Did you miss us?

We missed you too! It’s been a little while hasn’t it? Well, we were busy getting some great stories together for our AAQ Insiders!

First up is a tale about a Tank. Get ready to have your mind blown by SCIENCE!!! (Seriously, this stuff is super cool).

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Oh, hello there.

Adventure Aquarium is home to an inquisitive southern three-banded armadillo, warmly named Tank.  Isn’t this 3-year-old boy just awesome??

Now you may be asking, why does an aquarium have an armadillo?  Well, AAQ manages a diverse collection of animals not on display, including this armadillo, which have special jobs as “Animal Ambassadors.”  These animals are able to be easily handled and trained for up close experiences with our guests.  Through our up closes, held at Discovery Deck in Zone A as well as other locations throughout the aquarium, we can help educate and promote conservation of their species and other animals.

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Here’s Tank posing with a soccer ball – say CHEESE!

We like to say that our animals have the best healthcare thanks to our on staff veterinarian, Dr. Mike Hyatt, and his team.  As part of a preventative health program, Tank receives routine annual examinations just like your dog or cat by Dr. Hyatt.

For animal comfort and safety, Tank is anesthetized for the exam, blood collection and x-rays.  Tank’s exam and blood work indicated a healthy armadillo, but because of the armor that surrounds and protects him, x-rays can be difficult to evaluate.  As such, there were suspicious changes in Tank’s lungs on x-ray that could not be confidently evaluated.

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Here’s another one because, well, we can’t get enough of this guy!

To make sure what Dr. Hyatt and his team were seeing on the x-rays was nothing more than normal anatomic variation, which means normal flexibility in the topography and morphology of the armadillo’s body structure, we contacted our friends at NorthStar VETS, a referral specialty and emergency veterinary hospital in Robbinsville, NJ, for a computed tomographic (CT) examination, also known as a CAT scan.

Tank was so brave during the CAT scan!

This type of advanced diagnostic imaging provides cross-sectional x-ray imaging through thin slices along the whole body.  This imaging allows better visualization of internal organs that a standard x-ray would not be able to detect.

Get ready for the cool part! The computer program is also able to take these images and create a 3D reconstruction of the animal’s skeleton, and in this case, Tank’s armor.

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We were relieved to learn that Tank’s CT was completely normal! (Hooray!!)

Armadillo Tank CT Lungs

This visit also gave the veterinarians and veterinary radiologist at NorthStar VETS an opportunity to work with an animal species not normally brought to their hospital.  It was a great learning opportunity for both veterinary teams.

So, there you have it. Science and technology amaze us again!

Update: Sea Turtle Hatchling Koopa is still adorable

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No, not Nintendo Koopa Troopa…

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OUR Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling, Koopa, can be found doin’ his (or her) thing on the daily. And, yes, Koopa is getting bigger and so is the cuteness factor.

Here are some updates on lil’ Koops (thanks to F&I biologist Rachel for providing the awesome info!):

Koopa is up to 440g (aka almost 15.5 ounces) in weight, which is over 8 times his weight when he first arrived at #AAQ!

He still uses some of the same enrichment items, like small wiffle balls and containers, but we have been putting more enrichment items on the floor of his exhibit. He loves searching for food throughout the rocks, which is what he will have to do out in the ocean!

We are continuing to encourage his foraging behavior by sinking enrichment items with hidden food. We are continuing to offer him live food as well. There are currently hermit crabs and grass shrimp in the exhibit with him, both of which he occasionally eats. We offered him appropriate-sized jellies as well, which he absolutely loves!

We previously added a live blue claw crab for him to eat, but the crab was a little too big and defensive for Koopa and actually scared him! We took the crab back out, but will try again when Koopa is bigger. (Seriously, how cute is that??)

Bonus! Here’s a clip of him eating some romaine – which happens to be attached to a clip.

Want to catch Koopa in action? On weekends, participants of our Sea Turtles Up Close Adventure get to offer Koopa his enrichment around 1:45 p.m., and on weekdays he is generally fed around 1:00 p.m.

Be sure to stop by and say hey to Koopa during your next visit! He’s growing up so fast – but we couldn’t be prouder!

Top 5 Reasons to Have an #AAQSpringBreak

School is OUT – well, for Spring Break anyway.  Want to take a little trip this year?  What a fantastic idea!  How about heading right over to Adventure Aquarium where you can visit animals from all over the world – all in one place!  Convenient and fun? Yes, please.

Here are the Top 5 reasons you and your fam should most certainly have an #AAQSpringBreak (Oh, and feel free to take this hashtag and run with it, folks):

#1. Little Blues

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The CUTEST.PENGUINS.EVER. are waiting to see you! These adorable little birds, the smallest penguins in the world aka Fairy penguins aka #adorblues,  will make you smile from ear to ear as they play and swim in the water and waddle along the sandy beach.  Your kids can totally make friends with a penguin this spring break.  So much cooler than, well, anything really.

#2. HIPPOS!

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One of our lovely Nile hippos, Button, just celebrated her 19th birthday earlier this week and she wouldn’t be mad if you stopped by to wish her a happy belated bday and show some love. I mean, it’s still her birthday week/month right? #Aries

Also, say hi to Genny while you’re there.  Don’t want to leave her out!

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#3. Annual Passholders = Exclusive Early AM Access

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Talk about #MemberPerks! We’re opening the aquarium early (at 9:30am each day) just for Annual Passholders now through Saturday, March 26th because, well, exclusive access is just something you get when you’re part of the Annual Pass family. #VIPStatus

Not a member? Let’s fix that, shall we?

#AAQInsideTip: TWEET,TWEET! Posting to social media? Use #AAQSpringBreak on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you could be featured on our accounts as our #PhotoOfTheWeek or #FanOfTheWeek! (P.S. Follow us while you’re at it…get awesome animal content, win prizes and more!)

#4. Sharks, sharks, sharks! 

Did we mention we have sharks at AAQ?  Where else can you touch a shark, walk under them through the Shark Tunnel, marvel at the only Great Hammerhead on exhibit in the US AND swim with them?? HERE, of course! No one does sharks better than AAQ. No one!

Ready to dive in? Check out our Swim with the Sharks Adventure (along with cool behind the scenes access to penguins and sea turtles too)!

#5. Touch Tanks!

Besides touching a shark…want to touch a stingray? Sea cucumber? Sea star? OK! Touch tanks are located throughout the Aquarium and are made for kids of all ages to learn and explore using their sense of touch. So, roll-up your sleeves and get in there!

Want to get more hands-on? Why not feed a stingray? 

#6. Topperrrrrrrrrr!

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Yes, we said top 5 reasons but you get a bonus reason because, well, TOPPER! The newest African penguin chick to join the colony can be seen after African penguin feeds at Penguin Island following feeds (check your show guide for times). We won’t know if Topper is a boy or girl for a little bit longer but no matter what – this penguin is super cute!

These are just some of the many reasons you should head to Adventure Aquarium this Spring Break for some unique, unforgettable family-fun!  (I mean, we have 8,500 aquatic animals so it was tough to choose just 5 – well, 6…).  Anywho, hope to see you soon!

 

 

 

Did You Go Green Today?

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The day everyone is Irish and wears green to celebrate the cheerful holiday. Hope you’re wearing your green!

At Adventure Aquarium, we go green all year-round in a number of ways – and we’re not talking attire.  From recycling to conservation and sustainability, we make it our mission to be stewards of the environment and help others learn how they are connected to the natural world around them and the ways they can make a difference – for the better.  We’ve only got one Earth, so let’s take care of our planet!

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One major way you can make a difference every single day is through recycling – let’s talk about it!  Camden County, where Adventure Aquarium is located, uses Single Stream Recycling.  What does that mean?  Here’s a fancy flyer to explain:

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Basically, we can recycle all of those items in one bin, instead of having to separate them. The powers that be are making it pretty easy to recycle – so thoughtful!  Thanks CC!  Since it’s so simple to do, why not take a second and make sure the soda cans, paper towel rolls and empty cereal boxes get into that blue bin?

Instead of all of these very colorful cans and containers ending up in a landfill, a whole lot of people took that moment to GO GREEN!

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You’ll feel like an awesome human being and walk away knowing that you made a difference when you go green. This is just one simple change that can have a huge impact in the long run – if everyone works together to make it happen.

For more ways to Go Green, visit our Conservation section.  Also, check with your local municipality on all the ways they’re going green right in your neighborhood, including how they’d like you to recycle your plastic, paper and other materials, and the best way to go green too!

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#AAQSpotlight: Kate Budion, Penguin Wrangler Extraordinaire

Doesn’t it seem like every child, at some point in their young lives, contemplates a career that involves working with animals?  From veterinarian to dolphin trainer, it seems like the thought definitely crosses the minds of kids who love animals -and why wouldn’t it?  Living one’s dream and getting paid to do what you love is the ultimate goal for most of us (Right?).  In AAQ Spotlight, members of the Adventure Aquarium team will be featured, giving you, our readers, an inside look at the people who care for our animals, such as hippos, penguins, sharks and sea turtles, as a full-time job.

 

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Kate with some of her co-workers. #PenguinPics are the Best Pics.

Kate Budion, member of the Birds and Mammals team in Adventure Aquarium’s Husbandry department was definitely one of those kids (see above intro) – but she grew up to have her dream job. Lucky, right??  Yes, she does feel very lucky overall to have a job that she loves and the ability to work with animals in a field that is extremely competitive to break into and find a permanent position.  (Not a big surprise since working with animals is kind of awesome.)

Kate, a Biologist II, has worked for the Aquarium for nearly six years in a full-time position (she’ll celebrate her official 6-year anniversary in April).  Prior to her full-time status, she worked part-time at AAQ for six months in an internship while going to school at Delaware Valley College (now known as Delaware Valley University) where she majored in zoo science and minored in psychology.

I was intrigued by the psychology minor and Kate explained that “when you look at behavior and how the mind works in humans, it is very similar to how it works in animals.” With that perspective, it was a no-brainer (pun most definitely intended) that Kate belongs in the Adventure Aquarium family working closely with our African penguin colony along with the newer Little Blue penguins that arrived in January of this year as well as a number of other animals.

Budion always wanted to work with animals (like we mentioned before) but she just wasn’t sure which animals.  A middle school project helped influence her ultimate decision as she was given the task of researching a career and a school where she could follow that career path, which eventually led her to where she is today (ahem, she should probably send that teacher some flowers or a handwritten “thank-you-for-helping-me-find-my-path-in-life” note…).

Kate wasn’t always a professional penguin wrangler like she is today. When she was growing up, she volunteered to work with wildlife in New Jersey and got to hang out with rabbits, squirrels, ducks and other birds.  It’s all about experience, which Kate made sure she acquired by also working with dogs and cats in a kennel – but that was just the beginning.

She also had a very hands-on internship at Tiger World in Rockwell, North Carolina prior to coming to AAQ.  She worked with lions, tigers, bears (oh my), wolves, and their small monkey collection, including baboons.  Baboons, really intriguing animals, have very human-like personalities. Kate shared a funny story about one of the male baboons she worked with preferring the female caretakers over their male counterparts and the baboon becoming very jealous if any of the guys got too close.  Quite the protector, right?

Kate also worked at the Safari Park at Six Flags Great Adventure and was in charge of caring for the large hoof stock i.e. elk and bison.  Insider Info: She loves large animals that are so big but they act similar in temperament to dogs.  Love that!

When asked to choose her favorite animal, Kate said tigers first but also mentioned African penguins were at the top as well.  (I told her the African penguins wouldn’t read this blog so she shouldn’t upset her co-workers too much by mentioning her tiger preference.)

Her craziest moment working with animals?  When Adventure Aquarium exhibited Mighty Mike, the 14-foot long alligator that weighs 800 pounds and is longer than most cars, Kate was tasked with feeding the reptile.

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(We should note that alligators and crocodiles frighten her a bit – we can’t really blame her…have you seen those teeth?)  So, she fed him from a few feet away and had the biggest adrenaline rush ever. So much so that she was shaking after the crazy/awesome experience! Go girl!! Overcome those obstacles!

When Kate isn’t working, she’s busy making plans with friends, travelling and reading tons of books.  Her latest read is a biography of a climber who set a world record by climbing all seven summits.  She also recently planned an impromptu trip to Vegas (aka awesome life choice).

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Remember that whole dolphin trainer thing we talked about earlier? Love it!

Clearly, Kate made the right choice back in middle school by taking the path that led her to be a member of the AAQ team.  We truly appreciate her taking the time out of her busy day to chat as well.  Next time you’re visiting Penguin Island, be sure to ask for Kate and say hello!

 

ROAD TRIP!!!

The epic tale of a group of animals driving across the US on one big adventure. Not the plot of a new movie hitting theaters but some sharks, crabs, an octopus and a fish did make the journey from Newport Aquarium, Adventure Aquarium’s sister facility in Kentucky. Also, they can’t actually drive…so a group of biologists took care of that detail and they all traveled to AAQ together – with lots of highways and byways in between.

So, who made the trip?  (Besides this lovely group of biologists, obviously!)

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Group shot before hitting the road! #NewportOrBust

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#AAQInsiderTip: The white tip reef sharks will be on exhibit later this month – you’ll be able to see them laying at the bottom of Ocean Realm similar to what our nurse sharks do in Shark Realm!

  • 1 queensland grouper, which will also make Ocean Realm its new home
  • 1 giant pacific octopus – Have you ever seen an octopus travel? Packing eight legs can be tricky! Check it out here (Shout out to Liz for rocking a Phils’ Howard t-shirt!).
  • 2 giant spider crabs – They are just too cool

(FYI – The octopus and spider crabs will stay behind the scenes for now but they’re happy to be new residents of Adventure Aquarium too!)

Some highlights from the trip…

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The crew drove through a snowstorm to get to Newport, hence this fancy Winter Weather Alert!

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Erik found the ride very soothing…

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Rachel and Kevin made sure the animals were safe and secure in our cozy trailer before heading to their new home!

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AND…this also happened.

Oh, and we didn’t come empty handed.  It’s always nice to bring a gift for the host at a party but instead of a nice bottle of wine and flowers, we brought Newport two redeye tree frogs and a hourglass frog as well as ten 30lb boxes of tilapia for guest-fave Mighty Mike, their White American alligators and their Arapiama. We also supplied a 50lb box of silversides for their Asian small clawed otters. The gifts that keep on giving, really.

So be sure to check out the newest Ocean Realm residents on your next trip to Adventure Aquarium and welcome them to the family!

Special thanks to Liz, Kevin, Rachel and Erik for taking great photos and video from their road trip! You guys rock! #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork

Hip, Hip Hooray!

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Hippo High Fiiiiiiive!

Gahh, all hail to hippo heroes!  Guys, we are still beaming from Hippo Awareness Weekend, held Friday, February 13-Sunday, February 15.

We experienced a whole lotta #HippoLove with a record-setting donation total of $15,000 collected during the weekend’s festivities.  The entire amount collected benefits the non-profit organization Turgwe Hippo Trust in Zimbabwe, Africa and the wild hippos that reside there.

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Some of the 21 Turgwe Hippos in need of food supply – thanks to your generosity we’ll be able to provide enough hay to last the rest of the year! 

“It’s truly inspiring to see our guests and our staff come together to raise conservation awareness and support for such a worthy cause,” said Vince Nicoletti, Executive Director and Vice President, Adventure Aquarium. “This donation comes at a time of desperate need as the Turgwe hippos are experiencing a severe drought which has affected the food supply in the area.”

Guests participated in the weekend’s conservation event and supported the cause in a variety of ways, including purchasing over 200 unique “kiss” paintings created by Button and Genny as well as bracelets and hippo foot cut-outs.  The hippo residents also participated in a variety of enrichment sessions, showcasing their underwater skills as well as lively appetites.

“Genny and Button served as important ambassadors and were integral to the success of this weekend,” said Marc Kind, Director, Husbandry.  “Not only did their artwork help raise monetary donations but they also reinforced the connection between our animals here at Adventure Aquarium and their wild counterparts.  Whether it’s hippos, sharks, penguins or sea turtles, we are proud to connect families with a greater understanding of conservation awareness.”

Here are some more shots of the wild hippos in need that YOU helped! #BestGuestsOnThePlanet

The donation will go toward the purchase of food from now until December including hay, survival ration, game cubes and molasses, as well as transportation of supplies and other needs.

MYSELF AT ONE FEEDING STATION WITH A THIN WARTHOG WHO JOINED ME

Karen from Turgwe! We are truly inspired by her heroic efforts to help save the hippos. #HippoHero

“On behalf of the Turgwe hippos, thank you so much to Adventure Aquarium for supporting us here in Africa,” said Karen Paolillo, Founder, Turgwe Hippo Trust. “Food is the first priority and with this generous donation we will be able to feed 21 hippos and other wildlife.  We also hope to help fund game scouts who actively work to catch poachers in the area.”

Once again, THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! to everyone who donated. We’ll share updates on the hippos’ progress on the blog as well as social media and can’t wait to let you know how well they’re doing.  We actually just received an email from Karen and she let us know the first shipment of hay should arrive around the first week of March! Yay for #HippoLove and #SavingTheHippos!

P.S. We’re looking forward to future conservation awareness weekends being held in 2016, including Sea Turtle Awareness Weekend (June 18 and 19) and African Penguin Awareness Weekend (Columbus Day Weekend, October 8-10).  For more information on upcoming events, visit AdventureAquarium.com.