Make us your home page
Instagram

Lemurs, hissing cockroaches star at Florida Aquarium's Journey to Madagascar

TAMPA — The Florida Aquarium, an attraction known for its stingrays, sharks and other sea creatures, is getting further into the mammal business.

The aquarium has created a new exhibit area devoted to ring-tailed lemurs and other animals native to Madagascar, an African island country where 80 percent of the plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world.

Clearly, the lemurs are the stars of Journey to Madagascar, which opens Saturday. But also appealing — or unappealing as the case may be — are the hissing cockroaches. The display has a "pop up" feature where guests can crawl inside and get face to face with the bugs — thankfully, from behind glass. To add to the creep factor, an audio recording plays the roaches' hissing sound.

The exhibit also includes a leaf-tailed gecko whose tail looks like a dead leaf, coconut crabs with shells that look like coconuts and Malagasy cat-eyed snakes with big, beady eyes. The aquarium left the window in the floor that looks down into the shark tank — a favorite feature among many guests.

The exhibit was funded by a $100,000 donation from the Yob Family Foundation in Tampa, said aquarium spokeswoman Katherine Claytor. The foundation, which gives to several local charities, was started by Jon Yob, president of Creative Recycling.

Journey to Madagascar is designed to enhance the guest experience and give people a new reason to come back, Claytor said. It replaced the outdated Aquariumania Gallery located above the Wetlands Trail on the upper level and is included in the regular price of admission.

The exhibit has no direct connection to the popular Madagascar family movies but will likely benefit from the association, aquarium officials said. The project development team chose to highlight lemurs, an endangered primate with golden eyes, because they tell a bigger story about Madagascar and its problems with poverty and political instability. Lemur populations have recently declined because of illegal hunting for bushmeat and pet trade.

The aquarium's three lemurs — two females, Annie Oakley and her daughter, Emmie Lou, and one neutered male, Remington — were donated by a wildlife center on St. Catherines Island off the Georgia coast. They arrived at the aquarium in October and have acclimated well to the staff and environment, said Elena Lamar, the aquarium's associate curator. Introducing primates to the aquarium complements the mix of aquatic animals, which includes otters, also mammals.

"This is a great place to be a lemur," Lamar said. Roseate Spoonbills randomly fly by the lemurs' tree-filled enclosure.

Journey to Madagascar is the aquarium's largest new exhibit since Stingray Beach opened last year. It coincides with the addition of a new penguin display area directly underneath called Penguin Point. The aquarium has several African black-footed penguins but, until now, they were on view only once a day during the Penguin Promenades and for behind-the-scenes tours.

The penguin exhibit centers around Boulders Beach, a popular tourist spot near Cape Town, South Africa, known for its large colony of penguins. It's just around the bend from Madagascar.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

>>If you go

Dive in

The Florida Aquarium is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. Admission is $21.95 for adults, $18.95 for seniors 60 or older, $16.95 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for children 2 or younger. Discounts are available online. For information, go to flaquarium.org or call (813) 273-4000.

Lemurs, hissing cockroaches star at Florida Aquarium's Journey to Madagascar 02/27/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014 11:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Target Corp. reaches $18.5 million settlement with 47 states over data breach

    Retail

    Target Corp. has agreed to pay Florida $928,963 out of a newly-announced $18.5 million settlement over a huge data breach that occurred in late 2013.

    Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have reached an $18.5 million settlement with Target Corp. to resolve the states' probe into the discounter's massive pre-Christmas data breach in 2013. 
[Associated Press]
  2. Gov. Rick Scott's family history of alcohol abuse could decide 'liquor wall" bill

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott must decide Wednesday whether to let Walmart and other big-box stores sell liquor, and he says a factor in his decision is the history of alcohol abuse in his family.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott is considering a veto of a bill that would allow Walmart, Target and other big box retail stores to sell liquor. [Andres Leiva | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. As St. Petersburg's Jabil Circuit broadens its business, it shrinks its name to Jabil

    Corporate

    St. Petersburg's Fortune 500 company, Jabil Circuit, informally tossed aside the "Circuit" in its name some time ago. That's because circuit board manufacturing, the company's core business for decades, has been squeezed out by a broader business agenda ranging from consumer packaging to supply chain management.

    Jabil Circuit informally dropped "Circuit" from its marketing material and signage, like at its St. Petersburg headquarters, years ago. Now it's official.
[Times file photo]
  4. Kahwa Coffee to open second drive-thru store in St. Petersburg

    Retail

    Kahwa Coffee will open its 12th location and fourth with a drive-thru in a former "farm store" in St. Petersburg.

    Kahwa Coffee will open its 12th location and fourth with a drive-thru in a former "farm store" in St. Petersburg.
[Times file photo]

  5. John Morgan 'prepared to invest $100M' in medical marijuana

    State Roundup

    John Morgan spent nearly $7 million pushing two statewide ballot initiatives to expand medical marijuana throughout the state of Florida.

    Personal injury lawyer John Morgan says he's ready to invest $100 million in medical marijuana. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]