At National Geographic’s new aquarium now open in Times Square, you can swim with whales and dolphins, explore coral reefs while the fish inhabitants dart out of your way, and even play with a seal. And the best part is that no animals are held captive or harmed.
Billed as the “aquarium of the future,” Ocean Odyssey leads guests through a vibrant coral reef teaming with ocean animals who react to their movements. Continuing on through the depths of the sea, visitors are surrounded by whales communicating in melodic cascading calls. Humboldt squids fighting for dominance provide an ocean experience rarely ever witnessed before they disappear into towers of kelp and a friendly seal arrives, ready to play. Says Lisa Truitt, chief creative officer and partner at SPE Partners, which created the breathtaking high-tech visuals, “We wanted to showcase some of the most interesting and rarely-witnessed animal behavior the ocean has to offer ….”
Wide-eyed children and adults alike are also presented with educational displays that encourage ocean conservation, such as an art exhibit made of bottles that would have gone into the oceans as waste and an interactive exhibit that lets players clean up a polluted coral reef. And 27 percent of the purchase price of every ticket sold goes toward protecting the oceans.
With Ocean Odyssey, National Geographic has definitively proved that an aquarium free of captive animals can be captivating. And it certainly makes SeaWorld’s go-to excuses about education and conservation look feeble and antiquated at best. Unlike SeaWorld, most people are realizing that education about and conservation efforts for animals start with respect for the individual, not imprisonment and enslavement.
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