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Rare July Snowstorm at the Tennessee Aquarium

6/29/2010 3:22:03 PM

The Tennessee Aquarium's penguins enjoy a snow day.

Above: The Tennessee Aquarium’s penguins enjoy a snow day in Chattanooga.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                Contact: Thom Benson 423-785-3007
Rare July Snowstorm Forecast at the Tennessee Aquarium
Otters and Penguins Ready for a Blizzard of Fun

Chattanooga, Tenn. (June 29, 2010) -  Chattanooga Chuck, the Tennessee Aquarium’s woodchuck may have accurately predicted six more weeks of winter on Groundhog Day, but some of the Aquarium’s animals may be somewhat skeptical about a snowstorm striking this Thursday, July 1st. After all, the recent spell of steamy conditions inside the Cove Forest exhibit wouldn’t lead the Aquarium’s North American river otters to think snowfall is right around the corner. “Occasionally introducing snow is exciting and fun for the otters,” said Courtney Lewis, one of the Aquarium’s otter keepers. Caring for intelligent animals such as otters and penguins requires mental stimulation along with providing a balanced diet and physical activity, so keepers use a variety of enrichment activities to stimulate the animals. “Enrichment includes activities that are out of the ordinary, enhance their environment, lets them make a choice or brings out one of their natural behaviors,” Lewis said.

According to Lewis, snow days achieve all of the above. The otters only get shaved ice on rare occasions, it changes their beach area for much of the day and allows them to forage and uncover tasty treats like smelt and clams which are buried in the snow. It also allows them to show their competitive side. Even though “Pete” and “Delmar” are brothers, the five-year-old otters don’t like to share. “Pete is pretty clever, but Delmar likes to take charge of enrichment items,” Lewis said. “Just like otters in the wild, our boys don’t share food. So we make sure there’s plenty hidden in the snow for both of them.”

Inside Penguins’ Rock, the gentoos and macaronis are at the mid-point of the nesting season. “The macaronis seem to be finished, but we are still watching a few gentoo eggs,” said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. “So providing snow right now will be exciting for the macaronis and the gentoos that are not currently tending to eggs or nests.” That might be a bit of a relief for Biscuit and Blue who are caring of a pair of eggs and are sometimes pestered by curious penguins like Iggy.

Giving snow to the Aquarium’s penguins is one of several enrichment activities used to stimulate the birds. In addition to the piles of snow changing the normal travel corridors, keepers also hide lake smelt in the snow for the penguins to discover. “Their main diet is capelin which they gobble down, but smelt is like candy to them,” Graves said.

Aquarium guests will get a chance to witness the “blizzard of fun” to kick off the 4th of July weekend this Thursday morning beginning at 10:00 am in the Cove Forest exhibit inside the River Journey building. The penguins will receive their snowfall in the Ocean Journey building in time for the 10:30 am keeper talk.

Throughout the holiday weekend, Chattanooga Chuck will be among the many other fascinating creatures making hourly Animal Encounter appearances in both Aquarium buildings. Visitors will say, “That’s Cool!” while learning fun facts from keepers and SCUBA divers about how animals from alligators to zebra mussels deal with summertime temperatures.

Guests will have the chance to find out what it’s like to care for sharks, sea turtles and other critters with the Aquarium’s cool, NEW Backstage Pass. Visitors will have VIP access like never before, to get up-close, feed, and in some cases, actually touch Aquarium animals.  Two NEW 45-minute Backstage Pass options will give you access to keeper-only areas while you and your family get up-close and personal with the Aquarium’s most amazing animals.

Three cool films are now showing on the giant screen at the IMAX 3D Theater. Audience members say the Academy-award winning special effects of AVATAR 3D are unequalled when seen on the six-story screen at IMAX. Guests can also travel to the edge of the known universe with NASA astronauts while viewing Hubble 3D or witness diving birds, sharks, dolphins and whales feasting on a swirling ball of fish from the middle of the action while watching Wild Ocean 3D. 
                                                                  
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