Live Animals of HMNS Thrive During Social Distancing


April 9, 2020
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These days the Houston Museum of Natural Science is a quiet place. The field trippers are all at home, the teachers, too. The grand hall has an eerie stillness. Luke Jerram’s Moon hangs lonely in the Glassell Hall. The paleo lab is closed. The pendulum is still swinging, by the way, but no one is there to see the pegs fall down. 

Most of our staff is busy working from home, continuing to push out content for families to enjoy together. But fear not, our outreach staff is still hard at work making sure the wildlife at HMNS is living in the lap of luxury at 5555 Hermann Drive and out at our Sugar Land location.

Charro, the museum’s mascot and resident greeter inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center, is being doted on by his caretaker. His younger counterpart, Nacho, is roaming in his own habitat behind closed doors. Life goes on for the butterflies, albeit they are probably wondering where everyone is these days.

The various reptiles that our live animal program manager Christine Battan rears are snuggled under warming lamps, taking a rest from trips to area schools and meeting fawning fans. Instead of being the stars of the show for adoring kids, they are mostly taking naps.

Quarantine life for them isn’t much different than some of us in our own homes, except they aren’t eating their weight in Oreos.

“The animal alcove critters are also enjoying this quiet time within the museum,” Battan says. “Someone comes around daily to spoil all of our critters be they slimy, scaly, leggy, furred and feathered.”

Green Cheek Conures of the HMNS alcove

According to Battan, the live residents of the popular ‘Death By Natural Causes’ exhibition are getting adjusted to a less-hectic museum.

“Even the animals have noticed how quiet it has been and they have been more active lately without a stream of predators parading by,” Battan laughs.

Out at our Sugar Land campus, the frogs and toads are being spoiled daily and their appetite has increased with the warmer temperatures and quiet they are getting.

HMNS horticulturist Theresa Lancaster assures us that all is well inside the CBC’s glass menagerie.

“There are two CBC staff members that come in each day to care for the plants, butterflies, reptiles, and our insect zoo,” says Lancaster. “We feed them fresh fruits and veggies each morning, clean out their enclosures and give them fresh water.”

Charro with a tiny winged friend

Our hero Charro has free range of the butterfly center.

“Charro’s area is permanently open and he has free range of the entire butterfly center, so he’s definitely getting his steps in,” Lancaster laughs.

Even though the butterflies and wildlife are probably missing the added excitement in the CBC, they are living their lives as usual.

“They are probably really enjoying how quiet and peaceful it is around the CBC right now,” Lancaster says.

The butterflies, Lancaster notes, are thriving.

“The butterflies are living longer lives because of the lack of foot traffic and curious hands. Their fruit plates, sugar water and other feeding stations are replaced and topped off each day,” Lancaster says. “The butterflies have been living under USDA containment, which is basically quarantine, within the CBC for their entire life so it’s business as usual for them.”

All that’s missing is all of you guys. We hope to see you soon. 

Though our physical doors are closed, our virtual doors remain open. Finding ways to creatively bring science to you is our highest priority. Your contributions matter today more than ever, as we strive to ensure that the museum is ready and able to welcome you back. Please GIVE TODAY to help support our mission of science education.

Authored By Craig Hlavaty

Craig Hlavaty has been covering Houston pop-culture since 2006 at various outlets around the city. He is currently the social media manager at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and eats his tamales with ketchup.



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