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With over 100 species of animals living at the Museum, visitors are always asking us how they got here. We chat with Stacy, curator of our Live Animal Care Center, to get the whole story. This Pulsar podcast is brought to you by #MOSatHome. We ask questions submitted by listeners, so if you have a question you'd like us to ask an expert, send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ERIC: From the Museum of Science in Boston, this is Pulsar, a podcast where we forage for answers to the most common questions we get from our visitors. I'm your host, Eric, and very often, we get asked about the origins of our resident animals. We have over 100 species in residence at the Museum of Science in the exhibit halls, our Garden Walk and Insect Zoo, and our Live Animal Center. So where did they come from? To answer that, my guest today is Stacy, the Curator of our Live Animal Center. Stacy, thanks for joining me.
STACY: Hi, Eric. Thanks for having me today.
ERIC: So very often, when guests ask about where an animal comes from, they follow up and ask if it's a rescue. So let's start there. Can you tell us about some of the animals we have that are rescues?
STACY: Yes. So we actually get a lot of our animals from rescues. These are animals that have been previously wild, they go to a rehabilitator. And they've been deemed unrealeaseable either due to an injury or they're too friendly. And they can't be re-released. So we have several animals like that at the Museum of Science. We have our screech owls, both have had previous eye injuries, so they wouldn't survive out in the wild, which is why they are now in human care. And they've come to us to be ambassadors for their species. So we have several animals like that here at the museum. Rehabilitators try really hard to re-wild animals, and deem them to be releasable. Animals always do better out in the wild than they do in human care. But sometimes you have those circumstances where that just can't happen. So that's when AZA institutions and other animal facilities will step in to help out with so those animals can live a really quality good life.
ERIC: And you mentioned that AZA, can you talk a little bit about what that association is?
STACY: Yeah, it's the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and they accredit different facilities. So you have to meet a whole bunch of different requirements, you get reaccredited every five years. So the Museum of Science is an accredited zoo. So in that case, we can follow all the AZA guidelines, we have to also meet USDA guidelines, and APHIS guidelines as well. So there's a lot of different protocols that we have to meet and work with in order to have animals on site here.
ERIC: And you mentioned some of the animals being too friendly. So some of the animals that we have can't survive out in the wild, but it's not necessarily something physical, it's that being around people is too comfortable for them, right?
STACY: Yes, and that can be detrimental to a lot of animals, because then they're seeking out humans and being around humans, which can be dangerous for them. So either due to cars, or they can't find food on their own, because they're relying on people to feed them. And sometimes, for instance, if you have a bear that's too friendly, that can be really dangerous, and you don't want a bear coming up to your house and property and wanting to eat out of your hand. There is a fine line between making sure an animal is being taken care of when they're at the rehabilitation site, versus making them too friendly. So they do have to follow a lot of guidelines and they try really hard, but sometimes it just happens. Some animals are more prone to it than others. One of the animals we have here at the museum that came from that situation is our blue jay, Cobalt. He's actually one of my favorites. He's got so much personality and has a lot of fun. There was a good samaritan that found him as a fledgling and picked him up to care for him because they thought he was injured and sick. So they brought him into their home, cared for him until he was ready to fly off on his own. When they tried releasing him, he wouldn't leave. So they brought him to a rehabilitator who tried to re-wild and it didn't take. Tthey couldn't get him to stop landing on people's heads and sitting on their shoulders. And they decided that he was non-releasable due to that fact. He would just get himself into trouble, if you want to hang around people that much. He came from Florida. So he is a Florida blue jay, and they are slightly different than the ones you would see here. They're a little bit smaller, they're a little bit darker in color with the gray, but they still act the same. They're still a corvid, which is in relation to crows and ravens. So they are super smart. And he's just a lot of fun. We're super excited to have him here with us. He's a great ambassador for showing what's in your backyard, local species that you'll see and just the smarts that he has are really exciting.
ERIC: Yeah, I'vehave started training with him and bringing him out in the exhibit halls. And that's kind of what I wanted to ask you about today to get more of his origin story. But yeah, he's awesome. People love to see an animal up close that they have in their neighborhood, but haven't seen, you know, a foot away. And people have had great questions, and so it's just kind of interesting to see that he wasn't a rescue in terms of: he had a broken wing like some of our other animals. He actually was, you know, someone picked him up and thought that he was in distress. But it turns out it wasn't. So that leaves us to what we often say, which is: leave rescuing to the experts. If someone does see an animal that they think is in distress or possibly injured, what should they do?
STACY: Yeah, the best course of action is to leave the animal alone, you can monitor from afar, especially with birds. When they are that fledgling age, they often leave the nest and you'll find them down on the ground, the parents do still come back and care for them. At that point, though, the parents are also trying to teach them to fly and hunt on their own. So they'll often leave them for hours at a time, and then come back and they're like, okay, well, I'll feed you this once, but okay, now come out and fly on your own. We get it a lot with birds, especially you see the fledgeling down on the ground. And they do look a little pitiful, their feathers aren't fully grown in yet. They're just kind of hunkered down. So it does look a little bit miserable. But the course of action is always to leave an animal where you see it, monitor, look up a local rehabilitator in your area. There's lots of different sites out there that you can reference that for. And you can always call them and ask them. Fish and Wildlife Service is another great choice that you could call and ask them, they would often recommend local rehabilitator as well. Another animal that you'll hear about a lot are fawns, baby deer, because they do get tucked while their mom goes out and forages, and they get left pretty much all day. So a lot of times people will come across a baby deer thinking it's been abandoned.
ERIC: They just think that this baby deer needs help, when really that's just what baby deer do.
STACY: Yeah, that's part of their camouflage, why they have spots, is because it helps them blend into the sunlight that trickles through the trees. A lot of babies get left when their parents are out hunting. And that's completely normal.
ERIC: So always look it up call first, monitor if something's in your backyard or along a trail near your house, but unless someone who's an expert tells you so, don't actually intervene yourself.
STACY: Exactly. That's always the best course of action.
ERIC: So another new animal that we have up in our garden walk is our chameleon, which was a sort of rescue. So can you talk a little bit about that?
STACY: Yeah, she's our veiled chameleon Pascal. And she's been here about a month and a half, two months now. And she was actually a former pet that was dropped off at a local pet store. And she was put up for adoption. One of our keepers happens to work for the pet store, thought she'd be a great fit for us. We talked about it and that she would work really well for our messaging upstairs. She likes to be in the rain forest, and it kind of fits in with our Insect Zoo that's upstairs. And she's doing great. She's grown a lot since she's been in our care. She was underweight, she had a lot of stress coloration, and now she's really bright and vibrant and moving around. So so far, she's doing great.
ERIC: Yeah, it's been really awesome to go up and see. I've always wanted us to have a chameleon and to be able to see one in person has been so cool.
STACY: Yeah, chameleons are pretty popular. She's really cute. But we also get a lot of our animals through adoptions as well. Our hedgehogs are another great example of that. They've been former pets as well dropped off because people realize how difficult they are. They're nocturnal, so they're not really fun to hang out with during the day because they like to be active at night. And they also are extremely messy. A lot of people don't realize how messy they are until they have them. And they're a little stinky as well. So it's always good to do your research. Before you get an animal, even if you think it's going to be easy and super cute. Always do your research before you pick an animal for yourself.
ERIC: Making good pet choices. Something we always really stress. Yes. And do we have any confiscations? Now I know in the past, we've had some animals that were taken away from people because they weren't supposed to have them at places like airports. Do we still have any of those?
STACY: Yes, we do have several confiscations from the past. We haven't had anything recently, but the confiscations come from Fish and Wildlife Service. And often it's because people are either in a hoarding situation or they have animals that they're not regulated to have. That's another reason to make good pet choices, to make sure that you're actually allowed to have them in your state and that you're following all the regulations that you should have. But a lot of reptiles come from confiscations, there's a lot of different snakes and lizards and that sort of thing that come from those. And we do have some of those in our collection now from years past. We enjoy getting those animals not because of the situation, but because we know we can give them a really good quality life once they're in our care. So Fish and Wildlife does work with AZA facilities to place them in really good homes to make sure that they're being well cared for in a facility that has the licenses to do that.
ERIC: And I know we've talked about it in a previous episode about our tamarins, but we also have through the AZA, some programs to kind of further some species and their survivability.
STACY: Yeah, so we have what's called an SSP program, which is a species survival plan. And what that is, it's a species of animals that gets monitored genetically through one person and they monitor who would be good mates with who. So they look at the genetics that are in that line and they make recommendations. Sometimes it's for breeding, but other times, like our pair, it's for companionship. Tamarins are a very social species and you need to make sure that you're meeting that for them. So we have Darwin and Jane upstairs together now, and they are a companion pair so they're not breeding. And they do really well together, we see them allogrooming and caring for each other and licking and talking all the time. So they're a great companion pair.
ERIC: Alright, Stacy, thanks so much for telling us all about the ways our animals arrive at the museum.
STACY: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
ERIC: You can get an up-close look at our animal residents, and the staff that takes care of them, by visiting our Live Animal Center viewing window in the Red Wing of the Museum of Science. And for a behind the scenes look from home, check out our Sparks of Science video series . Until next time, keep asking questions.
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