The program is quite unlike any aquarium I have ever been to. All the pens are attached to the ocean, allowing the natural tides to clean and replenish the water the animals live in. The nets that divide the pens have holes so that smaller fish and organisms may float through the aquarium as they please, as well as providing an ideal habitats for unclipped and untamed birds such as pelicans and gulls. Although the animals are still enclosed and the pens are considerably small, they are allowed the freedom of swimming out to the ocean on day trips, and if they wanted, are not expected to return. The animals are fed live food so they do not become lazy and dependent, and are given lots of attention and mental stimulation. The animals are also part of research papers, but not the kind with wires and test tubes. The kind with games and puzzles where understanding the patterns and mental capability are the central goal.
After an introduction to the Lemon sharks and pelicans, we got an in depth description of the sea turtles, and their goal to create an ideal breeding habitat, and a free question and answer period that went on for a good length of time and answered many questions that we had prepared. We were directed to the Dolphin pens, and where told about the research paper that was being experimented with that’s basis was that dolphins could teach each other things by swimming side by side and listening to each other’s sonar.
We were released to wander the aquarium, sauntering though various petting pens holding everything from sea cucumbers and sea stars, to snails and sting rays. In the wall tanks that resembled a more Sea World approach, was a world of underwater animals, the eels capturing my attention the most.
Some people had gone to the sea lion show, others to the shark tanks, and other still sat gazing at the flamingos giving their loud display in the center of the room. We all met at 4:15 at the dolphin show ring, waiting for them to appear. it was still cool to see them.