Shining a Light: Animal Wellbeing During Aquarium Aglow | South Carolina Aquarium

Shining a Light: Animal Wellbeing During Aquarium Aglow

Nov 11
Neon lights shaped like birds and aquatic animals light up during an Aquarium Aglow event at South Carolina Aquarium.

Shining a Light: Animal Wellbeing During Aquarium Aglow

As the holiday season quickly approaches, the halls of the Aquarium are bustling in preparation for Aquarium Aglow! If you visit us during the day this November or December, you’ll likely notice new lighting structures being installed, exhibits staff anchoring decorative elements in and around tanks and perhaps a member of the animal care team overlooking the construction process to ensure animal and human safety. Let’s dive into what it takes to keep thousands of animals safe during evening special events like Aquarium Aglow.

To Face Unafraid the Plans That We’ve Made
Animal wellbeing is always our top priority at the Aquarium. Before any new event or experience takes place within our walls, we take the time to assess the potential impact to our animal population. Although this is the second year of Aquarium Aglow coming to life, the process for planning this holiday light spectacular actually began three years ago! From brainstorming and drafting floorplans, to construction of elements and implementation, our exhibits and animal care teams have worked in tandem every step of the way to ensure animal wellbeing stays at the forefront.

Making Spirits Bright or Silent Night?
Just as we offer “quiet zones” for our human visitors who may need a break from sensory stimulation, our goal is to give our animal population the same choice of “taking a break” from the most direct exposure to lights and sounds. As exhibits and habitats are planned and constructed, we consider the needs of our animals that will reside within them and execute accordingly. For example, to keep our sea turtle patients in a similar light cycle they would experience in the wild, white lights are turned off and curtains are lowered in front of tanks in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™ every evening. During Aquarium Aglow, our Saltmarsh Aviary is fit with additional structures and shelters to provide respite from nighttime stimulation if desired. In addition, to prevent distress due to new stimuli, elements of Aquarium Aglow are introduced in and around habitats slowly and in steps, allowing the resident animals to acclimate to new objects and sensory output in or near their exhibits.

Holiday lights in the shape of a Christmas tree are lit up white and gold for Aquarium Aglow at the South Carolina Aquarium.This Aglow photo station backdrop serves a dual purpose as it also blocks direct bright light from our bald eagle exhibit.

In a New Old-Fashioned Way
As much as our team can prepare and implement tools and procedures to ensure optimum animal wellbeing, nothing takes the place of good old-fashioned observation! Throughout the entirety of Aquarium Aglow, animal care staff are on site, walking through exhibits and back-up spaces to monitor animal behavior and any potential hazards. In addition to visual checks, written notes are taken and collected to help the Aquarium continually improve all aspects of our residents’ wellbeing. As experts of animal care, these staff members are empowered to assemble the appropriate personnel to make changes (immediately, if necessary).

Making Lists… and Checking Them Twice
We are excited to have the opportunity to test and report new data sets that may eventually lead to increased knowledge in the animal care field. Topics of particular interest include decibel levels from event music and ambient noise and voltage testing of underwater lighting. Our team has set the appropriate limits for external stimuli based on research and extensive knowledge of our individual animals, and we are excited to add to ongoing research by gathering critical data on particular elements of the Aglow experience.

Two South Carolina Aquarium staff measure voltage and make notes as they stand over The Shallows tank.Aquarium staff gather data on voltage during installation of Aquarium Aglow elements in The Shallows.

Walking in an Aquarium Wonderland
Join us to experience Aquarium Aglow, opening November 18 and running select evenings through December 31! During your visit, you can enjoy the magic of the holiday season and be confident our animals’ wellbeing remains our top priority.

Published November 11, 2022

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