DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Newport Aquarium visitors have the opportunity to explore a galax-SEA not so far away on Thursday.
The annual May the 4th tradition brings together a team of biologists, aquarium visitors and thousands of animals for a special day of Star Wars-themed fun.
A deeper look reveals the importance of the effort in providing optimal quality of life for the animals that call Newport Aquarium home.
As visitors explore Newport Aquarium on May the 4th, they will come across everything from character figurines to TIE fighters, a Millennium Falcon and even an X-wing Starfighter crash landed into the Lake Malawi habitat.
Each item is carefully placed in an environment where it makes sense to the well-known sci-fi epic, like Naboo, a world of intelligent amphibians otherwise known as the poison dart frogs of the aquarium’s Frog Bog exhibit. More importantly, they are placed in a way to provide specific enrichment experiences for the animals.
All this work is a labor of love for biologist Michelle Fry who spends weeks carefully planning each placement for optimal effect.
“One aspect of my job that I love is developing enrichment ideas and items for the animals,” Fry said. “It is both challenging and rewarding to see how they will interact with what we come up with.”
The goal of enrichment is to increase the animal’s behavioral needs, optimize their level of mental stimulation and create a rich variable environment. All of that adds up to healthy and happy animals that are free to exhibit their naturalistic behaviors.
The baby fish of the new Hatchling Harbor exhibit are getting in on the fun with special carved
watermelons as food and habitat enrichment.
Visitors on May the 4th are invited to wear their favorite space gear to the aquarium. They will also want to keep an eye out for special surprises like underwater lightsaber duels between aquarium divers.
The festivities take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 4.