Posts Tagged 'animal care'

DC Update: Animal Transports to National Aquarium, Baltimore

national aquarium animal expert update

The most common question we get about the closure of the National Aquarium, Washington, D.C. is “Where are all of the animals going?”.

Of the 2,500 animals that currently call our DC facility home, 1,700 will be transported to our Baltimore facility. The rest will be transported to other accredited aquariums and zoos.

The key to any successful animal move is exceptional planning and great communication between all team members. In fact, we started planning these moves as soon as the closure was announced. Everyone has a role in a big move like this, from husbandry staff to veterinarians.

Today marked the first of our transport trips, which included the move of 38 animals including a giant Pacific octopus, seven plumose anemones, a peacock wolf eel, rockfish and much more! However, on any given day in the next two months, we may be transporting 20 to 400 animals.

Every animal that moves out of the D.C. facility will receive a veterinary exam to confirm it is healthy enough for transport. In some cases, this might be a visual examination (looking at the animal in its habitat). Most fish and invertebrates get visual exams. In other cases, such as for sharks or reptiles, we may do a complete “hands-on” physical examination including evaluating radiographs (x-rays) and blood tests.

But how do you actually move fish? First, the keepers slowly coax the animals into transport nets and then quickly move them into their transport carriers. Fish can be moved in large plastic containers or placed into individual bags, depending on their size and the number of individual fish moving that day. Water from their exhibits is used to fill their transport carriers. During transport, staff monitors temperature and dissolved oxygen levels to ensure the parameters stay where we want them.

Animals coming to Baltimore will make a stop at our Animal Care Center (ACC) before being placed on exhibit. Here they will go through at least a two week observational period to ensure they remain healthy and are eating well. If we have health concerns about an animal post-move, it’s very easy to provide medical care at the ACC. Because the transport is so short and the animals are already acclimated to human care, we expect them to do well at the Animal Care Center and quickly move into our main facility!

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to transition our DC facility! 



Rescued Grey Seal, Ponyboy, Has Been Released!

Earlier today, National Aquarium Animal Rescue staff and volunteers released their 99th rehabilitated animal – a grey seal named Ponyboy!

national aquarium grey seal release

The release took place on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland and was open to the public! Below are some photos locals captured of Ponyboy’s release:

After coming to our Animal Care Center three months ago with a severe wound to his front flipper and a respiratory infection, Ponyboy was given a clean bill of health last week.

This is the second of three seals that our Animal Rescue team has rehabilitated this season. Another grey seal, is still currently undergoing treatment for a respiratory infection. After being stabilized at the Virginia Aquarium for about a month, he was transferred to the National Aquarium for long-term rehabilitation in late May.

In the coming weeks, our Animal Rescue team is excited to announce that they will be releasing their 100th rehabilitated animal!

Stay tuned for more details on this exciting milestone!

Animal Updates – March 1

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Batfish surgery

An orbiculate batfish currently being cared for at our Animal Care Center (ACC) is recovering nicely after being surgecially treated for a lump on his side.

The batfish is one of the many animals we have currently undergoing quarantine before being placed in our Blacktip Reef exhibit! As soon as staff noticed the small mass, they began doing a variety of diagnostic tests, including aspirations , cultures and ultrasounds to try and determine the cause.

Once the mass began to grow, the decision was made by animal health staff to remove it surgically.

batfish surgery

We’re happy to report that the fish did well throughout surgery and a 1.5 x 1.5 cm lump was identified and removed. The cyst was sent to our partners at John’s Hopkins to further investigate the cause. The batfish is being treated with pain medication and antibiotics and is has “recovered swimmingly!” After being housed alone for immediate recovery, he is now back with other fish and his scar is barely noticeable!


As you can imagine, surgery on such a fragile and small animal takes patience and precision! We’re lucky to have such a dedicated and talented team to provide the best care for our animals!

We’ll be sure to keep you updated on the condition of our batfish and be sure to tune in next week for another update! 

Animal Updates – May 18

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our WATERlog blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Dolphin Update

For the past several days, we have been monitoring our dolphin family following a health concern with Beau. We’re very happy to report that he’s doing much better today!

What first concerned us with Beau was a change in his appetite. To keep our dolphins healthy and happy, we feed them a specific amount of food every day. When they show a lack of interest in this food it is often the first sign of a problem or illness. Our animals’ wellbeing is our primary concern so when this happened, our staff and trainers immediately began to closely monitor Beau’s diet and vitals 24 hours a day. Although Beau was assist fed during this time, our staff continued to encourage him to eat on his own.

After a few days, Beau’s health concern started affecting others in our dolphin family. For a short time, Foster, our other male dolphin and Beau’s close buddy, started to mimic Beau’s symptoms. Aquarium staff has also become concerned with Jade and is watching her carefully.

Today, we’re happy to report significant improvements – Beau and Foster are both eating on their own. They are active, playful and their general demeanor has improved.

We want to thank everyone for their support and understanding during this time. Although we have no way of knowing the timeline of this situation, we look forward to a continued and speedy recovery.

About Beau
Name meaning:
Beau also means “Handsome”. This name was chosen to go with his mother Nani’s name, which means “Beautiful” in Hawaiian.
Sex: Male
Weight: 350 pounds
Birthday: June 27, 2005, at the National Aquarium
Family Tree: Son of Nani (dam) and Bob (sire)
How to Recognize: Guests can recognize Beau by his skinnier rostrum, consistent gray coloration of entire lower jaw and crooked teeth in lower jaw
Trainer’s Note: Beau is best buddies with Foster and is often playing with and chasing him.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

5 Tips for Caring for Pets and Reporting Mistreatment in Your Community

Properly caring for animals is a big responsibility. Unfortunately, a misunderstanding of the full responsibilities involved can lead to mistreatement; which is not a matter to be taken lightly.

This week, the local media reported on an investigation involving the unfortunate deaths of several animals in a Maryland home. The National Aquarium team is saddened by the loss of animal life and disappointed that an ex-employee may be involved. Though the Aquarium has no recent professional association with the individual, we are determined to keep our online community informed of this sad situation in our Maryland area.

We believe that there exists a human responsibility to care for and protect all creatures, great and small. The National Aquarium is committed to excellence in animal care and actively protecting species both at our venues and around the world. Our Marine Animal Rescue Program team has stepped forward to offer local authorities help to ensure the health and safety of any animals involved in this situation and in which it has the expertise to do so. That said, there are things that we can all do to help protect animals. Animal mistreatment is something that we can stop if we work together and do our part to care for animals properly.  

The following are some tips from our expert, Sue Hunter, director of Animal Programs, who has been working full time at the National Aquarium since 1987, on how to care for your pets and take action to help prevent animal mistreatment:

Tip 1: Only take in domestic animals.
Every animal has specific needs and keeping an animal is a big responsibility. If you have domestic animals such as dogs and cats, there are lots of veterinarians, trainers and stores that can help you with medical care, behavior and supplies/food for these animals. Domestic animals have been bred to interact with humans and we know a lot about them. Their care is not easier (they need all of the things mentioned above), but there are more resources for you to consult should you have questions or a problem. Exotic animals, on the other hand, have very specific needs, and there is not as big a support system to help you care for them. For example, parrots need constant attention, special food and warmth; reptiles need a specific temperature, humidity and food to thrive. In addition, some exotic animals are illegal to have. Check state and local ordinances to make sure that a pet is legal to own before taking it in.

Tip 2: Don’t take in too many pets.
Even well-meaning individuals can be quickly overwhelmed by taking in too many animals. Remember, each animal needs to be cleaned, fed, exercised, enriched and given attention every single day. By having a lot of animals, each individual animal inevitably gets less care as there are only so many hours in a day. This can leave animals confined in cages too long, not cleaned, without enough food or water or lonely and sad. Make sure that you have the time to provide all seven of the needs that animals have daily: clean quarters, food, water, attention, enrichment, exercise and proper housing (including temperature).

Tip 3: Make regular trips to a veterinarian.
Animals need to be seen by a veterinarian every year for a checkup and to receive necessary vaccinations. Also, if an animal displays lethargy, low appetite, low or high water intake, change in behavior or physical changes, this could be a sign of illness and requires an expert licensed veterinarian to diagnose the problem and provide treatment. If your animals show any of these signs, please get them to a veterinarian right away.

Tip 4: Educate yourself with animal cruelty information and keep an eye out for the mistreatment of animals in your community.
There are many signs to look for to identify animal abuse. Common physical signs of an animal that has been mistreated are open wounds, multiple healed wounds, emaciation, tick or flea infestation, extreme matted fur, eye or nose discharge, lethargy, confusion, drowsiness or bumpy, scaly skin rashes. Also look at the animal’s environment – are they kept outside in inclement weather with no shelter? Are they tied up alone outside without adequate food or water? Are they housed in kennels that are too small? Watching a person’s behavior around an animal is also important – does the person physically strike the animal or treat them very rough? Click here to see more tips on how to recognize cruelty.

People who keep large numbers of animals in their house or property in squalid conditions are commonly referred to as “collectors” or “hoarders.” Although many have good intentions, such as providing shelter to unwanted dogs and cats, often the inability to care for so many animals leads to abuse in the form of neglect. Authorities face the often-difficult task of confronting persons in complete denial of the conditions in which they and the animals live. As a further difficulty, authorities must conduct extensive follow-up work because each neglected animal must be examined, cared for and put up for adoption or, in some cases, put down. Click here to learn more about animal hoarding.

As with any criminal prosecution, animal cruelty must be reported and investigated with diligence and accuracy to ensure a conviction and help prevent future acts of cruelty by the offender or others. In most states, officers of the local Humane Society (humane officers) handle the investigation and gathering of information when a cruelty report occurs. Then an attorney employed by the state decides whether to prosecute the offender.

In Maryland, the Animal Services division of the local police department typically executes the investigation, citation and arrest of animal abusers. In addition, the Maryland statute deputizes officers of the Humane Society to perform arrests if they witness a misdemeanor act of animal cruelty, as per Section 10-609 of the Maryland Code. In Baltimore, the Maryland Code deputizes the Division of Animal Health of the Baltimore County Health Department instead of Humane Society officers. Source

Tip 5: Report potential animal cruelty to authorities.
Anyone can report animal cruelty. If you wish to report an act of animal cruelty, aid in the enforcement of anti-cruelty laws or simply have further questions about animal cruelty, do not hesitate to contact local law enforcement or your local office of the Humane Society, Animal Services or Animal Control. In an emergency, dial 911.

If you witness animal cruelty, call 911 immediately. Also report any cruelty or neglect to Animal Control at 311. Document what you have witnessed; a camera phone can help. If you suspect neglect, consider offering to help find a new home for the animal. If you are fearful of approaching the family, call the police or Animal Control. Baltimore-area resources, including animal control agencies, are listed below. Contact social services if you are concerned about other family members. In summary: Do something. There is a link between animal abuse and human abuse. Violence hurts everyone.

Here’s who to contact for more help on caring for your animals or reporting mistreatment:
Each county in Maryland has an animal control facility or local police. In an emergency, call 911. To report suspected abuse, call 311. Below are links to a few animal shelters and resources that can also help you:

To report abuse, individuals can call Baltimore County Animal Control at 410-887-5961.

Further resources:
Baltimore Humane Society 410-833-8848
BARCS Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter 410-396-4695

Central Maryland Animal Shelters:
Anne Arundel County Animal Control 410-222-8900 or fax 410-222-8915
Anne Arundel County SPCA 410-268-4388 or fax 410-268-8027
Baltimore City Animal Control 410-396-4694 or fax 410-396-7332
Baltimore County Animal Control 410-887-5961 or fax 410-817-4257
Baltimore County Humane Society 410-833-8848 or fax 410-833-9251
Carroll County Humane Society 410-848-4810 or fax 410-875-9736
Humane Society of Harford County 410-836-1090 or fax 410-877-3788
Howard County Animal Control 410-313-2780 or fax 410-313-2720
Howard County Animal Welfare 410-465-4350 or fax 410-480-4316

“The reason I work here and love the aquarium so much,” Sue added, “is due to the exemplary care that the animals receive. Animals come first here at the Aquarium. In fact, one of our values is excellence in animal care. Excellence means not only providing top-quality food, water and shelter, but also attending to their every need. We have a talented animal health staff with onsite veterinarians and technicians that ensure the health of the animals through regular physicals, as well as top-notch medical diagnosis and treatment. Animals also need lots of attention and their behavioral needs met, and for this, we have an extensive Biological Programs Department. Staff ensures that the animals have the ability to display natural behaviors, have lots of room to exercise in naturalistic habitats and are enriched in some way every single day. In my life at home, I strive to bring the Aquarium values to animals I care for by providing them with the best food, exercise, veterinary care, enrichment, training and attention every day! I hope that sharing these tips and values will inspire members of our community, too.”

We hope that this incident will serve as a reminder to our friends and neighbors to keep an eye out for mistreatment of animals and serve as advocates for animals whenever possible! We invite you to please post a comment below if you have any questions regarding animal care at home or here at the National Aquarium.

We’re expecting!

Chesapeake, one of the Aquarium\'s pregnant dolphins, has an ultrasound every month or so.The National Aquarium in Baltimore is proud to announce the pregnancy of two bottlenose dolphins! Chesapeake and Shiloh are both expected to give birth in August.

Director of Animal Health Leigh Clayton works closely with the Marine Mammal team to manage the well being of the dolphins at the Aquarium. Leigh and her staff utilize ultrasounds to confirm pregnancy in dolphins. Blood hormone values (specifically progesterone) are also measured routinely and are often the first indication that an animal may be pregnant.

An Aquarium staff member performs an ultrasound on a pregnant dolphin.However, progesterone levels also increase during ovulation and may remain elevated for weeks after a normal ovulation. In addition, pseudopregnancy is possible in dolphins and hormone levels may remain elevated as if the animal is pregnant, but no fetus is present. Ultrasound is the only way to reliably confirm pregnancy. The gestational sac can be visualized as early as 4 weeks after conception and fetal heartbeat and skeletal structures can be seen as early as 6 weeks, though in our setting these are more typically seen at 8 weeks. When a pregnancy is suspected, the veterinarians and trainers work together to obtain ultrasound exams on the animals every 1-2 weeks.

Please continue visiting WaterLog for the latest updates from the Marine Mammal team as the Aquarium prepares for the births of two calves!

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