Video and Photos: Tour the New Wonders of Wildlife Museum

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- We are just days away from the grand opening of Springfield's Wonder's of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium.  KOLR10's Lauren Barnas is inside the museum and aquarium with a preview tour of what the public will be able to see on Friday, September 22. 

I'm here inside great oceans hall. It's designed to mimic the open ocean.
And if you can see this quote on the wall behind me... It says "the sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net forever."
    
That is what the Wonders Of Wildlife staff tells me sets apart this aquarium from others. 
Usually, a guest is on the outside looking in, but here you can stand in the middle and be surrounded by the different fish.

 

Mark Schafer, the Executive Director of Wonders of Wildlife, talked to me about how this aquarium measures up to others around the world.
 "There's nothing quite like this, and as people come through this facility, they are just absolutely impressed. We've had people from other institutions that  have come in and have been highly complimentary from Shedd and other institutions, that talk about how nice this facility is, and they're very respectful of what John has done here."

Murals are incorporated all throughout Wonders of Wildlife.

It's two local brothers who have spent thousands of hours painting what used to be blank canvases.
If you can imagine, the brushes they use for most of the detail are about the size of a toothbrush.

Adam Wolken, one of the brothers, tells us what it's like to paint on such a large scale.
"It was a very large space and it was pretty overwhelming to see 600 feet of wall, 30 feet tall just staring at you. But we just kind of day by day, worked our way, and it turned out fun, so we're really excited about it."

I'm here inside Great Oceans Hall.  We moved up to the second floor, you can see there is another walkway up through there, so guests have a couple choices on how to experience the aquarium.

Right here there is a "bait ball" and the name gives you an idea of what it is.  
Museum spokesperson Jack Wlezien joins us now to explain what the living bait ball is and why it's part of the aquarium.

"As you can see behind us, we've got thousands of swirling herring that are tightly packed together.  And this is really Mother Nature's way of saying 'safety in numbers is a really good idea.'   As you can see, there are three black reef sharks circling around.  And that's what keeps these animals tightly packed together because they want to say 'let's clump together and show our strength to avoid these sharks.'

This is a natural behavior that happens in the ocean and we brought it here to the Ozarks on display behind me here at the Wonders of Wildlife bait ball exhibit."

"When I first heard about it, I thought the sharks - that was their food source.  But that's not necessarily the case?" Barnas asks.

"Correct.  We have these sharks on excellent diets so they are very well fed.  They are not going after the bait ball. They know to wait for the good stuff.  But that doesn't mean the herring aren't still nervous when they're around them.  This is exactly what they would do in the wild. So they are staying with their herd, if you will, and avoiding the sharks.  And when the sharks come right toward that bait ball, it's a really great show for guests because everybody moves out of the way and the whole school of fish rotates.  It's amazing to see.  So when people come and see this bait ball, their jaws are going to drop because it's just mesmerizing to watch these fish, just the beauty of it. 

Wonders of Wildlife has a climate changing feature which will be interesting to experience Tuesday, when we'll be live inside the Great African Hall, which will be much warmer than the Open Ocean exhibit today.
    
Learn more about Wonders of Wildlife at the Museum's website   

Photo Gallery: 

 


 


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