The Reef Opens Friday
Guests at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can now add a trip to The Reef to their Australian Adventure itinerary.
The exhibit, which features a 17,000-gallon saltwater tank depicting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, will open on Friday, May 22
Originally constructed in 1987, the aquatic exhibit was completely renovated over the winter. “We drained the tank, rebuilt the artificial coral, and buffed decades of tiny scratches off the 27-foot-long acrylic window,” says Zoo Director Jim Anderson. “The result is a sparkling showcase of this diverse ecosystem.”
Contractors added finishing touches to the tank on Wednesday, and dozens of fish moved into the exhibit on Thursday.
Two separate 600-gallon tanks display moon jellyfish and a new tank of venomous lionfish.
The Reef’s exhibit gallery has been renovated to resemble an old cannery warehouse in an Australian seaside town. Formerly carpeted and dimly lit, the gallery now features exposed brick, rustic beams, and colorful signage
The building also includes a 50,000-gallon shark tank, but zoo guests will have to wait a bit longer to see those predators. “The logistics of moving sharks are complicated,” says Anderson. “We didn’t want to make our guests wait any longer. We’re eager to invite them into The Reef to see what we’ve done so far.” Black-tip sharks will move into the exhibit with hundreds of small schooling fish called pilchards in July.
The Reef is part of a $7 million, three-phase renovation of the Australian Adventure, which was built in 1987 at a cost of $2.5 million. All funds for the current project, as well as the 1987 project, were donated by individuals, foundations, and businesses.
Phase 1 of the Australian Adventure renovation opened in 2014 and included visitor amenities such as expanded restaurant seating, additional restrooms, and improvements to the train station, which was renamed the Z.O.&O. Railroad.
Phase 2 of the Australian Adventure renovation includes The Reef and the all-new Stingray Bay, which is currently under construction. Stingray Bay occupies the former Nocturnal Building, and opening is planned for late July.
In 2016, Phase 3 of the Australian Adventure renovation will completely upgrade the current Outback and include a play stream called Crocodile Creek, new bird aviaries, a new reptile exhibit, and renovations to the River Ride, kangaroo yard, and dingo exhibit. The zoo is also scheduled to receive Tasmanian devils from Australia in late 2015 as part of an Australian government program aimed at protecting this species. Wild Tasmanian devils are under severe threat from a deadly transmissible cancer. Their exhibit will open in 2016 as part of Phase 3.
Donations to the Australian Adventure Capital Campaign are welcome. For $400, a Recognition Tile can be engraved with the names of individuals, families, and businesses and displayed on a decorative wall at the Australian Adventure entrance. For donation information, visit kidszoo.org or contact the zoo at 260-427-6800.
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