South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston, SC
This month’s feature comes from the South Carolina Aquarium! They recently installed a new Madagascar exhibit. A huge thank you to Kate Dittloff and all the staff that helped in creating this article. Images are provided by the South Carolina Aquarium.
Another great announcement this month is the start of an Official Ocean4 Newsletter! If you’d like to be notified when each new article has been posted, be sure to visit Ocean4.org to subscribe! The subscription link is on our About page or just click here!
Now, please enjoy this month’s feature!
Q: How long did the design and installation process for the new Madagascar exhibit take?
A: Installation was from January 2nd until the opening date in May. Design took approximately 6 months. The exhibit was built solely by staff and volunteers!
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the exhibit to install?
A: The rainforest wall. Creating a natural looking dirt bank with square tanks in it was interesting. Also arranging the backup area so the tanks could be easily accessed was a spatial challenge and incorporating plant “buckets” so the plants could easily be maintained and swapped out was just plain inspired!
Q: What inspired the South Carolina Aquarium to create a Madagascar exhibit?
A: With more endemic species of animals and plants than anywhere else in the world, Madagascar has become one of the world’s top conservation priorities. Today, less than 15% of the original native forest remains due to burning and cattle grazing. Although South Carolina is half way around the globe from Madagascar, our state is the top third of all states for biodiversity. Maintaining biodiversity here, and in places like Madagascar, remains a core conservation effort for the South Carolina Aquarium. Look for special displays and activities throughout Madagascar Journey that will show how you can help keep this island habitat intact.
Q: What types of materials were used in the creating the exhibit to replicate an authentic Madagascar experience?
A: A lot of foam was carved, cement products and epoxy were sculpted to replicate the different habitats
Q: When designing the exhibit, what was a must-have feature?
A: Adequate perching and climbing areas for the ring-tail lemurs
Q: What is most unique about the Madagascar exhibit?
A: The pop-up bubble in the lemur exhibit. People can climb through a small tunnel and actually pop their head into the exhibit—they are protected by an acrylic bubble.
Q: How many different species do you have in the Madagascar exhibit? Why were those species specifically chosen?
A: There are approximately 30 species in the Madagascar exhibit representing several animal groups including invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, elasmobranchs, fish, and mammals. The Aquarium uses a comprehensive Institutional Collection Plan when choosing animals for exhibits. The plan is centered around 5 key goals that help us establish the ability of each new species to be acquired and cared for responsibly, convey a strong conservation message, and appeal to visitors.
Goal 1. To provide the highest standard of care possible to all individuals within the collection
Goal 2. To be responsible in the accession and disposition of all individuals within the collection
Goal 3. To be a leader in conservation
Goal 4. To inspire wonder in and conservation of aquatic species
Goal 5. To provide high quality, conservation based educational programs
Q: What is the most important thing you would like visitors to take away after experiencing the Madagascar exhibit?
A: The need for conservation on the island. It is one of the most biologically diverse (if not THE most biologically diverse) Island in the world. We want people to come marvel at the amazing species that live there and learn more about the environmental destruction happening on the island and then go home feeling inspired to make a difference.
Q: With the vast array of species in the Madagascar exhibit, what types of food to they all eat and how much food does the aquarium go through in a day, in a week?
A: Lemur biscuits
Various fresh fruits and veggies – lemurs, spider tortoise, vasa parrots
Shrimp, squid, Mysis, smelt – fishes
Raw chicken – croc
Live insects – fruit flies, crickets, worms – vasa, frogs, geckos
Mice – snakes
Nori (seaweed) – urchins, saltwater fishes
Vitamins for everyone
As for amount, approximately 5 lbs per week for everyone
Q: What is your personal favorite aspect of the exhibit?
A: My personal favorite aspect of the exhibit is definitely the lemur pop up bubble. It’s so fun to stick your head in that bubble and feel like you are one of the lemurs. Often they will come and munch on fruit and snacks right on top of the bubble while looking down at you!