In July, SeaQuest, the interactive, educational aquarium, officially dropped anchor in Connecticut’s Westfield Trumbull mall for the franchise’s first East Coast location. Orchestrated as a seafaring trip led by a pirate captain, SeaQuest’s visitors will embark on a 17,000 sq. ft. “global expedition” through deserts, rainforests, frozen northern reaches, and tropical islands en route to learning about the animals that live there.
A big part of the allure is that the aquarium allows kids to get up close and personal with the animals. It might mean offering an Asian small-clawed otter a treat to get her onto a weighing platform or perhaps snorkeling with stingrays. You can also meet a sloth face-to-face.
Often, the animals that populate these biomes can be local rescues. Sometimes it’s because the animals live longer than their owners expect. In other cases, “some folks will get animals when they’re rather small, and they outgrow their tanks,” says Joey Mazzola, who’s on the SeaQuest husbandry team and a zookeeper who has worked with animals for more than a decade. Throughout the U.S., SeaQuest has helped rescue cockatoos, tortoises, reptiles, and many other species.
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“I think sometimes when you’re so separate from something, it’s hard to care about it,” adds Mazzola. “Whenever you can come out and see something like this, you become more invested.” Often, team members introduce bigger topics, like the environmental and ecological challenges these animals face.
“Seaquest really just takes it to the next level,” offers Elsa MacDonald, VP of marketing and PR. “The ability to sit there and have these little rascals climb on your lap and get on your shoulders makes it so exceptional and memorable. Imagine your kid loves snakes. How would they feel, then, if an expert handler came out with a giant snake they could hold and take pictures of? It’s a really amazing experience.”
SeaQuest is open to the public year-round and offers both annual passports and kids’ birthday parties at discounted rates. For more information, go to www.visitseaquest.com.