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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Location: Itsukushima, Hiroshima, Japan (Miyajima)

Website: https://www.miyajima-aqua.jp/english/

Highlights: Oyster Farming Rafts, Otters

Photos: August 2016

Children Friendly (9): Being a smaller aquarium this is a great place to take little ones for a break from the heat. Being completely redone recently means everything is clean, new, and well signed. Exhibits are floor to ceiling, creating great viewing spots for children and plenty of opportunities to see things up close. Plenty of interaction also available with hands on opportunities and activities.

Animal Diversity (5): Being an aquarium that automatically means less diversity (for the most part) and this one being a smaller aquarium their diversity certainly took a hit. That being said they state they are focusing in the Seto Inland Sea, the waters surrounding the island itself, and in that sense they do a great job. Go here to learn about Japan and its animals not a world encompassing aquarium.

Animal Viewing (9): Like I’ve said, they’ve completely redone it recently and the new exhibits are great. Plenty of interesting exhibits which makes viewing the animals more fun. No animals were off display during our visit and for the most part were easy to spot or find. Great multi-level displays also.

Animals Happiness (8): The vast majority of the exhibits were very well done – natural looking, spacious for the animals, and plenty of natural enrichment. Interactive aspects are only done at certain times/days which gives the animals a break. The finless porpoise exhibit was an extreme letdown though. While we got good views of them their exhibit was bleak. Small with zero enrichment and it doesn’t appear to have any other exhibits for them, definitely a disappointment after seeing all the other well done exhibits.

Photography (8): This category was ok but not amazing. The exhibits were great with all the natural settings and interesting set-ups making for good photos. Multiple levels and viewing windows provided plenty of angles for pictures and spots to see animals. The lighting for many of the exhibits were dimmer, making the pictures sometimes appear lackluster or blurry as the exposure was longer. This isn’t awful but for the average photographer or tourist this might be tricky.

Layout/Map (6): Due to its multiple floors, the map of this aquarium is more confusing than most. The fact that the assigned route switches between the floors without completing all of one first makes it even more difficult. Arrows on the map help as does the general flow of the aquarium once inside but overall it’s not completely easy. Many exhibits are also multi-level which can throw some people off in terms of orienting themselves to the map.

Hours (7): A standard 9-5 opening hours means consistency which is great. I do feel like on weekends or in the summer time those could be extended, especially since most of their attractions are indoors and they’re near a HUGE tourist draw of Japan.

Price (7): Cheaper than your standard North American aquarium and some others in Japan but I wouldn’t consider it a deal, especially since it’s smaller than a lot of other aquariums I’ve been to. Discounts for students, children, and seniors helps as would a membership but you’d need at least three visits to start saving money.

Food (8): What I’ve come to associate with aquarium restaurants, quick easy meals which won’t break the bank but satisfy the majority of the population. Some ramen options, curry rice, and fun aquarium themed desserts. The prices were decent and plenty of children’s options but nothing to rave about.

Website (8): Again a satisfactory English version website. Gives all the necessary information right off the bat with times and prices, easy to navigate as it’s all on one page with skip down options. I thoroughly appreciated the photos of each exhibit right on the website which helps you get an idea of where you’re going and whether or not it’s worth your visit. Some more up close animal shots would be appreciated or information on any seasonal events or promotions.

Gift Shop (10): Another great gift shop! Japan seems to excel in this category, which is probably helped along by the type of consumers Japanese tourists are. Great themed merchandise with plenty of appreciation for many species they carry. Great souvenirs for adults and children alike with toys, food, and clothing all options.

Quiet Areas (8): At first I wasn’t going to give this as high but it turns out they have an outdoor picnic area which would drastically increase their opportunities to take some time to the side or have a lunch break. It wasn’t overly crowded when I visited towards the end of the day which meant plenty of space and time to spend in front of the exhibits.

Safety/Cleanliness (7): If you don’t join into any of the extras this would be a point or two higher actually. The aquarium in terms of cleanliness if quite high scoring. They recently redid the aquarium with new exhibits and signage and everything looks awesome. Safety is more in terms of parents watching their children for the most part. Many exhibits have open tops and children could potentially reach inside or even touch the animals if they’re so bold and being held up by a parent. They do have touch tanks and interactive options with some animals at certain times of the day – again posing a potential hazard.

Extras (7): They do have some animal shows and interactive areas such as touch tanks, holes in exhibits for the otters to hold hands, and supervised petting of penguins as well. It does appear they have some talks throughout the day. I couldn’t see any information about events or programing beyond those though which I feel could be added in quite easily.

Overall (7.6): I enjoyed this zoo! It wasn’t necessarily one I would go back to or list in my top aquariums but they did a great job showcasing the animals in the Seto Inland Sea. If you’re in the area and want to learn more about Japanese animals I would recommend it for your afternoon – it doesn’t take the whole day so it’s a nice break indoors!

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Spring is here and with that is warmer weather, blooming flowers, and the desire to explore the outdoors! While nature is a beautiful thing and wild places are a magical place to experience, not everyone has access to them. Whether it be because you live in a city, don’t have a lot of time off, or your country/area does not have a lot of native flora you are interested in seeing, there are other options for you! Zoos (and sometimes aquariums) are a wonderful option for people wanting to experience some extra plants in their life. The more updated style of zoos aims for a more natural look and strives to transport the visitor to the natural world of the animals they house. Exhibits with towering trees, lush grass, and even streams are more and more popular in the zoos of the world. Indoor pavilions provide tropical flowers and plants for the many birds and insects they house. Some areas have plants as the main focus!

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There are a number of zoos worldwide that are also partnered with a botanical garden. Sometimes admission to both is included, or at least a discount ticket is offered. Not only does this give more variety to your visit but also the opportunity for experiencing new and exciting plants you never knew existed! I have definitely seen more species of plants in my life from visiting zoos!

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Visiting a zoo with a good horticulture department and staff really heightens your experience and makes for a better zoo visit. Seeing animals in a more natural environment in general is great, but in a natural environment with plants that are native to their wild ranges is even better. Yes, learning new facts about the animals you are seeing is fantastic, but what about learning about the plants! Did you know many zoos house plants that are extinct in the wild? Did you know some zoos have more species of plants than of animals? Maybe that there are over five zoos in the US that are officially recognized as museums due to their plant collections? Or how about that the Toronto Zoo’s collection of plants is said to be worth more than their animal collection?

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So now that you’re craving a little more flora, where should you go? Any zoo that also has ‘Botanical Garden’ in the name is a good bet. Look to see if they house species like butterflies or tropical birds, or if they have any greenhouses or pavilions on site. If you’re still unsure, give them a call!

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While many plants are grown to be used as food and enrichment for the animals, most of the plant collection is used to enrich the exhibits and grounds of the zoo itself. So next time you’re visiting, take time to stop and smell the roses!

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Kagoshima Aquarium

Location: Kagoshima, Japan

Website: http://ioworld.jp/english

Highlights: Large multi-species tank, Deep sea dark area, Whale shark

Photos: Dec 2015

Children Friendly (10): I believe children would have a great time at this aquarium! There are so many ‘changes’ that occur they would not get bored easy. Changing floors and types of animals you see was great in keeping the anticipation of the next animal high. There was a play area AND an interactive zone full of hands on activities and exhibits for children to play in. The tanks and exhibits were at good heights for kids, many of which were floor to ceiling or close to it. They have outdoor exhibits for the dolphins as well as an indoor show area to keep the children busy throughout the visit as well. A big aquarium but not large enough to take up the entire day or exhaust the kids.

Animal Diversity (7): For an aquarium they actually have a large amount of diversity. They showcase a large amount of fish, invertebrates, and a handful of reptiles and mammals as well. You will be able to see a number of species not common in other aquariums which is great.

Animal Viewing (9): I was very impressed with the viewing of many exhibits. The tanks are for the most part quite big and have viewing on more than one side in many cases. Some exhibits have multi-level viewing and you can get right up to the glass to get close to the animals. Even the exhibits with hiding spots for the animals did not appear empty and most exhibits had plenty to look at. The glass was for the most part well maintained making it easy to see the creatures inside.

Animals Happiness (8): In most cases this aquarium was great in this category. The exhibits appeared very natural with plant life and natural looking hiding spaces for the more private animals. The larger animals are where they seemed restricted. The tank for the whale shark was noticeably smaller. For the dolphins it appeared their only indoor tank for night time was the show tank. During the day they are outside in the canal which provides a much more natural experience for them (and the guests). I also loved the dark area where you used red lights to view the animals, having the creatures in the dark for the majority of the time would make them much happier.

Photography (9): I was very impressed with the quality of the photography at this aquarium. At aquariums it tends to be harder to take good quality photos as the lighting and glass can be quite tricky. At this aquarium I did not have as many issues, the lighting was usually very well done. The glass was also quite clean, with only a couple exhibits having a little bit of problems with cleanliness above the water line.

Layout/Map (8): I actually really enjoyed the layout of this aquarium as it kept the pace well and introduced new climates/types of species in an interesting way. There were floor changes fairly regularly making it clear when you were changing what you were looking at and kept the anticipation up for the next exhibit. For 90% of the time you knew where you were going next, a couple times we would second guess if we were supposed to take a different route. The map, although a little confusing at first, is excellent. They provide just enough detail to sort out your whereabouts without being overwhelming. If they made it a bit bigger they would be able to put in some more detail. Also on the map it does not show the best time/way to view the outdoor exhibits or then the route to exit properly which was a little like a ‘what now’ moment.

Hours (9): Pretty good hours for an aquarium in Japan, they are open the same hours every day until 6pm. Opening time is 9:30 which I feel is a bit late, even just 9am would be better especially with how early the sun rises. They are closed four days out of the year at the beginning of summer which isn’t too bad. They also are open in the evenings until 9pm on weekends in the summer which is fantastic. I would argue those times on weekends year round!

Price (9): They have some of the cheaper prices for an aquarium I’ve seen, not only in Japan! At 1500 yen for an adult that is considerably cheaper than many I have been to. There are discounts for infants and children up to Junior High School age. The memberships are quite reasonable being the price of two visits (with discounts even more if you purchase two or members of your family purchase at the same time). Although there is a parking charge it is not overly expensive and is very close to the aquarium.

Food (9): Food options were good with a sit down style restaurant. They had a variety of easy fan favourites that were a good size and a decent price. They also had kids meals and dessert which was nice. I did take off a point as it would have been nice to have a couple more ‘fast’ or snack options somewhere else in the aquarium.

Website (8): The English site is well done with all the necessary information simply laid out. There’s nothing essentially wrong with the website but it definitely doesn’t do the aquarium justice. Having more photos or a map posted with some exhibits you see would bump this up for sure. The Japanese site is much better (not entirely different) and I love that their map online is interactive and shows you exactly what the exhibits look like when you click on them – very well done!

Gift Shop (7): I was a little disappointed with their gift shop to be honest, with the size of the aquarium I thought it would be better. There are two shops, both not very big. They do have quite a bit of whale shark souvenirs but overall variety was pretty low. More options for adults, more clothing, and less generic souvenirs would do wonders I think.

Quiet Areas (9): I was surprised at how well this aquarium did in this category. Most indoor aquariums with a guided route do not have many places to take a moment but this aquarium did really well. They had a number of spots you were able to cut through to a different part of the route which created areas to take a break. There were also a couple spots designed to regroup, take a rest, or just enjoy the view. I feel even in their busiest times there would still be a good flow throughout the route making it less congested overall. With the outdoor viewing of some of the animals it also makes for a larger area for people to gather and/or get away.

Safety/Cleanliness (8): In general this was a pretty clean and safe attraction. There were not any noticeably dirty areas or exhibits, the glass was kept clean and the exhibits were well maintained. In terms of safety, the interactive section did have rock you could lift up to reveal creatures inside which I feel could be slightly dangerous as some children would try to then pick up or touch those animals. Also the rock covers did blend in well and could be tripped over or stood on if not paying attention. A little more presence of staff in these areas might be a good idea.

Extras (8): Throughout the day there are multiple feedings at a number of different exhibits. There is also dolphin training as well as performances conducted every day. A daily talk by staff at a set location as well as a guided tour are available free of charge which is awesome. On the Japanese website it also appears there are workshops and events held regularly.

Overall (8.4): I would recommend this zoo to anyone visiting the area. The exhibits were nice, with a good variety of animals on display. The cheaper price than many aquariums nearby is also a huge plus. A great family outing or a fun date night!

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Nagasaki Penguin

Location: Nagasaki, Japan

Website: http://penguin-aqua.jp/english/

Highlights: Dive tank, outdoor penguin beach

Photos: Dec 2015

Children Friendly (8): A small indoor and outdoor aquarium which has plenty of hands on and interactive activities. Children would be able to complete it before getting tired. Most exhibits are easy to view for smaller children with multi-level viewing areas. I also noticed stools at a couple exhibits which would help as well. The outdoor exploration areas are very interactive with options for even more at an additional cost.

Animal Diversity (3): As the name suggests it is based around penguins, housing nine different species. I was surprised by the number of other species there though, with sharks, rays, fish, and invertebrates as well.

Animal Viewing (9): I was impressed with how well we could see the animals both underwater as well as above. The dive tank was awesome showing the underwater swimming. No animals were off display during our visit as far as I was aware of. The outdoor swimming area was a very nice touch in showing what the penguins look like in a more natural environment. When they are in the water however the actual viewing of them is not as good as it could be.

Animals Happiness (9): All species appeared happy and healthy. Having the outdoor area allowed some individuals to have an even more natural environment to interact with. Most of the tanks were very realistic and appeared quite clean. As with most aquariums larger pool sizes are always needed, at this aquarium it was the one section of outdoor pools with above ground viewing that I noticed this the most.

Photography (7): In general the photography was actually quite good with very clean glass in the underwater viewing areas. The large main tank had a lot of water spots on the inside making it quite difficult to photograph through which is the main area they lost points in this section. There was some difficult glare in a couple displays as well. Most other tanks had low glass which you were able to take photographs over easily. The outdoor area also had no barriers making for good photography.

Layout/Map (9): The layout is generally a one way route but they do make it easy to cut through and go backwards and/or choose your own route to a certain extent if you want to see feedings or something first. There are a couple offshoots or dead end branches off the main path making it a little confusing in which direction is best to take. That being said the map is fantastic and numbered exhibits to show the proper course. It is also has cartoon figures and colourful making it more exciting to look at!

Hours (9): Open year round every day is obviously a huge plus! They are open 9-5 every day with it extended to 6pm in August. I do understand it gets dark early but I feel they could extend their hours a bit, even opening an hour or so earlier.

Price (10): Absolutely awesome prices. About $5 for adults and $3 for children up to Junior High age. Free admission to children under 3 and senior citizens who are residents of Nagasaki city. Their year round memberships are also an amazing deal, saving money by the third visit. Even though you have to pay for parking, the cost is minimal and with such low admission costs I feel like it is not that much of an annoyance.

Food (7): A decent selection of drinks and ‘light meals’. It’s not huge but the prices are okay and if you are peckish during your trip you can head there. Since it is a small aquarium I understand not having a huge amount of options or a large cafeteria but if you are in need of an actual MEAL this isn’t the best place for you.

Website (10): A very well done website actually. The English version is easy to navigate, gives all relevant information, and is still nice to look at. It doesn’t look overly different from the Japanese version just more simple and streamlined.

Gift Shop (7): The gift shop was small but had quite a bit of merchandise in it. I did appreciate that it was mainly themed around penguins and/or aquarium animals. The products were mainly what I consider Japanese style souvenirs and more geared towards children. Having a wider selection, especially for adults would be a good improvement.

Quiet Areas (7): Even though it’s a small aquarium there were more quiet areas than I thought there would be! Having outdoor portions allow for more space to sit quietly or regroup yourself. Having the dead end areas also does provide some quieter portions of the zoo as well which is one positive of them I guess! I would appreciate some more benches or sitting areas especially near the larger tanks to allow for more appreciation of the tanks. During busy days I imagine it is quite busy though with not a lot of room to spread out and get away from crowds in the indoor areas.

Safety/Cleanliness (8): Cleanliness was well done throughout the aquarium, more so than I expected with the constant indoor/outdoor traffic. Low exhibit walls/glass could pose a safety hazard to children if leaning over them. It was raining slightly during my visit and it did make some areas of the flooring quite slippery, especially on the stairs which could be quite dangerous to guests.

Extras (8): It does appear they have quite a few extra programs on their website including feedings (both by zookeepers and the public) as well as interactions with the animals. They have small tours and parades throughout the days and even experiences riding in kayaks. They could expand more into summer camps and the like considering their outdoor space.

Overall (7.9): It was an enjoyable aquarium, especially if you love penguins! They had good exhibits with the outdoor one adding an interesting touch. A fun way to spend an afternoon but nothing state-of-the-art.

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It’s feature time! The next animal I’d like to feature is the largest rodent in the world – the capybara! Native to Central and South America, the capybara is actually fairly stable in their numbers and relatively easy to keep in captivity. Males reach up to 150 pounds which is quite large considering fellow species in the rodent category (mice, squirrels, porcupines, beavers, etc). Similar to some other rodents they are often found in family groups, usually around 10-20 individuals large. Females produce 4-5 young per litter and they are communally nursed and raised by the females of the group.

Capybara young at the Toronto Zoo

Their common name, capybara, comes from the native Brazilian ‘one who eats slender leaves’, while their scientific name means ‘water pig’. Both these translated names tell a lot about capybara characteristics. Capybaras are herbivores eating grasses and water plants, as well as fruit and bark. They also practice coprophagy, eating their own feces. This helps to digest tough cellulose and gain more nutrients out of their diet. The capybaras most famous trait is their affinity for water. They are considered semi-aquatic, spending a significant time in the water. This is for many reasons: protection from the sun and heat, to escape predators, and for mating. They have adapted webbed feet to better swim and move along muddy banks, as well as thin coarse hair which dries quickly. Facial features towards the top of their head are easier for water living, and they are able to fold back their ears which prevents water from entering. Being able to remain submerged for up to 5 minutes also helps! Although they only live near water, they are not picky about the type. They are found along rivers, lakes, swamps, ponds, marshes, and even flooded areas. This water requirement enhances their viewing in zoos as well. Seeing them sitting or swimming in the water is interesting and fun for children. Capybaras provide an excellent educational moment for people of all ages: learning about the geography of their native habitat, the species which make up rodents, and adaptations essential for their survival.

Adult at the Toronto Zoo

Group of adults at Arashiyama Zoo

While they may not be one of the major draws to zoos, I have found that they are a fairly common resident of them! Check your local zoo to see if they have them!

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It’s officially the holiday season and that means the time for giving! There’s so much going on this time of year it’s easy to forget to make greener choices which help wildlife and wild spaces. Here are some tips which help zoos, aquariums, and wildlife even after the Christmas season is over:

  • Memberships: Why not give the gift of a zoo membership this year?! Most zoos have individual or family memberships which allow you to go the whole season! There are usually member only events and specials discounts throughout the year as well.
  • Zoo Trip: Give the gift of a trip to a zoo or aquarium near you! An exciting trip for kids, a fun date idea, or a great afternoon with friends. Awesome gift for those who don’t need anything…give them an event to look forward to instead!
  • Adopt-an-animal: Many zoos, aquariums, and organizations have adopt an animal programs. These allow you to symbolically adopt or sponsor either an animal in the zoo or a wild species. Money goes towards feeding, vet care, or enrichment for zoo animals and is a great way to connect with the animals you’re seeing. Organizations such as WWF and CWF have programs where money goes towards initiatives to keep animals safe in the wild.
  • Buy Smart: If the above aren’t what you’re looking for you can still make choices which are better for animals and the environment. When you can buy local, hand made, or repurposed products. Choose products with less packaging and more environmentally friendly components.

What if you’ve already purchased all your gifts? There are still ways you can make better choices!

  • An added gift: Instead of wrapping presents, use a reusable bag or box that the receiver can use afterwards.
  • Recycle: Use old newspapers or comics to wrap presents, most wrapping paper cannot be recycled.
  • Scavenger Hunt: If presents are hidden for a scavenger hunt, no wrapping paper is necessary!

What happens if you’re reading this post AFTER the holidays?

  • Donate: Anyone get new bedding, towels, or clothes for Christmas? Donate the old ones to a zoo or aquarium near you! Many welcome donations for bedding, keeping orphaned newborns comfortable, and enrichment items (the apes especially love them!).
  • Recycle: Electronics are usually hot items for the holidays…what to do with the old? Recycle! Many zoos have cell phone recycling programs to benefit gorillas in the wild.

These are only a few options on how to make your Christmas more environmentally friendly. Even if you implement just one of these tips you will be helping wildlife and the environments they live in.

Happy Holidays!

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Summer is coming to an end but that doesn’t mean it has to be the end of zoo visits!

Field trips are something that should be fun and educational – zoos and aquariums are both! Most have great education departments that work to provide lesson plans, educational tours, and curriculum based activities for students coming for a visit. Whether you tie it to biology, chemistry, general science, art, geography, writing, or any combination of subjects, the zoo is a place for learning. Many zoos are also open year round or until Thanksgiving – you can plan a trip in the fall or spring. Build off of the sights and sounds of the zoo – art projects depicting their favourite animal, creative writing papers researching an endangered species, science projects showing the ecosystems of rainforests or oceans in other parts of the world. Zoos have the ability to inspire children to learn more about the world and the animals within it.

The zoo is a great place to learn about both animals and plants!

The zoo is a great place to learn about both animals and plants!

Perhaps the greatest benefit is the environmental or green practices that are often kickstarted by seeing endangered animals in person. In preparation of your zoo trip organize some classroom activities:

  • A recycling program teaching why plastic and garbage can be bad for the environment and the animals.
  • An old cell phone collection: students can collect from family and friends to be recycled on their zoo visit to help gorillas
  • A wish list collection: many zoos have a ‘wish list’ of towels, food, toys, etc for their animals
  • A scavenger hunt for their trip, things to find and see
  • Sponsor/Adopt an animal: as a classroom adopt an animal from the zoo and visit during your trip or check out WWF for a great Classroom adoption package
  • Make a pledge to carpool, walk, or ride a bike to and from school

What if you have limited resources or a field trip is not feasible? Doing any of the above activities would still be benefiting the children and the zoo animals.

A great example of educational signs found in zoos, aquariums, and sanctuaries.

A great example of educational signs found in zoos, aquariums, and sanctuaries.

So as a teacher if you are planning a field trip for the year consider a zoo, aquarium, or sanctuary near you! Parents and students suggest it to your teacher or school as a trip that you would like to go on…you won’t regret it!

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