Friday, July 22, 2011

Tennessee Aquarium Volunteer Talks About Born to be Wild 3D

 The Tennessee Aquarium was very fortunate to have Lori Perkins, Zoo Atlanta's director of animal programs, help with the launch of "Born to be Wild 3D." Not only is Lori an orangutan expert, but she has also been to Borneo to meet Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas, one of the women featured in this amazing IMAX film. Perkins is concerned by the plight of all great apes and knows that orangutans would be in much worse shape if not for the work of Dr. Galdikas. "Development has created a situation where orangutans have only scattered pockets of habitat left," said Perkins. "The wilderness is not simply shrinking around them, it's being cut down in a patch-work fashion that leaves only islands of habitat among the developed areas. It's really sad."

Galdikas is the president of the Orangutan Foundation International. She has dedicated her life to wild orangutan research and saving orphaned baby orangutans. In the film viewers are captivated by these fun-loving animals and the devotion shown by their caretakers as they are raised just long enough to be returned to the wild. If that were all this film would be about, audiences would be satisfied.

 But of course the other "half" of this story takes place in Kenya. Here audiences meet Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick and the adorable baby elephants she rescues and rehabilitates for reintroduction to the wild. Sheldrick is an amazing woman who established the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in 1977, following the death of her husband who was regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on African wildlife.

 The Aquarium has another connection to this film. As it turns out, Louis Spencer is friends with Dr. Sheldrick. Spencer is one of the Aquarium's volunteer docents. He's always ready to share animal information with our guests whenever he's on duty in River Journey or Ocean Journey. Now, he has more inside information to share about Dr. Sheldrick's work.

 "I have been organizing and leading safaris to East Africa since 1985," said Spencer. "I met Daphne in the early 1990's and have been supporting her through donations and bringing my groups to visit her and the elephants ever since.
 According to Spencer, traveling to Kenya is fairly modern these days which makes it a relatively easy destination for tourists and group leaders. And for those who can't make such a long journey, "Born to be Wild 3D" is the next best thing to being there. "The film is great," said Spencer. "IMAX does a fantastic job of setting the story up and telling the story of my friend Daphne and Dr. Galdikas. The film really did a great job of highlighting the dedication of these two women who have dedicated their whole lives to saving animals."
 Spencer describes Sheldrick as a very nice person who is dedicated to the preservation of ALL wildlife, not just elephants. As a result, she is in great demand around the world. "When I last visited her in November, she was off to Japan the next day to give a lecture," said Spencer. "She's very involved with various international conservation efforts."

Spencer says in some ways Kenya is different today, yet sadly is still the same in other respects. "When you travel to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, you are going to her house," said Spencer. "When I first visited in the early 90's, you pretty much had the place to yourself. Today, because of international exposure like National Geographic, there can be nearly 500 people at the orphanage on some days. And it's only open one hour a day. Of course that's great because the money generated supports the program. And when I take a group we pay an extra fee for a private tour to get a more personal experience."

Unfortunately, poaching still exists, so the care provided by Dr. Sheldrick's staff will be needed for the foreseeable future. The land remains rugged and so vast that effectively patrolling the entire area is virtually impossible.

Spencer dashed off an e-mail to let his friends know he'd seen them recently on a six-story screen in downtown Chattanooga. "After I saw the film I sent Daphne a little note to let her, Edwin and the other guys know that I had seen them. She responded by saying how much they enjoyed making the film."

Come see "Born to be Wild 3D" on Thursday, August 4th at 6:00 pm. After the film we'll have an informal meet and greet with Louis Spencer. You can learn more about what it's like to be face-to-trunk with dozens of playful pachyderms. Hope to see you then!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tennessee Aquarium Backyard Habitat Workshop Saturday, July 23rd

Tennessee Aquarium visitors are really in for a treat each time they visit Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari. Free-flying birds, such as this blue-headed macaw thrill guests during special programs. Throughout much of the rest of the day, animals like turtles, reptiles, amphibians and mammals such as a woodchuck, hedgehog or opossum. By meeting these wonderful creatures up close, guests gain a better understanding of their natural adaptations, habitat and role in the environment. Hopefully this experience will "follow everyone home," inspiring them to take a look at their own backyard habitat. This Saturday, July 23rd at 2:30 pm Aquarium visitors will have an opportunity to explore Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari and then learn what it takes to certify their own backyard habitat.
Tennessee Aquarium education outreach coordinator Bill Haley will conduct this fun-filled one hour workshop, which is FREE with Aquarium admission. Bill will incoporate live animals, slides and handouts to show everyone how easy and rewarding it is to certify your yard with National Wildlife Federation.

 Bill's yard has been certified with NWF since 1990. His backyard habitat number is 8280, today there are more than 140,000 people with certified backyards.

 Some people may think that you have to own a lot of land to provide suitable habitat for wildlife. Bill's yard is the perfect example illustrating how a relatively small area can provide rich opportunities for animals and great viewing for people. As a butterfly expert, Bill has concentrated on nectar producing plants. Along with hummingbirds and bees, Bill enjoys a plethora of butterflies winging their way to his doorstep for a meal.
 The colorful blooms brighten his front yard and is very appealing to the eyes for everyone. Spend even a few moments looking closer and you'll notice a living network where only grass once stood. "This project actually began as a way to cut down on my mowing time," admits Haley. "Some of the plants are in containers so they can be moved around as needed. There's something in bloom throughout the growning season."
 One surprise to some are the numerous pitcher plants in Bill's front yard.
 You can see pitcher plants in the Aquarium's Ocean Journey building in the Tropical Cove. To see so many in one yard is really quite a treat.
 Four things are needed for a certified backyard: food, water, shelter and places to raise young. During the workshop, Haley will give everyone ideas how to maximize your space to invite more wildlife into our lives.
 Bill's yard was recently featured on CNN. Jacqui Jeras produced a wonderful segment about backyard habitat that aired recently on CNN.
We hope to see you at the Backyard Habitat Workshop - Saturday, July 23rd at 2:30 pm. Make sure you arrive early to see two back-to-back bird shows in Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari at 2:00 and 2:15 pm. Then move around the corner to the River Journey Auditorium for the workshop.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Finding the Red, White and Blue at the Tennessee Aquarium

Celebrate the 4th of July at the Tennessee Aquarium by going on a star-spangled scavenger hunt. Score one point for each animal you find that's either red, white or blue. Two points each for creatures with red, white or blue in their name. At Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari you could have fun popping up in the NEW piranha pop-up tank and score two points for coming face-to-face with red-bellied piranhas. (Two points!)

Have you ever seen these guys eat? It's awesome!

Red-fronted macaws also fly overhead in Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari. (Have fun scoring two more points when Holly flies overhead.)

Squirrelfish in the Secret Reef have red coloration. (One point.) Or look in the Tennessee River Gallery for the redline darter. (And score two points.)
 Eastern king snakes aren't supposed to be white, but if you look closely in Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari, you might see this albino snake when it appears with one of our animal experts. Without natural pigmentation, this particular snake might have been easy prey in the wild. (Good eyes! One point.) You might meet a White's tree frog at Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari or have a white angled sulphur butterfly land on you in the Butterfly Garden. (Find both animals and score four more points!)
Blue poison dart frogs can be found in Discovery Hall. (Two more points.) The are in the same exhibit with yellow & blue poison dart frogs. (Two MORE points!) and yellow-banded poison dart frogs.

The hyacinth macaws are blue. (Technically, one definition of hyacinth refers to a shade of blue that's a light violet to moderate purple. So we'll give you 1.5 points for spotting the largest members of the parrot family.) A full two-point score goes to those who spot eastern bluebirds in the Cove Forest. Score two more points at Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari if you spot Tiki, one of the blue-headed macaws.

With two buildings full of amazing animals from around the world, you'll have plenty of fun as you explore each exhibit searching for the red, white and blue of the natural world.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Four Reasons Why You Should Visit Chattanooga Over the 4th of July Weekend

It's hard to believe 2011 is already half over. If you're like many, you're ready to relax and enjoy a long holiday weekend. So we'd like you to consider Chattanooga where everyone can find plenty of fun in a laid-back atmosphere. Here's four reasons why the "Scenic-City" is the place to be over the 4th of July Weekend:

#1) Family Fun at Chattanooga Area Attractions

Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari is NEW at the Tennessee Aquarium. Meet all kinds of cool creatures from around the world up close in this new gallery. Pop-up inside a tank filled with toothy piranhas or be part of a free flight bird show. (Insider tip: Go to the Aquarium's website to see the schedule of bird shows. Then plan to watch two shows back to back. You'll be glad you did. And make sure there's plenty of room on your camera's memory'll want to take a lot of pictures.)

Your ticket is good for both Aquarium buildings with no time restrictions. So feel free to visit one building, then stroll downtown for something to eat and come back to visit the other building. (Insider tip: Add a Backstage Pass tour to go behind the scenes. Penguins, Sharks and More!)
 Don't miss Born to be Wild 3D NEW at IMAX! Baby elephants and baby orangutans are adorable. This film tells the heart-warming story of two women who have dedicated their lives to saving these orphans and raising them until they are strong enough to return to the wild. (Insider Tip: New flex ticketing allows you to choose any of the IMAX showings when you buy your Aquarium/IMAX combo for extra savings. But plan on going to one of the earlier showings.)
There's nothing like boating on the 4th of July, so cruise the river in style aboard the River Gorge Explorer. (Insider Tip: Book the Early Bird Special for extra savings or choose the Sunset Special and get three hours of cruising for the price of two.)

Bob the Builder is NEW at the Creative Discovery Museum. Spend time in Sunflower Valley with Bob the Builder, Wendy and the rest of the Can-Do Crew. Practice your own fixing with kid-smart activities that build up can-do attitudes. (Insider Tip: Visit July 2nd through the 4th and have extra fun with patriotic face-painting, hat and flag making.)
2) FREE MUSIC! Begin the weekend at Miller Plaza for the Nightfall concert series.
Friday, July 1st features HUGO at Nightfall. Here's a sample:

3) Fantastic Fireworks! Chattanooga makes it easy to get the most bang for your buck. FREE fireworks and music at Coolidge Park on Sunday, July 3rd. The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera always puts on a dynamite performance followed by an amazing fireworks display. (Insider tip: Get there early and stake your claim by placing your lawn chairs in just the right location - one with a good view and close to concessions and restrooms.)
Then on Monday, July 4th plan on being at the Chattanooga Lookouts game as they take on the Huntsville stars. A fireworks extravaganza takes place following the exciting baseball action. (Insider tip: Purchase tickets online and then bypass the lines when you pick up your tix at "Will Call".)

#4) Affordable hotel packages. Here's a link to four properties that offer tickets to the Tennessee Aquarium when you book one of their great rooms. (Insider Tip: Use the FREE electric shuttle to get to downtown Chattanooga. No need to drive or park when someone else will do that for free.)

HAPPY 4th of JULY!!!!