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Rainforests of the World 

August 22, 2010

A day in the life of an aviculturist

Staff biologist Vikki gives us a glimpse of how we manage the passerine (perching bird) collection in our Rainforest Dome. What is especially interesting is at minute 3:30 when she places out the nectar feeders. In the background you can hear the macaws screeching their morning ritual.


Video by: Amie Wong

Filed under: Birds — rainforest1 @ 9:43 am

August 15, 2010

Meet our rainforest mammals!

Welcome to our first blog post about a mammal (other than people, of course)! There are currently two mammal species housed at the California Academy of Sciences- northern tree shrews, Tupaia belangeri , in the Extreme Mammals exhibit, and our resident bat species, the Lesser Dog-Faced Fruit Bats Cynopterus brachyotis.

Upon entering the Rainforest here at the Academy, there are a series of cave exhibits located immediately on your left side. These are part of the Borneo level. Many visitors are so excited to see the birds and the butterflies of the rainforest they miss these unique and exciting Borneo exhibits. In the first and largest cave exhibit are housed ten female bats.

Bat Group

Photo by: Pamela Schaller

These bats are banded on their left forearm, allowing the staff to keep track of them as individuals. We keep the bats on a reverse photoperiod so they are active while you are visiting. Some of the bats can be seen hanging from their small feet either along the ceiling or on the branches. Their feet are normally held closed so the bat has to physically open the foot to release their hold. This allows them to rest while hanging upside down.

Mr. Bat

Photo by: Pamela Schaller

The bats can also seen flying around or feeding from the fruit kabobs hanging around the exhibit. They are a small species weighing only 28-38 grams. In the wild they are found in rain forests, feeding on fruit, nectar and pollen. These bats are well adapted for vision, as they use sight to locate food. In this photo you can see the bat named “Heather” and her large, well-developed eyes.

Ms. Heather

Photo by: Pamela Schaller

When the lights are bright at nighttime, they roost together in groups of 3 to 5.
Bats Roosting

Photo by: Pamela Schaller

Look for a future bat post where we will share with you where our bats came from and their contribution to studies of mammal physiology and flight.

Filed under: Uncategorized — rainforest1 @ 12:24 pm

August 4, 2010

SCUBA Diving in an Indoor Flooded Forest

flooded forest diver

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Despite the best efforts of our algae-munching Giant South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa) and other fish, the Amazon Flooded Forest windows still need to be cleaned manually to keep them algae-free. Our team of experienced staff and volunteer SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) divers give the Academy’s Amazon tank a nice scrub-down about three days per week. This usually takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, although the time of day varies. One or two divers will enter the tank and clean, while another diver serves as a “Dive Tender.” This person monitors the entire process from the surface, ensuring the safety of those in the water.

Here is a brief video of one of our SCUBA divers entering the Amazon Flooded Forest and cleaning the tunnel:


Video by: Rachael Tom

In addition to wiping down the tunnel, divers also scrub the back windows near the elevators and occasionally the “fallen tree” which lies in the middle of the exhibit. Each dive lasts approximately 30 minutes to an hour. It takes quite a bit of elbow grease, but we think the end result is worth it:

flooded forest

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Below is a picture of the gear our divers use when cleaning the Amazon Flooded Forest. These items help our divers see and breathe underwater, and maintain neutral buoyancy so they are not constantly floating or sinking during their dive.

dive gear

Photo by: Rachael Tom

When all the gear is put on, it looks something like this:
dive gear

Photo by: Rachael Tom

In addition to dive gear, communication between divers is also very important. Because SCUBA divers cannot talk underwater, they communicate with hand signals and other body language. You may have observed our divers in the past give the “okay” sign with their hands to let each other know that the dive is going well. As a visitor, you can also communicate with our divers through the glass. They always appreciate a wave to say “Hello!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — rainforest @ 12:40 pm

The Rainforest Team


Academy biologists share the inside scoop on the Academy's 'Rainforest of the World' exhibit.

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