Family-friendly World Ocean Day activities planned at AZA zoos and aquariums

Where there is life, there is water. All living creatures need water for their existence, whether they reside in the depths of the ocean, or in the vast, dry expanses of the desert. To celebrate water and all it provides us, accredited members of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), will host World Ocean Day celebrations throughout the United States during June.

World Ocean Day celebrations are part of "Wonders of Water," AZA's public education campaign that encourages families to learn about and conserve water. "Wonders of Water" aims to help people understand that from the air we breathe to the food we eat, we all depend on the ocean for survival.

"Many of us are not aware how much we affect the ocean and how much the ocean affects us. For instance, people are usually surprised to learn that the ocean produces 70 percent of our oxygen," said Sydney J. Butler, executive director of the AZA. "We invite people of all ages to join us in the fun and excitement of exploring the amazing world of the ocean and the animals that depend on it, and learn how everyone can play a part in conserving this precious resource."

There are World Ocean Day celebrations at many of the 211 AZA accredited zoos and aquariums in the country offering engaging family events, such as:

John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Ill. -- June 8

Visit Shedd for special dive chats, hands-on encounters and themed programming specially designed to educate about the importance of water and the animals that depend on it. Learn about the wonderful world of water and find out what you can do to make a difference. http://www.sheddaquarium.org

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, N.C. -- June 4-10

Discover the Wonders of Water and learn about aquatic wildlife. Attend a dinner/lecture with Dr. Karen Eckert of WIDECAST and Duke University. Fun family activities all week will focus on water awareness and conservation. http://www.ncaquariums.com

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, Columbia, S.C. -- June 4

Come discover the Wonders of Water as we celebrate World Ocean Day. Visit the Aquarium Reptile Complex and take the "Wildlife Friendly Yard" pledge, learn more about sustainable seafood choices and meet some fascinating critters. Our aquarium staff will be on hand to answer your questions about how to keep our oceans healthy. http://www.riverbanks.org

Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis, Mo. -- June 11

Celebrate the Wonders of Water at the Saint Louis Zoo! Explore the relationship humans have with oceans, rivers and streams, and learn how to play a part in conserving this precious resource. Activities include: 'build' an ocean by drawing your favorite sea animal on a large banner; a giant inflatable blue whale display; 'Deep Sea' movie; tips on good fresh water and ocean behavior, and much more. http://www.stlzoo.org

Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara, Calif. -- June 4-10

The Santa Barbara City Council has designated the week of June 4 - 10 as Wonders of Water Week in Santa Barbara. Learn about the amazing world of the ocean and the animals that depend on it at Santa Barbara Zoo. Zookeeper talks, face painting, a walk- through "ocean," ocean crafts, storytelling, and more. Also meet a new friend -- Aza, the special AZA mascot -- and learn about how you can help conserve water with a Wildlife Friendly Yard. http://www.sbzoo.org

Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi, Texas -- June 8

Celebrate the Wonders of Water with World Ocean Day festivities, education stations and activities. See the brand new theme that will be ongoing in daily programs at the Aquarium starting June 8. http://www.texasstateaquarium.org

Topeka Zoo, Topeka, Kan. -- June 11

Bring your family to the Topeka Zoo Wonders of Water Event to learn about water and all the ways it connects to your lives. Find out about some of the magnificent creatures around the zoo and how they are connected to water and ways you and your family can conserve water. You'll have a "whale" of a good time. http://www.topeka.org

Western North Carolina Nature Center, Asheville, N.C. -- June 4-10

Take a trip to the Western North Carolina Nature Center for the Spring Out Celebration, the Nature Center's first family event of the season! Discover the Wonders of Water as the staff present activities and information on water quality, preservation, testing, and how our rivers and lakes are used by animals and by people. http://www.wildwnc.org

Wildlife Safari, Winston, Ore. -- June 8

Celebrate World Ocean Day at Wildlife Safari with water education and fun water-related activities for the whole family. http://www.wildlifesafari.org

People can learn more ways to protect the oceans and the animals in them by visiting any of these zoos and aquariums, as well as by visiting http://www.azasweb.com.

"The oceans and waters belong to everyone, and protecting them is everyone's responsibility. The good news is, any of us individually can make a difference," said Butler. "We know that the biggest cause of water pollution is from individual people. If each of us does one thing differently, we can improve the oceans dramatically."

"AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums represent widely different geographical regions -- some are near oceans, others are adjacent to rivers, streams and lakes, while still others are landlocked, and yet oceans are relevant to all of us. With 'Wonders of Water,' we hope to demonstrate this universal connection, and that the things we put on the soil and in the water have an impact on the health of the oceans, no matter where we live in the country," concluded Butler.

Individuals can fight ocean pollution and protect wild animals through simple measures:

  • Cut up six-pack rings before throwing them away.
  • Recycle motor oil.
  • Reduce or even avoid the use of pesticides on their lawns and gardens.
  • Participate in a shoreline clean-up at a beach, stream or lake.
  • Don't discard fishing lines in the water or on the beach.

About World Ocean Day -- World Ocean Day, created in 1992 at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, is sponsored by The Ocean Project, a consortium of organizations and individuals from around the world who will come together on June 8 to celebrate the oceans, reflect on their importance in our lives, and take time to do something good for our blue planet. Visit http://www.theoceanproject.org for more information.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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