In Our Hands

By Ric Urban, Senior Biologist

Can you imagine a day when there is more plastic in the Oceans than fish and other marine life?

Newport Aquarium has joined 18 other aquariums around the country in a new initiative to “stand up” and take a stance against plastic pollution and our society’s dependency on single-use plastics.  Monterey Bay Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium and the National Aquarium are the founders of this movement that invited Newport Aquarium to join other notable aquariums across the United States in this collaboration known as the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) in 2016.

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In Our Hands is a consumer campaign of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP), a coalition of 19 U.S. aquariums taking action together to advance ocean and freshwater conservation.

This summer’s campaign is called “In Our Hands” and the mission is to encourage our guests and our communities to reduce their plastic use and find alternatives.  The ACP is setting a goal to eliminate or reduce plastic beverage bottles in our respective institutions by 2020.

Each member has already eliminated plastic straws and single-use bags, and intends to “significantly reduce or eliminate” other plastics over the next few years.  Our Aquariums want to set the example in our communities that we are concerned and want to make a difference.

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All known species of sea turtle ingest or are entangled by plastic in their lifetimes. aquariums in turning the tide, at http://www.ourhands.org #SkipTheStraw #LoseTheLid

The members of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership are also members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).  More than180 million visitors visit zoos and aquariums each year and our aquariums have a responsibility to educate of visitors of the dangers of plastic pollution and the effects it has on our freshwater and marine environments. New studies have shown more than 8 million tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean every year and the number is expected to double by 2025.  In the United States alone, plastic waste averages more than 200 pounds per person each year.  The Aquarium Conservation Partnership members are not only raising awareness about plastic pollution, promoting behavioral changes with our guests, but also working with business partners and vendors to share good alternatives to single-use plastics and introduce new products and materials.

Our choices are transforming the ocean, lakes, and rivers

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Plastic is now found in almost every marine habitat on Earth, and we’re producing more than we can sustainably manage. Source: A. Lusher, Microplastics in the marine environment: distribution, interactions and effects, Marine Anthropogenic Litter, 2015.

Change takes time

You can help make a difference. Every time you go to the grocery store and every time you drink a bottle of water or soda.  By changing to a re-useable water bottle, you’re making a healthy change in your personal lifestyle and making a life-saving contribution to our planet. Last year, the U.S. used about 50 billion plastic water bottles; that is nearly 200 per person.

reusable water bottle

Our everyday choices are transforming the ocean – but the solution to the plastic problem is #InOurHands. Find out how you can help at www.ourhands.org

Where do all these water bottles go?  Are they recycled?  Studies say no.  Only 23 percent of the plastic bottles were recycled, meaning this plastic was ending up in our landfills or in our waterways.

 

It is time for all of us to “accept the challenge” to reduce our dependency on single-source plastics.  Here’s what you can do:

  • Ask for paper bags at the grocery store or bring your own re-useable tote bags
  • Skip the Straw at places you eat. Ask the staff not to bring straws to you or put them in your drinks.
  • Drink your beer from the tap or buy beer in growlers at the store. This reduces your use of cans and bottles and less recycling.
  • Start using a re-useable water bottle.
  • Reduce, Re-Use, and Recycle – every little bit helps

Join Newport Aquarium and the Aquarium Conservation Partners in making this change to “Save Wild Animals and Save Wild Spaces.” Take pictures and tell us how you’re doing your part and we’ll share them on social media. Remember to use #InOurHands with your posts.

Ric is skipping the straw

We’ve eliminated plastic straws and bags, because we love our sea animals. Visit http://www.ourhands.org and find out what you can do for your favorite aquatic creature.

For more information on the “In Our Hands” campaign, visit:  www.ourhands.org.

Ric-Urban-portrait-120x120About Ric: Ric has more than 30 years experience working in AZA-accredited institutions. He will be presenting in two sessions at the upcoming 2017 AZA Annual Conference: Consume for Conservation and  Using Innovative Science to Refine Conservation Actions. Ric is the Project Coordinator for the AZA SAFE African Penguin Individual Identification Program. He also holds a seat on the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Penguin Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Steering Committees, and is a member of the AZA’s Animal Welfare Committee.

Spring Forward, Lights Off! Cold Weather Penguins Gearing Up for Spring

By Megan Gregory, PR Aide at Newport Aquarium

As we prepare to set our clocks forward one hour this spring, the Antarctic is preparing to enter winter and say goodbye to the sun.IMG_0290

The Antarctic is on an opposite schedule than the United States. As things get warmer for us, things are vastly getting colder in the South Pole.

Because the earth’s axis is tilted, the Antarctic only has two seasons: Summer and winter. During their summer (Late October through Mid-March) the sun doesn’t fully set while in the winter (Mid-March through Late October) the sun doesn’t rise.

How do we keep our penguins on this cycle?

The lights inside of the exhibit are slightly adjusted each week to mimic the lights of Antarctica. This helps keep the penguins in their natural cycle and exposed to a consistent photoperiod as if they were in the South Pole.

Why is it important to the penguins on this cycle?

It keeps the penguins on their natural cycle by promoting proper breeding and molting cycles. While penguins have reproduced under the care of institutions that chose to use an ON/OFF switch for their lights instead of mimicking the lighting schedules, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) reported enhanced reproductive success with varying annual day length and light intensity.

Ric Urban, Newport Aquarium’s Chief Conservation Officer and a member of the AZA’s Penguin Taxon Advisory Group Steering Committee, said that this also helps the penguins if they’re moved to a new AZA-Accredited institution. It keeps continuity with the penguin and creates a shorter adjustment period inside their new home.IMG_0214

If Newport Aquarium follows the seasons, will guests be able to see the penguins?

Absolutely! We still have lights on in the exhibits which usually start to dim toward the evening hours, around Newport Aquarium closing time. And like Newport Aquarium, most institutions don’t just mimic sunlight, but also moonlight! The illumination is still bright enough for guests to see our penguins waddling and swimming inside.

Guests can see one of the most diverse collections of cold weather penguins at Kroger Penguin Palooza 365 days a year! At Newport Aquarium, we have five species of cold weather penguins under our care: Chinstrap, Gentoo, King, Macaroni, and Southern Rockhopper. Guests can also see our African Penguins with our Penguin Encounter, an additional 20-minute experience inside the penguin house where you can get close and maybe touch one!

Shark Ray Pups Reach Milestones

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NEWPORT, Ky- Shark rays born at Newport Aquarium on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, are doing well according to the animal care team at the aquarium. From the time the shark ray pups were first born they have received care from biologists who have closely monitored them and attended to every need.  Today, the pups are eating on their own and continue to gain weight. See the shark ray pups being weighed, measured and fed in this video:

Pregnant shark ray, Sweet Pea, gave birth to nine shark ray pups at Newport Aquarium. Six female and three male pups were born. The pups’ weight ranged from 2.0 to 2.4 pounds, while their length ranged from 18 – 22 inches.  Shortly after birth, one female shark ray pup passed away, which is not uncommon with similar species, like sharks.  Eight pups are healthy and continue to show progress by independently eating and gaining weight.

Sweet Pea Update
Since shark rays do not tend to their offspring, Sweet Pea has returned to the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit.  The pups remain under constant observation at the aquarium’s offsite animal health facility and will transition to the aquarium and other Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited institutions at a future date. Watch Sweet Pea’s return into to the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit:

See Rare and Exotic Shark Rays at Newport Aquarium- Kids Get in Free through February 28, 2016. Four shark rays are currently on exhibit at Newport Aquarium- Sweet Pea, Scooter, Sunshine and Spike.

Shark Ray Breeding Program Background
In October 2015, Newport Aquarium announced both its female shark rays, Sweet Pea and Sunshine were pregnant– the second and third documented cases of shark ray breeding under professional animal care in the world.  Sweet Pea became the first documented shark ray to become pregnant in 2013. In January 2016, Sweet Pea gave birth to 9 shark ray pups.  Sunshine’s pregnancy did not come to full term.

Programs like Newport Aquarium’s Shark Ray Breeding Program are important, because the world’s shark ray population is depleting at a faster rate than it’s being replaced.  This is due to habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing and the use of their fins for products like fin soup.

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Newport Aquarium has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since May 15, 1999. Named one of the best aquariums in the U.S. by Travel Channel and USA Today, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

Stay Hooked In: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | YouTube | WordPress
One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com

Celebrate African Penguin Awareness Day by helping this adorable endangered species

By Madison Wallace, Newport Aquarium PR Aide

NEWPORT, Ky. — If you’ve been to Newport Aquarium, you’ve probably heard about, or even met, one of our beloved African penguins.

Oct. 17 is the perfect day to celebrate these birds with African Penguin Awareness Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness for African penguins and the factors threatening their species.

“African Penguin Awareness Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate these unique birds, along with bringing awareness to their status as an endangered species,” said Ric Urban, chief conservation officer at Newport Aquarium and resident penguin expert.

This international holiday was established by Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), an organization supported by the WAVE Foundation, Newport Aquarium’s nonprofit partner.

African penguins 2

“The Conductor” by Flickr user Roger Smith. Boulders Penguin Colony, Cape Town, South Africa. https://www.flickr.com/photos/wodjamiff/5467655290/in/photostream/

One of SANCCOB’s most significant projects is known as chick bolstering and involves the rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release of African penguin chicks that have been orphaned or injured.

In the wild, these warm-weather penguins can be found living in colonies on the coastal islands that dot the shore of South Africa and Namibia.

They prefer to eat anchovies, sardines and the occasional mollusk, and generally consume 14 percent of their weight in fish daily; the equivalent of a 150-pound person eating 21 pounds of food a day!

What you may not know is that these adorable, tuxedoed birds are endangered.

In the past century, the population of African penguins has plummeted from several million to roughly 30,000 as a result of pollution, global warming, egg harvesting and overfishing off the coast of southern Africa.

This species needs our help.

“If nothing changes, we could see African penguins disappear completely within the next couple of decades,” said Urban.

With an estimated 1,000 African penguins under professional animal care globally, it’s essential that zoos and aquariums across the world work together to help this species in recovering. Because of their drastic population decline, African penguins were one of the first 10 animals named to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) program that launched in May 2015.

Newport Aquarium is home to eight African penguins — Paula, Randi, Simon, Sandy, Speckles, Blueberry, Green Bean and Red Pepper — all of whom were hand-raised, allowing them to bond with humans more easily. This makes them ideal for helping to educate the public about their species.

African penguins at Newport Aquarium

The African penguins at Newport Aquarium. (L-R): Speckles, Paula, Red Pepper, Green Bean (back), Simon (back), Sandy, Randi, Blueberry

As ambassador animals for Newport Aquarium, our African penguins aren’t on exhibit, but guests can meet them by going on a Penguin Encounter, which allows guests to interact with these birds in small groups, along with opening up discussion about this threatened species.

“African Penguins are naturally inquisitive and social,” said Urban. “They’re very curious about people, making them amazing outreach animals. It’s almost impossible to see an African penguin waddling around and not smile in response. There’s something about these birds that people just connect to.”

While both Newport Aquarium and the WAVE Foundation have brought awareness to these birds through community outreach, monetary contributions and knowledge exchange, we need your help.

For African Penguin Awareness Day, there are many simple ways for everyone to help the future of these birds:
•    Experience a Penguin Encounter at Newport Aquarium; a portion of Penguin Encounter ticket proceeds directly to SANCCOB
•    Purchase Penguin Artwork (art by penguins, not of penguins) from the WAVE Foundation; a portion of proceeds benefit African penguins
•    Visit SANCCOB’s website and donate directly to the seabird conservation efforts
•    Spend a couple minutes learning about African penguins, and start the conversation with those around you

These penguins need our help every day, but African Penguin Awareness Day is a great place to start.

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Newport Aquarium has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since May 15, 1999. Named one of the best aquariums in the U.S. by Travel Channel and USA Today, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

Stay Hooked In: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | YouTube | WordPress

One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com

Newport Aquarium, the Shark Capital of the Midwest, announces Shark Week activities

Aquarium joins Species Survival Program for zebra sharks, to add 2 females on exhibit

NEWPORT, Ky. — The introduction of two female zebra sharks highlights a jaw-some lineup of Shark Week (July 5-12) activities at Newport Aquarium.

The addition of the two female zebra sharks will increase the number of exhibited sharks at Newport Aquarium to 56 across 15 species, the most in the Midwest.

As part of a breeding program sanctioned by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), both female zebra sharks will be introduced to the Coral Reef tunnel during a media event on July 6. The two females will eventually make their way to the Surrounded by Sharks tank, where two adult male zebra sharks reside.

Newport Aquarium will be a new participant in Species Survival Plan for zebra sharks when they add two female zebra sharks to the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit.

Newport Aquarium will be a new participant in Species Survival Plan for zebra sharks when they add two female zebra sharks to the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit.                                              (Photo credit: worldwildlife.org)

 

The AZA’s Species Survival Plan for zebra sharks calls for accredited institutions to help develop the population by arranging for biologically distant matches to meet in environments conducive to mating.

From touching sharks, to viewing sharks above, below and around, the most shark-infested place to celebrate Shark Week is Newport Aquarium, where there is always more new to see and do:

  • Shark Bridge – Guests can experience sharks like never before by crossing the world’s first and only Shark Bridge. Included with admission, the Shark Bridge is a 75-foot-long rope suspension bridge that hangs just inches above nearly two dozen sharks.
  • Surrounded by Sharks – Newport Aquarium’s signature exhibit, guests can travel through an 85-foot-long acrylic tunnel inside a 385,000-gallon tank as seven species of shark – scalloped hammerhead, sand tiger, whitetip, blacktip, zebra, sandbar and nurse – swim over and above.
  • Shark Tank Dive Shows – Guests catch their first and largest views of shark rays and sharks at the Shark Ray Bay Theater, where our shark dive shows feature a scuba diver addressing and taking questions from the audience about the biology and conservation of sharks and other animals found inside the tank. (July 5 and July 10-12: Noon, 12:20 p.m., 12:40 p.m., 2 p.m., 2:20 p.m. and 2:40 p.m.)
  • Shark Feedings – Newport Aquarium performs public feedings for its sharks and shark rays, where guests can watch biologists feed from either the Shark Ray Bay Theater, the Surrounded by Sharks tunnels, or through a biologist’s point-of-view from the Shark Tank Overlook. (Shark tank feed 11 a.m. July 6 and July 8; Large shark feed 11 a.m. July 7; Shark ray feedings 1:30 p.m. July 6-10)
  • Shark Touch Pool – At the Shark Central exhibit, guests have the opportunity to touch dozens of sharks. An Animal Experience Specialist teaches guests the proper touch technique and helps them understand each species in this international collection. (9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily)
  • Sharks After Dark Overnight – Guests can sink their teeth into some great shark facts and sleep safely as they swim above. Every Overnight Adventure includes exclusive aquarium access, shark-themed games and activities. (7:30 p.m. July 10)

    A portion of the proceeds from Shark Week tshirts will be donated to the WAVE Foundation.

    A portion of the proceeds from Shark Week t-shirt sales at the Newport Aquarium gift shop will be donated to the WAVE Foundation.

  • Shark Week T-Shirts for Conservation – Officially licensed Discovery Channel Shark Week T-shirts will be available for purchase at the Newport Aquarium gift shop starting July 5. A portion of the revenue generated from these Shark Week tees will be donated to the WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium, which supports aquatic conservation.

Two Summers of Fun: Now through July 29, guests who purchase a Newport Aquarium Annual Pass will receive two summers of fun – 14 months of unlimited visits for the price of 12. Annual Pass benefits include discounts on guest admissions; invitations to passholder-exclusive events; as well as discounts at select Newport on the Levee vendors and other partner attractions, including the Cincinnati Reds and Dollywood.

For more information on Newport Aquarium, visit NewportAquarium.com or call toll free 800-406-FISH (3474).

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Newport Aquarium, voted the No. 1 aquarium in the country by USA Today’s 10Best.com in 2012, has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999. Named a top U.S. aquarium by US City Traveler and Destinations Travel Magazine in 2014, and also by Travel Channel in 2013, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

Facebook: Facebook.com/NewportAquarium | Twitter: @NewportAquarium
Instagram: @newport_aquarium

One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com

Association of Zoos & Aquariums chooses Newport Aquarium to publicly detail international endangered species campaign

Newport Aquarium’s AZA accreditation extended through 2019

Newport Aquarium Executive Director Eric Rose (left) receives the aquarium's renewed accreditation from Association of Zoos & Aquarium Executive Director Kris Vehrs.

Newport Aquarium Executive Director Eric Rose (left) receives the aquarium’s renewed accreditation from Association of Zoos & Aquarium Executive Director Kris Vehrs.

NEWPORT, Ky. — On Endangered Species Day, an international initiative to help save species from extinction and restore them to healthy sized populations in the wild was publicly announced to the world from Newport Aquarium.

Standing in front of Newport Aquarium guests and elected officials at Shark Ray Bay theater, the executive director of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Kris Vehrs detailed a new campaign entitled SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE).

“By focusing the wild animal care, conservation, and science expertise of our 229 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and our conservation partners with the power of activating our 180 million annual visitors, we believe SAFE will be a game changer for global conservation,” said Vehrs.

Initially, SAFE will focus on 10 key species from a list of more than 100 that are facing serious threats and are critical to maintaining overall ecosystems. Newport Aquarium exhibits three of those species: African penguins, sharks and sea turtles.

Tilly is the name of choice for Newport Aquarium's Facebook fans.

Sea turtles are one of three species at Newport Aquarium that are now part of the SAFE program.

Every year for at least the next decade, 10 species will be added to SAFE based on the most current science and the availability of resources.

Vehrs also announced the renewal of AZA accreditation to Newport Aquarium, which opened its doors 16 years ago to the day on May 15, 1999.

“Newport Aquarium is passionate about caring for and sharing the amazing aquatic world with our guests, said Eric Rose, executive director of Newport Aquarium. “We couldn’t be prouder to serve as a host site for the AZA to launch the SAFE program and to receive our renewed AZA accreditation on both Endangered Species Day and our 16-year anniversary.”

Newport Aquarium will be raising awareness for the SAFE program and recognizing Endangered Species Day all weekend long, May 15-17, with special programming geared toward educating guests about the everyday actions they can take to help with animal conservation.

For more information on Newport Aquarium, visit NewportAquarium.com or call toll free 800-406-FISH (3474).

About AZA
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and seven other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit aza.org.

About SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction
SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction combines the power of zoo and aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and partners to save animals from extinction. Together we are working on saving the most vulnerable wildlife species from extinction and protecting them for future generations. To learn more, visit AZAsavingspecies.org.

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Newport Aquarium, voted the No. 1 aquarium in the country by USA Today’s 10Best.com in 2012, has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999. Named a top U.S. aquarium by US City Traveler and Destinations Travel Magazine in 2014, and also by Travel Channel in 2013, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

Find us on: Facebook.com/NewportAquarium | Twitter: @NewportAquarium

One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com

Newport Aquarium Helps Release 18 Sea Turtles Offshore in North Carolina

NAQ’s AZA accreditation enabled participation in the conservation programImage

Newport Aquarium Water Quality Specialist Cameo Von Strohe (front) and Biologist Jen Hazeres (not pictured) helped release 18 loggerhead turtles Thursday as part of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s Sea Turtle Program. (Photo courtesy of North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores) 

BEAUFORT, N.C. – Two Newport Aquarium husbandry staffers, Biologist Jen Hazeres and Water Quality Specialist Cameo Von Strohe, participated Thursday in the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s Sea Turtle Project.

Hazeres and Von Strohe partnered with representatives from North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, Mystic Aquarium, Pittsburgh Zoo and Virginia Living Museum to release 18 loggerhead turtles into warm waters of the Gulf Stream 36 miles off the coast of North Carolina. The turtles ranged from just a few weeks old to five years.

Newport Aquarium’s accreditation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums enabled the Northern Kentucky attraction to participate in the Sea Turtle Project with other AZA members.

“Today was tremendous; releasing 18 turtles,” Hazeres said. “It was just an awesome day. There were some hatchlings, one turtle was five years old. It was a great day for everyone. We worked hard the last year for this day and it’s a great feeling to see the end results.”

As part of the Sea Turtle Project, newly hatched turtles that do not immediately venture to water, and therefore are most vulnerable to not survive, are rescued and nurtured for typically one year until they are healthy and strong enough to be released into the wild.

Hazeres served as the Newport Aquarium liaison to the Sea Turtle Project and spent the last year fostering Freedom the Sea Turtle. Hatched in July 2012, Freedom was identification tagged before his release into the stream, while two other turtles were satellite tagged. The satellite tags are used for scientific research and tracking, and can stay on a turtle anywhere from two weeks to a year.

The WAVE Foundation, Newport Aquarium’s nonprofit partner, financed Freedom’s tagging as part of its conservation and education initiatives.

For more information about Newport Aquarium, visit www.newportaquarium.com or call 800-406-3474.

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