55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
94118
415.379.8000
Regular Hours:

Daily

9:30 am – 5:00 pm

Sunday

11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:

Tuesday

8:30 – 9:30 am

Sunday

10:00 – 11:00 am
Closures
Notices

The Academy will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Planetarium will be closed Sep. 22, 23, 24

Rainforests of the World 

October 3, 2012

Welcome Back to the Rainforest Blog – We have kept busy!

Electricians install new light fixtures from Skyrider

Welcome back to the Rainforest Blog.  We have taken a break from blogging while the Rainforest team has refreshed, reoriented and restructured itself.  As we return to the blog I thought I would share some of what we has kept us busy.  3 times a year the Rainforest exhibit closes for 2-3 days to allow us to ‘refresh’ the exhibit and take care of projects we can’t accomplish during the morning hours before the exhibit opens.  In mid-September the Rainforest closed for two days and  brought together the Rainforest Biologists along with Electricians, Engineeres, Operations staff, Exhibits staff and Custodial staff to work on a dizzying array of projects and maintenance.  Here are some of the projects we got done in just two short days:

New Perching for the Blue and Gold Macaws:

New perching for Macaws

Our two Blue and Gold Macaws got some new perching to keep them safely on the tree and give them some built in chew toys.

Refreshing Mist for Poison Darts:

New misting Poison Dart frogs 

Biologist Eric is extra pleased that Engineers were able to install a new misting system on the Poison Dart Frog exhibit.  The mist will keep humidity up which is critical for the frogs’ health and keeps the frogs visible and active during the day.

Busy Electricians:

Electricians were busy adding understory lighting to the second level of the Rainforest and installing  a mock up of a new design for overhead lighting. 

Electricians added new understory lighting

Lighting mock up

The new lighting when activated could dramatically reduce energy costs and improve light levels over the large trees to improve health.

Sky Riding

To access overhead lights, Electrician Ross used the Sky Rider – a two person cart that runs on a track at the top of the Bolla.

Refresh of a Costa Rica Planted Wall:

One of the Costa Rica planted walls was completely overhauled.  This in itself was a two day process requiring the support of several volunteers.

Planted wall before refresh

Above is a ‘before’ picture of the wall.

Removing old moss

First all the old plants and moss were removed.  Volunteer Celia separated old moss from living moss so living moss could be returned to the wall.

Clean slate

Here is a completely clean slate for the new wall.

Styrofoam Peanut Sausages

Next we installed recycled styrofoam peanuts wrapped in shade cloth into the wall to provide drainage.  Styrofoam peanuts will not break down as the moss does, will provide aeration and drainage and reduce the need for moss which is a nonrenewable resource.

Work in progress

Next new moss was packed into the wall as volunteer Lois demonstrates here.

Fresh new wall

Finally the new wall was planted with a variety of orchids, ferns and bromeliads representing a small piece of the vast diversity of epiphytes living in the canopy of the Costa Rican rainforest.

Painting and Deep Cleaning

Meanwhile… the Operations crew was busy touching up railing paint,

Repainting railings

cleaning exhibits,

cleaning exhibits

deep cleaning the gallery

More Deep Cleaning

and performing regular maintenance on the elevators.

Elevator Maintenance

All and all it was a busy couple of days.  I hope you all enjoy the results!

Thanks Eric Hupperts and Laurie Kormos for all photos in this blog posting.


Filed under: Herpetiles,Plants,Reptiles — Paphiopedilum @ 6:14 pm

May 5, 2011

First fruit on the Cacao Tree

Theobroma cacao with ripe fruit 

Photo by Kristen Natoli

Rainforest Biologists were very excited a few months back to discover a new fruit on the Cacao Tree (Theobroma cacao), the first fruit we have had on this tropical tree.  Originating in the Amazon headlands, Theobroma cacao is, of course, the source of one of our favorite foods, chocolate, which is made from the fermented and roasted seeds.

One of the most beautiful specimen plants in our collection, this tree has grown vigorously and flowered prolifically since it arrived but we were not sure we would ever see it fruit.

Lots of flowers on the Theobroma cacao trunk

Photo by Rachael Tom

 

Cacao trees typically don’t set fruit until they mature at about 5-10 years old.  Most Cacao trees are ‘self incompatible’ meaning they will recognize and reject their own pollen, preventing self pollination in order to maintain genetic diversity.   We were not sure our tree would ever fruit as it is the only plant of its kind in the exhibit.

Theobroma cacao single flower

Photo by Rachael Tom 

In the wild these trees are most often pollinated by midges in the Forcipomyia family.  As we do not have these insects in our exhibit our volunteer James has been patiently and diligently hand pollinating flowers each week.

Pollen collection from the Theobroma

Photo by Kristen Natoli

hand pollinating the Theobroma

Photo by Kristen Natoli

At last we have success.  Amazing to think these large 6-8″ long fruits are produced from one flower only 1/2” in size.  The Cacao Tree produces flowers right off the main trunk of the tree, an adaptation called cauliflory.  This adaptation, mainly seen in tropical trees, likely serves to hold the fruit closer to the ground where the seed disperser animals are most active.

fruit on Theobroma cacao

Photo by Rachael Tom

 

Besides being delicious the Theobroma cacao is a particularly pretty tree exhibiting many adaptations unique to the tropics.   The new growth on our specimen is a rich burgundy color from the concentration of anthocyanins in the leaf tissue.  This adaptation is likely a means of protecting tender new leaves from the intense tropical sunlight at canopy and deterring insect feeding. The lower leaves are broad and thin to maximize capture of the limited light penetrating the understory.  The smooth surface and vertical drape of the leaves ending in a pointed ‘drip tip’ help shed water during heavy rains.

New growth on Theobrom a cacao

Photo by Sarab Stewart

 

The seeds from our first fruit will be germinated to produce additional back up Theobroma plants as we are so pleased with how much the parent plant adds to the exhibit.


Filed under: Plants,Uncategorized — Paphiopedilum @ 6:07 pm

February 26, 2011

Rainforest Soil Check-up

The plants in the Rainforest are looking nice and healthy lately but it doesn’t hurt to do a check-up on the soil now and then to make sure.   Plants rely on healthy soils to provide them with water, nutrients, oxygen to produce more roots and structural support.  Taking a close look at the soil allows horticulturists to anticipate problems and head them off before they affect the plants.

Photo by: Sarab Stewart

Amazon Exhibit forest floor.

Biologists Sarab Stewart and Horticulture Intern Patrick Carter took some samples of the soil in the Rainforest and Mangroves this week to send to a local lab for analysis.  The lab will send information back about the levels of nutrients in the soil and the overall condition of the soil along with recommendations for improvements.

Photo by: Patrick Carter

Sarab collecting and bagging soil samples for the lab.

They use a use a soil probe to make sure the samples are deep enough to reflect the entire soil profile.   This is a good opportunity to look at soil moisture and see if we are watering correctly and check on the health of the roots systems.

Photo by: Patrick Carter

Collecting deep soil samples.

Photo by: Patrick Carter

Sarab uses the soil probe to check the soil moisture in the Costa Rica planters.

Healthy soils support lots life in addition to plant roots.  This earthworm is our main composter in this Costa Rica level planter.

Photo by: Patrick Carter

 
Earthworm peeking out of the soil sample from Costa Rica planters.

Kristen Natoli, Assistant Curator is also sending some leaf samples of some of the larger specimen trees to the lab.  This way we can compare nutrients in the leaves to that of the soil and make sure the plants are getting everything they need. 

Photo by: Patrick Carter

Kristen collects leaf samples from the Peach Palm (Bactris gasipaes).

Photo by: Patrick Carter

 
Kristen collects leaf samples from the Mahogany tree (Swietenia mahagoni) while Vikki McCloskey puts out food for the birds.

The lab results will help us make decisions about how we provide nutrients to the plants from the diversity of methods we currently use, everything from the natural waste from our free flying birds and butterflies, mulch from excess Leaf Cutter Ant fungus, worm compost, bat guano, water soluble fertilizers and just letting the fallen leaves naturally decompose in the planters.

Photo by: Sarab Stewart

 
Patrick Carter adds worm compost to the planters in the Madagascar exhibit.

All this to make the Rainforest flourish!

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Healthy Forest.


Filed under: Plants — rainforest @ 4:26 pm

February 12, 2011

Love is in the air (literally!) and on the rocks, and in the water….

So, for all the single ladies who:
• don’t like being inconvenienced by trite ‘pillow talk’ – take a page out of our  Ghost Mantid’s (Phyllocrania paradoxa) book and consume your partner post-amour.

mantid mating

Female mantids often eat males after copulation.

• are interested in guys from South America who can co-parent might want to meet our Turquoise Tanager (Tangara mexicana).

tt-3

Photo by Rachael Tom

Male tanagers help feed chicks and protect the nesting site.

• feel it’s always good to have a ‘spare’ might be interested in our Machete Savane snake (Chironius carinatus).

Photo by Brian Freiermuth

Photo by Brian Freiermuth

Snakes and lizards have a bi-lobed reproductive organ called the hemipene.

• don’t trust a guy with a wandering eye should avoid entanglements with our Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis).

sambava2

Photo by Rachael Tom

Chameleon eyes are mounted on turrets that can move independently of each other.

are suckers for sweet talk and don’t mind carrying extra baggage should visit our  Slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum transvaal).

BO02 Paphiopedilum transvaal

Photo by Rachael Tom

The slipper-shaped pouch traps insects so they are forced to climb out collecting and depositing pollen that fertilizes the flower.

try not to get involved with guys that just can’t let go should keep their distance from our Red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas).
redeyes

Photo by Brian Freiermuth

Amplexus is a form of pseudocopulation in which the male amphibian grasps the female with his front legs while fertilizing her eggs.

• prefer regurgitated fruit over a dozen roses might want to give our Blue and Gold macaw (Ara araruna) another look.

barney-1

Photo by Rachael Tom

Parrots exchange food via regurgitation as part of a courtship ritual before breeding.


Filed under: Birds,Butterflies,Fish,Herpetiles,Insects & Arachnids,Plants — Vikki McCloskey @ 1:52 pm

October 15, 2010

Pests in the Rainforest? Shocking!

But true… like any planted exhibit or landscape our Rainforest exhibit has its share of unwanted pests. Horticulture biologists have become very creative in figuring out ways to prevent these pests (mostly insects) from damaging our plants without causing harm to the other animals living in our forest like the butterflies, Amazon fish and birds.

Sara Longwing (Heliconius sara) on Senecio confusus flowers

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Amazon fish in the Flooded Forest Exhibit

Photo by: Sarab Stewart

Lucky for us the Rainforest isn’t just a collection of pretty plants, it’s also a complex living system that we can use to our advantage. Of course the best pest prevention is to grow healthy plants. Every day we give lots of attention to all our plants, big and small, to keep them as healthy as possible and catch health problems early on.

Dutchman's Pipevine (Aristolochia elegans)

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Masdevallia erinaceae, Costa Rica Exhibit

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Healthy plants are able to resist pests which reduces pest damage to the plants and slows down the growth of the pest population. When we see pests on the plants in our exhibit we first check to see what might be stressing the plant, making it susceptible to pests.

We also rely on the animals in the exhibit to help us out. We have naturally occurring spiders living in our forest that trap our pests and birds that will pick an insect snack off the plants now and then.

Bananquit cleaning Philodendron leaves

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Daddy Longlegs looking for insects under the Leafcutter Ant mound

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Of course we don’t want to use a lot of pesticide chemicals in the Rainforest that may harm our animals or our visitors so we rely on other strategies to control pests. What’s our favorite tool for pest control? WATER! Hosing pests off of plants is often as effective, if not more effective, than pesticides. Luckily we have volunteers to help us with the task.

Volunteer Mary Ann washes Scale off of Chamaedorea palms

Photo by: Kendra Hauser

In a real tropical rainforest, plants benefit from a diversity of naturally occurring predators and parasitoids that feed on insects in the forest and help keep them in check. We don’t have quite enough diversity of natural predators in our forest to manage our different pests so we have released our own beneficial insects to help keep pests under control.

Horticulturist Kristen releasing Minute Pirate bug onto Salvia coccinea plants

Photo by: Kendra Hauser

Two of our most common pests, scale and mealybug are successfully controlled by our beneficial insects. Scale is a tiny (~1/4″) insect that pierces the plant with a straw like mouth parts. We have controlled scale using a tiny, non-stinging, parasitic wasp. We can tell that the highly magnified scale in the photo below was parasitized because of the perfectly round exit hole where the adult wasp emerged.

Brown Soft Scale (Saissetia coffea) parasitized by wasp (Metaphycus spp)

Photo by: Emily Magnaghi

The mealybug in the photo below was parasitized too. The adult wasp popped the top off the mealybug when it emerged, like popping a lid off a can.

Mealybug (Planococcus citri) parasitized by parasitic wasp (Leptomastix dactylopi)

Photo by: Emily Magnaghi

Mealybug, also feeds on plant sap through its straw-like mouth parts and is under attack from a few predators in our rainforest. The pink/orange pupa to the right in the photo below is the midge Aphidioletes aphidmyza, which was released to control aphids and decided to expand its diet.

Mealybug (Planococcus citri) with predatory midge pupae (Aphidioletes aphidmyza)

Photo by: Emily Magnaghi

And… we release the well named ‘Mealybug destroyer’ beetle Cryptolaemus montrouzieri which feeds voraciously on this pest.

Horticulturist releasing Mealybug Destroyer beetles (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri)

Photo by: Kendra Hauser

Mealybug Destroyer beetle (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) hunting for Mealybugs

Photo by: Kendra Hauser

All in all, our goal is to have an attractive exhibit with healthy plants and animals. We don’t mind having a few pests around as long as they don’t get in the way!

Amazon exhibit in the Rainforests of the World Exhibit

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Insects & Arachnids,Plants — Paphiopedilum @ 4:00 pm

September 2, 2010

New frog species described in Borneo

The number of species yet to be formally described by science is truly amazing! In today’s world of ipods and jet travel, it’s hard to imagine this is true, but biodiversity hotspots, especially those in the tropics and around the equator, are loaded with species waiting to be described.

I was lucky enough to experience this first-hand when I visited Borneo earlier this year. While exploring the lowland rainforest in Sarawak, Malaysia, we found a patch of pitcher plants named Nepenthes ampullaria. It’s an unusual species in that it has evolved to trap leaf litter rather than trap insects like other species of Nepenthes. Not only is it terrestrial in habit, its lid is reduced in size and pulled back to allow leaf litter and other random organic debris to fall inside. Its unique growth form, with subsurface runners and offshoots, forms a dense mat of pitchers covering the forest floor. Check it out below:

tadpole homes

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

Even more cool is that when we peered inside there were tadpoles living in the water! Below is a photo of one of them…not the best shot but you’ll see a mosquito larvae on the left and a white tadpole on the right. If you look closely, you can even see some legs and its eyes!

tadpole

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

When we saw the tadpoles in March, our local naturalist mentioned the species was yet to be described formally. Exciting! Then last week a friend sent me an article that said they were now officially recorded by science. Scientists Indraneil Das (Universiti Malaysia- Sarawak) and Alexander Haas (University of Hamburg, Germany) named the species Microhyla nepenthicola, in honor of its pitcher plant home. They published their findings in Zootaxa, but you can read about it by clicking here. Science is cool. So is Borneo.


Filed under: Herpetiles,Plants — rainforest1 @ 10:52 am

June 23, 2010

Butterflies at CAS: Celebrating National Pollinator Week

HAPPY NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK! Four years ago the U.S. Senate dubbed the final week of June “National Pollinator Week” to bring attention to the issue of declining pollinator populations. Largely due to habitat loss, pollinators such as butterflies and bees have been dropping. Pollinators not only aid many plants in reproduction, but are also food for other animals. The world would be in a very sad state without them! This blog post is dedicated to sharing information about the butterflies here in our Rainforest dome, what the Academy is doing to support native pollinators and what YOU can do at home to celebrate National Pollinator Week to help preserve pollinators!

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Butterflies in the Rainforest Dome
To celebrate the importance of critical pollinators in all living habitats we are turning our attention to some of the loveliest pollinators in our Rainforest exhibit, the butterflies.  Our butterflies come to us all the way from beautiful Costa Rica. Cooperative butterfly farmers in Costa Rica have obtained special permits to allow them to rear native butterflies on their land. 

epiphytes

Photo by: Chris Andrews

epiphytes

Photo by: Meghan Schurfrieder

This program helps support local farmers and encourages them to protect pollinators and their critical host plants in the surrounding rainforest.  Farmers plant host plants on their land to feed caterpillars.  Once the caterpillars transform to pupae the farmers collect some to send to us. Here are some pictures of Costa Rica Entomological Supply staff displaying pupa collected from local farmers:

epiphytes

Photo by: Kristen Natoli

epiphytes

Photo by: Sarab Stewart

Pupa is the name we give that tricky stage when the caterpillar transforms into a beautiful winged butterfly.  This transformation takes place inside a protective casing called the chrysalis.  The chrysalis keeps the soon to emerge butterflies safe as they are shipped to the Academy each week.

Malachite (Siproeta stelenes) pupa:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Large Owlet (Opsiphanes tamarindi) pupa:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

At the Academy the pupae are carefully unpacked and placed in temperature / humidity controlled chambers.

epiphytes

Photo by: Sarab Stewart

Each morning biologists check the chambers for emerged adult which are then released into the Rainforest exhibit. Here is a picture of one of our biologists releasing butterflies for the morning:

epiphytes

Photo by: Kristen Natoli

 

By planting native flowering Costa Rican plants and providing various feeding stations throughout our Rainforest Dome, the butterflies here always have nectar and pollen sources.

Golden Helicon (Heliconius hecale) on flowering Hamealia petens:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Banded Orange Longwing (Dradula phaetusa) on flowering Salvia coccinea:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Magnificent Owl (Caligo atreus):
epiphytes

Photo by: Sarab Stewart

The butterflies do not reproduce in our exhibit.  We make sure to avoid planting any host plants for their caterpillars to prevent them from reproducing.  Our mini Rainforest is not big enough to accommodate voracious caterpillars munching their way to adulthood!

The Academy and Native Pollinators
In addition to supporting the butterflies on exhibit, the Academy also supports local pollinators in Golden Gate Park. Our Living Roof is home to nine species of native annuals and perennials.

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Although our Living Roof has only been in existence since 2008, a study by San Francisco State University biology students in 2009 showed that Bay Area native insects were already more prevalent on our roof than other areas in Golden Gate Park. Read all about the study HERE.

Our Business Entrance side (along Middle Drive) also has many Bay Area native plants that pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, flies and hummingbirds love!  Plants which include Lupinus spp., California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) are some of our local pollinators’ favorites!

Here is a picture of one of our many mini gardens along Middle Drive:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Check out the corbicula, or, “pollen basket” on the leg of this bumble bee at our garden!:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

What You Can Do
Whether it be in celebration of National Pollinator Week, or because you just love pollinators as much as we do, try planting some flowering Bay Area native plants in your backyard, sidewalk planters, balcony, or front lawn! Planting native species not only attract native wildlife but are also less maintenance compared to plants that are normally grown in different climates. Here are some of the plants that do well in areas of San Francisco:

Bees cannot resist lovely Seaside Buckwheat (Eriogonum latifolium):
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Hummingbirds adore Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus ):
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Not just an eye-pleaser, Ceanothus spp. are also loved by pollinators:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Be sure consider some of the following when choosing your plants:
How much sun/shade does your area have?
What kind of soil do you have?
How hot does your area get?
Pollinator Partnership is a great resource to get started.
With our help, pollinators will be here to stay! In the spirit of National Pollinator Week, meet our butterflies up close in the Rainforest Dome, and put some flowering native plants in the ground for the wonderful pollinators at home!


Filed under: Butterflies,Plants — Paphiopedilum @ 8:57 pm

June 17, 2010

It’s all about Epiphytes

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Epiphytes are amazing. They are prime examples of how adaptation leads to survival in an environment where plants are constantly competing for resources. Plants may not appear to be as active as other organisms, but there is a whole lot going on in their world!

Plants that attach themselves to a host plant (or other object) without parasitizing them are called epiphytes, or, “air plants.” Many orchids, ferns and bromeliads are epiphytes, and there are lots of them in our Rainforest Dome. Although there are countless reasons as to why epiphytes are amazing adaptors, here are my top three:

1. Awesome Design to take Advantage of Fewer Resources
Everything from an epiphyte’s roots to its flowers and fruits are specially designed to help it survive where resources such as water, light and nutrients are scarce. Rainforest canopies are dense with foliage, making it difficult for any new plants to obtain sunlight for photosynthesis. Because epiphytes have adapted to live on the branches of tall trees and vines, they are able to access sunlight that plants on lower levels of a rainforest canopy cannot.

Being able to live on other plants also requires specialized roots. Epiphytes have a strong, thick root system that not only allows them to grow on almost anything, but is extremely efficient in absorbing morning mist, rain and moisture from humidity. Unlike most plants that live in soil, epiphytes’ roots obtain nutrients from leaf litter and other debris that accumulate on the branches and vines they live on.

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

The stems and leaves of epiphytes are also modified. Bromeliads have stiff, upturned leaves that allow pools of water to be stored. Some species of bromeliads can hold up to 2 gallons of water! Other types of modified leaves include our Staghorn fern (Platycerium madagascariense). It has very thick and waxy leaves to retain moisture. Many epiphytes’ stems share similar characteristics.

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

2. Clever and Successful Reproduction Strategies
With so many awesome adaptations, the best part about survival for an organism like an epiphyte is to reproduce! There are so many other plants in a rainforest that getting a pollinator to take notice is a feat in itself. The solution? Get a pollinator’s attention! Take a look at some of the amazing blooms the epiphytes in our Rainforest Dome have produced over the past year:

Masdevallia erinaceae:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Epidendrum piliferum:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Bulbophyllum blumei:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

These pictures were taken just days ago of two Brassia species:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

So… did those flowers get YOUR attention? Epiphytes put large amounts of energy into producing breath-taking blooms, fruit, perfume and nectar to lure pollinators. When pollination is successful, many epiphytes produce mass numbers of seeds that can be transported by wind.

3. Relationships with surrounding organisms
The characteristics of epiphytes allow them to play many roles in their environment. Epiphyte pollinators such as insects, birds and other small animals use epiphytes as a food source. In our Rainforest Dome, our Bananaquits (Coereba flaveola) are constantly checking flowering plants for nectar:

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Dead flowers, twigs and leaf litter that accumulate on the roots of epiphytes are a source of nesting material for many of our birds as well. Here is a picture of one of our Saffron Finches (Sicalis flaveola) collecting materials from an epiphyte:

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

In fact, past Rainforest Blog posts have been about this very topic! In Dec. ’09, our second Rainforest Blog post featured our Euphonia (Euphonia violacea) pair nesting in an epiphyte. In March ’10, our blog post described the role of bromeliads in the reproduction of strawberry dart frogs (Oophaga pumilio). Epiphyte adaptation strategies have led to surrounding organisms adapting to live amongst them, bringing coexistence and interdependence around full circle.

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Whether you’re admiring an orchid in a store window or all of the epiphytes in our Rainforest Dome, we hope you love and appreciate them as much as we do! They are truly amazing adaptors!


Filed under: Plants — rainforest @ 2:29 pm

May 6, 2010

Meet Fred & a few other happenings

One of the great joys of working in the rainforest exhibit here at the Academy is there are some really neat species plus there are always new things happening.

I’d like to introduce Fred, our bird’s nest Anthurium (Anthurium spp). Anthuriums are a wide-spread neotropical genera that have adapted to lots of niches, from epiphytic to terrestrial. There are some Anthuriums that are common in the horticulture industry. Fred is one of my favorite plant specimens in our exhibit, due to its unique structure and size. Fred is in a planter on the Costa Rica level (3rd floor) of the rainforest…come check it out on your next visit!

Fred the Anthurium

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Fred II

Photo by: Rachael Tom

We have two new additions to our bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) population. One of our two pairs has recently fledged two offspring. After an incubation of about two weeks and another two weeks in their nest before they flew out, the little birds are now exploring their environment. Check out this great photo of one of the parents (on the left) feeding a fledgling.

bananaquits

Photo by: Rachael Tom

We also have an opal-rumped tanager (Tangara velia) incubating two eggs on her nest. Opal-rumped tanagers are one of the twelve species of passerine birds we have in our rainforest here at the Academy. Here she is sitting on her nest…she should be sitting tight for another 10 days.

opal rump

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Birds,Plants — rainforest1 @ 2:59 pm

April 11, 2010

Borneo or bust!

Those of us that work with animals and plants on a daily basis often take our vacations where we can see even more animals and plants! Recently I had the opportunity to travel to one of the regions exhibited in our rainforest here at the Academy- the island of Borneo. There I witnessed first hand the world’s oldest tropical forests and the island’s amazing biodiversity. Below is a photo of Mulu National Park.

Mulu National Park, Sarawak

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

Borneo is the world’s third largest island and is divided politically between Indonesia (73%), Malaysia (26%), and Brunei (1%). We explored the Malaysian sections of the island. First, I met my friends in Singapore where we spent some time adjusting to the 13 hour time difference. From there we traveled to Kuching, Sarawak state, then made our way east across the island, ending in Danum Valley, Sabah state. Below is one of the emergent trees in Danum Valley.

big tree, Danum Valley, Sabah

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

We were led by talented author Eric Hansen, along with biologist Ch’ien Lee, and botanist Anthony Lamb. Borneo has a rich history and great cultural diversity in addition to its unique ecology. And we saw some pretty cool stuff…including this pitcher plant Nepenthes bicalcarata . We have the same species growing in our rainforest here at the Academy- look for them growing on the wall on the Borneo level.

Nepenthes bicalcarata, Sarawak

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

Borneo has some pretty fascinating insects, including this rhinocerous beetle and millipede:
giant beetle, Danum Valley, Sabah

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

big millipede, Sarawak

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

At one point we found a Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra that had flown into glass and stunned itself. We gave it some fluids and a quiet spot in the shade to recover. Spiderhunters are the Bornean equilvalent of the honeycreepers Cyanerpes spp that can be seen in the neotropics and in our rainforest exhibit.

Little Spiderhunter, Sabah

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

We even found a land planaria, sometimes called hammerhead leech. Remember those planaria from 7th grade biology class? This is what they look like in Borneo!!
land planaria, Sarawak

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

And of course, no trip to the tropics would be complete without some sort of habituated monkey that’s causing trouble. In this case, long-tailed macaques Macaca fascicularis, sometimes called crab-eating macaques, were the smart ones that kept an eye on unattended bags, waiting for the chance to thieve some treats.
long-tailed macaque, Bako National Park, Sarawak

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

The reality is that most of what we saw was in protected areas such as national parks or conservation areas. Land that is not protected is being “developed,” mostly into oil palm plantations. It is a very complex issue compounded by the fact that Borneo has some very unique and charismatic species along with the need to provide jobs and infastructure for its people.

Monocultures of oil palm have extremely reduced species diversity (12 bird species compared to 220+ in lowland primary forest). Palm oil is used in a variety of products, from processed foods to soaps and shampoos. The effect of oil palm plantations on habitat in Borneo is one we as consumers can shape, by using our purchasing power to support sustainably grown palm oil.

For more info, check out fellow AZA member Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s palm oil resource site or GreenPalm, a certification program designed to address the social and environmental issues surrounding palm oil production.

bird's nest fern, Sabah

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

Filed under: Herpetiles,Insects & Arachnids,Plants — rainforest1 @ 1:01 pm
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