Monday, March 3, 2014

Do This: Journey to Madagascar

The Florida Aquarium's new exhibition brings an ecological hot-spot to Tampa.

Posted By on Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 9:39 AM

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Florida is a wonderland of biological diversity. Leave it to the impossibly innovative folks at the Florida Aquarium to trump the state’s own biodiversity with their newest exhibition.

An ecological gem, the island of Madagascar is the most biologically diverse country on the planet — more than 80 percent of the island’s plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world. The Florida Aquarium’s newest exhibition — Journey to Madagascar — gives visitors a taste of the country’s completely unique ecology.

The exhibit, which opened on March 1 and will be a permanent fixture at the Aquarium, is the product of over a year of designing and research by the Aquarium. Visitors can get up-close-and-personal with chameleons, coconut crabs, geckos, ring-tailed lemurs and an Indian Ocean coral reef.

With human population of Madagascar rapidly growing, wildlife is quickly becoming threatened and endangered — including the Aquarium’s main attraction, the ring-tailed lemurs.

click to enlarge THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM
  • THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM
According to spokeswoman Katherine Claytor, the exhibit perfectly embodies the Florida Aquarium’s dedication to conservation and research.

“At the end of the day, the Aquarium’s main mission is not only to entertain people, but to educate them,” Claytor said. “The island of Madagascar is so unique, and the animals on it are so diverse that it really is a good fit into our conservation message, because creatures like the ring-tailed lemur are now critically endangered.”

Claytor also said that the Aquarium is constantly looking for new and exciting ways to enhance the visitors’ experience.

An innovative (and arguably terrifying) “pop-up” feature of the exhibit invites visitor to crawl under a transparent dome, with only glass separating them from a horde of hissing cockroaches above them.

Aesthetically, Claytor said that the exhibit is designed to look and feel like you are visiting Madagascar. Descriptive pamphlets hang from plants, and there is a huge mural with interactive games for children to learn about the issues that plague the country.

“Everything is educational, but fun. That’s what we tried to capture,” Claytor said. “As an adult, you’ll have a great time interacting will animals, and as a kid you’ll leave learning something—and I think the adults will learn something too."

Journey to Madagascar is included in the regular price of admission to the Florida Aquarium, and is open daily from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. flaquarium.org.

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