Animal Care and Rescue Center
Go behind the scenes to explore this innovative, world-class home for Aquarium animals and some of our rescue operations.
When it opened in 2018, the Animal Care and Rescue Center more than doubled the National Aquarium's capacity to care for off-exhibit and rescued animals, allowing us to truly live our mission to inspire and protect. The ACRC is located in Baltimore's historic Jonestown neighborhood, less than a mile from the Aquarium's main campus.
seal rehab suites
gallons of salt water
Guests who visit the ACRC can experience our animal welfare work like never before. Large viewing windows and an enclosed overlook gallery allow tour guests, student groups and other visitors to see animal care and welfare work previously unseen by the public. The ACRC also houses state-of-the-art equipment that produces 15,000 gallons of salt water each month. All rescued seal rehab takes place at the ACRC, while rescued sea turtles are cared for behind the scenes at the main Aquarium.
The ACRC also features a fabrication workshop where our talented team creates the National Aquarium's award-winning habitats. Guests can see the team at work and learn about the step-by-step process they use to create life-like replicas of corals, sponges, rocks and other elements of Aquarium exhibits.
You might associate "quarantine" with sickness, but that's not the case at the ACRC. The first stop for every animal that arrives at the National Aquarium is the ACRC. They stay for a standard quarantine period so we can make sure they're healthy, get to know them as individuals and give them time to adapt.
The quarantine period at the ACRC—which can last from a month to three months, and sometimes even longer—is in place to protect the health and well-being of every Aquarium animal. Quarantine protects newcomers as well as animals on exhibit that have been with us for a while.
Take a tour of the Animal Care and Rescue Center to experience the National Aquarium in a whole new way! Our ACRC tours shed light on our most important work—caring for the world's aquatic treasures and inspiring others to do the same.
Since 1991, National Aquarium Animal Rescue has rescued and rehabilitated endangered and protected species and released them back into the ocean. The ACRC—home to seal rehabilitation for National Aquarium Animal Rescue—houses two state-of-the-art rehabilitation suites where we care for rescued seals.
Every winter, seals strand along the East Coast of the United States. Seals are semi-aquatic animals, which means they come ashore regularly. Once a seal on a Maryland beach is determined to be injured or ill, National Aquarium Animal Rescue response staff and volunteers work to monitor, provide triage and transport seals to the ACRC for long-term rehabilitation. We provide care to seals rescued in other states as well.
To be released back into the ocean, rehabilitated seals must show they're ready by engaging in enrichment activities, being able to forage for food, passing medical and behavioral evaluations, and weighing at least 50 pounds. All National Aquarium stranding response and seal rehabilitation activities are conducted under NOAA permit 18786-04.
"The reason that Funzo is—and likely will always be—at the ACRC is because he does not really 'play well with others,'" explains Curator Ashleigh Clews. At the ACRC, Funzo has a pool all to himself. He also seems to like seeing tour guests as much as they like seeing him. "Funzo seems to enjoy the human interactions, so it is a win-win," Ashleigh says.
Pig-nosed turtles are found in rivers, estuaries, lagoons, lakes, swamps and pools in northern Australia. They can grow to weigh more than 50 pounds, and are known for their protruding, pig-like snouts. Although once believed to be extremely rare, these turtles are common within their range. There have been declines in some areas, and Australia has taken steps to protect the species from exploitation.
Please note, we cannot guarantee that guests will be able to see Funzo during their visit to the ACRC.
The Florida Reef is one of the largest tropical reef systems in the world. The National Aquarium is one of more than 30 sites across the U.S. holding and caring for healthy coral samples from the Florida Reef. These corals are housed at the ACRC and are given careful, individualized care.
Corals are not plants; they are aquatic invertebrate animals related to anemones and jellies. They need clean, warm, circulating water, regular feeding and reliable exposure to light. Each coral is fed algae and microscopic animals—or zooplankton—twice a day. The Aquarium team also measures each coral's growth and monitors its health.
The Florida Reef spans 358 miles and is almost 4 miles wide in some places. Its base is made up of slow-growth stony corals dating back 5,000 to 7,000 years. Back in 2014, researchers from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary noticed a sudden decline in the health of some species of stony corals that make up the structural base of the Florida Reef tract. Reef colonies began to develop irregular patches of exposed white coral skeleton, devoid of the colorful, live tissue typically associated with healthy reefs. The culprit is a pervasive outbreak of a pathogen now known as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. Researchers and regulators continue to investigate this SCTLD outbreak and work to recover the reef.
Several years ago, we created a vision to evolve into an aquarium of the 21st century, one that inspires the next generation of conservationists. Three keystone projects form the foundation of this vision, which we call our BLUEprint—the Animal Care and Rescue Center, Dolphin Sanctuary, and National Aquarium Harbor Wetland presented by CFG Bank.