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National Aquarium in Baltimore's Spectacular New Exhibit-Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes - To Open December 16.

Crystal Pavilion, With New Retail and Food Service Spaces, To Open Next Week

BALTIMORE, Sept 2 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Aquarium in Baltimore's highly-anticipated new exhibit, Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes, will open December 16, 2005. The new 65,400 square foot building will house the spectacular new exhibit, along with new visitor amenities, the Aquarium Shop and Old Bay Cafe. The new retail and food service operations will open to the public next week while staff continues preparing the new habitat for its future residents.

To view the Multimedia News Release, go to: http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/nationalaquarium/22685/

Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes depicts a typical remote river gorge in Australia's Northern Territory, and when fully inhabited in December, it will be home to 1,800 individual native animals representing 120 species, including freshwater crocodiles, turtles, fishes, free-flying birds and flying foxes.

This slice of Australia in Baltimore will offer visitors a truly immersive experience: as they walk through the bottom of the gorge, they will come nose to nose with free-roaming lizards basking on rocky cliffs, see colorful birds swooping and squawking overhead, perhaps feel a squirt of water as an archer fish hunts for its food, view flying foxes hanging from cliffside trees and appreciate the thick acrylic that separates them from the freshwater crocodiles and venomous death adder snakes.

The new habitat depicting this land of flood, drought and fire has been hand-carved and painted, parts of the exhibitry have been scorched to represent fires from lightning strikes, the life support systems are starting up, the 35-foot waterfall is running, more than 150 indigenous trees and plants are thriving and the animal enclosures have been scrubbed. The building is now nearly ready to accommodate animals and their caretakers.

The remaining four months before the new exhibit opens will be a busy time for animal and exhibit staffs as final preparations are made and animals are moved into their new homes. A colony of gray-headed flying foxes, fruit bats with wings that span over three feet, will be the first animals introduced to the exhibit in September. The bats require several weeks of acclimation to explore their new surroundings and learn how to safely move through their new habitat.

After animal curators are satisfied that the bats are settled, the other species will be moved into the new exhibit, among them Australian lungfish, frilled dragons, rainbow lorikeets, laughing kookaburras, cockatoos and Johnston's freshwater crocodiles, along with dozens of snake neck and pig nose turtles, snakes and other lizards and fish.

The animals, many from Australia, began arriving in Baltimore in late 2002 and have been living -- and growing -- at the Aquarium's off-site animal care center for the past few years. Among the largest of the animals that will live in the new habitat are the three to four foot long barramundi fish, five foot long crocodiles and the flying foxes.

Why did the National Aquarium in Baltimore mount this challenging and years-long effort to depict a remote part of Australia? "Once this exhibit is open we expect to introduce 1.8 million visitors to Australia's fascinating sights, animals and culture each year," said Jack Cover, the Aquarium's general curator. "We have worked hard to make the exhibit as authentic as possible and hope that after their visit more people will want to travel to Australia and experience this incredible environment first-hand."

The building is the Aquarium's first expansion since 1990 and will offer improved visitor amenities in addition to the exhibit. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Waterfront Park, under construction in front of the new building, will be completed by the end of October. The alliance between the National Aquarium in Baltimore and Animal Planet is a natural fit, merging their shared commitment to providing experiences that move people to respect and preserve the animal world.

Animal Planet, available in 87 million homes nationwide, is the only television network dedicated exclusively to the connection between humans and animals. The network's original programming brings together people of all ages by tapping into a fundamental fascination with animals and providing an entertaining mix of programming including original movies, adventure series, sports, drama and sitcoms. Animal Planet is a unit of Discovery Communications, Inc.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore, a non-profit organization, is Maryland's most exciting and popular cultural attraction, as well as one of the region's leading conservation and education resources, hosting more than 1.6 million visitors per year. The Aquarium's mission is to connect people with aquatic life in order to create a better world for both. It is dedicated to education and conservation through more than a dozen programs that serve the environment and the community.
 B-roll and photographs of this spectacular emerging exhibit are available.

 Contact Info



To receive exhibit updates, evolving story ideas and special invitations to media sneak-peeks, sign up for OzMail at http://www.aqua.org/news.html, or by emailing media@aqua.org, or by calling Jenny Yates (410-576-3874) or Hillary Bates (410-576-3860).

Related Links

http://www.aqua.org/

CONTACT: Jenny Yates, +1-410-576-3874 or Hillary Bates, +1-410-576-3860

Web site: http://www.aqua.org/news.html
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Date:Sep 2, 2005
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