Saying Goodbye to Ara

Late last week, we said goodbye to Ara, our 33-year-old red ruffed lemur. Based on the information available to us, at the time of her death, she was believed to be the oldest female red ruffed lemur in captivity. During this sad time, we’d like to take a moment to tell you about the tireless efforts of our animal care team as they worked diligently to ensure Ara had the best possible quality of life, through to the end.

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Although Ara had been considered geriatric for the last 13 years of her life, her lead keeper, Lauren, tells us it wasn’t until the last seven months or so that she started to see a dramatic decline in the lemur’s health. In October, Ara began showing signs of neurological distress. She had what Lauren describes as “seizure-like episodes.” Due to the fall risk associated with these episodes, our team decided to retire her from the exhibit and moved her into her blockhouse with access to the side yard, where the heights are less extreme.

Ara began receiving an anti-seizure medication three times each day. She continued this medication for several months until she began to refuse it, at which time our team weaned her off the medication and watched her closely for any additional signs of neurological episodes. None were observed until Ara’s last week of life. In addition to this anti-seizure medication, Ara also received painkillers to keep her arthritic body comfortable.

Despite these medical challenges, Lauren says, “She always kept a perky, interested attitude – even as her body started to decline.”

In addition to arthritis and neurological symptoms, like all elderly animals, Ara began to lose weight as she became more fragile. Ara was weighed every other week so Lauren and our vet team could track exactly how much weight she was losing. In addition to her regular diet (where her veggies were steamed to make them easier to eat and the fruit was cut small enough so that her elderly teeth didn’t need to work so hard at chewing), our team blended up her favorite fruits into smoothies on a daily basis.

To help her gain (or at least maintain) her weight, our team also offered her every type of food imaginable, including pancakes, muffins, popsicles, whipped cream, gummy bears, power bars, and baby food. Lauren tells us Ara was initially interested in these new offerings, but stiffly refused them by the next day. Ara’s taste buds changed on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis, so food items had to be kept novel and exciting.

Lauren says, “I always joked that she liked her food by the colors: one week, she liked all things blue/black (blackberries, blueberries), and the next, it was everything orange (orange, cantaloupe, peaches). She kept us on our toes, and I frequently requested odd, unusual foods from our commissary to keep her happy.”

Lauren tells us Ara’s care took up the majority of her time during the day. “If I wasn’t preparing her food, I was hand feeding it to her or trying to convince her that her medications were necessary and would make her feel better. She always ate best if she was hand fed – me, a servant for the queen. As animals age, they require more time. I’ve always had a soft spot for the oldies, so it wasn’t a burden to me – more of an honor to be able to take care of such a sassy, friendly, old lady who had great demands.”

Throughout all of this special treatment, it’s important to note that our vet staff, keepers and curators evaluated Ara on a regular basis to ensure everything they did was in the lemur’s best interest. Late last week, after seeing Ara’s health continue to deteriorate, our dedicated team of animal professionals decided it was time to humanely euthanize Ara.

Lauren says, “In the end, her body definitely gave out before her spirit, which always makes a quality of life decision harder. We’re with these animals more than our pets at home sometimes. Blood, sweat and tears go into their care on a routine basis to make sure our animals always have the very best. The hardest decision will always be when to let them go, and it is not taken lightly. In the end, I am so grateful I was able to be there with her, to comfort her when the decision was made to humanely euthanize her.”

“Ara was legendary,” Lauren says. “Everyone will tell you she was full of spunk and personality. When she was on exhibit with the ring tailed lemurs, she could often be seen chasing them and keeping them in line. I hope people were awed by her beauty. Red ruffs are a very rare species of lemur, one of the most endangered in the wild. In captivity, the average life span is 25, but she made it all the way to 33 – that in itself is inspiring to me. Hopefully, she inspired people to care about lemurs and look into how they can help them escape extinction.“

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Ara leaves behind her fellow senior lemurs, Jethys, a 26-year-old female red ruffed lemur, and Che, our elderly male mongoose lemur. Lauren says Jethys is going through a mourning period and will be monitored closely. She tells us, “Ara might be gone, but I still have more elderly lemurs to spoil rotten.”

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Fishing Kitten Born at the Greensboro Science Center

MEDIA RELEASE

GREENSBORO, NC – The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is excited to announce that Tallulah, its female fishing cat, has given birth. On Thursday, February 15, Tallulah delivered two fishing kittens, one of which was stillborn. The second kitten, however, has been observed moving about and nursing. If all continues to go well, GSC guests and media can expect to see the kitten on exhibit in about three months.

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Tallulah and her mate, Mako, have been recommended for breeding by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) since 2014, in cooperation with Mako’s owners, the Lionshare Educational Organization (LEO) Zoological Conservation Center in Connecticut. This is the first successful fishing cat birth at the GSC and one of only a few successful fishing cat births in the United States this year.

Senior Keeper Rachael Campbell says, “Mom and baby appear to be doing well. From the video monitors, we can see the baby nursing and getting lots of grooming from Tallulah. We’re always cautious with new babies and new moms, so we’re trying to be as hands-off as possible. As long as we continue to see positive signs, we will let them be.”

Campbell says she doesn’t see any signs of stress from Tallulah when she is cleaning the exhibit, but the pair has a good relationship and the cat is comfortable with her.

“Tallulah is not comfortable around people she doesn’t know,” Campbell says, “so my relief keepers have noticed her being a bit more vocal.”

Keepers will continue to keep their distance until the kitten is about 30 days old. At that point, Campbell says she may begin to handle the kitten if Tallulah is comfortable with the separation. Because Tallulah tends to become stressed around strangers, the GSC’s veterinarian will not check the kitten until it reaches six to eight weeks of age.

Once it is around three months old and can easily move around, get in and out of the water, jump, climb, etc., the kitten will move onto exhibit. If the kitten is a female, she will continue to live with Tallulah until placed in another facility. If the kitten is a male, he will be separated from his mother once he reaches sexual maturity, which typically happens at the year and a half mark.

The GSC will continue to update the public on the kitten’s progress on the organization’s social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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.

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.

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)

GSC Gift Guide: Memberships

Looking for the perfect gift idea that’s fun for the whole family? How about a full year of free Greensboro Science Center admission?!?! A GSC membership offers just that – and much more.

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For as little as $32.40 per person (including tax), a membership truly is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only will it give your loved ones a full year of exciting, memorable, and educational visits to the GSC, they’ll also receive lots of discounts — including discounted admission for their guests, discounted OmniSphere Theater and SKYWILD tickets, discounts in the gift shop and cafe, and discounts on birthday parties, classes and camps!

Members will enjoy exclusive invitations and previews of new exhibits and OmniSphere shows. They’ll also receive information about how to get involved in citizen science programs, be the first to learn about upcoming GSC projects, and get exclusive peeks at what happens behind the scenes of the GSC in our member-only e-newsletters.

If your loved ones enjoy traveling, the savings will go even further! GSC members receive free or discounted admission to over 300 Association of Science-Technology Centers and over 150 Association of Zoos and Aquarium facilities, giving your loved ones the chance to explore amazing science centers, zoos and aquariums all around the country (and world!) for a fraction of the cost.

Click here to see the complete list of member benefits and to purchase a gift membership online.

If you’re a boss looking for a great gift for your employees (or an employee looking to encourage your boss to give you an awesome, experiential gift!), you’ll want to check out our Business Membership program.

Business memberships include GSC membership cards in the company’s name for employees to use. During their visit, employees using the business membership will also receive discounts in the gift shop and cafe. It’s a great way to show your employees your appreciation while supporting science education!

Click here to view business membership levels and to download a business membership order form.

Whether you’re looking for a gift for a family or for your employees, the GSC has a membership program that’s right for you!

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:

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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.