The Last Sixty Days of Swampland

November 02, 2011

With two months left to see the Swampland, visitors are invited to discover the animals and habitats of three different types of swamps during “The Last Sixty Days of Swampland,” before it is dismantled beginning January 3, 2012.

Swampland is an elaborate immersive experience, with colorful murals depicting 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.

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. Interpretive text tells how swamps differ from other types of wetlands and how the plants and animals have adapted to live in these habitats.

Imperiled wetlands have been in the spotlight in recent years, with catastrophic events such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Hurricane Katrina compromising the integrity of these biologically diverse ecosystems. As scientists look for ways to mitigate the damage of these events, the importance of wetlands to the health of our planet is becoming more evident. 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 vital 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 is potentially dangerous. Feeding an anaconda requires two people and a specific protocol due to its enormous size and strength. Other animals in Swampland include piranhas, red tail boas, a large alligator snapping turtle, poison dart frogs and tropical fish that use mangrove roots as nurseries.

Swampland offers visitors a chance to touch some of its fascinating inhabitants in “creature features,” swim with the piranhas, or crawl-through a simulated alligator burrow. A flip lid activity encourages visitors to guess what animals made the illustrated tracks. Children can record their observations in a naturalist tent. As visitors walk through giant mangrove roots, they will see up close how the root systems act as the swamp’s “nursery” by protecting small animals.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium acknowledges Swampland sponsors: Fred Meyer Stores, Meyer Memorial Trust, Juliet Ashby Hillman Foundation, Summer Lea Hillman Foundation, Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund, Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust, Jackson Foundation, Wheeler Foundation and 127 individuals who donated to Swampland.

After Swampland closes, the Aquarium will begin construction of The Sea and Me, opening Memorial Day weekend, 2012. The Sea and Me will be an interactive family adventure spotlighting four facets of the ocean; research, fishing, recreation and culture. Live animal encounters and interactive components will show the human connection to the ocean; how we interact with it and why we should learn and care about it.

While The Sea and Me is under construction, visitors will continue to enjoy the Aquarium’s permanent exhibits, including Passages of the Deep, with sharks bat rays and a diverse array of colorful fish native to Pacific Northwest waters, as well as jellies, sea otters, seals, sea lions and the sea bird aviary.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and has been named one of the Top 10 Aquariums in the United States by USA Today, Parents magazine, Forbes Traveler and Coastal Living.