Well, it finally happened: the grand opening of the new Swamplands Exhibit at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. It's been in the works since we shut down the Oddwater Exhibit around the 1st of the year. And, although I'll only see about a month of it, the exhibit will be here for the next 18 months.
Opening weekend had some extra added attractions in the form of even more creatures, many of which had nothing to do with swamps but were cool anyway. Brad's World Reptiles in Corvallis is supplying all of our Swampland critters and he and his staff were on hand all weekend to show and talk about lots of other snakes, lizards, tortoises, frogs, and even a couple of macaws.
Our resident American Alligator, Jose, is about 6' long and will not be out where he can be touched by visitors. But Brad brought along Big Al and Little Al to entertain the crowd. These are both American Alligators and are about 4' long although they are 20 years old. Alligators, like most reptiles, grow in proportion to their food supply. So, although these two are only 4' long at 20 years of age, one of the others he brought is about 7' long and is only 8 years old. Big and Little Al are purposely kept small for use at school assemblies and such. At one point I got to relieve one of the handlers for awhile and I had Little Al sitting on my lap so visitors could pet him and see what he feels like. He is very used to this kind of treatment and is very laid back
The most impressive critter we have on display is also the hardest to photograph because she's so darn big.
She's a 15' long, 95 lb. Anaconda. This picture was taken from about 5' away and all you can see are a couple of her mid-section coils. The part of her body you're looking at is roughly 10" in diameter. She and a 6-7' long male are kept in a round tank that is about half full of water. Anacondas spend most of their time in the water. And, although these accommodations are way more luxurious than they enjoy at Brad's, it's still a fairly small space. The snakes get intertwined and it can be difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins at times. She is reportedly pregnant. I'm not sure how long the gestation period is but she'll give live birth to about 20 babies approximately 18-20" long. That'll be an interesting sight to see. As soon as they're born, Brad will remove them and take them back to his place for raising.
My charges for the first half of the day were two African Spur Thigh Tortoises, a male and a female.
This one is the female. They're also about 20 years old and should live to be 70-80. Not sure what they weigh but I had to move the male once to get him into petting reach for small children and he must have weighed at least 80-85 lbs. People were allowed to touch them and it was my job to talk about the tortoises (the captive population in the US now outnumbers the native population in Africa - which is not to say that they're being exported - they are just bred here in huge numbers, for the pet industry primarily) and to protect them from insensitive louts and grabby kids. And to mention to Mama that it's always a good idea to use the conveniently-placed hand sanitizers after touching any of the animals.
This was my last weekend with a regular shift at the Aquarium. Starting next Sunday I will take part of my shift to bring a couple of our swamp creatures out for the public to be able to see up close. I'll be doing this once on the AM shift and then again on my regular PM shift. After showing the animals and then taking care of putting them away, I'll be free to spend the rest of the shift covering whatever part(s) of the Aquarium I want to (I'll be a wild card). The animals I have available for showing are: two Colombian Red-Tailed Boas, two Burmese Pythons (one of which is an albino), a Florida Soft-Shell Turtle, a Red-Eared Slider Turtle, some Grey Tree Frogs and an Alligator Snapping Turtle:
Baby Burmese Pythons and their empty egg "shells". These guys are about 2 weeks old and quite aggressive. The two colors shown here are the same as the ones we'll be showing. The lighter ones are the albinos.
t was a fun but tiring day. The crowds were really big, as expected and everyone was pretty excited about the new exhibit.