The Aquarium of the Pacific's new exhibit, called Babies!, is focused on conservation and the finer details of raising the ocean's most vulnerable and young creatures.
LONG BEACH⸺ On May 27, The Aquarium of the Pacific opened a new exhibit called Babies! the new exhibit features juvenile sea creatures, including baby clown fish and sea otters, and the aquarium’s efforts in conservation. The new exhibits highlight the aquarium’s breeding programs and how they help minimize the environmental impact and contribute to significant ocean conservation efforts.
“It’s called Babies!,” said Peter Kareiva, president and CEO of the aquarium. “And why babies for an exhibit? It’s a heart and mind kind of exhibit, and I think of the Aquarium as kind of a heart and mind institution. I say heart because you can’t think of babies without it evoking caring for, protecting them when they’re vulnerable, and also being optimistic because there is no future without the babies. And I say mind because so often, babies, because of their most vulnerable, really need and demand our protection if we’re going to save a species. So, heart because it provokes caring and compassion and mind because there is something we have to focus on to protect the species.”
The adorable new babies that have arrived at the aquarium are examples of the conservation and rehabilitation efforts that the Aquarium is battling for endangered and nonendangered species. Beyond seeing adorable baby faces, visitors will also be able to learn about the various animals, their habitats, and how the program contributes to significant conservation efforts. For example, the surrogacy program with the otters will hopefully produce pups that can be released back into the wild.
Four new sea otter pups rescued from up north and deemed unreleasable were brought to the aquarium to participate in a surrogacy program. The aquarium is a partner facility in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter Surrogacy Program, which rehabilitates rescued sea otter pups and rears them with the help of mother sea otters. The pups living at the aquarium now are also helping the adult females learn how to be surrogate mothers and are helping the staff learn how to care for this age class of sea otter. So in the future, rescued otters can be released back into the wild after being raised by aquarium mothers.
“All of the ocean animals you will see were sustainably sourced, meaning they were born here at the aquarium, at another zoo or aquarium, or came from a sustainable supplier,” said Assistant Curator for Fish and Invertebrates, Janet Monday. “Our Babies! Exhibits are modeled after ocean habitats that serve as nurseries for baby animals, such as mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass beds where they can find protection from predators and rough seas… You’ll also meet ocean dads that take special care of their babies like cardinal fish, which carry their eggs and hatch young from their mouth.”
Visitors can also see the fantastic, color-changing, flamboyant cuttlefish in the tiny treasures exhibit. When these cuttlefish hatch, they are about the size of a dime. The one dozen baby flamboyant cuttles that the aquarium currently has in the Babies! exhibit were born at the aquarium, and they’re now roughly two months old and an inch long.
The new exhibit also has a jelly lab where visitors can see how the aquarium grows sea jellies and live food such as algae and brine shrimp. Babies! also includes a juvenile desert sea tortoise named Sally, and visitors can learn about the endangered species, the threat it faces, and how to help.
“Not only do we provide care for babies born here at the aquarium that live in our habitats, but we also breed and raise baby animals to help save endangered species like white abalone,” said Erin Lundy, a mammologist at the aquarium who works closely with the otters. “We are currently raising some tadpoles behind the scenes that have a very important conservation story. Mountain yellow-legged frogs are a local species that are endangered. The aquarium is currently providing a home for about 250 tadpoles, keeping them safe and comfortable until they grow into frogs and can be released back into the wild. While the tadpoles are not in a public exhibit at the aquarium, you can see videos and learn a little bit more about them and other conservation efforts in our Babies! Exhibit area.”
There is a technological aspect to the exhibit with video screens playing short mini-documentaries throughout the gallery all about the aquariums babies and how the staff care for them, as well environmental issues affecting baby sea creatures in the oceans, such as climate change and what you can do to make a difference.
In addition, kids can play interactive puzzle games and learn fun facts about baby ocean animals.
The new exhibit teaches about the Aquarium’s breakthroughs in reproduction and how this helps reduce their reliance on collecting wild animals. And find out about the endangered animal babies that live at the Aquarium, receiving special care to help rebuild their wild populations.
You can learn more about the new exhibit and the babies inside it by visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific website or seeing it yourself.