May 29, 2010
Swampland opened Memorial Day weekend to enthusiastic reviews by excited visitors who got to touch some of its fascinating inhabitants in “creature features,” live animal demonstrations. Swampland is exciting because the exhibit displays animals never before shown at the Aquarium. The exhibit features more terrestrial animals than ever before, revealing their beauty and significance to their habitats. The goal of Swampland is to show how something mysterious can be an important part of the global environment. Swamps have typically been portrayed as dark dangerous places, when in fact; they are important ecosystems that serve important functions such as water purification and protection of fish, hatchlings and smaller animals.
Creatures that live in swamps include reptiles, amphibians, fishes, birds and mammals. A 12 foot anaconda and a 6 foot alligator are among the inhabitants of Swampland. Not a known man-eater, the anaconda is a snake that could have the potential to be dangerous. Feeding an anaconda, the largest species of snake, requires two people and a specific feeding protocol, due to its enormous size and strength. Other animals in Swampland include piranhas, red tail boas, a large alligator snapping turtle, and tropical fish that use mangrove roots as nurseries.
Swampland is an elaborate immersive experience, with colorful mural work replicating three different types of swamps. Exotic creatures make their homes here among replicated South American swamps of the Pantanal, a mangrove swamp and a cypress swamp. Swampland focuses on the role of animals in these ecosystems, using a narrative style of interpretation within a storybook format that tells a fascinating tale.
Many of the animals in Swampland come from Brad’s World Reptiles in Corvallis, Oregon. Brad's World Reptiles develops professional large-scale, live-animal educational programs, interactive exhibits, and “creature features” at events. Brad Tylman, proprietor of Brad’s World Reptiles, said their goal is to provide the opportunity to learn about, view and touch some of the most beautiful and exotic animals on the planet. More information can be found at www.bradsworldreptiles.com.
Swampland is replete with an abundance of color and murals created by Aquarium artist Michael Cole. “The mural work for this exhibit covers every wall complete with replicated cypress or mangrove trees,” said Rich Sullivan, Aquarium Director of Exhibits. “Some of the illustrations are whimsical, featuring animals and insects that are challenging to keep in captivity.”
The first things visitors see upon entering Swampland are simulated cypress and mangrove trees. To the left is an 8 foot circular tank with a 12 foot anaconda inside. The food web is an integral part of the exhibit and the anaconda is first because it is at the top of the food chain. The first gallery portrays the swamps of the Brazilian Pantanal, the second gallery features a Florida mangrove swamp and the third shows a Louisiana cypress swamp. Interpretive text tells how swamps differ from other types of wetlands and how the plants and animals have adapted to live in these habitats.
Interactive components include a crawl-through tank where visitors can “swim with the piranhas,” a crawl-through simulated alligator burrow, a flip lid activity where visitors can guess what animals made the illustrated tracks and a naturalist tent where children record their own observations. Visitors walk through giant mangrove roots and see up close how protective they are and how they act as the swamp’s “nursery.”
Swampland reveals swamps as complex ecosystems providing essential habitat for wildlife performing important functions that benefit all living things. The exhibit demonstrates how swamps act as a natural filter, enhancing water quality and absorbing water to help reduce flooding and erosion. By showing how swamps play a key role in the health of the planet, and letting people know what they can do to help, the Oregon Coast Aquarium hopes that Swampland will fascinate and inspire people to conserve our precious swamps and wetlands.