Monday, March 17, 2008
Lola is a cockatoo. How do I know this? Because Lola told me that he was. When program keeper Melissa had the bird on her arm and asked Lola “What are you?” Lola replied “COCKTOO!” Lola is one of the many program animals that our staff takes around the Aquarium to interact with guests. This Sulfur Crested Cockatoo also knows how to wave to visitors watching him as he makes his rounds and will even show his wingspan by extended his wings out. When not out wandering around the Aquarium, you can usually find Lola in his exhibit just outside the entrance to Lorikeet Forest. Sulfur Crested Cockatoos like Lola are found in Australia and the island of Tasmania. Their diet mainly consists of berries, seeds and nuts. Lola’s job here at the Aquarium is to help educate visitors of the vast variety of creatures that inhabit the Pacific basin and its neighboring land masses and the need to conserve on a global basis. And yes, Lola is a boy. When birds are young it is difficult to tell what sex they are. Lola’s former owner didn’t realize that he was a boy bird.
Another one of our program critters is Baxter the Kalabeck’s or Blue-tailed monitor lizard. I learned that Baxter isn’t just your regular everyday monitor. He is in fact a representative of a recently rediscovered species. I am a big fan of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Aquacasts and listened to them regularly on my IPod while flying around the country on my business trips. In the synopsis for the Aquacast “A Lost Lizard Found” it states that “Monitors are intelligent carnivorous lizards that include the Komodo dragon, the largest lizard in the world. A species of monitor known as “Kalabeck’s monitor” was rediscovered in the 1990s after it had been re-identified as a distinct species. Baxter the monitor at the Aquarium is an example of this species.” These podcasts are a wealth of animal and environmental information and quite professionally done, sounding like a segment right out of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on National Public Radio.
One of my favorite program animals (next to my buddy Paddington the Pademelon) is Orion the Kestrel. He represents the smallest of the falcon species. A very calm and easy going bird, Orion is just as at home in the Great Hall of the Aquarium or in front of Shark Lagoon as he is in his muse just in back of Lorikeet Forest. Once known as the American Sparrowhawk, American Kestrels like Orion feed mainly on mice, lizards, insects and other small creatures. Sparrows actually make up a very small part of their diets. These falcons are abundant in our local area. You can tell that Orion is a male kestrel as he has the characteristic blue-gray wings with black spots. Female kestrels are larger and have Rufus wings barred with black stripes.
Elvis the King Snake is quite the charmer when you watch him curl up on the arm of his handler while flicking his forked tongue out to investigate his surroundings. A representative of the many non-venomous snakes of the world; certain species of King Snakes will actually hunt and eat venomous snakes like rattlesnakes and copperheads. That’s how they got their names, the “King” of snakes. Elvis and the other program animals give our visitors an up-close and personal look at some of the creatures of the Pacific Rim and help the keepers get the word out on the importance of these critters in the balance of nature.
To learn more about our program animals, check out the Aquarium’s Aquacast called “Program Animals”. The synopsis for this Aquacast is “Animals from land as well as the sea call the Aquarium home. Aquariums of the Pacific visitors have the opportunity to not only interact with marine animals, but also discover some unexpected terrestrial creatures as well. These creatures are referred to as Program Animals, and include various mammals, birds and reptiles.” You can download the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Aquacasts from the podcast section in iTunes.
And if you’re at the Aquarium and see a small kangaroo-like critter being pulled around in a kiddy cart, come on over and say hi to Paddington the Pademelon as he makes his rounds in his “Paddy-Wagon”. He represents the smallest of the kangaroo family which along with pademelons includes the kangaroo and wallaby. Like the other program animals, Paddington is an animal ambassador for his species and his Eco-System..
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