A couple of weeks ago, Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore received a distressed email from a visitor. The letter described a visit to Pacific Science Center, including the Insect Village and the Animal Attraction area. It highlighted two areas that did not look up to expectations.
Ali, the new turtle, was looking dingy. His shell was discolored, and his cage had artificial plants and not much to do.
By coincidence, we got a second letter on the same day, from a frequent visitor, asking why we got rid of the naked mole-rats. The mole-rats are actually still here, but the guest was looking in their old location.
Below are excerpts from our replies to the two letters.
Regarding the naked mole-rats being moved (the recipient of this letter is an eight-year-old).
I love the naked mole-rats too. I help take care of them. They are still here at Pacific Science Center, but they have moved. Now they live in the Insect Village … We wanted to get them settled in before the noise, vibration and dust from the construction of Professor Wellbody’s Academy began. You can find a story about the move in our blog:
If you pick up one of our visitor guides, it now lists the naked mole rats as being in the insect village. But in reading your letter, you probably come here so often you don’t use the visitor guides much. So you would have missed that.
The animals love their new location, and we like it too. It is quieter and it’s easy for us to keep it nice and warm. People are actually a little closer to them than before, so you can get a better idea of what they are doing. I would love for you to come visit them again …
Regarding the stick insects and turtle:
You mention the stick insects first … The population in the exhibit has been gradually growing … food that used to last a week is not sufficient. At our staff meeting today, we decided to change their schedule to feed twice per week, and to supplement their primary food with more variety that will hold up better to having them climb on it.
Regarding the turtle … Ali the turtle was donated to our program with his shell already in the condition you saw. This is due to calcium deficiency, and in addition to changes in his diet, we have given him a full spectrum light bulb, as they need UV light to properly assimilate calcium. Our veterinarian is taking blood samples to see whether vitamin D supplements are also in order. [There will be a blog story about Ali soon. –ed]
Both visitors brought up important issues, and both needed to be answered. We really like hearing this kind of question from our visitors. It helps us see things from a new perspective, and lets us know what you think needs improving. We would so much rather communicate about your concerns rather than have you walk away unhappy. We never want a learning opportunity to be hindered by distress at an animal’s condition! If you have something you think we should know about, please feel free to write.
… We are gradually changing out his furnishings to give him more to do. Our summer intern is brainstorming enrichment items for him. I want his habitat to look natural, but I am even more interested in having it “feel” natural to him – that is to provide for his behavioral needs. My focus has been on giving him things to play with – he is a very playful turtle.