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)

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It’s African Penguin Awareness Day!

Today, October 8, 2016, is African Penguin Awareness Day! The Greensboro Science Center is home to a colony of 20 African penguins. These birds are playful, inquisitive, and a general joy to watch. They are among the most popular animals that call the GSC home!

But, sadly, these beautiful and engaging animals are endangered in the wild. According to some estimates, they could be extinct in the wild in as few as 15 years. But, don’t despair! There are ways you can help – right from home!

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One of the leading causes of African penguins’ population decline is overfishing. You can help alleviate this problem by simply making sustainable seafood choices. The Greensboro Science Center is a Seafood Watch partner. As a partner, we are committed to spreading the word about making smart decisions when it comes to seafood. Be sure to pick up a Seafood Watch guide at the GSC during your next visit to help you make better seafood choices!

Another way you can help is by running or walking. You read that right! On May 20, 2017, we’ll be hosting our 4th annual Tuxedo Trot: Run for the Penguins. This 5K and Kids’ Fun Run is a fundraiser for SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds). All proceeds from the event are donated to this amazing organization dedicated to helping save this charismatic species. Registration for the Tuxedo Trot is currently available online at tuxedotrot.com.

Can’t wait until May? Well, we’ve got a way you can help right now! Our friends at The Cannonball (marathon, half marathon, and 5K) are giving you a discount AND giving a donation to the Tuxedo Trot with anyone who registers using code LOVEGSO through October 10!

Another easy way to help is to spread the word about the Tuxedo Trot to your friends, family, coworkers, workout buddies, running groups, and even random strangers on the street (although you may get funny looks). Like and share our Tuxedo Trot Facebook page and talk about the event using #tuxedotrot. Anything you can do to spread the word about this event will help us raise funds for African penguin conservation. Thanks for your help!

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!

Plarn Workshop

Conservation Action: Plarn Workshop

Give new life to your plastic shopping bags with plarn! Plarn (plastic + yarn) is a fun project material that can be used in your knitting and crochet projects. Plastic shopping bags typically have a useful lifespan of about 15 minutes, but they last in our landfills for centuries and cannot be recycled in your bins at home (they have to back to the grocery store). Reusing these bags by weaving them into anything from floor mats to reusable bags is a fun way to decrease the amount of plastic bags going into our landfills.

On Saturday, August 20 from 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m., the Greensboro Science Center will be hosting a plarn weaving workshop. Tori Carle, the City of Greensboro’s recycling educator, will be on site to teach you how to repurpose your plastic shopping bags for knitting and crochet projects.

What to bring:

  • at least 10 plastic shopping bags
  • Q sized crochet hook (16mm)

Need a project idea?

The City of Greensboro is collecting sleeping mats made from plarn to distribute to the homeless in our community who need portable sleeping surfaces that will provide a barrier for those who sleep on the ground. These mats will be distributed by Greensboro police offers and the Interactive Resource Center. The City’s goal is to collect 100 plarn bed rolls by October 1. Learn more about Operation Bed Roll on the City of Greensboro’s website: www.greensboro-nc.gov/plarn

Be sure to join us on Saturday, August 20 to learn a neat new skill with a cool conservation edge!

Sustainable Seafood Sustains Penguins Too

By Alison Manka, School and SciQuarium Programs Manager

A few weeks ago, we welcomed, Pat, the newest African penguin chick to the Greensboro Science Center’s African penguin colony. This special girl spent her first months of life gulping down enormous quantities of fish, first from her parents, then from her keepers. In a mere three months, she grew from a scant 63 grams (about the weight of a C battery) to well over 2,600 grams (over five and a half pounds). This rapid growth in our penguin as well as wild penguin chicks is attributable to the steady and regular supply of fish. Unfortunately, not all wild penguin chicks are as lucky and satiated as Pat.

penguin chickMany wild African penguin parents struggle to feed their chicks. African penguins feed mainly on small schooling fish such as sardines, anchovies, and herring. Adults will travel great distances in search of these schooling fish which follow nutrient rich offshore currents. These fish-rich currents are moving farther and farther off shore as water temperature increases. As a result, penguins are forced to travel longer and farther in search of fish running the gauntlet of oil spills, discarded fishing gear, and natural predators. When the penguins finally reach the fishing grounds, there are far fewer fish to be found. The fish penguins need to survive are being harvested for human consumption at an unsustainable rate.

Seafood WatchThis sounds like a problem too big and too distant for us living half a world away to do anything about. What can we do about fishing around Africa? As it turns out, there is something that each and every one of us can do, it doesn’t cost a dime and will help penguins as well as all other aquatic animals. All we need to do to help is make sure any seafood we consume, whether from a grocer or a restaurant, is being sustainably harvested. The Greensboro Science Center is proud to be a member of Seafood Watch, a sustainable seafood resource created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium that works with government agencies, scientists, and fisheries to recommend which seafood is a best choice, a good alternative, and which to avoid. They provide this information free of charge in a pocket sized Seafood Watch guide or the free app available for iOS and Android devices. Pocket guides are available for the Southeast Region, Sushi, and in Spanish at the Greensboro Science Center. Feel free to pick up a few extra to pass out to friends.

Selecting sustainably harvested seafood is a wonderful way to help aquatic animals including penguins in the long term, but want to do more? You can help by running, walking, or waddling with us in our annual Tuxedo Trot: Run for the Penguins. This 5K race and 1K Kids Fun Run, held on May 21st 2016, benefits SANCCOB, a wonderful non-profit in South Africa that rescues abandoned chicks, helps oiled birds, raises awareness, and works on conservation efforts. 100% of the race’s proceeds will go directly to SANCCOB. This year, with your help, we are striving to raise over $20,000 for SANCCOB to aid their efforts to save the endangered African penguin.

Please help all of Pat’s wild penguin cousins by choosing sustainably harvested seafood and joining us May 21st to run, walk, or waddle in the Greensboro Science Center’s Tuxedo Trot: Run for the Penguins to support SANCCOB. Sustainable seafood sustains penguins too!

SANCCOBTuxedo Trot

Cold Stunned Sea Turtles’ Care Continues

The four sea turtles being rehabilitated at the Greensboro Science Center are getting stronger and healthier every day. The team of aquarists and our vet are monitoring the turtles to assess when they will be ready for release. Their actual release date will be contingent on the state’s recommendation. The aquarists continue to provide care and evaluate the behavior of the turtles to make sure they are acting as healthy, wild sea turtles.

Aquarist & veterinarian examine sea turtles

Sea turtle swimmingHealthy sea turtles swim freely in their space; are relaxed and not skittish. Fortunately, our turtles are utilizing all the water in the tanks. They swim around, across, and throughout the water column. Sea turtles are reptiles and they must surface to breathe air, so you would think that they would float like humans do when they fill their lungs with air. But divers have observed how sea turtles appear to lie still and float under the water surface, whereas humans naturally rise and float on the surface. Sea turtles can regulate the volume of air in their lungs, so as they dive, the lungs compress and they become less buoyant, or neutrally buoyant, and essentially “float” in the water column. A healthy, neutrally buoyant turtle will float in the water parallel to the surface, but not necessarily on the surface. A turtle that isn’t able to float parallel is a sign something is wrong.

In addition to good healthy behavior, the team monitors the turtles’ diet. Aquarists feeding the turtles daily and they have noticed that the turtles’ appetites are growing. Adult turtles are herbivores (plant eaters), feeding on sea grasses and algae, but as juveniles they have a more diverse diet. Juveniles are omnivores (plant and meat or animal eaters), including a diet of jellyfish, crustaceans, and sponges. At the Center, the turtles are receiving a diet that consists of fish, squid, some lettuce and gel food. Gel food is a vegetarian alternative to their diet. They are not so impressed with this option, but they have readily accepted the other items!

The Tale of Two Turtle Dogs

Last week, John Rucker came out to the Greensboro Science Center with his Boykin spaniels (AKA Turtle Dogs). The dogs have been trained to literally sniff out turtles. Before getting down to serious business with The HERP Project summer campers, John gave GSC staff a little taste of what his dogs can do.

John Rucker with Jenny Wren and Mink

John Rucker with Jenny Wren and Mink

After a brief introduction, John said, “Find turtles.” The dogs took off! They ran around the edges of a pond, through thickets, and along a small stream on the hunt for their prize. After just a few minutes, one of the dogs, Jenny Wren, ran up to John with her catch in her mouth… Don’t worry, the dogs have been trained to be soft-mouthed, simply holding the turtle gently until John takes it from them. In a span of about 30 minutes, Jenny Wren and Mink found 2 eastern box turtles.

Jenny Wren with a box turtle

Jenny Wren with a box turtle

What did we do with the turtles?

The Greensboro Science Center is home to a 22-acre study zone for box turtles as part of the Box Turtle Connection. For the third consecutive year, GSC zookeepers have been finding turtles, taking photos and collecting data for the project, then releasing the turtles back where they were found. Data collected includes the turtle’s sex, life stage, length, height, and weight.

Collecting data for the Box Turtle Connection

Collecting data for the Box Turtle Connection

This information is added to a statewide database that will help determine the stability of box turtle populations. So far this season, six turtles have been found at the GSC’s study zone.

Want to get involved?

The Box Turtle Connection website offers a couple of different ways you can get involved, depending on what level of commitment you are able to offer the program. For more information about the project and to learn how you can get involved, visit their website: https://boxturtle.uncg.edu/.