The National Aquarium in Baltimore is set to open a $20m state-of-the-art animal care and rescue centre this week.
The centre has been under construction for more than a year. Totalling 5,234sqm, the facility will be able to accommodate as many as 1,500 animals – double the capacity of the current, 25-year-old animal care centre.
The new complex includes quarantine facilities that all new animals coming to the aquarium will go through as well as two seal rehabilitation rooms, animal care tanks for turtles and fish, and a veterinary lab.
The seal rehabilitation rooms are for animals that have been rescued from coastal areas. It currently has two residents that are being rehabbed to be returned to the wild.
The centre also has a food preparation room, fabrication studios and large tanks for producing salt water as well as classrooms and office space.
The National Aquarium purchased the site, an office block located on East Fayette Street, for $4m and it has undergone $16m in renovations. It will replace a rented warehouse in Fells Point.
The facility will be open to the public with tours for aquarium members starting in July. From January, tickets will go on sale to the general public.
Ashleigh Clews, husbandry manager at the centre, told the Baltimore Sun: “We designed this building with the idea that we could tour the public through.
“Most offsite facilities are just that, offsite, so it’s kind of fun to be able to open our doors and say this is what we do.”
The centre currently houses around 100 animals, including a loggerhead sea turtle, striped bass, Australian lungfish, a freshwater stingray and two caimans. In addition to caring for ill or rescued animals, the centre will also provide a respite for animals that need a break from exhibits or that are to be put into breeding programmes.
John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium, said: “The care and the welfare of the animals that we care for is our highest priority so having a state-of-the-art facility that allows us to keep that highest level of care is crucial. It’s the aquarium behind the aquarium.”