By EMILY RAMSEY
COMING IN MARCH: A rendering of the Oklahoma Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Island to be completed in March. The 65,000-gallon tank will feature two 300-pound loggerhead sea turtles, reef sharks and tropical fish.
The final phase of the Oklahoma Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Island, presented by The Oxley Foundation, is well underway, with the exhibit expected to open in March.
The 65,000-gallon tank will feature two 300-pound loggerhead sea turtles, reef sharks and tropical fish.
Alongside a boardwalk, spectators will be able to experience the ocean life from three viewing levels, including an underwater observation station for children.
“We want people to feel as if they’ve left Tulsa and landed in a sunny tropical island complete with tropical music,” says Teri Bowers, and executive director of the Oklahoma Aquarium.
Loggerheads are one of seven species of sea turtles in the world. They can live approximately 50 years and weigh more than 300 pounds. Sea Turtle Island will highlight the endangered status of sea turtles and what can be done to protect the species, even from inland Oklahoma.
“The innovation and dedication of our employees and volunteers has reached a new level on this exhibit,” says Bowers. “They are not only creating a beautiful permanent home for our turtles that have been living here behind-the-scenes, they are also building an immersive, educational experience.”
The project initially began in 2010 with early construction on the room where the exhibit will be located. However, due to the recession, the project was delayed until the aquarium was given a portion of the Vision 2025 surplus money in order to complete the exhibit.
The final phase of construction requires closing the exhibit from public view until opening. The aquarium will host a contest among area schools called See the Sea Turtles First Class, for a field trip during the unveiling of the exhibit. For adults, a new event will debut March 4, called Splash – Lagers and Loggerheads.
The exhibit will also include educational components that highlight the endangered status of sea turtles and what can be done to protect them, even from inland Oklahoma.
Next on the aquarium’s project list is the renovation of the coral reef exhibit due to the harsh effects of salt water, says Bowers. During the renovation, the exhibit will change from Caribbean to South Pacific Coral Reef.
That exhibit is planned to reopen later in 2017.
“The reef renovation will allow us to bring even more people back to the aquarium,” Bowers says.
Since opening in 2003, the Oklahoma Aquarium hosts approximately 400,000 visitors annually through daily admission, membership, school groups and special events.