The National Aquarium officially opened its new Animal Care and Rescue Center today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Animal ambassador Joey the South American yellow-footed tortoise helped Aquarium leaders and elected officials cut a ribbon of zucchini and fabric, respectively, across the building's lobby doors. Attendees included Maryland Secretary of Budget and Management David Brinkley, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Association of Zoos and Aquariums President and Chief Executive Officer Dan Ashe, among other special guests.
The 56,339 square foot building provides a permanent, world-class home for the care of the Aquarium's current and future animals and some of its rescue operations. The advanced facility creates every ecosystem of the ocean in the middle of Baltimore City, creating 15,000 gallons of saltwater and freshwater each month.
Home to up to 1,500 animals at any given time, the ample pools provide a place for care and acclimation for species from beta fish to sharks, and more than doubles the capacity for off-exhibit and rescue animal care. The space also features the exhibit fabrication workshop where corals and other elements are intricately handcrafted to recreate the world's aquatic habitats.
"Many Marylanders have fond memories of visiting the National Aquarium as schoolchildren or with friends and family," said Governor Larry Hogan. "The State of Maryland is proud to support the new Animal Care and Rescue Center, which will support the Aquarium's operations and animal care and give students and visitors the opportunity to create lifelong memories in this unique behind-the-scenes space."
A first-of-its-kind in the industry, viewing windows line the Center's primary hallways, allowing a unique opportunity for tour guests, student groups and other visitors to view animal care and welfare work previously unseen by the public. Opportunities to utilize and tour the building will be organized through the Aquarium. Tours for members are slated to begin in July, with general public tours to start in January 2019.
"At the National Aquarium, our highest calling is the health and welfare of the animals in our care. This innovative, new center is our beating heart," said President and Chief Executive Officer John Racanelli. "We are truly grateful for the public and private supporters who have made it possible."
The Animal Care and Rescue Center also provides a headquarters for the National Aquarium Animal Rescue team, celebrating 26 years of response, rehabilitation and release for more than 200 animals. The building specifically houses innovative rehabilitation suites for rescued seals.
"The National Aquarium is a key partner with NOAA's marine mammal stranding network in the Mid-Atlantic and has a strong reputation for providing first-rate care through its animal response, rescue and rehabilitation programs," said Retired Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and acting under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at NOAA. "This facility will allow the National Aquarium to expand their ability to educate the public on the critical importance of marine mammal and species conservation in a new and innovative way."
The property located at 901 East Fayette Street has been transformed over 18 months of renovation, in partnership with Baltimore-based firms Plano-Coudon and Design Collective. The location in the historic Jonestown neighborhood provides proximity to the main Aquarium building and an opportunity to connect with local residents through community programming and school STEM education.
"Rebuilding the City's neighborhoods is a cornerstone of my administration and I would like to thank the National Aquarium for their significant investment in the Jonestown community," said Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh. "This facility will create new opportunities for our residents and students and give the public an exciting behind-the-scenes look at the Aquarium."
The National Aquarium funded this project through a combination of public and private funds; support that allows the nonprofit to continue its mission to inspire conservation and engage with the local community and beyond.
For more information, visit aqua.org/ACRC.