New Orleans is a city of ironies and so it is little wonder that in a place of sinking geography, the highest elevation occupied by a building is used to house the fish. The Aquarium of the Americas sits at fifteen feet above sea level, over looking the Mississippi river in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter.
In a city known for its Bourbon street debauchery there are family oriented alternatives and the Aquarium of the Americas offers a nice change of pace. The Aquarium of the Americas is funded by the Audubon Nature Institute, which also manages the New Orleans zoo. The Aquarium of the Americas has something for everyone. Wander into the Caribbean exhibit and walk into a thirty-foot long tunnel, surrounded by 132,000 gallons of water and fascinating creatures from North and South American waterways.
You can laugh at the antics of Buck and Emma, two playful Southern Sea Otters or learn about the declining worldwide Seahorse populations in the Seahorse gallery. Adventure Island is a new exhibit of hands on fun with plenty to touch, crawl, and climb on. In the 2,600-gallon pool, you can feed and pet the Cownose Rays.
A sunken pirate ship conjures up Louisiana’s past of colorful characters such as Jean Lafitte, the buccaneer turned patriot, who helped defeat the British in The Battle of New Orleans. Sharks prowl about the ship as if in search of sunken treasure. If pirates do not interest you, head over to the penguin display. The colony is comprised of two species, the African Black Footed Penguin and the Rockhopper.
The Rockhopper looks dressed for a Mardi Gras ball with his orange feet and wild tufts of yellow feathers jutting out above the eyes. There are seventeen known species of penguins but only two of those reside in the Antarctic and so the exhibit maintains its temperature at a pleasant sixty-eight degrees.
A rare animal on display is “Spots”, the white alligator. He is not an albino but a Leucistic Alligator. Leucism is a genetic mutation that causes white skin and blue eyes. “Spots” is one of eighteen Leucistic Alligators that hatched in 1987. They are the only Leucistic Alligators in the world and have made appearances on CNN, Tonight Show, and CBS morning news. Alligators usually live to be seventy in captivity but it is hard to say how long the leucistic alligators might live. Leucism is associated with a weakened immune system, so head out to the aquarium of the Americas and see “Spot” before it is too late.
The Aquarium was spared the wrath of Katrina’s floodwaters in 2005 but did not remain unscathed in the apocalyptic days following the storm. Workers were forced to evacuate and in their absence, water filters and air pumps failed. The Aquarium of the Americas lost 10,000 fish. As New Orleans slowly recovers, The Aquarium of the Americas leads the way as a draw for tourists visiting the French Quarter, the city’s oldest section. Enjoy a fun and educational experience while you help New Orleans rebuild by visiting the Aquarium of the Americas.
by Sandy Hester