Thursday, February 07, 2002

Aquarium adds a rehab facility

Research and special care among uses

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — A former warehouse in the city's west end is the Newport Aquarium's new Animal Rehabilitation Center and may one day be part of the aquarium's efforts in education and research.

        A 13,200-square-foot room serves as the main work area and nerve center of the operation. Nestled in various corners and along the walls are large and small fiberglass holding tanks serviced by the same piping, filtration and water quality equipment that keep the fish healthy at the nearby aquarium.

        “It's really a wonderful setup, and we have ample room to grow,” Aquatics Program Manager Erika Schissler said Wednesday. “We have created what amounts to a miniature of the aquarium here. We can match all the same types of water that we have in the exhibits at the aquarium.”

        Among the current residents at the rehab facility are a pair of new sand tiger sharks, a male and a female, which will remain in quarantine for the time being.

        They are the largest sharks in the aquarium's collection, with the female measuring 8 feet and the male just slightly shorter, and both weighing well over 200 pounds. But the rehab center is off-limits to the public, so the big sharks likely won't be seen publicly until the fall when they move into the shark exhibit at the aquarium, according to Ms. Schissler.

        Alicia Pradas-Monne, the aquatic biologist and veterinary assistant who works full time at the rehab center, recalled a recent visit with the sharks by another aquarium biologist who was doing some testing.

        “He needed to be in the tank, so we built a little shark cage,” she said. “Those two sand tigers came right up and bumped it. They were very inquisitive.”

        Ms. Pradas-Monne also keeps a close eye on a batch of poison dart frogs and their progeny, some tiny tadpoles, that are living in the serpentarium section of the rehab center.

        Ms. Schissler said the aquarium staff is forming a committee to plan future research that could involve work at the rehab center as well as the main aquarium.

        “We don't have anything specific right now,” she said. “It depends somewhat on how you define the research. One of the things we may look at is fish propagation.”

        Aquarium Communications Director Genine Drodz said “the possibilities at the (rehab center) are endless. We may eventually use it for tours, and for educational purposes in conjunction with our ongoing efforts by the education department at the aquarium.”

        “It could give visitors a closer look, more of a raw look at what it takes to maintain the animals at the aquarium,” she said. “Perhaps the most impressive thing about the center is the potential it holds for the future.


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