Friday, December 10, 2010

Meet Big Bertha

From the desk of Kelly Putnam, Aquarist

Stop by our current changing exhibit, Alien Attack: Target Everglades, to see our  Burmese Python, Big Bertha, aka B.B.. While she is 10 feet long and weighs in at about 70 pounds, Burmese pythons can reach lengths of 23 feet long or more, weigh up to 200–plus pounds and have a girth as big as a telephone pole. They are among the four largest snakes in the world, which also include the Green Anaconda, Reticulated Python, and African Rock Python.

In the wild, Burmese Pythons usually eat birds and small mammals, although sometimes they will eat other reptiles including snakes and lizards. Our Python, B.B., eats very large rats that are shipped to us frozen then thawed out and warmed up. Because she is such a large snake we only feed her every other week. She is most active at feeding time. As soon as she is offered the rat, she strikes and grabs hold, quickly coiling around it and squeezing just like she would if it were live prey. After she feels she has "killed" her rat she proceeds to swallow it whole.

Burmese pythons are native to the jungles and grassy areas in Southeast Asia. Now, however, they have become an invasive species throughout most of Florida, because they have escaped from or been released from captivity. Because Burmese pythons are so readily available in pet stores, they are a popular pet snake. Unfortunately many people do not do enough research and purchase a hatching Burmese python, not realizing that they grow an average of six inches a month or six-seven feet per year. So not only does their need for space quickly increase, so does the cost of feeding them. This is why so many pet owners have simply released their large snakes into the wild, not realizing that by doing so they are putting animals into an eco-system where they do not belong.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Archae: The thief in the aviary

This post comes from the desk of Vicki Churchman, Member and Volunteer Services Coordinator 

One thing about working at a non-profit, there is no such thing as regular hours. You work when needed. This particular weekend I was needed Sunday afternoon. I had come in to work to help with an event and Discovery Days. Discovery Days are our Sunday activities for elementary aged children. You can find more about them here: I enjoy occasionally coming in on the weekend and having an excuse not to be locked up in my office. I can get into the RiverQuarium and see and talk to our guests. Sometimes they teach me and sometimes I teach them.

This Sunday I decided to stop by the aviary. It is one of my favorite places! When the weather is nice, it is calming and the birds each have their own personalities. Normally, when I enter the aviary, I check my earrings and remove them if they are French wires – you will see why in just a moment. I forgot that day, however,  AND I was wearing a pair of handmade glass calla lilies on French wires. Amanda, our aviculturist, was busy feeding the birds and we chatted for a moment – the baby ducks were turning into adolescents and she had just returned from a trip to Pensacola to help with the birds that were affected by the Guld oil spill. We had lots to talk about!

Archae, our resident blu jay, flew down and landed on my wrist to investigate my pen. Archae was raised by a person from a young age and doesn’t know he is a blue jay. Either that or he doesn’t know people aren’t blue jays. I am not sure which it is. He likes shiny things - cell phones, pens and generally anything new. He is also a thief. I knew this. I have heard stories about his thievery. But I blithely chatted away with Amanda as Archea finished investigating my pen, hopped to my shoulder and pecked on my necklace. Suddenly Amanda’s eyes got big and she said ‘Vicki, he’s got your earring!’ as Archae flew away to his hiding place!

Sure enough, Archae had stealthily pulled my earring right out of my ear and flown away with it! He landed not far away and put it down and watched us. Amanda went after my earring, but he picked it up and flew to a new spot and again dropped the earring and watched Amanda, who hurried after him again. THIS time he flew to the other side of the aviary and sat on a low branch, dropping the earring just below the branch. This bird was taunting us! Amanda valiantly ran to the other side of the aviary and this time she scooped my earring up before Archae could grab it! VICTORY!! Archae was not at all happy with this turn of events and began scolding Amanda and me as we left the aviary. Nowadays I am even more vigilant about my jewelry when I enter the aviary. I swear Archae remembers me because the other day I took off a pair of earrings as I entered the aviary and he flew over and began trying to open my hand to steal my earrings!

Next time you visit the Cypress Pond Aviary, secure your jewelry, keychains and pens and say hello to Archae. He’s the Blue Jay looking for shiny things……