Eury’s Story: Caring for an Aging Anteater

Since 2008, Eury has been one of the most charismatic crowd-pleasers in our zoo. 

If you’ve participated in a Zoo Trek, you may have experienced the shock of his 2-foot-long tongue snaking inside your sneaker. 

If you’ve accidentally dropped a little one’s shoe into his exhibit, you may have seen firsthand the catastrophic consequences of his inquisitive nature. 

And, if you’ve listened to a Keeper Talk featuring our beloved anteater, you may have heard him fondly referred to as a grumpy old man. Temperament aside, at 19 years of age, Eury is, in fact, considered “old.” 

In the wild, giant anteaters have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, while in captivity, they have been known to reach 20 years of age. As with all of our geriatric animals, our animal care staff has been working hard to help ease the side effects of Eury’s advancing age. 

Eury arrived at the GSC with an old hip injury. To compensate for the damage, Eury had naturally been bearing more weight on the uninjured side, which led to chronic arthritis in that knee. 

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An x-ray of Eury’s old hip injury. The left side of the image shows the damage.

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An x-ray of Eury’s damaged knee. The right side of the image shows the affected area.

To manage his pain, our team has been making adjustments to Eury’s habitat as well as administering medication as necessary. 

Inside the blockhouse (the indoor part of his exhibit), keepers are ensuring the kiddie pool he uses as a bed is full of a thick, comfy layer of pine shavings. Additional mulch is regularly added to the area  to create a soft surface for him to walk on. In the outdoor exhibit space, the yard is being tiered to create a more gentle slope, which will be easier for his old bones to navigate.

When it comes to medication, Eury receives a daily glucosamine/chondroitin supplement, a daily dose of meloxicam and two daily doses of both tramadol and gabapentin. In addition, he receives a glycosaminoglycan injection every two weeks. New to his care routine are daily cannabis oil treats.

Eury has also recently started acupuncture and cold laser therapy sessions, which he is handling very well. Dr. Tara Harrison, from North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, visited the GSC in early June to assist with his first session. In addition to demonstrating the proper technique to our teams, she also brought along a group of her students to observe and participate. To keep Eury occupied while acupuncture was in progress, our animal care staff provided him with some of his favorite snacks. Eventually, those snacks ran out. While those assembled would likely give him the shirts off their backs, they opted for another of his best-loved enrichment items instead – the shoes off their feet (Eury is quite fond of investigating stinky shoes).

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For the last 3 years, Eury has been regularly evaluated by animal care staff using our quality of life assessment. During these assessments, Eury’s primary keeper and our veterinarian discuss Eury’s health, well-being, and current and potential treatments. For his most recent assessment, it was noted that, although Eury has chronic and severe arthritis, he is still maintaining himself (grooming, eating, drinking, keeping weight on, etc.) and he is responding well to the acupuncture and cold laser therapy sessions. 

Eury is a geriatric anteater and is experiencing some of the issues that come with advanced age, but he is still doing well and his keeper and vet will continue to monitor his quality of life and provide him with supportive care.

 

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.

Maned Wolf Pups Born at the Greensboro Science Center

On December 11, 2018, the Greensboro Science Center’s (GSC) 5-year-old female maned wolf, Anaheim, gave birth to four puppies. This is the fourth time she and 11-year-old Nazca (the GSC’s adult male maned wolf) have been recommended to breed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Maned Wolf Species Survival Plan. This litter, comprised of two males and two females, is the second successful litter from the pair.

The maned wolf exhibit has been closed since early December as keepers began “pup watch”. During this time, Lauren Davis, the GSC’s Wolf String Lead Keeper, has worked to ensure that Anaheim’s four den boxes (two inside and two outside) are well-heated and filled with appropriate bedding. She has also installed Bluetooth baby monitors in the outside den boxes so she can monitor the mother wolf from a distance. Closing the exhibit to guests has provided Anaheim with a quieter, calmer environment in which to give birth and raise her new family.

Davis says, “Sometimes, we are able to observe the breeding behaviors, which allows us to count the days and determine a solid window for when Anaheim will give birth. For the last two years, though, the wolves have been very secretive, so it’s up to me to be observant of her body condition and behaviors.”

As a part of their ongoing care, the wolves are weighed once each month. If Davis sees Anaheim exceeding her normal weight range, she begins weighing the animal weekly to get a more accurate estimate for a potential due date. Davis says Anaheim also becomes very pushy when pregnant. During the last half of pregnancy, Davis looks for a round belly and visible teats as milk develops.

“This year, I was about 2 weeks off,” Davis says. “I thought she would have Christmas babies, but when that huge snow storm was rolling in, she started to look very, very round. It is not unusual for animals to give birth during bad weather, so I knew it would be that weekend — and I was right!”

Davis says Anaheim is currently doing well taking care of four hungry mouths and Nazca is a fantastic father. She says, “He is protective and does a very good job supporting Anaheim. Once the pups get older, he will regurgitate for them and play with them, but for now his job is to stay out of the way and make sure I don’t mess with his family.”

The pups received their first veterinary exam on Thursday, January 10. Each wolf was thoroughly examined, microchipped and weighed, and all received a clean bill of health from the GSC’s veterinary team. The pups will receive their first vaccines in about two weeks, followed by routine exams every three weeks until they are 12 – 14 weeks old.

The maned wolf exhibit will reopen to the public on Monday, February 11. The pups may or may not be visible immediately after reopening, as they will continue to spend much of their time in their den boxes until they get a little older.

ABOUT THE SSP

The mission of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) cooperatively managed Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program is to oversee the population management of select species within AZA member institutions (i.e., AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, Conservation Partners, and Certified Related Facilities (CRFs)) and to enhance conservation of this species in the wild.

Cassowaries Arrive at the Greensboro Science Center

GREENSBORO, NC — The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is pleased to announce the arrival of the very first animals acquired for Revolution Ridge, the GSC’s zoo expansion (expected to be completed in 2020). A sibling pair (a male named Dodo and a female named Moa) of southern cassowaries have recently arrived from California and will be spending the next few weeks in quarantine.

Hospital and Commissary Keeper Jennie Burleyson is charged with caring for the cassowaries as they complete their quarantine period. “Quarantine is a mandatory period of time that all new animals go through to make sure they are healthy enough to join the current collection,” Burleyson says. “It’s also a great way to learn about the individuals and their preferences. For example, we’ve learned that our cassowaries’ favorite food is grapes!”

At just 5 months old, the cassowaries are currently sporting their light brown juvenile plumage. Brightly colored feathers come with maturity and typically appear by age 4. The young birds are only about 3 feet tall, but adults can reach up to 5.8 feet in height. The male currently weighs approximately 24 pounds and the female weighs about 16.5 pounds. Adult weights average around 121 pounds for males and 167 pounds for females. Once fully grown, the cassowaries will loosely resemble a modern-day velociraptor and possess specialized feet and claws capable of inflicting serious damage, if threatened.

Burleyson tells us that currently, the male is relatively shy while the female is much more dominant. The birds have enjoyed playing in pools indoors and getting a little exercise outside. “At least 30 minutes of exercise is recommended for cassowaries at this age,” Burleyson says. “That’s why it’s so great having two young ones — they can play together!”

The cassowaries will remain in quarantine until cleared by the GSC veterinarian. After that time, they will be placed in a temporary holding space until their new exhibit in Revolution Ridge is complete. Thanks to The Dillard Fund, Inc., the new cassowary exhibit will combine a dense forest with the open field habitat necessary for breeding this highly unique, shy and rarely-observed species.

GSC CEO Glenn Doborogosz says, “The blends of color, beauty, speed and ferocity of this primitive flightless bird will inspire awe and interest in our guests. The goal is to transform that awe into knowledge, because knowledge and appreciation are the keys to conserving species across the globe.”

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.”

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 – typically just two pups, though singletons are not unheard of. 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.