Newport Aquarium’s Shark Bridge Celebrates One Year!

Newport Aquarium celebrates the one-year milestone of the world’s first Shark Bridge on April 30th. The V-shaped rope bridge is 75-feet-long and is suspended over the open water of the 385,000 gallon Surrounded by Sharks exhibit.

Newport Aquarium Shark Bridge

The world’s first Shark Bridge is 75-feet-long and is suspended over the open water of the 385,000 gallon Surrounded by Sharks exhibit.

It took about 788 hours of labor to make, build and install the Shark Bridge. More than 4 miles (approximately 21,750 feet) of rope was used to construct the Shark Bridge. It’s made of 1.5 tons of steel, and is strong enough to hold the weight of up to 20,000 pounds, which is equal to an entire semi-truck, 25 Mighty Mikes (our 14 foot, 800 pound American Alligator) or more than 600 King Penguins!

Newport Aquarium Shark Bridge

More than 4 miles of rope was used to construct the Shark Bridge. It’s made of 1.5 tons of steel, and is strong enough to hold up to 20,000 pounds.

Surround by Sharks is home to six species of sharks including our Sand Tiger Sharks, Sand Bar Shark, Zebra Shark, Black Tip Reef Sharks, Nurse Shark, and Scalloped Hammerhead. It also houses our four exotic Shark Rays Sweet Pea, Scooter, Sunshine, and Spike.

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You never know what you’re going to see when crossing Shark Bridge. Denver, the mischievous loggerhead sea turtle, might come to the surface to take a breath just below your feet. You can even watch as our biologists target feed our Shark Rays!

Newport Aquarium Shark Bridge

Shark Bridge is an interactive family walk through experience.

Don’t fear! If Shark Bridge isn’t for you, you are welcome to walk along the edge of the tank and you can still view all of the amazing animals swimming inside.

Crossing Shark Bridge is included with Newport Aquarium admission. Since opening last year, it has been estimated that guests have crossed Shark Bridge more than ONE MILLION times! Do YOU dare to cross?

Shark Bridge is an interactive family walk through experience. Walkers will experience slight side-to-side motion and some uneven footing. All guests must use the entrance due to the one-way direction of travel. All guests must walk themselves. No guest may be carried. Shark Bridge is an able-bodied experience. For the safety of all guests running, jumping, rough play, climbing, food and drinks, hard or soft casts or braces of any kind are strictly prohibited on Shark Bridge. Closed-toe shoes are recommended and shoes must be worn at all times. Children younger than 5 years old must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or chaperone. Newport Aquarium is not responsible for lost or dropped items. Guests are encouraged to secure all items before entering Shark Bridge. Items that fall may not be able to be retrieved.

On World Penguin Day—and Every Day – AZA-Accredited Aquariums and Zoos are Working to Save Species

Today is World Penguin Day, and in honor of these species, aquariums and zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are raising awareness to help the future of this beloved species.African penguins 2

AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos work not only for the penguins in their care, but also actively participate in efforts to help save them in the wild and to contribute to the scientific understanding of these species.

Paula Shark Wall

Paula the African penguin, pauses for a photo opp in front of Shark Wall.

“Here at Newport Aquarium, we engage our guests daily through a penguin parade and our penguin encounters; we educate them about the plight of the African penguin. Hopefully through our efforts, we can create awareness that will save the penguins,” said Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium.

There are six penguin species at Newport Aquarium – African, King, Gentoo, Macaroni, Southern Rockhopper and Chinstrap. Currently, all 18 of the world’s penguin species are legally protected from hunting and egg collection, but they continue to face threats. In particular, African penguins have seen a large decrease in population size and are listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™. In the last 100 years, African penguin breeding pairs, which numbered almost one million at the beginning of the 20th century, have dropped to approximately 25,000 – a 97 percent decrease. Reasons for this decline include oil spills; a loss of nest burrow sites due to historical harvest of penguin droppings in breeding colonies; and a reduction in prey due to commercial fishing.

Between 2010 and 2014, more than 30 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums took part in or supporting field conservation projects benefitting African penguins. During those five years, the AZA community invested almost a half million dollars in African penguin conservation.

AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos frequently provide financial support to field conservation partners such as Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), which provides high-quality rehabilitation and veterinary services to African penguins and other seabirds in need. SANCCOB also has a strong focus on raising awareness about endangered seabirds through conservation education programs and research projects, many of which have an AZA-accredited member as a collaborator.

Penguin Palooza

Newport Aquarium’s Penguin Palooza includes five species of cold-weather penguins including the Gentoo, King, Macaroni, Southern Rockhopper and Chinstrap.

In 2012, Ric Urban and WAVE Conservation Manager, Alle Barber (Alle Foster at the time), joined a small group of scientists on a penguin conservation trip to Peru to help protect endangered seabirds. Read more about their journey here.

Additionally, AZA aquariums and zoos, and other like-minded organizations, are collaborating through a bold effort focused on saving species from extinction and restoring them in their natural ranges. AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction combines the power of engaging 183-million annual AZA-accredited aquarium and zoo visitors with the collective expertise of these facilities and their conservation partners to save signature species, including the African penguin. SAFE also provides a unique platform for AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos to increase the impact of their field conservation efforts and conservation contributions.

“World Penguin Day is the perfect day for people to get involved. While the number of African penguins has drastically declined, the good news is that by taking conservation actions, we can still make a difference in saving these species. However, we can’t do this alone, and we hope that others who care deeply about penguins–and the other species connected to their ecosystem—will join us in helping them,” said Urban.

Penguin painting

African penguins just finished painting these masterpieces, all of which you can purchase in the Newport Aquarium gift shop. Proceeds help the WAVE Foundation.

To help make a difference on World Penguin Day and every day, the public is encouraged to:

  • Purchase a one-of-a-kind hands-on experience with these amazing birds through a Penguin Encounter
  • Purchase original penguin artwork from our in-house Picassos – our African penguins created these masterpieces that you can order online or buy in Newport Aquarium’s gift shop
  • Buy sustainable seafood. Check out Seafood Watch for sustainable food selections.
  • Share messages about African penguins on social media to help raise awareness. Be sure to use the hashtag #SavingSpecies

For more information about AZA SAFE and how to help African penguins and other species, please visit:

“Let’s Do It” on Earth Day!

By: Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium

It’s that time of the year; spring is here! And we’re celebrating Earth Day 2016!

This is the time of the year where everyone wants to make a difference and do something good for the planet. It’s just like the New Year’s Resolution: we say we’re going to exercise, we’re going to lose weight – hopefully you’re still on track with your goals, that’s great!
IMG_1814Seventy percent of the Earth is covered with water. Our oceans hold up to 97% of all of this water! If we’re doing the math correctly here, that means Earth Day is mostly about the water!


Oak Tree Sapling

So when we plant a tree or recycle our cereal box, we’re saving the oceans and rivers. Plant a Tree and Save a Fish!

Today, I want everyone to make another resolution and take the “Let’s do it Recycle Paper Pledge.” Did you know, according to the US EPA, paper and paperboard products make up the largest portion of solid waste sent to a landfill?Lets-Do-It-Recycle-Logo

We should be recycling paper – it’s easy and simple. We can all be a part of something big even in our region by recycling at home and at the office. In the Greater Cincinnati Area, the Green Umbrella Waste Reduction Action Team has set a goal to reduce the paper waste in landfills by 30% by the year 2020. Reducing paper waste in landfills reduces the greenhouse gas emissions, conserves natural resources and saves landfill space.

I think everyone can take a few seconds and take the pledge – I have!  I also want everyone to tag Newport Aquarium through Facebook and Twitter, showing us how you are doing something special for Earth Day 2016!

Find us on Twitter:

#LetsDoItRecycle! @LetsDoItRecycle

Newport Aquarium is a member of Green Umbrella in Cincinnati. It is a nonprofit organization that works through volunteers to maximize environmental sustainability through member organizations and individuals.

Top 10 Seahorse Fun Facts

Seahorses: Unbridled Fun, Newport Aquarium’s newest exhibit, features 10 species of seahorses and their relatives. Here are 10 Fun Facts:

1.     Seahorses, sea dragons, pipefish, razorfish and trumpetfish are all part of the Sygnathid family, which means “fused jaws” in Greek.

2.     Seahorses are the only animals where the male becomes pregnant! After a courtship dance, the female deposits her eggs into the male’s pouch. The male will fertilize them, carry them, and then eventually give birth.

3.     A baby seahorse is called a “fry.”

4.     Seahorse fins beat at rates of 30-70 times per second! This is a similar speed to a hummingbird’s wings.

5.     Unlike most other fish, seahorses do not have scales. Instead, they have hard bony plates that help them stay upright when swimming.

6.     Seahorses have a prehensile tail like a monkey!

7.     A seahorse’s tail looks rounded, but it’s actually a square shape. The flat edge of their tail gives them a better grip and keeps their tail from rotating in the waves. Scientists are looking into how this design could help with prosthetics for people.

8.     Seahorses have chameleon-like eyes! They can move their eyes in two different directions at the same time! This allows them to look for food with one eye and look-out for predators with the other.

9.     Seahorses have a long, straw-like snout to suck in their food. They open their mouths so quick that it works almost like a vacuum.

10.  Seahorses are an “indicator species” – where there is a healthy seahorse population, it indicates a healthy habitat for all coastal animals.

Seahorses: Unbridled Fun

By: Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium

The Kentucky Derby is only weeks away and Newport Aquarium is bringing ‘horses’ of a different kind to Northern Kentucky. After months of anticipation, Seahorses: Unbridled Fun opens to the public April 9th. Newport Aquarium staff has been working around the clock, creating the most interactive seahorse exhibit you’ve ever seen. Guests can discover 10 species of seahorses and their relatives from the family of Sygnathids – which includes Sea Dragons, Pipefish, Razorfish, Trumpetfish and Seahorses.

Weedy Sea Dragons

Weedy Sea Dragons

Seahorse Characteristics

Seahorses and their relatives can be found around the world. They live in mangrove forests, coastal seagrass and coral reefs. In Seahorses: Unbridled Fun, guests can discover the unique characteristics seahorses have that equip them to live in these environments. Seahorses use their tail to grab and hold onto corals and grasses. They have eyes that work independently like chameleon eyes. Seahorses can hover and swim with the agility of a hummingbird.

In the exhibit, guests can design their own seahorse using custom computer technology. Each guest can use these unique characteristics and build a seahorse to email home or to friends.


The Barbour’s Seahorse

Seahorse Threats

There are several threats to seahorses around the world. What can you do to protect these amazing creatures? Maybe the easiest is to start eating shrimp – responsibly. You have to know where your shrimp is coming from and how it’s raised.

Seahorses and other marine life are caught in nets used in fishing for shrimp. Wild shrimp are caught through ‘trawl netting’ which is bad for the marine environments. Trawlers drag the seabed catching everything in their path and destroying the habitat.

Download the Seafood Watch App. This is one of the best ways to quickly find out more about the fish or shrimp that you’re ready to buy, and you can check if it is sustainable. Start looking for freshwater shrimp or prawns. This species does not have such an impact on the marine ecosystems and coastal waters.

Ribboned Sea Dragons

Ribboned Sea Dragons

Coral reefs and coastal seagrass habitats are home to many seahorse species. These marine environments are impacted even here in Newport Aquarium’s Tri-State region. From Banklick Creek to the Licking River, to the Ohio and eventually down to the Gulf of Mexico, our waterways will affect the oceans. What we do locally can make a global difference.

Seahorses are a good example of an indicator species. If the habitat is healthy, seahorses are seen in abundance and thriving. If the habitat is struggling with environmental threats, there will be few to no seahorses to be found.

I would like to invite everyone to come and discover the wonder of seahorses together with your families and have some “Unbridled Fun.”

Plant a Tree and Save a Fish

By: Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium

Plant a tree, save a fish. Just think about, there’s something to this. As I was growing up with Woodsy the Owl and Smokey the Bear, I didn’t really see the relationship between trees and stream health. I guess after half a century, I can still learn something new. Have you ever spent time walking along a stream, to see a crayfish or a minnow darting along in the current? There is something about listening to the breeze through the leaves, being shaded from the sun and checking out all of the cool creatures that live in this watery habitat.

Throughout Northern Kentucky there are streams, creeks and rivers that have trees lining the waterways. This is called the “riparian zone.” This riparian ecosystem is made up of trees, shrubs and plants that filter the water before it enters the stream, prevents soil erosion and sediment pollution in the waterway, and also creates shaded areas, keeping the streams cool and livable for the aquatic species. So putting it simply, Trees save Fish.

Reforest Northern Kentucky

Reforest Northern Kentucky

Volunteers taking part in last year’s Reforest Northern Kentucky

Newport Aquarium is working with the Northern Kentucky Urban and Forestry Council (NKYUFC) to increase our public education and awareness of the importance of trees in our communities. By planting trees and preserving our riparian zones, we are improving our environments, creating clean and safe waterways and enhancing our quality of life.

On Saturday, April 2nd, the Northern Kentucky Urban and Forestry Council will be hosting its Annual Reforest NKY Event at England-Idlewild Park in Boone County. For the past 8 years, over 2,000 volunteers have participated in planting thousands of tree seedlings throughout Northern Kentucky in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.

I will be out in Boone County with my daughter tomorrow to help plant trees. Let’s Discover the Wonder Together – Plant a Tree and Save a Fish.

Water Journey at Newport Aquarium

Water Journey

Follow the water journey throughout Newport Aquarium, look for this symbol in each gallery.

The Hydrologic Cycle

The water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle, describes how the Earth’s water is always changing.

For more than 15 years, we’ve talked about the importance of river and stream health at Newport Aquarium. Last year, Newport Aquarium received an Earth Day recognition Award from the Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission for promoting a “Water Story” throughout its exhibits with the goal of educating its guests about the importance of water conservation throughout the world.

The next time you’re at Newport Aquarium, check out the Water Story, which shows how important a role healthy streams and rivers play in our everyday lives.

Enrichment for the Otters

by: Megan Gregory, Public Relations Aide at Newport Aquarium

Have you ever been to a zoo or aquarium and noticed something odd in the exhibit? Something that looks like it belongs to a child, like a small slide or Easter Eggs? These weren’t thrown in by accident, these are enrichment tools! These items are placed in the exhibit to stimulate animals both physically and psychologically.

Newport Aquarium is fortunate to have several animals who participate in enrichment, most notably our Asian Small Clawed Otters: Neda and Pork Chop.

What is Enrichment?

Enrichment is an important factor when it comes to an animal’s well-being while under professional care. It’s modifying an animal’s environment to stimulate behaviors like those in the wild.

The Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) requires all accredited facilities to participate in enrichment programs. There are several types that are used on the otters to enhance their well-being: scent, food, physical, auditory, and training are just a few.

Why is Enrichment Important?

When an animal is in the wild, they spend a significant amount of time looking for food, building shelters, mating, and defending their space. While under professional care, they don’t need to worry about any of these things – which is where enrichment comes in. Adding this into their routine is a controlled and safe way to help the animals maintain their ability to adapt to change and stress in their environment.

What Items are used for Enrichment?

There are hundreds of options for enrichment tools. It’s something different for them to explore every day. Some days, there will be hay spread out; other days will be giant Legos. With Easter coming up, biologists have been putting Easter eggs with food or rocks inside of them to encourage the otters to pry them open. They’ll also have an Easter basket with rocks and eggs at the bottom, this gets them to forage a trait they’ll do in the wild. Scents like nutmeg, cinnamon, or other strong smells are spread throughout the exhibit, which keeps them intrigued. You’ll also notice that every once in a while, live fish are put into the pond inside the exhibit to encourage them to hunt.

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Each item has to be approved through Newport Aquarium’s Enrichment Committee before they can be used. It has to have a specific reason: What will this accomplish? Is it for brain stimulation? Is it to encourage exercise? It then has to be inspected for safety, making sure there is absolutely no way this can hurt the animal. After it’s been completely approved by the committee, it goes into a rotation. If the same tools are put on exhibit every day, it defeats the purpose of enrichment and the otters could get bored.

What Happens if the Otters Don’t Cooperate?

At Newport Aquarium, we are proud to participate in Animal Choice Programming. This means, for example, if Neda decides she wouldn’t like to participate in training or enrichment, she doesn’t have to. It’s also important to remember: even though we may not be able to notice it, enrichment is happening every day.

Pork Chop loves ice!

Pork Chop loves to crunch ice.

Neda loves to play with Legos. She's chewed these up a bit.

Neda loves to play with Legos. She’s chewed these up a bit.











You can see our Asian Small Clawed Otters in Canyon Falls. We have Otter Talks at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. where you’ll get to see Pork Chop, who loves to juggle, and Neda, who loves to play with Legos and shred things apart. Plan your next visit, take a look at the Newport Aquarium Events Calendar here.

Aquarium Says Goodbye to Thunder, Its Oldest Animal

Alligator Snapping Turtle was an Estimated 150 Years Old

Newport Aquarium’s oldest, and one of its most iconic animals, died Tuesday afternoon. Thunder, the aquarium’s 150 lb. alligator snapping turtle, and a mainstay in the Canyon Falls exhibit, was estimated to be 150 years old.  She was an original resident to the aquarium when it opened in 1999. A necropsy (animal autopsy) has been performed, but the cause of death will not be known for several weeks.

Thunder was discovered in a Louisiana seafood market in the late 1990’s when it was legal to take alligator snapping turtles from the wild for commerce.  She was rescued because of her size, and sent to a Missouri farm where Newport Aquarium found her.  At the aquarium, she spent most of her time in exhibits near Gator Alley and most recently in Canyon Falls.

In an e-mail to cast members, the aquarium’s Executive Director, Eric Rose said, “While Thunder was here, thousands of cast members and millions of guests have enjoyed and connected with her, including myself and I’m sure nearly all of you.”

Watch Thunder Swimming in Her Canyon Falls Exhibit

The Alligator Snapping Turtle is given its name because of its powerful jaws and long, spring-like neck. Its distinct ridges on the shell are similar to the rough, ridged skin of an alligator. It is found primarily in the southeastern United States.  They are opportunistic feeders, almost entirely carnivorous, relying on fish they catch by wiggling a piece of pink skin on their tongue that looks like a worm. They also feed on dead organisms they scavenge.

Here are photos of Thunder in her Canyon Falls exhibit

Please join us in remembering Thunder and the millions of smiles she’s brought to us over the last 17 years. Was your smile one of those?  Share your memory in the comments section below.


Spring Forward, Lights Off! Cold Weather Penguins Gearing Up for Spring

By Megan Gregory, PR Aide at Newport Aquarium

As we prepare to set our clocks forward one hour this spring, the Antarctic is preparing to enter winter and say goodbye to the sun.IMG_0290

The Antarctic is on an opposite schedule than the United States. As things get warmer for us, things are vastly getting colder in the South Pole.

Because the earth’s axis is tilted, the Antarctic only has two seasons: Summer and winter. During their summer (Late October through Mid-March) the sun doesn’t fully set while in the winter (Mid-March through Late October) the sun doesn’t rise.

How do we keep our penguins on this cycle?

The lights inside of the exhibit are slightly adjusted each week to mimic the lights of Antarctica. This helps keep the penguins in their natural cycle and exposed to a consistent photoperiod as if they were in the South Pole.

Why is it important to the penguins on this cycle?

It keeps the penguins on their natural cycle by promoting proper breeding and molting cycles. While penguins have reproduced under the care of institutions that chose to use an ON/OFF switch for their lights instead of mimicking the lighting schedules, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) reported enhanced reproductive success with varying annual day length and light intensity.

Ric Urban, Newport Aquarium’s Chief Conservation Officer and a member of the AZA’s Penguin Taxon Advisory Group Steering Committee, said that this also helps the penguins if they’re moved to a new AZA-Accredited institution. It keeps continuity with the penguin and creates a shorter adjustment period inside their new home.IMG_0214

If Newport Aquarium follows the seasons, will guests be able to see the penguins?

Absolutely! We still have lights on in the exhibits which usually start to dim toward the evening hours, around Newport Aquarium closing time. And like Newport Aquarium, most institutions don’t just mimic sunlight, but also moonlight! The illumination is still bright enough for guests to see our penguins waddling and swimming inside.

Guests can see one of the most diverse collections of cold weather penguins at Kroger Penguin Palooza 365 days a year! At Newport Aquarium, we have five species of cold weather penguins under our care: Chinstrap, Gentoo, King, Macaroni, and Southern Rockhopper. Guests can also see our African Penguins with our Penguin Encounter, an additional 20-minute experience inside the penguin house where you can get close and maybe touch one!

Leap Day 2016, Celebrating and Saving the Frogs

By Megan Gregory, Newport Aquarium Public Relations Aide

While Leap Day’s true purpose is to keep the year aligned with the seasons, animal lovers across the globe are using it to celebrate the world’s best leapers, FROGS!

We can find our leaping friends around the world on every continent except Antarctica. The Romans believed frogs brought good luck into their homes while the native Aborigines of Australia thought frogs brought rain, which would help their plants grow. Now a days, they can be found close to water areas like ponds, lakes, swamps, and marshes.

Frogs are a member of the amphibian family. Amphi means both while bio means life which refers to frogs living both in water and on land. The frog’s life cycle starts as an egg which is hatched into larvae (or “tadpoles”), as the larvae grows it develops its back legs, then its front legs, and finally emerge from the water. This process could take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years!


Bumblebee Poison Dart Frog

Frogs are important to the earth for several reasons. First, they are an indicator species. This means we can look at frogs in a specific area and determine how well it’s doing. If the frogs are thriving then nothing needs to be changed, but if they are struggling with survival then something is wrong with the ecosystem and immediate action is required.

Second, frogs are both predator and prey. They serve as food for many animals such as birds, snakes, and large fish. But, frogs help control the population of insects, eating a variety of spiders, mosquitos, flies, and sometimes mice. Frogs are known for using their long sticky tongues to catch their food. Their tongues are about a third of the size of their body. If humans had the same tongue, it would reach all the way to our belly buttons!

And lastly, frogs are very beneficial to human medicine. Since ancient times, frog skin has been used to help regrow skin. It was also believed that the oil secreted from frogs contain a pain reliever and help strengthen the immune system. More recently, it was discovered that compounds from their skin could be the key to treating cancer and HIV.

There are currently over 4,900 species of frogs and toads worldwide. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states that nearly 1/3 of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Major threats include:

  • habitat loss
  • global warming
  • Chytridiomycosis- a fungal disease that affects about 30% of the amphibian species.

How can you help?

Leap into action by becoming a FrogWatch USA volunteer with the WAVE Foundation at Newport. Aquarium. FrogWatch USA is a citizen science program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is always looking for passionate individuals to help collect data on local frogs and toads.

FrogWatch USA trains volunteers to identify local species, listen for their calls and teach them how to report their findings.

Leap day only comes once every four years, come spend your extra day leaping in Newport Aquarium’s Frog Bog, which is sponsored by CET and Think TV. You can see over 15 species of amphibians, play giant Frogger, and discover the sounds of frogs and toads from all over the world.

(Newport Aquarium Frog Bog Video:


There are more than 20 Green and Black Poison Dart Frogs in Frog Bog, along with nearly 20 species of exotic frogs from around the world.