Leopards Spring into the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium with Expedition: Asia
Draper—Another part of the globe has come to Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. Expedition: Asia, a themed exhibit showcasing the complex and diverse ecosystem of the Asian continent, opened Wednesday morning to much excitement. Several local elementary school classes and other local groups waited not-so-patiently to be let in before a giant Chinese gong heralded the opening of the exhibition.
“I know a lot of people have been waiting patiently for a long time and the day is here, finally,” laughed Brent Andersen, the Aquarium’s CEO, in remarks before the opening.
Andersen stressed that the exhibition exists to showcase the huge variation and fragility of the Asian ecosystem, and that Loveland Living Planet Aquarium’s mission is to educate explorers young and old about how symbiotic the relationship between all living creatures on Earth truly is.
“This newest edition is just an extension of what the Living Planet was actually created for, which was to showcase ecosystems from around the world—marine, Antarctic, freshwater systems, as well as rainforest. And to show that those animals, those ecosystems—how they work, how they function—are all actually connected and are part of a larger, global ecosystem: the living planet,” said Andersen. “When we can have people understand that and learn about those ecosystems, then they can take steps to preserve, and to be good shepherds of those environments and ecosystems.”
Available to view in Expedition: Asia are small clawed otters (the smallest of the 13 otter species, native to southeast Asia); giant Asian fish including the Arowana, Pangasius catfish and Giant gourami; birds such as the Oriental Pied Hornbill and the Luzon bleeding-heart; binturongs (also known as bearcats, native to the tall forests of southeast Asia), pythons and the star of the exhibit: a pair of clouded leopards.
Clouded leopards are an endangered species, with the Aquarium estimating only some 10,000 existing worldwide, with 87 clouded leopards in captivity in the U.S. Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is one of 23 institutions participating in the Species Survival Plan, administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, for clouded leopards. The goal, according to the Aquarium, is “to stabilize populations and develop conservation efforts in [the leopards’] natural habitat.”
Also at the exhibit are multiple educators—one holding a small strip of leopard fur for curious children to pet, another with a Borneo short-tailed python to introduce to the crowds—ready and waiting to inform visitors about the animals within exhibit.
“All these people are really the ones who built this exhibit, from the habitats to the infrastructure, making sure the animals have a great place to live. Really, these are the heroes of this exhibit,” said Andersen.
Expedition: Asia is now open to the public at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.