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  • Writer's picturePenny Neef

The Animals are Still Swimming at the Virginia Aquarium

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

Words by Penny Neef. Images courtesy of the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.

The seals are still swimming, the sharks are still feeding and the oysters are still improving the water of the inlet, but the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is closed to the public, just like many other places we love to visit in Hampton Roads.

The husbandry staff is at the Aquarium, feeding and caring for the animals. Matt Klepeisz, Public Relations Manager, reports that the staff is providing even more “enrichment opportunities” for the animals, since the public is not there to entertain them. Kind of like homeschooling for the animals.

One of VA Aquarium's seals ready for an enrichment activity.

Russell, a very intelligent crow, works his puzzle box for fun. Turns out that Russell was given a male moniker before a blood test revealed her true sexual identity. Russell is a girl, renamed Sheryl, but the name Russell has stuck. It’s hard to tell the difference between a girl and a boy crow from “external characteristics.”

You can follow the Virginia Aquarium on Facebook and other social media to see what’s going on while the public is away and the animals play. The Aquarium also announces their frequent, live virtual events via their website and weekly email blast.

The Virginia Aquarium has hours of content on their YouTube channel, from a virtual tour of the Aquarium to a calming sea turtle meditation, to the ever-popular mermaids. (Please note: The mermaids do not live at the Aquarium full-time and are isolating elsewhere.) I’d like to give five stars to the sea turtle meditation. It’s a full hour of sea turtles paddling gently through blue water. It’s surprisingly calming if self-isolation is getting on your last nerve.

Either a gator or a crocodile (sorry, the editor never learned the difference) smiling for the camera in their habitat.

Back to homeschooling- for human children, not marine animals. There are all sorts of activities, resources and educational fun stuff to do on the Community Resources page of the Aquarium’s website. It is conveniently divided into age groups and grade levels, including a whole section of Family Fun, which includes videos, games and activities. This makes life just a little easier for parents who are getting near to the end of their home-schooling patience.

If you follow the Virginia Aquarium on social media, you will see their live videos every Friday. Coming up will be Komodo Dragon and crocodile feedings, and training sessions with some of the more “charismatic” animals. I’d like to know who decides which animals are more charismatic? To each his own. Times can vary, probably depending on feeding schedules and the mood of the animals, so check in frequently.

A komodo dragon in his (or her) habitat.

Editor’s note: personally, I think this komodo dragon is quite charismatic, or at least takes a great picture!

The Aquarium is also offering a Science Talk Series. These are live, virtual events that are free, but registration is required. Coming up on June 2 will be “Science Talk Series: Stranding Response”. The Aquarium plays a key role when local marine life, like sea turtles, need help. Dr. Susan Barco and Dr. Alex Costidis, senior scientists at the Aquarium, will talk about how the animals are disentangled, rescued and rehabilitated. For more information and registration, click here.

Staff from the VA Aquarium help out a stranded sea turtle in a tank.

The Virginia Aquarium is hosting a virtual 5k run/walk, the Virginia Aquarium Turtle Trot on June 14 – 16. Proceeds will benefit the Aquarium’s educational offerings, animal care and Stranding Response Program. This is a great way to get the whole family out for some fresh air and exercise and support the Aquarium. 

There is all this and much more. It’s not the same as visiting the Virginia Aquarium, but nothing is the same. Klepeisz says the Aquarium is working hard “to stay connected to our friends and our community.”

Right now it is important to support our local institutions, like the Aquarium. We live here, right up against this big body of water. Our kids need to understand the environment. Sea turtles still need help. Our waterways still need the oysters. You can support the Virginia Aquarium right here.

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