Bermuda Fables

"I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians." – Charles De Gaulle

So when did the Aquarium become uncool? January 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — alsys @ 4:34 pm

Some of you know that I’m active with BZS and BAMZ. Since I was a kid really. I remember pestering my mom to take me there all the time as a child and I even became a Junior Volunteer and then a part-time staffer when I was in my teens. As an adult, I love that I can pass on that fascination to my daughter. But I’m consistently amazed at how few people actually go there, like on a Saturday. That place should be completely overrun with kids… and it’s not. How sad is that we let our busy lives deter us from experiencing nature, learning about the world around us. And to a very real degree, showing appreciation for the many men and women that work so hard to have these exhibits and information available to the Bermuda public. I wonder if that is totally it though – our busy schedules, that is. It is evident from things like BEST’s campaigns and other more recent events (like the beach bar scuffle – which I have my own opinion on but I do see their point), that the environment and conservation of it is not a high item on most bermudians priority lists. So when did we as a collective entity, on the whole, stop caring about Bermuda, the island? The ground beneath our feet seems less important than the money in our wallets.


I can say that I do usually see loads of tourists there when I go to the Aquarium and it really is quite sad that people from other countries show more interest in what we have around us every day than the average Bermudian does.


10 Responses to “So when did the Aquarium become uncool?”

  1. Tryangle Says:

    Good question. You’d think that with people having access to Discovery Channel, Nat Geo channel, etc, people interested in that kind of thing would then transfer it to viewing in real life some of those fascinating creatures and exhibits. And it’s not like the Aquarium is an expensive outing.

    You do raise a point on the beach bar issue. Like Southlands, there’s a segment of the community that’s passionate about conservation, and a whole different segment that’s either totally indifferent to it (perhaps because it doesn’t particularly affect them for various reasons) or for development of those areas.

    I was fortunate to sit on the Best of Bermuda Gold awards panels last year and one of the things that came up is how much people around here recycle, for instance. While other panelists remarked on how people would use the blue bins often around the office, for example, I pointed out that for many, trash is trash and things like conservation just wasn’t a thought at any level. Sorry to veer a bit off-topic but I think these kind of things are at least a little bit related when it comes to attitudes to nature, the environment and the priority it has in the lives of residents.

  2. Drew Says:

    The only reason I can think of as to why people don’t go to the Aquarium on a semi-regular basis is the fact that the exhibits rarely change. I will admit to not have visited the Aquarium in many years, but from what I can remember, 95% of the exhibits were the same as the visit before. I can remember going when the new big fish tank opened and I’m sure a lot of people went to see that as well. Therefore, in my at least in my mind, the only way to attract repeat visitors is to have new exhibits (and by this I mean new animals as well as new learning exhibits) opening regularly. I know due to the small size of our aquarium that large scale and/or frequent changes to exhibits/animal showcases aren’t feasible, but maybe having a rotation whereby each year they change the exhibits around and bring in new animals for people to see. I know I’d be more likely to go every year if I knew I was going to see new animals/exhibits than if I knew the stuff hadn’t changed since when I was 10.

    Just my 2cents – what do you think?

  3. alsys31 Says:

    No, veer away Tryangle. Most conversations aren’t straightforward and linear so I don’t expect this to be either.

    I make this comment often, and I’m sure it isn’t just a bermudian issue, but, for the most part, people really don’t give a crap about issues unless it affects them personally. I learned that during the time I was all het up about the child care kerfuffle and from watching all the things that my friends in B.A.D. have gone through to even be heard.

    The thing with this though, maybe it doesn’t appear to affect each and every one of us, not in tangible ways that say, lack of money can BUT it does, The environment, the ground beneath our feet, the animals around us, hell, the water we drink! These all are so very important.

  4. alsys31 Says:

    I totally agree, Drew. There is a bit of the sameness to the Aquarium and I can see how that can deter people. For me, though, it’s not about seeing what’s new it is just the experience. I used to go every week when I was a kid and it never bored me. And they have way more exhibits today than they did…. um, X amount of years ago, 🙂

  5. Martin Says:

    Compared with some Aquariums I have visited over the X years, e.g. San Francisco – it’s brilliant.

    Value per $ is excellent.

  6. Phil Says:

    Our two-year-old loves the aquarium, and for that reason we have a family membership and probably visit at least once a week. We think it’s the best place to take kids in Bermuda when you’re at a bit of a loose end for something to do.

    Would sure be nice if they could get that Madagascar exhibit finished though.

  7. Uncle Elvis Says:

    He CAN’T be two! Oh, lord! I’m SO old!

  8. J Starling Says:

    Hey Alsys,

    Thanks for bringing this issue up.

    I think many people know that I worked at the Aquarium for the last five years more or less, so I’ld be happy to answer some questions about the place if anyone wants to ask them. Now that I don’t work for them they can’t stop me!

    In regards to Drew about the exhibits. Unfortunately live exhibits are not as easy as museum exhibits to have a rotation of animals. Its not like we can just store some animals in the back for a certain period of time and bring them out when needed. The objectives of the exhibits are to balance between the animals welfare (making the exhibit as close to an approximation of their ‘natural’ habitat as possible) and the viewers enjoyment, as well as the health and safety aspects of workers and the animals themselves. To achieve these objectives the exhibits are designed well in advance to meet these criteria, with additional changes as required. This takes alot of time and energy to be frank.

    The individual exhibits are however routinely ‘shook up’ with the intention of providing enrichment for the animals, you know, give them a new experience. This can be something as simple as moving a rock, introducing a log or a tree, or contstructing a waterfall or something. The workers have to balance in this case the stress caused to the animals in the process, and whether or not they appreciate their enrichment or not. Its kind of a try and see process.

    It should also be noted that its not that easy to get new animals. First of, the mission statement of BAMZ limits the animals that can be displayed to island species only. I think BAMZ is the only institution in the world that specialises in this. It was put in place largely because Bermuda is an island, islands are hotspots of species evolution (through the theory of island biogeography, which is explored in the natural history museum there), and plus, most island species are small, and BAMZ has limited space.

    Beyond that, it is relatively easy to get Bermudian flora and fauna (we just go out and get it…), and as a result exhibits featuring Bermuda do change frequently, both with new exhibits altogether or with new additions to them. It is primarily the main aquarium hall, with its tanks and the big North Rock tank, along with the Local Tails and Discovery Room building that will demonstrate this. When I left the Local Tails building was being completely renovated, but I understand it reopened recently and should be all brand-spanking new, although the Discovery Room should now be in the process of renovation.

    Every exhibit has a collection plan, and as I said, the local flora and fauna can be collected relatively easily, although sometimes its harder than one might think to find some animals. All the same, the Aquarium staff are constantly updating their collection plans and exhibits.

    The Zoo though is a different question. The Zoo features non-Bermudian animals, and we are dependent on the availibility of acceptable animals from overseas. BAMZ is party to the AZAA (American Zoo and Aquarium Association), and does not display wild caught animals in the Zoo as a result; instead it actively works to conserve wild populations, as well as assist with reintroductions (there was a very successful reintroduction of Caribbean flamingoes to the Virgin Islands years back). As such all animals must be obtained from North American zoos, and there are additional complications concerning genetic diversity (as BAMZ participates in captive breeding and release programmes, notably the golden lion tamarins), and you’ve got to get the right sex and genetic diversity and all that, as well as ensure their health and viability for Bermuda.

    And after all that, there simply may not be any available animals at the time for the collection plan.

    I think the most recent new animals in the Zoo were the two new binturongs (bearcats) that are in the Australasian exhibit. There should also be a number of animals for the new Madagascan exhibit, although these are behind the scenes while the exhibits are being built. A new Aviary should be up by now though.

    And as for getting the new exhibits up and running, I can assure you that the workers there are also eagerly waiting for that to be done. The design has to be carefully checked first, and then there are the normal hassles of health and safety and getting the funding and the like in place. But I understand that it is now back on track and should be built within twelve months.

  9. Cahow Says:

    Excellant commentary J. Starling. In the 50’s and 60’s it was a great place too visit and have fun. It also taught us dicipline as youngsters as we had to abide by the rules even though tempted not too. It’s a great adventure for the children and most adults. The children benefit more because they are exposed to many things that did not notice at first as it’s only human nature to try and take it all in at one time.

    Actually my aunt worked there for many yuears in the 50-60’s. In fact we even had classes there weekly from Whitney Institute when we would wonder down the hill on science projects etc.

  10. ken Says:

    I know many families that make it at least a monthly visit to the aquarium. some more frequently than that

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