Chattanooga, Tenn. (March 11, 2009) - Imagine encountering a creature with huge night-vision eyes, cup-shaped ears and the ability to fly silently. It’s not an alien, it’s the seldom-seen screech owl. Just one of the many cool critters you might encounter up close on your next visit to the Tennessee Aquarium.
Educators have always used props and live animals to entertain and educate guests throughout the Aquarium. “Our visitors have always really enjoyed these added animal experiences,” said Tim Baker, the Aquarium’s director of education. “But until now, this was just one of our educator’s many responsibilities. So we are pleased to raise the bar and provide more of these engaging animal programs.” Three new animal encounter specialists have been hired to create new opportunities for guests to meet more of the Aquarium’s charismatic critters face-to-face more often. These new staff members will begin providing these fun-filled programs on Friday, March 13th, just in time for Spring Break. Each day, for part of every hour, animal encounter specialists will appear in both buildings with a different animal from a list of nearly three dozen species.
Close encounters of the animal kind range from soft and cuddly encounters with a Virginia opossum to squirmy encounters with touchable terrapins and toads. Soon visitors may encounter other highly interesting species. The Aquarium has plans underway to add encounter animals such as a prehensile-tailed porcupine, a flying squirrel, a groundhog and a conure, which is a type of small parrot.
Kids and adults have fun making contact with animals they don’t normally happen upon in their daily lives. Baker says these close encounters of the third kind – contact – help accomplish the Aquarium’s mission to inspire wonder and appreciation for the natural world. “Animal encounters increase the number of visitors who leave the Tennessee Aquarium passionate about native species and our beautiful region that these animals call home,” Baker said. “We hope this passion will translate into action, such as people adopting “green” practices at home, getting involved in an environmental project like an Earth Day cleanup, or helping support the Aquarium’s important conservation work.”
The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $21.95 per adult and $14.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $8.50 per adult and $6.00 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $27.95 for adults and $19.95 for children. Excursions aboard the new River Gorge Explorer depart daily into “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon.” Cruise tickets are $29.00 per adult and $21.50 per child (3-12). Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities.