"Man's quest for
understanding life, it's origins,
This was perhaps the most sobering exhibit. One item which makes a person stop and think is a countdown clock showing that every minute 80 acres of rainforest are destroyed. The clock showed the total acreage of rainforests whose fragile ecosystem sustains half of the world's plants and animals, and showed the number of acres decreasing (very rapidly) towards zero. This really brought home the fact that the future of our planet lies in the hands of our children. If things are not done to start taking better care of our 'home,' future generations will have challenges far worse than we do to deal with. It is wonderful to see the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium working so hard to educate, as well as to entertain.
The flooded freshwater rainforest is definitely the crowning glory of the Aquarium. Like a gigantic greenhouse, the 100-foot wide exhibit literally looks out over the rest of the Zoo, enveloped by glass on three sides and topped with a glass ceiling that rises 40 feet into the sky. Extensive planting above and around the dolphin tank creates a lush, exotic, realistic rainforest habitat. There are over 50 different species of plants represented here, from 18 foot tall trees to 6 inch potted vines.
You enter the exhibit from the upper level of the Aquarium at treetop height, where you discover the canopy level of an Amazonian rainforest habitat. A long, sloping ramp encircles the rainforest, leading you slowly down through a maze of hundreds of jungle plants (including numerous smaller exhibits) before descending to the river level, where Chuckles, the Amazon river dolphin, has made his new home. Chuckles is the most unique animal in the Aquarium's collection, as he is one of a mere nine captive river dolphins in the world, and the only one in North America. He first arrived here in Pittsburgh in 1970, and now the people who faithfully visited him as kids are bringing their own children to see him. According to Prappas, it is worth a trip to the Aquarium just to see this one incredible creature while he is a living, breathing part of Pittsburgh.
The new Aquarium is a real treasure for the city of Pittsburgh. It
brings together an excellent and diverse collection of aquatic life in
a comfortable, appealing, and interactive setting which balances
entertainment and education. More importantly, it is a place that
children can visit and feel that they are welcome, which will likely
draw people back again and again. Hopefully some of the messages will
sink in, and our future leaders will realize what a beautiful gift we
have on this planet we call home.
Images © 2000 Albrecht and Kimberly Powell. All Rights Reserved.