Animal Enrichment Program Gives Discovery Zoo Dwellers a More Natural Life Experience

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

 

Have you ever looked into an animal exhibit at the Boonshoft Museum or another zoo and wondered what all of that stuff is in there? Boxes, bags, shredded paper, hay, plastic balls,

splasher-and-diver

Splasher and Diver, North American River Otters in Their Firehose Hammock

why are the animals playing with trash?

 

Well, what’s one person’s trash is another animal’s treasure! Have you ever looked into an animal exhibit at the Boonshoft Museum or another zoo and wondered what all of that stuff is in there? Boxes, bags, shredded paper, hay, plastic balls…why are the animals playing with trash?

In addition to making sure the animals in the zoo have food, water, and clean habitats, zookeepers also provide enrichment for the animals under their care.

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or AZA. The AZA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. AZA represents more than 200 institutions which meet the highest standards in animal

Malcolm and King Eastern Box Turtles with Browse

care, provide a fun and educational family experience and dedicate millions of dollars to scientific research, conservation, and education programs. This means that even though the Discovery Zoo is not nearly as big as the Cincinnati or Columbus Zoo, the animals receive the same quality of care that they would at a larger institution.

The AZA defines enrichment as: “a process for improving or enhancing zoo animal environments and care within the context of their inhabitants’ behavioral biology and natural history. It is a dynamic process in which changes to structures and husbandry practices are made with the goal of increasing behavioral choices available to animals and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors and abilities, thus enhancing their welfare. As the term implies, enrichment involves the identification and addition within the zoo environment a specific stimulus that the occupant wants or needs but which was not previously present.”

This is basically a long and complicated way of saying that zookeepers provide our animals with activities to promote their natural behaviors, and to keep them mentally and physically active. Life in the wild is really tough, and animals spend all their time fighting to survive. Most animals spend around 80% of their time foraging for food! Finding food isn’t easy, predators often spend hours stalking their prey, and sometimes they aren’t successful. Many herbivores eat plants that are low in nutrition, so they have to spend most of their day grazing.

Animals in the zoo don’t have to worry about predators, disease, finding food, drought,  or natural disasters. Since life in the zoo is a little easier, zoo animals usually have more free time than they would in the wild, and zookeepers try to fill up this free time by providing their animals with enrichment. Enrichment can be almost anything; mulch, rearranging logs and rocks, scents, snake skins, puzzle feeders, and paper bags are just a few examples of enrichment done at the Discovery Zoo. When providing animals with enrichment, zookeepers take into account the natural history of that animal, or how it lives in the wild. For example, bat-eared foxes have great hearing to listen for insects digging under the ground, so keepers will put crickets and mealworms in paper bags full of hay. The foxes use their huge ears to listen for the bugs and then tear into the bags for their reward.

patience-sloth

Patience Sloth with Browse and Diet on a Skewer

When building exhibits, enrichment will often be built in. In our meerkat exhibit, one of the big termite mounds actually has a network of tubes inside that we can put crickets into. The tubes are like a maze and make it so the crickets take a long time to get out, so they’ll drop out randomly throughout the day. This is a great way to keep our meerkats active since they’ll investigate the termite mound many times during the day to see if any more crickets have fallen out. Wild meerkats spend their days foraging for insects, rodents, and other animals, so feeding them in this way helps them to express that natural behavior.

A good enrichment program tries to stimulate all of the animal’s senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and sound. At the Boonshoft Museum, we provide our animals with a variety of different scents; spices, fruit extracts, and even scents from other animals. We play bird calls and other nature sounds for a lot of our animals, and our screech owl Houdini even called to a recording of a screech owl. Something we do for a lot of our animals is put their food in a puzzle feeder or a toilet paper tube. The animal will use its sight and smell to investigate the object, and then use touch to get the food out.

luther-agouti

Luther Agouti Investigating a Snake Skin

Enrichment isn’t limited to animals in zoos, you can also enrich your pets at home. Commercially available puzzle feeders are a great way to slow down a fast eater or to keep your dog busy when you’re away. Catnip is a great example of scent enrichment that can be used for cats at home, and your cat may even like other spices that are in your kitchen. Whenever giving an animal enrichment, it’s important to research and make sure that it is safe for the animal.

Join us at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery on Saturday, February 18 for our first-ever Enrichment Day from 10am-4pm. See our Discovery Zoo residents get some awesome enrichment, learn more about enrichment at activity tables, and meet some of our ambassador animals! Do you love an animal in the Discovery Zoo? We will have enrichment “Valentines” with presents you can get for your favorite animal!

 

Science @ Home: Candy Sparks

SCIENCE @ HomeFourth of July and fireworks go hand-in-hand, but you don’t have to attend a fireworks display to see a spark! That’s right, with some simple science, you can create spark (in your mouth!) with some refreshing candy.

What You’ll Need:

  • A bag of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers (not sugarless)
  • A pair of pliers (use if you are not allowed to crunch on hard candy)
  • A mirror or a group of friends

Experiment:

  1. Head into your bathroom and stand in front of a mirror. If you are at home with friends, you can head outside when it’s dark. Keep in mind you will need complete darkness to best see the spark, so if you are outdoors head to an area of your yard with the least light pollution.
  2. Give your eyes 3-5 minutes to adjust to the dark, you will be able to see the spark better this way.
  3. Place the Wint-O-Green lifesaver between your teeth, make sure you are standing across from your friends or directly across from the mirror. Bite down on the Wint-O-Green with your mouth or crush it with a pair of pliers.
Wintogreen_Video

Click to play

Observations:

What did you see? Was it a greenish-blue light? If you didn’t see the spark, repeat the experiment a few more times until you see the spark.

What is Happening?

You’ve created a little storm in your mouth, that’s right! This actually is more similar to lightning than it is to a sparkler. Lightning is an electric stream that excites nitrogen molecules in the air, proving them with extra energy which is released as visual light.

When sugar is crushed with teeth or pliers, the pieces become negatively and positively charged, making electricity jump through the air between the pieces of sugar. This is what creates light.

But can’t I just crush a piece of sugar and see the reaction? The answer is no, but that’s just because the release of energy when regular sugar is crushed is ultraviolet light, which can’t be seen by the naked eye. However, the wintergreen in the Wint-O-Green Lifesavers is a special substance that absorbs ultraviolet energy and transforms it into visual light – aka triboluminescence.

Travel The World Without Leaving the MidWest!

DMNH_1958_Roberts Pump Building location at 251 E. Second Street, 1941-1958

The Dayton Museum of Natural History, 1958

While we’re only pretty sure that time travel isn’t an actual “thing” yet, the next best option for aspiring explorers may just be to visit a Museum!  From ancient artifacts and rare oddities to countless extinct specimens of animals that no longer roam the world, you can find a wide variety of history from across the globe at your local Natural History Museum.  Many Daytonians remember the Boonshoft Museum as the Dayton Museum of Natural History, when its cornerstone was its vast Collection of artifacts and specimens.  What many may not know is that our Collections remain a crucial aspect of the Boonshoft Museum today, as many of these items can be found in current exhibits, while the rest are maintained for future use and research.

With 1.7 million artifacts and specimens, there is something for all ages and interests to explore. Some of the most popular items include rare prehistoric fossils, skeletal remains of animals that existed during the Ice Age (Mammoth, Dire Wolf, Saber-Toothed Cat), gorgeous handmade jewelry, meteorites, Native American textiles, mummy remains, historic weapons, ancient pottery, and even a shrunken head.

CollectionsMap

Map of the origins of all of our Collection’s pieces, click to enlarge.

Taking a tour of our Collection is literally a trip through time and across the world—which means our staff always jump at the chance to take a tour in order to familiarize them with the Museum. “Each time there is a good number of new staff, you can count on our Curators to host a tour of our Collection. I go every single time because there is always something I haven’t seen and it gives me the chance to experience things that I won’t ever see except for maybe in a book. Our Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, for instance, is extinct, but we have one in our Collection and it is special every time I see it, in addition to all of the other pieces of local and world history,” noted Erika Asher, Development Assistant at the Boonshoft Museum.

So, tell your friends and family to get ready to embark on a world tour through time, except you won’t need to pack a bag or cross an ocean. For the first time, we are opening our collection vaults to the public for extensive, behind-the-scenes tours. These tours are guided by our knowledgeable curators and available to small groups of up to eight people. Tours last 90 minutes and vary between $150-$200, depending on the number of people in your party. All proceeds from the private tours go to the preservation of our artifacts and the Boonshoft Museum’s mission.

You can learn more about the Museum’s Collection here.

You can start the process of booking a Private Tour here.

You can get a jump start on your “world travels” by seeing where all of our artifacts come from by clicking here.

Summer is a Great Time to Be a Member!

We’re counting down the minutes until summer begins and we bet you are too. There’s so much to do: plan your vacations, summer camps, family outings, activities, and more. The list could go on forever, even though the summer season is only three months long. If your goals is to have some great summer family experiences that keep the kiddos happy — and probably more importantly, keep you under budget — check out a Dayton Society of Natural History Membership!

New and current Members can maximize their Memberships this summer with so many things to do, see, and experience in just three short months:

memberguidesummer

The cost of a Museum Membership, transportation, and snacks (because everyone needs snacks!), can get you an entire summer of entertainment, family memories, and fun.

Here are some Dayton Society of Natural History summer highlights you won’t want to miss (bonus: everything listed below is either FREE for Members or Museum Members receive a discount).

New Exhibitions: Both the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery & SunWatch will welcome new exhibitions this summer. On June 4 the Amazing Butterflies opens at the Boonshoft Museum and Johnny Appleseed opens at SunWatch later on during the summer season. Members enjoy a special sneak preview of Amazing Butterflies from 9:00 a.m. – Noon on June 4 before it opens to the public.

Special Events: From Movie Nights at the Museum to the Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow hosted at SunWatch by the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans, there are some stellar events that you won’t want to miss this summer, here are some of the highlights:

Fort Ancient: Summer Solstice Sunrise on June 19, Nature Hike on July 9, Archaeology Day on July 16.

SunWatch: Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow on June 25-26, Kids’ Days throughout the summer.

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery: Movie Nights at the Museum (A Bug’s Life in June and Frozen in August), Red White & Boonshoft on July 4, and our Meerkat Mob’s Birthday on July 30.

To learn more or purchase a Membership, visit www.boonshoftmuseum.org.

 

 

 

Falcon Chicks Update & Naming Contest!

The young peregrines have grown quickly and at almost six weeks old they are preparing to take their first flights.  Over the past few days the chicks have been stretching their wings often.  The white fluffy feathers of the chicks have been completely replaced by the darker adult feathers.  Juvenile  falcons have longer flight feathers than the adults to make it easier to learn the flying skills needed to become an excellent hunter in their first year.  The two older chicks are spending time on the roof behind the nest box and have no downy feathers remaining.   This large space is perfect for strengthening their wings with test hops and flapping.  Fledging is the name of the process of young birds learning to fly.  The chicks usually start fledging around six weeks old.  If you don’t see them on the camera image it is because they are practicing leaving the nest box by walking on the ledges and the roof.   After stretching and flapping their wings, their first flight will be from the 22nd floor where the nest box is located.  This is a view from the sidewalk in front of the Liberty Savings Tower.

FalconBuilding

The two chicks that hatched slightly later than their siblings still have some downy white feathers remaining and are a few days behind the other two.  Dayton and Daniel continue to keep a close eye on the chicks and are always nearby.

FalconParents

We are in the process of hosting a naming contest for the four chicks, so if you haven’t voted, be sure to click here to vote.

Falcon Naming (1)

Click to cast your vote!

Falcon Chicks Are Here!

Dayton and Daniel’s eggs hatched!  On Sunday afternoon one chick was visible in the nest.  Later Sunday evening a second chick hatched.  If all progresses normally, the chicks will be the same size as their parents within six weeks.  At this link you can see images of how fast the chicks will grow:

http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

During the first 24 hours after hatching the chicks will use energy from the remaining yolk sac that they had while still in the egg.  Within a day the female will begin feeding the chick.  The baby chicks eat the same food as their parents, mostly birds brought to the nest by the male.  The female will tear tiny pieces using her beak and feed them to the chicks.

In this image you can see one of the parents eating a meal just outside the nest box to the right side of the image while the oldest chick sits in the nest box.  Within hours of this meal a second chick hatches.  The chicks are called eyases and, like most babies, they eat a lot.  They will double their weight in only six days!

mealtime

In order to hatch from the eggs the chicks used a sharp tip on their beak called a beak tooth to pip out of the shell.  A special muscle also developed while in the egg along the back of the neck that assists the chicks in hatching called the hatching muscle. Some of the egg shells are still visible in the nest with a reddish brown outside and white on the inside of the cracked shell.  This year incubation went a little longer than estimated.  Even though the eggs are laid days apart they typically synchronize to hatch around the same date.  In this image from around 8 p.m. Sunday two chicks peak out from the adult peregrine.  The babies cannot thermoregulate well until about 10 days old so the parents continue to sit on them to keep them warm.

two chicks 3b

 

Updated on 4/20/16 at 10:00 a.m.

Update

Surprise! A new chick was born! There are now three Falcon chicks as of this morning.

Four Eggs For Dayton’s Falcons

Dayton and Daniel have four eggs in the nest!  Peregrine falcons lay an average of four eggs in a clutch with each egg laid a few days apart.   Dayton laid her first egg on March 10.  This is earlier than in previous years, possibly due to the unseasonably warm weather.  Last year she laid her first egg on March 18.  Incubation of the eggs starts toward the end of egg laying and the eggs will synchronize to hatch around the same time.  Incubation takes 29 to 32 days.  Dayton started closely sitting on the eggs by March 14 so hatching could take place as early April 11.  For now Dayton spends all of her time warming the eggs and turning them.  She is observant of any dangers outside the nest but Daniel is nearby protecting their territory.  Occasionally he will come to the nest to relieve Dayton of her incubation duties and provide her with food.

eggs!!24March2016

Click to view the Falcon Cam

The falcons can be observed wiggling on the eggs to press the bare skin on the chest, called the brood patch, down on the eggs to keep them warm.  In species where only the female incubates the eggs the male doesn’t develop a brood patch.  Male and female peregrines both have brood patches because they share incubation of the eggs.  If you watch the Falcon Cam you’ll see the adult peregrines rock side-to-side as they settle on the nest.  This rocking opens the feathers that have curled over the brood patch and puts their skin in contact with the eggs.

Dayton turns the eggs every hour or so during the incubation process.  Both parents will work to maintain the ideal temperature of 99.5 F. Occasionally, the eggs may be left alone for short periods, but one of the birds will always be nearby keeping a close watch over them.

Dayton and Daniel are typically very successful raising their chicks but sometimes the young peregrines run into trouble later on.  Recently one of their chicks from last year, a male named Harrison, was injured and needed help.  Harrison was brought to the Glen Helen Raptor Center where he spent time recovering from wounds on one wing.  Harrison made a full recovery and was able to be released in Springfield in a territory not already held by other peregrines.  To learn more about Glen Helen Raptor Center go to this link:

http://www.glenhelen.org/#!raptor-rehab/clog