GSC combines the things she loves most – talking to people and being around animals!

Michaela T.

I have been a volunteer at the Science Center since the summer of 2015. I started out as an Animal Ambassador and loved it, so I then became a Zoo Docent in the fall of 2015. Ever since I was a kid, I was in love with the Science Center. I remember coming with my school group and crowding around the old Touch Tank with my other classmates and visiting the Herp Lab to look at the snakes, turtles and lizards.  I thought it would be the best to volunteer here and was so thrilled when I was accepted last spring.  This has been a great experience since I hope to one day work as a zookeeper. It also allows me to be around all the animals that my mom won’t let me keep at home!

My favorite stations in the Zoo rotation are the Discovery House and the Herp Lab.  I love to tell visitors about our incredible animals and to show them how special they are.  Most people that are fearful of animals like snakes are excited to have the opportunity to touch a snake and see how gentle they really are.

Volunteering at the Science Center combines the things that I love the most—talking to people, especially children, and being around animals.  Once, when I was working at Friendly Farm, a woman in a wheelchair came up with her husband and sat looking into the farm. I remember the huge smile she wore after I asked if she wanted to come inside.  I helped her through the gate and she sat in her chair and laughed as the goats and the children played around her.  I was just so happy she could enjoy the farm with everyone else.

Volunteer Spotlight: Bill L.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

This week, we’d like to introduce you to Bill L:

Bill L.

I have been volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center for 1.5 years.  I typically volunteer on weekends, special events and whenever the Volunteer Department sends out an SOS call.  When I retire, I plan on spending more time at the Science Center.  I currently volunteer as a Docent in the aquarium.

I have worked with animals most of my life and it has brought me great joy, especially turtles and birds.  I also enjoy public speaking.  Working in the aquarium has allowed me to do both at the same time.

I have three goals each time I volunteer:  To engage, to enlighten, and to entertain.  I want our guests to enjoy their experience and to walk away with a new appreciation of animals.  I believe that increasing people’s interest in animals is the key to successful animal conservation.

At the end of a shift, I go home tired and happy!