Stunning new images from Dr. Vagelli’s Banggai cardinalfish research trip to Indonesia

The Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium received a new round of images from Dr. Vagelli, currently in the middle of his Banggai cardinalfish research and conservation trip to IndonesiaCheck out these newest, stunning pics!

Filming the capture of some Banggai cardinalfish

Filming the capture of some Banggai cardinalfish

Performing a census

Performing a census

Crossing to the Limbo area in a small fishing boat

Crossing to the Limbo area in a small fishing boat

Dr. Vagelli, under the rain in Limbo

Dr. Vagelli, under the rain in Limbo

Quick underwater survey

Quick underwater survey

Tagged Banggai cardinalfish

Tagged Banggai cardinalfish

Meeting up with old friends!

Meeting up with old friends!

Checking the fishing boat

Checking the fishing boat

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts covering the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium’s Dr. Alejandro Vagelli’s current research and conservation trip to Indonesia. Follow Adventure Aquarium on Facebook and Twitter for ongoing updates.

Images supplied by Dr. Vagelli

 

Entries from the Journey: Updates from Dr. Vagelli’s Banggai cardinalfish research trip

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts covering the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium’s Dr. Alejandro Vagelli’s current research and conservation trip to Indonesia. Follow Adventure Aquarium on Facebook and Twitter for ongoing updates.

Entries provided by Dr. Vagelli.

Banggai cardialfish, photographed by Dr. Vagelli in the Banggai Archipelago

Banggai cardialfish, photographed by Dr. Vagelli in the Banggai Archipelago

Preparing for the journey

Preparing for the journey

March 5: The journey is starting! Met up with a Swiss photographer and flew in from the Jakarta Airport. Rest of the team will be coming over in the next week. Plans on the horizon include visiting the regional governments, and in Banggai, inviting local officials to spend a few days on the boat to observe the census and data collection efforts.

The boat - home for the next couple weeks

The boat – home for the next couple weeks

March 6: The boat is a bit small, but very comfortable and the crew seems nice, so all indication is that we will be getting along with no problems and hopefully have a good time! Journey begins today at noon, heading toward Bangkulu Island, south of Peleng as the first stop. On a different note, things have changed a bit since my last travel. Weird to fly on a jet to Luwuk with air conditioning, seeing Luwuk Harbor with freight containers (and with that, an unbelievable amount of pollution and garbage), and was told that cell coverage is available in the Banggai Islands, and maybe in Peleng and another nearby island. Afraid that the Banggai Islands I knew are slowly starting to fade away…

Banggai Archipelago

Banggai Archipelago

Performing a census

Performing a census

March 7: Spent the night in North Banggai and tomorrow will meet with authorities. Before that, we will check in on a small Banggai cardinalfish population that have not been surveyed since 2002. Plan to meet officers from the fisheries office to check the veracity of reports related to conservation actions directed to the cardinalfish and collection/trade gathering, then will move to the collection center here in Banggai (Bonebaru) to investigate what has been happening there during the last years. Boat and crew are all good!

Diving for census and data collection

Surveys are done setting up random straight line transects in a particular habitat and snorkeling or diving along those counting the number of fish within a certain distance of the line. This is repeated several times to build a density estimate for a particular area.

Dr. Vagelli shows a homemade soda bottle bomb used for blast fishing

March 16: We are now safely in Masoni after yesterday going through the first and hopefully the only storm. The boat seems not equipped/designed to handle severe weather like we encountered last night (strong winds, lot of rain and waves 2-2.5 meters) so after 4 or so hours of pretty rough navigation and water starting to get into the engine room, the captain decided to seek refuge in the closer island and wait (we had departed from Peleng and were headed towards the “far east” (Taliabu area). Work is going well – a lot of surveys and data gathering. Saw more blast fishing and met with more locals and officials.

About Blast Fishing: Blast Fishing is a highly destructive fishing practice still used in many areas of the world, like Indonesia. It is primarily used to collect food fish. Fishermen use a soda bottle to create a small bomb that is then released in the water near schools of fish. As the bomb detonates, it sends a shockwave through the water that harms fishes’ swim bladders. Many of the fish die and sink to the bottom of the water, however, a small amount will survive and float to the surface. The fishermen then collect these fish and either eat them or sell them at market. Unfortunately, these bombs damage the local coral reefs, destroying critical habitats for many species, such as the Banggai cardinalfish.

Big Announcement: 20th penguin chick hatched at Adventure Aquarium!

Adventure Aquarium's 20th Chick

We’re thrilled to announce that our newest African penguin chick hatched on March 2 to parents Minnie and Kamikaze. The chick weighed 51 grams at hatching, and since then has already gained 524 grams, making its weight this morning a healthy 575 grams. And we’re happy to report that the chick is strong and healthy, and very vocal.

A growing chick!

A growing chick!

The team does a daily check up!

The team performs a daily check up!

This chick has the distinction of being the 20th chick successfully hatched here at Adventure Aquarium, and is a very important part of our continued participation in the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Program (SSP). We are all very proud of our breeding program of this endangered species here at Adventure Aquarium, and can’t help but be truly excited for every new chick.

Meet the 20th chick hatched at Adventure Aquarium!

Meet the 20th chick hatched at Adventure Aquarium!

Minnie and Kamikaze will continue to raise the chick behind the scenes at Penguin Island, and in a few months our team here will begin the process of starting to introduce the chick to the exhibit and the other penguins, including its five siblings here at Adventure Aquarium – Jack, Myer, Jambo, Saba and Cornelius.

 

Curator Michele Pagel with the newest addition to the Adventure Aquarium family

Curator Michele Pagel with the newest addition to the Adventure Aquarium family

By: Michele Pagel, Curator Birds & Mammals

An international effort: saving the endangered Banggai cardinalfish

This is the first in a series of blog posts covering the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium’s Dr. Alejandro Vagelli’s current research and conservation trip to Indonesia. Follow Adventure Aquarium on Facebook and Twitter for ongoing updates.

Banggai underwater_blog

Pictured here during a recent census in Indonesia, Dr. Vagelli has dedicated his life’s research to the cause of the Banggai cardinalfish

On Sunday, Dr. Alejandro Vagelli, Director of Science and Conservation at the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium, embarked on a journey that will take him around the world to the Banggai Archipelago in eastern Indonesia on the Mulocca Sea, the only place in the world where you can find a tiny, tropical cardinalfish that bears the region’s name.

Banggai underwater22Known as Pterapogon kauderni, Banggai cardinalfish are an iconic coral reef animal in Indonesia; and are a beautiful and unique species extremely popular with collectors. Unfortunately, this strong demand among home aquarists, a limited habitat and questionable fishing tactics has led to a significant decline in the Banggai’s native population. In fact, their numbers have dropped a staggering 89% since their rediscovery in 1994.

Dr. Vagelli

But thanks to the dedication of Dr. Vagelli and researchers at the Aquarium, the Banggai’s population decline could soon turn around. As the world’s foremost expert in Banggai cardinalfish, Dr. Vagelli has devoted his life to the study of these elusive fish since first researching them at the Aquarium in 1997. In addition to being the first biologist to fully document Banggai reproduction in captivity, he’s developed techniques for breeding this delicate species and has published numerous scientific papers on their biology and ecology. Most recently, in 2007 he appealed to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to successfully secure an “endangered” Red List ranking for the Banggai.

Through grants and private funding, Dr. Vagelli has traveled to Indonesia four times in the past fifteen years to study the Banggai, evaluate their population and establish a conservation program.

The beautiful landscape of the Banggai Archipelago

The beautiful landscape of the Banggai Archipelago

The goal is not to repopulate the species, but rather try to halt the depletion of their population through development of captive breeding methods and secure an appropriate level of conservation-based control on harvest by partnering with Indonesian researchers and government offices to ensure this species continues to survive into the future. By working with local fishermen and organizations, Dr. Vagelli has been creating a captive breeding program that can make it economically feasible for local fishermen to change their collection methods from their inexpensive, but environmentally destructive capture methods to captive-grown specimens.

Working with indigenous people of the Banggai islands to continue the development of on-site aquaculture facilities for the future production of Marine Aquarium Council (MAC)-certified fish and provide training for adequate handling and shipping of cardinalfish.

Working with indigenous people of the Banggai islands to continue the development of on-site aquaculture facilities for the future production of Marine Aquarium Council (MAC)-certified fish and provide training for adequate handling and shipping of cardinalfish.

Banggai underwater3During this month’s research trip, Dr. Vagelli will be out on a small vessel for 20+ days, during which time he’ll use a visual census method to assess fish populations throughout the species’ range and survey the geographical distribution of the cardinalfish on nearby islands.

In addition, he’ll will work with indigenous people of the Banggai islands to continue the development of on-site aquaculture facilities for the future production of Marine Aquarium Council (MAC)-certified fish and provide training for adequate handling and shipping of cardinalfish.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we’ll share progress updates from Dr. Vagelli and details on the incredible research that our team of researchers and biologists are doing in-house to help save this species.

Did you know?

  • The Banggai cardinalfish has a fascinating story. Unlike most marine fish, this species produces a very small number of eggs, which the males incubate in their mouths. After hatching, the embryos remain in the parent’s mouth until they complete their development.
  • The Banggai is highly prized by aquarium collectors and has been heavily exploited since its rediscovery in 1994.
  • According to its ranking by the IUCN, there’s been an 89% reduction in population from the start of the aquarium fishery in 1995 to present day.
  • The present total population is between 1.8 and 2.2 million individuals
  • Presently an estimated minimum of 700,000 – 900,000 fish are extracted every year.
  • Remarkably, the total occupied habitat for this species is just 34 square km (21 square miles), distributed among 30 islands. They are found nowhere else in the world.

Adventure Aquarium welcomes its newest penguin chick! Meet 4-day old “Goblin”

Goblin3We’re excited to introduce to you the newest addition to our growing penguin colony! Meet tiny chick “Goblin” who hatched overnight on October 17 to parents Jack and Diane.

Goblin5

Weighing in at 65 grams (size of a golf ball) at birth, Goblin is doing really well: strong, healthy, very vocal and growing quickly as African penguin chicks do.  In fact, during today’s weigh-in, he doubled his size, measuring in at 146 grams!

Goblin during today's weigh-in

Goblin during today’s weigh-in

Goblin will continue to thrive under the watchful eyes of its penguin parents Jack and Diane, and under the supervision of our biologists and veterinary staff.  Penguin chicks typically take 38-42 days to hatch out of their eggs after they are laid. During an incubation period, both parents will take turns sitting on the egg. After the chick hatches, mom and dad take turns protecting, feeding and keeping the chick warm 2 to 3 days at a time.

Goblin4

Goblin6

Goblin8

Jack and Diane will continue to raise Goblin behind the scenes at Penguin Island, and in a few months will begin the process of starting to be introduced to the exhibit and the other penguins. So stay tuned for updates!

Fun Facts:

  • Goblin is the fourth hatchling for Jack (12 years old) and Diane (14 years old), already parents to 6-year-old Little Ditty, and 1-year-olds Pumpkin and Patch. Penguin watchers may recall that it was just about a year ago to this date that Jack and Diane welcomed penguin chicks Pumpkin and Patch!
  • Coincidentally, Goblin also shares the same birthday as two of our other penguins – Liberty (the very first chick to hatch here at Adventure Aquarium) and Meadow!
  • Biologists won’t know Goblin’s gender until a few months after a blood draw successfully determines whether we have a ‘he’ or ‘she.’
  • Jack and Diane were paired back in 2007 through the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA’s) African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work together to help ensure the survival of African Penguins through a scientifically-controlled breeding program.
  • Since we began working with the program in 1998, Adventure Aquarium has successfully bred and raised nineteen African Black-Footed Penguin chicks (Goblin included!)

Behind the scenes at Adventure Aquarium: the wonderful world of chinchilla enrichment

Cheech and chong

Cheech takes his turn at the wheel

Cheech takes his turn at the wheel

Fluffy, soft and furry are not the words you would use to describe the majority of the animals at Adventure Aquarium but they do perfectly describe Cheech and Chong the chinchillas. That’s right! We have 2 chinchillas here at the Aquarium as part of our program animal collection. Many of you have probably seen them out on stage at one of our up-closes. However have you wondered what these guys do when they’re not hanging out with everyone? If so, this blog shows some of the enrichment provided to Cheech and Chong.

One important part of any animal’s life is exercise, so we provide the chinchillas with a few different things to keep them active. The chinchillas have a multi-level enclosure they can run around in, and boxes or houses provide great surfaces to jump/climb on. One of their favorites though is the wheel which they can run around in just like a hamster would.

in boxesChinchillas also like to hide so the houses and boxes provided can double as places to hide or sleep in. Another favorite hiding spot for Cheech and Chong is their plastic tube.in tube

The biologists can get creative with their enrichment items too and create more unique toys for the boys to play with. Sometimes they’ll get a hanging cardboard platform to jump to or get a box full of hay with treats inside that they have to find. As shown in the picture below Cheech and Chong got to chew apart a paper mache ball to find some treats inside. As part of the rodent family, chinchillas need items they can chew on so the paper mache and even the cardboard boxes work well for that.

Cheech and Chong checking out a paper mache ball with treats inside

Cheech and Chong checking out a paper mache ball with treats inside

Chong participates in a weekly weight check

Chong participates in a weekly weight check

Enrichment for their minds is important too and the chinchillas were trained to do few basic behaviors to keep them thinking. Cheech and Chong were trained to voluntarily hop into the crate used to take them to the up-close area. They were also taught to station to a particular target (or symbol). After they knew how to target, both boys were trained to sit on the scale for their weekly weight checks, as Chong demonstrates below.

Thanks for checking out two of the aquarium’s furry animals and make sure to look for them at an up-close at our Irazu Falls stage our outside in Critter Courtyard during your next visit!

By: Jamie Hogan, Biologist – Birds & Mammals

Go behind the scenes with some of the animal ‘artists’ at Adventure Aquarium

If you’ve ever participated in one of our penguin encounters or have seen some of their artwork in the gift shop, you know that our African penguins are very good artists. However, have you ever wondered why our penguins paint? Or, what other animals at Adventure Aquarium have taken their turn with paint and canvas? If so this blog entry will answer those questions and have some super cute photos of animals putting paint to canvas!

Minnie Painting with Jamie

Jamie paints with African penguin (and artist!) Minnie

The main reason we paint with our animals is for their enrichment (providing something new or different for the animal to mentally stimulate them or just simply have a different activity in their day). Part of the animals’ benefit through painting is actually the process of learning how to paint. Another reason we paint with the animals is because it’s fun for us too! We can use that time to further bond with the animal or to enhance guest experience in the case of the penguins painting during the encounter programs.

In order to train the penguins to paint, they must first be comfortable being handled by the trainers and taking a bath in the sink afterwards. (All penguins need clean feet before going back on exhibit and some even splatter paint up their bellies!) The next step is to introduce the penguins to the paint tray and canvas and teach them to walk across it in a straight line, although some of our penguins seem to prefer walking in circles across the canvas instead!

Minnie finishes her painting

Minnie finishes her painting

Once comfortable with the routine, the penguins start painting. Eleven penguins of our colony have passed art school and make footprint paintings for our guests and other events. Some of the penguin artwork has helped raise money for their fellow endangered species in the wild during Adventure Aquarium’s African Penguin Awareness Weekend. This is yet another benefit for training the penguins to put paint to canvas.

Another species in the “foot painter” group at Adventure Aquarium is the cape porcupine, brothers Julian and Vince. Both porcupines already knew how to target to a pole and follow it around so the trainers added in the new behaviors of stepping in paint and walking across a canvas. 

Vince is target trained to walk through paint onto canvas.

Vince is target trained to walk through paint onto canvas.

Rule #1 of painting - always clean up afterwards! Vince walks through a foot bath to rinse off his feet.

Rule #1 of painting – always clean up afterwards! Vince walks through a foot bath to rinse off his feet.

And just like the penguins, our porcupines have bath time afterwards too. In order to rinse off their feet, the boys were trained to walk through a tray of water.

Combining both old and new behaviors in a series is great mental stimulation for the porcupines. It also helps the process when they get their favorite treat, banana slices and peas, as their reward. Just look at that happy face!

You may not have guessed our last big painters, but believe it or not, our trainers have actually taught hippos Button and Genny to paint too! Instead of making footprint art, these girls paint with their muzzle and whiskers. Just like training the porcupines, our hippos started out with behaviors they already knew – such as resting their head on ballards, targeting, and “touch,” a cue given to let the girls know when they will be touched. Then the trainers added to the “touch” behavior by applying paint to the hippo’s muzzle.

hippo painting_484x252

 

Once the paint is applied the hippo can target to the canvas, ending with a unique whiskered face print! Button and Genny even look forward to the clean-up and enjoy being sprayed off with the hose. Also like the porcupines, the girls are quite excited to work for treats, which are given after the painting is made to avoid food bits in their art.

Hope you enjoyed seeing some of our artists in action! 

By: Jamie Hogan, Biologist – Birds & Mammals