Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thoughts for a Sad Day at Penguins’ Rock

By Shannon Colbert, social media specialist

In May, we were so happy to see the hatching of the year’s first macaroni chick. The new little bird put big smiles on the faces of keepers, staff and volunteers whenever it was seen.

However, it was clear early on that the chick was facing some challenges. Keepers did everything they could to sustain it and give it the best chance of survival. Unfortunately, I am deeply saddened to have learned about the loss of the little chick yesterday afternoon.

Since joining the Aquarium team earlier this year, I have been continually amazed by the amount of care and compassion given to every aquarium animal by our incredible staff and volunteers. Each creature is given exceptional handling by trained professionals who hold the well-being of our animals at the highest priority. I’ve seen staff come in early and stay extra late to make sure the animals they care for live the happiest and healthiest lives possible. You can imagine then, how sad it can be when any animal is lost.

The penguin nesting season that led to this little bird’s hatching was one of my first blog assignments. I have followed the season watching husbandry staff caring for potential penguin parents and shared in their delight when this year’s first chick began breaking out of the egg. As part of their routine, once baby penguins arrive, keepers follow a daily weight chart to monitor the growth of each chick. Just a few days after hatching, there was concern that this one was not gaining weight as quickly and consistently as it should. Soon after that, keepers began supplemental feedings to help the chick put on the weight it needed to survive.  Unfortunately, our concerns were well founded.  Yesterday, after a week of intensive treatment, there was nothing more that could be done to save the chick.

As with every case like this, our veterinarian performed a thorough post-mortem examination to try and determine the reason for its passing. Initial results indicate that the baby may have been experiencing difficulty due to some congenital abnormalities associated with its circulatory system.  The initial gross examination results will be followed up by a microscopic examination from a pathology laboratory.

Today, I am comforted to know that all of our animals are in the very best hands, and I am hopeful for the rest of the year’s eggs yet to hatch in Penguins’ Rock. As our husbandry staff (really, all of our staff) would confirm, caring for and working around living things often comes with great rewards. But on days like this one, it can also be exceptionally heartbreaking. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Top 5 Tips to Enhance Your Summer Aquarium Visit

1. Baby Penguin Pandemonium

Our gentoo and macaroni penguins spend the warmer months nesting, laying eggs and hatching baby penguins! Right now, we have a new baby macaroni chick on exhibit with his parents inside a special acrylic “playpen”. Our gentoo penguins have five more eggs, so we could see more chicks later this summer. Tip: Get the best view of our nesting penguins by adding the afternoon Backstage Pass to your aquarium visit.

2. Legendary Big Fish

It’s no fisherman’s tale! One tank at the Tennessee Aquarium contains some of largest freshwater fish from around the world. Dr. Zeb Hogan recently swam with them for an episode of Monster Fish, in which he searches for legendary Volkswagen-sized catfish in Tennessee. Come see for yourself why we call these fish River Giants! Tip: Watch volunteer divers hand feed wallago, redtail catfish and Australian whiptail rays in this exhibit every Monday Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 2 pm!

3. Feedings, Dive Shows and Animal Encounters, Oh My!

There’s more to the Tennessee Aquarium than you can see in a simple walk-through. Make sure you check our dive show and feeding schedule to fit more excitement into your day! Then, meet a talking bird, a legless lizard a friendly possum and other new friends in Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari! Tip: Different animals are rotated in Ranger Rick time slots throughout the day, so hang out for back to back shows.

4. Summer River Cruise

Summer adventure awaits you aboard the River Gorge Explorer! Recently awarded a 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, this 70-passenger catamaran takes guests downstream into “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon”. Naturalist guides point out wildlife, landmarks and other points of interest along the way. Summer is a great time to cruise with us as the sunny season is a particularly active time for river wildlife. Tip: Our boat can fill up fast on pretty days! Check the schedule and get tickets ahead of time.

5. Sharks!

We’re calling it the Summer of the Shark! Discover “jaw-some” facts during special shark presentations, take a picture in a real shark cage and jump into Great White Shark 3D at the IMAX Theater. Then on August 2, we’re planning a frenzy of fun for Shark Fest! Meet baby sharks, see giant prehistoric shark teeth, get a FIN-tastic new hairdo and catch Dr. Bernie’s Travelin’ Shark Show of marvelous museum specimens! Tip: Watch our sandbar and sand tiger sharks during meal time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday at 3:15 p.m.

Plan your Tennessee Aquarium trip