Monday, August 31, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Aquarium staff played an unusual shell game recently. Aquarist Jake Steventon explains the recent sea turtle switcheroo.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The macaroni penguin chick at the Tennessee Aquarium is looking a little scruffy lately. That's because swimming feathers are growing in, pushing out its downy, soft feathers. Look closely at the picture of aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich and the macaroni chick and you'll notice smooth and fluffy areas on its flippers. "So right now it appears like a molting adult macaroni," said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. "And we'll have a bunch of molting penguins in about a month." Graves says that the macaroni chick might have all of its swimming feathers in about two more weeks. "Then it can go for its first swim," Graves said. For now, the baby macaroni is a "Tween." Big enough to roam around, but without the swim feathers it still has to be kept inside an acrylic barrier with the parents. So, the Aquarium's penguin keepers have been taking this chick into the penguin backup area twice daily for "walk about." Graves explains this activity is beneficial in several ways. "First it is an enrichment activity for the chick. It wanders around exploring the backup area and getting a little exercise. But it also allows us to get a close up look at the bird and by gently manipulating the beak, flippers and feet now, it will be less stressful for this bird when we have to examine it as an adult." Check out this link if you would like to see the macaroni chick on "walk about": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWJ-zyXqUQk
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Many thanks to everyone who joined us "on safari" recently at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater. These guests were the first ones to view a new traveling photo exhibit that is currently on display inside the theater. "Through the Eyes of the Gods," gives visitors a unique perspective on some of the natural and cultural beauty of Africa. Photographer Robert Haas perched on the side of a helicopter to capture these images of some of the most remote and unspoiled corners of Africa. His inspiring shots are an excellent companion to the film, "African Adventure 3D." This exhibit is produced by the National Geographic Museum and is presented locally by the Chattanooga Zoo.
Friday, August 14, 2009
There is always concern for newborn birds, perhaps more so with penguins because they face additional challenges of chilly air and must remain out of cold water. The penguin parents must be diligent in several ways. They must keep the baby warm and well-fed, safe from other curious penguins all while caring for a fragile life within a nest of angular rocks. Parents like Paulie and Chaos, the macaroni pair that produced the first chick at the Tennessee Aquarium, appeared to be naturals. We marveled at the way they shared duties incubating, and then caring for their offspring. And some people, like me, were amazed at how quickly a tiny bird became a rather large macaroni chick.
Paulie and Chaos are an example of the best-case scenario. The parents took care of their baby without staff intervention. This helps the parents develop their parental instincts, helps ensure the baby will not become too imprinted on people and allowed the chick and parents to remain with the rest of the colony.
But penguin parenting doesn’t always occur in such a textbook manner.
Senior aviculturist Amy Graves explained that even though gentoos Bug and Big T had been attentive in some ways to their chick, they had not been feeding the baby on a regular basis. So Aquarium staffers have had to supplement the feeding schedule with “penguin milkshakes” served in a variety of ways. “We created a formula that is a mixture of krill, capelin and different vitamins that are all blended together to a nice consistency,” Graves said. “At first, we fed this formula to the chick without anything else. But as it got a bit larger, we would then dip a small fish, either a silverside or capelin, into the milkshake and feed that to the chick.” Keepers had to step in and supplement Bug & Big T’s feedings up to three times daily. Sometimes the parents would feed the chick, but mostly it was Aquarium staff working to keep the tiny bird’s weight up.
Throughout the past few weeks, Graves and other Aquarium staff members have been consulting outside penguin experts who have been following the macaroni chick’s progress and this gentoo chick’s struggles.
When I answered the phone this morning, I could hear the sadness in Amy Grave’s voice immediately. She had called to inform me about the loss of Bug & Big T’s chick. It’s difficult news to hear, especially when you know how dedicated the penguin keepers and volunteers are when it comes to providing the highest level of care to these captivating animals.
Kevin Calhoon, the Aquarium’s assistant curator of forests, said that this might not be just a case of poor parental instincts. Ironically, their lackluster feedings could indicate that Bug & Big T picked up on signals about this chick’s health that we are unaware of. “Many bird species will simply stop feeding their young if everything isn’t ‘just right’ with the baby,” Calhoon explained.
Zeus and Pebble’s were seen feeding the newest gentoo chick this morning and Graves says they are very protective of their baby. If Zeus and Pebble’s turn out to be as diligent as Paulie and Chaos, we should see this gentoo chick grow quickly in the coming days.
The sadness of today’s news is tempered by the joy of watching guests inside “Penguins’ Rock.”
Today, Aquarium visitors will be amazed by the baby macaroni born on June 18th . That chick is now seen occasionally gobbling down fish from a feed pan without assistance from Chaos and Paulie. Guests are also noticing some other changes in this bird’s appearance. “If you take a good close look at its chest and flippers, it looks like it’s had a haircut,” said Graves. “That’s caused by the swimming feathers coming in and pushing out the soft, little downy feathers.” The baby macaroni is also growing stubby, bristly tail feathers. And Graves says this bird may have all of its handsome black and white plumage in the next two weeks. “Once that happens, the baby macaroni will be ready to start swimming with the colony, hopefully by the end of the month,” Graves said.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Another visitor e-mailed to share his thoughts about a recent visit: "My friend and I had a great time last Friday and enjoyed all exhibits in both Ocean Journey and River Journey. All staff and volunteers were very helpful and it was a great experience. Besides the penguins and sharks, one of my highlights was touching a milk snake! Until then I would have never been willing to touch any snake in a million years but the handler eased my fear and nervousness! I even learned to appreciate the snake's beauty! Of course that doesn't mean I'm looking for rattlers or copperheads especially here on Kentucky Lake!!! HA!
We also enjoyed an IMAX 3D show and did a River Gorge Cruise during the afternoon. Again everyone was so helpful and friendly and I'm looking forward to another visit in the near future. The guide on the boat and the Captain went out of their way to make all of the passengers feel right at home and special. I also enjoyed the history information that the guide presented about Chattanooga, the river and Lookout Mountain." - Bobby from Camden, TN
The snake Bobby mentioned is one of our education outreach animals that are part of our new animal encounters program. Every hour of every day in both Aquarium buildings, a different animal is brought out for visitors to meet. One of our animal encounter specialists helps guests get to know these critters, their special adaptations and interesting behaviors.
Learn more here: http://www.tnaqua.org/Newsroom/close_encounters_PR.asp
Thanks again to Katie and Bobby for sharing their experiences with everyone!