#HippoLove For All!

Hippos are adorable creatures.  They are cute, really big and also extremely intelligent. There’s definitely more to them than meets the eye.

Most visitors to Adventure Aquarium get to know our girls during feeding time or enrichment when biologists talk about how they weigh 4,000 pounds (Genny) and 3,000 pounds (Button); where they’re from (former “Disney hippos”); and how to tell them apart (Genny’s eyes are a little, how should we say “buggy” and Button is a bit smaller in size and more pink). But we wanted to really get to know the residents of Hippo Haven so we sat down with Callin Mulvaney, Biologist II on our Birds and Mammals team.

12669792_10100171029727203_414331875_o (1)

Callin and the Ladies!

Callin is super lucky to get to work with the ladies on the daily and has gotten to know them pretty well in the process.

Big Personality Profiles

IMG_7128

Genny – Our Goofy Girl

The larger of the two hippos, Genny can be easy to spot by her physical presence; but it’s her unique personality that really shines through with guests and staff, alike.  Genny has been known to stick out her tongue in the AM to say hello/good morning to biologists during wake-up routines (now that’s a great way to start the day, huh?).  Have you ever seen a hippo curl her lips against a window? Stick around long enough and watch as Genny does just that. She’ll continue to show off a bit in other ways, like when she bounces with kids in the underwater viewing area of Hippo Haven in a copycat, well “copy-hippo,” game that is a real crowd-pleaser.

Button_DSC_0096

Button – The Princess

Refined might not be something you would say about a hippo, but that’s exactly what comes to mind when looking for an adjective to describe this perfectly pink hippo.  Button can be a little particular with keepers, as any princess would, but knows when to “let her hair down” and have a bit of fun with her roommate, Genny, too.  Nope, she’s not all diamonds and tiaras – in fact she likes to instigate playtime with Genny by nudging her behind to get her moving.  She also spins, twirls and flips around underwater – quite the prima *hippo* ballerina.

We are arteeeests, thank-you-very-much!

AAQ_HippoKiss_1200x627-3

Both of the ladies love showing their artistic sides and they’ve been really busy preparing paintings for Hippo Awareness Weekend (each hippo artist has made over 100 “kiss” paintings – with more to come in the final days before our big conservation weekend!).  About four to six kiss paintings are done during each morning session, allowing Genny and Button to get their creative juices flowing with each press to the canvas.

The biologists working with the girls during painting sessions began noticing some interesting habits, including Button beginning to stick her tongue out to the canvas when she paints! The paint is non-toxic and hippo-friendly so the staff isn’t concerned but more intrigued that she’s clearly expressing her silly side.

 

Her pal, Genny, likes to paint her wall instead of the canvas causing a little issue with her artwork.  Luckily, the keepers can add some more paint to her nose and get her back to creating her masterpieces.  Funny enough, Genny also likes to see the final product each time, as she tilts her head up after painting to see it.  Pretty cool, right?

Callin noted that the girls really enjoy their painting enrichment sessions.  It stimulates their schnozzes and the sensation of having paint rubbed on their nose and mouth seems to make the experience really enjoyable for these budding artists.

Genny and Button also enjoy other enrichment (and happy hippos are the best hippos, right?) such as playing with ice blocks, hose spray play, having a game of hippo hide-n-seek using yummy banana leaves, bamboo and willow branches, enjoying special treats during their feeds (Fact: Genny does not like strawberries.), and underwater workouts with trainers! During Hippo Awareness Weekend, visitors will get to see ALL of these throughout the day!

AAQ_HippoKiss_620x268

But seriously, if someone asks where they can get a kiss from a hippo – tell them to look no further! Check out more info on our Hippo Kisses here.

Turgwe Hippo Trust & Our Mission

Speaking of Hippo Awareness Weekend… During this conservation event held annually, we raise money and awareness for hippos in the wild.  This year we’re hosting it over Valentine’s weekend, February 13-14 and on National Hippo Day on Monday, February 15.  We are proud to say that 100% of the money raised goes directly to an organization we’ve worked closely with: The Turgwe Hippo Trust.  Karen Paolillo runs the nonprofit in Zimbabwe, Africa and has been so supportive of Adventure Aquarium and our hippos on exhibit knowing that Genny and Button are helping all the hippos in Africa as ambassadors of their species.  Not only does this awareness event help raise money for a great organization but it educates our visitors on the state of hippos across the world.

We want to make the connection between our hippos, Genny and Button, to hippos in Africa and can successfully do so through this event. It’s a truly special moment when we are able to connect a family from the Delaware Valley to these incredible creatures.

Currently, the Turgwe hippos are experiencing a severe drought and the wild hippos in Zimbabwe, Africa are in desperate need of our help.

turgwe

If you are unable to attend our Hippo Awareness Weekend or want to help now, we ask you to donate whatever you can to help save these hippos.  They need your help and every amount counts!  For more info on how to donate, click here.  You can be an amazing hippo hero!

 

 

Baby It’s Cold Outside…for a Penguin

AAQ_Penguins_Denis McDonald Photography

Our African Penguins love the beach. They are from South Africa, after all. When temperatures start to fall, they enjoy snuggling up inside the Penguin House to keep warm – and sometimes keep an egg cozy too!

That’s right – we’re talking about our breeding program at Adventure Aquarium. We participate in the Species Survival Plan, also called SSP, which is managed by AZA to help successfully regulate the breeding of endangered species in zoos and aquariums. If a species is endangered in the wild, we want to make sure to have stable and healthy populations in these facilities. Our African Penguins are part of this program, with our first chick, Liberty, born in 2001.  Adventure Aquarium has had 19 chicks born here since then, and hope to welcome new babies in the near future.

The breeding program is helpful as it helps alleviate interbreeding by making sure to keep track of family trees and sending certain birds to other locations to help the breeding process. When I spoke with Kate Budion, Biologist II with our Birds and Mammals team, she mentioned that only “single” birds are considered for transfer to other AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums.

“We never separate established pairs,” noted Kate. “Only penguins who are not in paired are ever moved to another location.” (ALSO: We’ll  be spotlighting Kate in a post as part of a new series giving our readers a closer look at our AAQ staffers – coming soon!)

This can be extremely tough on the biologists who care for the animals.

African penguins can breed all year but Adventure Aquarium has seen most of its babies in the fall and early winter, basically from October to January. The birds tend to avoid super cold and extreme hot temperatures when having their chicks.

The biologists encourage good nesting habits and proper parenting by creating nests for the paired birds.

The materials used allow the birds to dig, move things around and get it just right for any potential eggs. Pretty sweet digs, right?

Anyways, we cannot confirm or deny our chick status but we’re hopeful to welcome new additions to the AAQ family soon! Stay tuned!

Celebrate #MLKDay2016 with A Simple Change

mlk-jr-poems-9

Every year on the third Monday of January we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Not only does it commemorate the great Civil Rights leader’s birthday but also brings people together to participate in a day of service to their community in his honor. At Adventure Aquarium, we not only look to help our community on the local level but also on a global scale through our awareness programs and conservation efforts. These initiatives are not solely held on one day, but throughout the calendar year.

One way Adventure Aquarium is able to make a difference in the community is through the Fins for the Future conservation program. The Fins for the Future committee, made up of a group of staffers who work at the Aquarium, are committed to serving the local and global community by providing real opportunities for people to get involved and to make positive changes to the environment. We identify opportunities for people to help people; to promote environmentally friendly and socially responsible business decisions into daily practice; and inspire the conservation of our natural world.

At a recent meeting, a new initiative was introduced by Fins for the Future to Adventure Aquarium staff: A Simple Change.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Think of it this way. What if each one of us did one thing every day with the health of the environment in mind? What if we brought a reusable bag to the store instead of using a plastic bag? What if we declined that plastic straw in our drink at a restaurant? Refilled our Brita and used a reusable bottle instead of reaching for a plastic bottle of water at Wawa? The compound effect over time could be dramatic, couldn’t it? It most definitely could. A Simple Change launches in 2016 with the focus on reducing single plastic use products into the environment and we are starting right here with Adventure Aquarium’s staff.

Here are just a few of the super simple and easy initiatives that have begun in 2016, spearheaded by Fins for the Future.

Thirsty? Before you grab a bottle of water… 

 

This one is super easy. Instead of using plastic water bottles, we encourage filling up a reusable container.

reusable bottle

Check out this fancy Adventure Aquarium option!

In 2015 alone, we removed 3,840 plastic bottles from the Delaware River during our River Sweeps. By making this tiny change, you’ll not only save money by not buying each water bottle (hello extra cash in your pocket!) but you’ll also take part in removing them from our environment. Now that’s a win-win, right?

Sip, sip from your straw? Wait a minute.

Now this one is, once again, really easy to do. You might not realize it when you ask for a straw while eating out or drop one in your favorite beverage at home but that’s a tiny piece of plastic that’s going to be used once and tossed out. Over a thousand straws were pulled during our River Sweeps last year – if we thought  before we sipped, think about how that number could decrease!

Instead, grab a silicone straw like these pretty blue/green combos from a cool company called Greenpaxx. They are dishwasher safe and have NO BPAs, Pthalates or PVC. That’s a pretty awesome sipping utensil, huh?

It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.

Speaking of utensils, how often do we grab those little plastic forks for our lunch? Think about every person doing the exact same thing for just one week and that one fork starts multiplying quickly.

Adventure Aquarium’s break room is now offering compostable utensils called Patra Eco-Dinnerware instead. Our staff is now using these cute forks, knives and spoons instead of plastic which means we are able to reduce our plastic production. Made from fallen palm leaves, these little babies are 100% compostable. The coolest part? We are partnering with our neighbor, the Camden Children’s Garden, to add to their compost which will go right back to the garden’s mulch! We are so excited to partner up to help our local environment.

Plastic Bag, plastic bag…

One-time use plastic bags are THE WORST. The average time a plastic bag is used is 12 seconds. It takes 10-20 years for it to break down. 12 SECONDS vs 20 years! By making the effort to keep reusable bags in our cars and bring them along for groceries and other shopping trips, we can really make a difference.

how long does i take to break down

Here’s a good visual of items commonly found in our rivers and oceans – and just how long it takes them to break down. Another good reason to stop using them and definitely recycle, right?!

Not only are plastic bags used for such a crazy short amount of time, but if they’re not disposed of properly, i.e. not recycled and end up in our rivers and oceans, aquatic animals like sea turtles and others fishy friends mistake them for jellies, which are a source of food for them. They can’t tell the difference and eat them, leading to injury and often even death. (Not OK). If we all thought before we shopped, think of the difference we could make!

Yes, sometimes it’s tough to avoid using a plastic bag – we totally get that. Adventure Aquarium staff began a recycling program in 2015 which will continue this year (yay, recycling!). By properly recycling plastic bags and film, we can help remove them from the environment. Pretty cool.

Microbeads are what now?

microbeads

OK, this one is simple and a no-brainer. Would you willingly put little pieces of plastic in your mouth and potentially ingest them? Didn’t think so. Microbeads are found in some toothpaste, face wash and other personal care products and are completely cosmetic. Meaning they don’t really do anything beneficial besides look like little specks of blue on your toothbrush. Silly but true. If something has polyethylene listed in the ingredients, there’s microbead plastic lurking in your product. We at AAQ are pledging to stop purchasing these products now, which will no longer be produced in a few years thanks to recent legislation signed by President Obama. That’s a win! This brings us another step closer to plastic-free oceans!! #MotherEarthGoals

We’re excited to begin our “A Simple Change” program within Adventure Aquarium’s own staff. You should feel free to participate as well by making these simple, small steps to produce big changes over time. This is a New Year’s resolution that you can totally keep!

Stay tuned…we’ll have blog posts focusing on more Fins for the Future initiatives coming up this year that will let you know what we’re up to, including FrogWatch 2016, more River Sweeps, tree plantings and more!

Happy #MLKDay2016! Let’s make it a good one, folks!

 

 

CUTEST.PENGUINS.EVER.

little-blue-penguin-baby

Yep, we said it. The CUTEST.PENGUINS.EVER. are officially making Adventure Aquarium their permanent residence beginning Friday, January 15th!

We are absolutely bursting that we can finally introduce you to these cuties.  The Little Blue Penguins – aka the smallest and most adorable penguins in the universe – are joining the AAQ family and we want to shout it from the rooftops.

IMG_2288

…or shout it from a rocky ledge…either/or really.

IMG_2322

Not only are these birds blue but they love the beach! Since winter is finally starting to show its ugly temps, we suggest coming to check out Little Blue Beach, home to the little blues, of course! You’ll be transported to the beaches of Australia where you’ll feel the warm glow of the sun and hear the sound of waves hitting the shore.

You’ll most likely be tempted to put on your swimsuit and head into the water…We’re going to need you to hold off on that since these birds kind of like their exhibit all to themselves. You will, however, get up-close and personal with them as they swim and play in the water.  You’ll also learn about how little blues live right alongside humans in their native habitat in Australia. Humans have even helped the blues by building nesting boxes reminiscent of the colorful cabanas they live in for the birds to build nests and raise their young.

IMG_2292

Check out the prime real estate on Little Blue Beach, with an array of colorful houses the birds have to choose from. (They’re still deciding who is living where – it’s all about location, location, location!)

Our Birds and Mammals team is also thrilled to welcome the blues to the Aquarium, adding to our total penguin population. Of course, we still love our African Penguins but getting to know a new group of animals and their varying personalities is really exciting!

When the little blues arrived, the team knew they would be small – but they were definitely smaller than a lot of them anticipated. They were also intrigued to see how brave these birds are when the staff comes on exhibit – usually anticipating being fed (but who isn’t food motivated, really?).

The little blues also have big personalities for being pint-sized.  From Phillip, who is the bravest of the bunch to Bloke and Sheila, a brother-sister pair, to Cobalt, the loudest of the group, the birds are beginning to show more of their unique personalities every day.  While our biologists and little blues are still getting to know each other, overall the team is looking forward to building relationships with the blues as they have done with our African Penguins.

Curious to see these critters in action? Stop by for a visit! The blues can’t wait to say hi to you during your next trip to Adventure Aquarium!

 

 

Let’s Splash into the New Year!

Christmas has come and gone…we hope it was merry and full of fun!

Now, it’s time to ring in 2016. And what better way than at Adventure Aquarium – right??

This year, we’re hosting two, that’s right 2 epic NYE events.

Have the kids and looking for family-fun? Well, we’re always the right choice but this is especially true on New Year’s Eve.

We are excited to host our annual New Year’s Eve Splash!  Enjoy the Aquarium and all its animal splendor, have a dance party with Gill and then stay for the 6:30pm fireworks show on the Delaware. That’s right, we’re holding extended hours – FREE with admission and hope to see you and the family right at AAQ.

Also, Scuba Santa will still be in town – he officially heads back to the North Pole on New Year’s Day so it’s your LAST CHANCE to see him in 2015.

If the kids are going to grandma’s for the evening, why not spend NYE at our Adventure Aquarium After Dark event?

NYE

Countdown to midnight with friends, ages 21+, and fish alike! Aquarium “After Dark,” the region’s most unique place to ring in the New Year, offers cocktails, dinner and live DJs as well as amazing views of the Philadelphia Skyline and the best place on the Delaware to see the midnight fireworks show – dress to impress for this truly unforgettable, high-end evening.

For more info on both of our New Year’s Eve events, visit adventureaquarium.com today!

Small changes, please!

Tossing a penny into a fountain or wishing well to make a wish – we’ve all done it once or twice. But when you’re visiting a zoo or aquarium, throwing coins or other foreign objects can have serious consequences.  Let’s explore what can happen to our friends at Adventure Aquarium and ways we can prevent something like this from happening in the future.

On December 8th, Little Diddy, one of our African Penguins, underwent an endoscopic procedure at NorthStar VETS in Robbinsville, NJ after ingesting a coin she found while on exhibit at Penguin Island. And while she recovered 100%, it could have been much worse.

Kali_Endoscopy2

Coins are toxic to humans and animals. Besides being a choking hazard, coins can cause zinc toxicity over a period of time.

Penguins LOVE shiny objects (who doesn’t?!), and curiosity often gets the better of them. Since penguins don’t have hands, they explore with their mouths, using their beaks to pick up objects. Little Diddy most likely wanted that shiny coin for her nest and the result was an accidental ingestion of the coin.

Species react differently after swallowing coins. For penguins, it’s almost impossible to know as they continue to eat and behave normally, showing no external issues. Aquarium biologists routinely scan the penguins with wand-like metal detectors as part of their health exams. Once a week, the Penguin Island residents are examined for foreign objects – a process completely safe to the animals and increasingly common across many AZA-accredited institutions.

Kali_Scan

However, biologists noticed something out of the ordinary during Little Diddy’s scan. Almost immediately, Adventure Aquarium’s husbandry staff and on-site veterinary team went to work; taking blood work and radio-graphs (x-rays), verifying the existence of a coin, while also consulting with NorthStar VETS, a large veterinary emergency and specialty hospital in New Jersey that often works as an extension of, and in collaboration with, primary care veterinarians.

“We always want the best for our animals,” said Michele Pagel, Curator of Birds and Mammals. “For as rare of an issue as this, we needed to turn to someone we could trust; with the equipment on hand and the expertise available to help us at a minute’s notice should any complications arise.”

Meanwhile, Little Diddy was also given mineral oil to see if she would pass the coin naturally. After three days, and no natural progression, Adventure Aquarium’s veterinary team made the decision to take Kali to NorthStar for an endoscopic procedure; a process in which – in this case – a scope is sent into the esophagus to diagnose and treat blockages.

Kali_Endoscopy3

Under general anesthesia and the watchful and concerned eyes of Aquarium biologists and vets, NorthStar’s team of veterinary surgeons performed a one hour procedure in which the coin was successfully extracted.

To the delight and relief of all involved, Kali responded extremely well post-procedure. In fact, later that afternoon she headed back to Adventure Aquarium, where she quickly returned to playing with the other penguins on exhibit – having recovered 100%.

Kali2

At Adventure Aquarium, we have security cameras to monitor unusual activity, and will continue to explore new, preventative and treatment methods to protect our flightless, feathered friends from foreign objects; measures such as monitoring the exhibit’s overall upkeep (cracks, loose concrete) and daily surveying for stray stones, sticks and coins.

And for our visitors, this is just a friendly reminder to think before you throw. Wait for the mall fountain or wishing well for penny tossing. Even better – save spare change to support penguins by donating to SANCCOB. In fact, our annual African Penguin Awareness Weekend in the fall is the perfect opportunity to pool your change to help penguins in the wild.

Together we all play a role in protecting these endangered species!