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Animal Ambassadors

Tenafly Nature Center cares for 30+ animals that, due to a variety of reasons, cannot be released into the wild. Instead these animals act as ambassadors for their species and help our staff educate thousands of adults and children about the adaptations and needs of local wildlife and the importance of protecting their habitats.

You can help TNC care for these amazing individuals by participating in our sponsor a species program.

Sponsoring an animal at Tenafly Nature Center for yourself, a friend, or your organization is both rewarding and fun. Your sponsorship will help care for them by aiding in the cost of their upkeep! Contributions assist TNC by providing support for their food, building and improving enclosures, and securing necessary medical care.

What better way to share your love of animals than to help ours receive the best care possible! Please consider making a donation next time you visit TNC.

Come visit them anytime the Visitor Center is open!



Our newest ambassadors are three brothers who were adopted by TNC in May 2019. Known for having larger ears, these Dumbo Rats needed a home and we were happy to give them one after our previous rat ambassadors had passed. They will spend their life educating others about rat misconceptions as well as their adaptations. 

Rats are extremely social and affectionate animals. Pet rats live about 3 years and enjoy the company of other rats and domestic rats love being with humans too. Contrary to what some people may think, rats are extremely clean animals, spending several hours every day grooming themselves and have almost no odor. They are less likely than cats or dogs to catch and transmit parasites and viruses. Rats take care of injured and sick rats in their group and without companionship rats tend to become lonely and depressed. Rats are also very good climbers and are much more intelligent than hamsters, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, or rabbits. 

Pet rats can learn to perform tricks and to come when called and have excellent memories. Rats make happy “laughter” sounds when they play and when they are happy, rats have been observed to chatter or grind their teeth. This is often accompanied by vibrating eyes. Rats’ tails help them to balance, communicate and regulate their body temperature. Rats have sharp teeth that constantly grow and chew on wood to keep the teeth short and sharp. Although very curious animals, rats are also shy, and prefer to run away than confront a potential threat.

In the fall of 2006, Ruby was found tangled up in a tree on Long Island close to power lines. They found a string twisted around her left wing, an injured left eye, and red nail polish on her beak, legs, and feet. 

Ruby was taken to a wildlife rehabilitator who guessed she had been stolen from the wild as a nestling. The rehabilitator was able to remove the string and most of the red nail polish but her eye injury was permanent. Ruby's eye injury prevents her from seeing well enough to fly or hunt. Since she would not survive life in the wild, TNC volunteered to provide her with a new home and care for the rest of her life. Nine months later, her red tail feathers began to grow as she turned two years old. Ruby is now a healthy adult hawk. In 2016 Ruby celebrated her 10 year anniversary with TNC! She has been happy and healthy and continues to be used to educate adults and children.

Mitzi was found with an injured wing along a road in Pennsylvania. Most likely Mitzi was scavenging road kill when the force of the wind from a passing vehicle caused this light bird (owls' bones are hollow) to be lifted up and dropped too quickly to react in a safe way. A wildlife rehabilitator treated its injured wing, which did not heal well enough to allow the owl to hunt and survive in the wild. Mitzi came to TNC in 2003. For birds like Mitzi, found as adults, we cannot estimate age or sex. 

Mene, also a rescue bird with a permanently damaged wing as a result of a car injury, joined TNC in April 2013 after several months with a rehabilitator. Mene blinks his right eye more often than his left which suggests head trauma. The two owls share a cage in TNC's outdoor aviary.


Romeo was found at the TNC cul-de-sac when someone had released him back into the wild after keeping him as a pet.* It was early March 2010 and temperatures were too cold for a bullfrog. Romeo can easily be identified as a male by the circles behind his eyes which are called "tympanic membrane" The males will have a larger tympanic membrane than the eye and the females are about the same size or smaller than the eye. American bullfrogs produce a toxin in their skin making them an extremely unpleasant taste.

*A captive frog should never be released into the wild. The frog may be a non-native species that could establish a population in your neighborhood, where it may eat native species or compete with them limited food resources. Alternatively, the frog may spread infectious diseases to a new frog population. The best thing to do if you have a pet frog you can no longer care for is to return the pet to the store from which you bought it; donate it to a local school (informing them why you do not want to set it free); or call up a local herpetological society to see if they would like to adopt your frog.

In September 2006 we found someone trying to release Boo into our woods. The owner took her from the wild illegally and was tired of having her as a pet. We can not release her back into the wild. (See Romeo and Ethel). The common myth that you will catch warts from touching a toad is completely false. They have dry, warty skin and their glands produce a secretion that can be irritating to humans if rubbed in the eyes or mouth. The throats are lighter if they are female and darker if they are male.

Marbled salamanders males have white cross-bands and females have gray/silver cross-bands on their back. They are typically fossorial, which means they spend the majority of their time burrowed underground, out of sight.


Wild was brought to TNC to be released, illegally and without permission from TNC, in 2001. A family had picked her up while on a road trip and kept her in their basement until they didn't want to care for her anymore (box turtles can live to be 100!). Since her original home territory was unknown, she could not be returned. Also, Wild was dangerously malnourished. Well cared for by TNC's staff, she quickly regained her health. 

Star is on permanent loan from local turtle specialists Joyce and the late Don Zeiller. In addition to helping to found TNC, they educated countless people about NJ turtles. Don would often point out the canine marks on her shell to illustrate the dangers of predation to turtles. Star's injuries were caused by a domestic dog. You can sex box turtles by the color of their eyes. Red eyes are male, while orange-brown eyes are female. Both of our box turtles are female.

Maple is a wood turtle which are threatened in New Jersey mainly due to habitat loss. She came to us after being abandoned by a breeder. Maple is now used to educate others about the importance of keeping her habitat protected in NJ for future organisms. Wood turtles are considered the smartest among all turtle species. They stomp the ground to create vibrations causing their prey such as worms to crawl up to the surface.

Ellie is a wild born corn snake, also known as a red rat snake. Ellie was found with an injured tail, and was  illegally taken in for treatment by someone who hoped  to use her for breeding purposes. Due to her time in  captivity, she cannot be returned to the wild. Her importance as an endangered species in our state led to  her placement at TNC by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection in 2013. 

Brought to the TNC family in 2019, Lenni is ready to teach others about corn snakes. For example: Did you know that the corn snake is distinguished from other rat snakes by the stripe extending near the back of the eye past the corner of the jaw. Additionally, they have a beautiful bold checkerboard pattern of black and white on the underbelly.

Reptar came to us in 2019. He was found by someone walking in a local park and was hanging on a fence. We have to assume his former owner released him outside not knowing that he would not be able to survive. He is well-loved and cared for and does an excellent job educating others about his species. 

Bearded dragons are called "bearded" because of the spikes and scales around their throat that resemble a pointy beard. They also expand their throat and can turn it black when threatened.

In 2011 a family surrendered Lego to TNC. They were moving and felt she was "too aggressive to be handled."After much patience and care,  Lego became the lovable leopard gecko that she is today. Lego gets her name from the yellow coloring and brown spots on her body resembling a leopard. If she feels threatened, she can break off her tail to escape and grow it back later. Leopard gecko's are different from other geckos as they lack adhesive lamellae preventing them from walking up vertical surfaces.

Megabloks and Duplo were added to the TNC family in 2019. Upon their arrival they were very shy and scared. Usually attempting to flee and hide when being around people. Now they are happy as can be and love being held and visited!


Walking sticks are a nocturnal insect which mimic tree branches. To help avoid detection they sway back and forth to mimic a branch blowing in the wind. If they lose a limb, they can grow them back over time. Walking sticks feed on a variety of plants such as ivy and bramble.

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