The Museum’s Animal Ambassadors

What would you expect to see at the Delaware Museum of Natural History? What about a live ball python or sun conure?

Many visitors to DMNH are surprised to see live animals in a natural history museum, but they are there for an important reason. Encounters with live animals are valuable learning opportunities for children and adults. That’s why the animals are called Animal Ambassadors. They are ambassadors for their species and can help people connect with all live animals, resulting in a desire to protect these incredible animals and their homes. ​

Angelina

Arrival at DMNH: 2011
Species: Ball Python
Native Range: Western Africa
Lifespan: 20-30 years in captivity
Diet: carnivorous—small rats

Ball pythons are said to have gentle temperaments and generally very shy.

Ball pythons are ambush predators; they pick a spot with high prey traffic and wait for food to walk by.

Kanga

Arrival at DMNH: 2017
Species: Bearded Dragon
Native Range: scrublands, deserts, open woodlands of Australia
Diet: omnivorous—insects, fruits, vegetables
Lifespan: 8-14 years in captivity

Individual Fun Facts:
Kanga loves to walk around the Education Department.

Bearded dragons have relatively good vision, but since their eyes are on the sides of their heads, their depth perception is poor. They also have a “third eye,” the parietal eye, on top of their head that helps detect light and dark.

Lady Gaga

Arrival at DMNH: 2019
Species: Common boa constrictor
Native Range: rainforests, scrublands, tropical deserts, agricultural areas of South America
Diet: carnivorous—rats at the Museum, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds in the wild
Lifespan: up to 30 years

Lady Gaga was named so because of another boa we had staying at the Museum, Katy Perry. Lady Gaga may grow up to be 10 feet or longer!

Female boas grow to be 1-3 feet longer than males. Boa constrictors are ambush predators—they lie in wait and spring on an animal when it’s in the right position. Boa constrictors are generally more arboreal when they are young, and more terrestrial as they age. Boas, and all other snakes, are always growing, which is why they shed their skin. Their growth slows as they get older, however.

Mango and Tango

Arrival at DMNH: January 2020
Species: Crested Gecko
Age: Mango: 2 years, Tango: 1.5 years
Native Range: forests of Southern New Caledonia
Diet: frugivorous
Lifespan: 15-20 years in captivity

Crested geckos do not have eyelids and must use their long tongues to moisten their eyes and remove debris.

Molly

Arrival at DMNH: 2012
Species: Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula
Native Range: Deserts and scrublands of Chile, Bolivia, Argentina
Diet: carnivorous—eats small arthropods
Lifespan: females: up to 25 years; males: 5-8 years

Rose-haired tarantulas are not able to digest solid food. To digest its prey, it vomits a mixture of digestive enzymes to break down the tissue into a liquid that can then be sucked up through the spider’s mouth.

Maizey Grace

Arrival at DMNH: 2015
Species: Corn Snake
Native Range: Eastern United States
Diet: carnivorous; eats mice
Lifespan: 15-25 years in captivity

Their name comes from the fact they hunt for mice in cornfields and barns where corn is stored or from the similarity of the markings on their belly to the checkered pattern of maize or Indian corn.

Yoshi

Arrival at DMNH: 2019
Species: Leopard Gecko
Native Range: Afghanistan, northwestern India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq
Diet: insectivorous
Lifespan: 15-20 years

Unlike other gecko species, leopard geckos have small claws instead of adhesive toe pads, which prevent them from climbing vertically. However, their claws give extra traction on the ground and are helpful in digging.

Lucky

Arrival at DMNH: 2011
Species: Painted Turtle
Native Range: North America
Diet: omnivorous—plants and insects, crayfish, small fish
Lifespan: up to 40 years

During the day they will bask in the sun, sometimes as many as 50 on one log, stacked on top of one another. Painted turtles will hibernate in the winter months by burrowing into the mud and allowing their bodies to become very cold.

Moto

Arrival at DMNH: 2017
Species: Red Saharan Uromastyx
Native Range: rocky deserts of northern Africa
Diet: omnivorous—seeds, plants, insects
Lifespan: up to 30 years

Moto was purchased with a grant from the Wilmington Flower Market. Moto loves lima beans!

Uromastyx, or spiny-tailed lizards, are named for their tails, which are lined with rings of spikes. A threatened uro will perform a “tail-whip.” Uromastyx do not need to drink water. Their diet of juicy plants and bugs gives them all the water they need to survive in arid environments. In order to conserve water in their bodies, these lizards will excrete salt through a gland in their nose instead of through excrement.

Holly

Species: Russian Tortoise
Native Range: scrublands of Southeastern Russia and into Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
Arrival at DMNH: 2017
Diet: herbivorous
Lifespan: 50+ years

To survive harsh winters, they will stay burrowed underground for up to 9 months of each year. Tortoises hibernate during the winter and estivate (a period of dormancy) during hot summers. Tortoises in general are avid burrowers and can dig large burrows around 2 meters long.

The Sun Conures

Arrival at DMNH: 2018
Species: Sun Conures
Native Range: forests of Brazil
Diet: herbivorous
Lifespan: up to 35 years

Sun conures are social creatures that live in large flocks. When they are juveniles, sun conures have mostly green plumage. As they grow and molt, their feathers become orange and yellow as well. Sun conures are endangered in the wild due to the high demand for the birds in the pet trade. They are taken from the wild and sold around the word, reducing their wild population.

Sheldon

Arrival at DMNH: 2012
Species: Three-Toed Box Turtle
Native Range: Midwest United States
Diet: omnivorous—weeds, berries, insects, worms
Lifespan: 40-50 years

When frightened, they close their head, feet, and tail inside their shell using a “hinge” on the bottom shell.

Cowboy

Arrival at DMNH: 2019
Species: Western Hognose snake
Native Range: grasslands, prairies in Midwest US to northern Mexico
Diet: carnivorous—mice at the Museum, mainly toads and other amphibians in the wild
Lifespan: up to 20 years

These snakes use many tactics to scare off predators, including flattening out their neck to look bigger and hissing, and playing dead by rolling over, contorting, and even regurgitating or defecating to make them extra unappetizing.