Another day, another aquarium. Today, it’s the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa. Its focus is on the local animals you find in Florida. The Wetlands Trail is especially interesting, providing views of the natural environment, with minimum barriers for the guest. I felt like I was transported to a wild mangrove swamp, no longer in a building in a busy downtown.
It was also a great opportunity to learn the effect that introduced species, like the Burmese Python and Lion Fish, have on Florida waters. These species are multiplying unchecked and harming existing species because they have no predators or natural controls in the this new ecosystem.
It was great visit with an interactive staff who inform and educate.
When we decided to include Atlanta as a waypoint on our travels through the Southeastern US, I knew I wanted to visit the Georgia Aquarium. The aquarium was built in 2005 and has one of the largest saltwater tanks anywhere. The main tank is home to whale sharks, manta rays and a diverse group of ocean fish. There are separate tanks for beluga whales, bottle-nose dolphins and of course otters, both sea and river species.
It was wonderful to see all the displays and to be able to view fish that you might never see in the wild. But do these displays come at a price to the animals on display there? Since our visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I have become interested in public aquariums and how these facilities house and care for the animals they have on display. Do they have enough room, are they fed properly, is there enrichment for the more intelligent species, are questions that come to mind. So on this visit I wanted to find out more and maybe answer some of my questions. Here is what I found out.
Great care is taken in the housing of the animals. There are display tanks where the public can watch the animals, but they also have private areas where they can get away from the crowds. The animals are fed the highest quality seafood since the restaurant seafood supply trucks stop at the aquarium first before they go on to the local human eateries. So the animals get better seafood than we do. Enrichment is provided for the whales, dolphins and otters with toys they are given and their interaction with the staff and guests. So ultimately, I discovered that aquariums are a balance between freedom and care.