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Aqua Dome housing 150 species opens at Phuket Aquarium

PHUKET: In a country famous for its marine life, Phuket Aquarium ranks as the leading breeder of sharks born in captivity to be released into the sea, a reputation further emboldened by its recently opened marine resource study facility known as the Aqua Dome.

marine, tourism,

Bangkok Post

Saturday 15 July 2017, 12:37PM

The aquarium is equipped with a hatchery where the eggs of brownbanded bamboo sharks are collected from tanks and raised until they can fend for themselves. For five years, it has released about 1,000 baby sharks a year into the Andaman Sea off the coast of Phuket.

Bamboo sharks were chosen as they are not on the endangered species list and therefore symbolise what aquatic animal conservation can achieve, according to the aquarium. They are commonly found in the Indo-West Pacific from Japan to northern Australia.

A female starts producing 300 eggs a year from age three. Those at the aquarium are nurtured in a pond for three months before they are transferred to the hatchery where they spend the next eight months of their lives. After that, healthy specimens are selected for release.

The aquarium is also studying whether it can accommodate zebra sharks. Some have lain eggs at the facility in the last two years but none have hatched – yet.

Experts suspect there may be a problem with the insemination process, for example using sperm from sharks not yet mature enough to conceive.

The hatchery is a key centre of attraction at the aquarium, where the Aqua Dome ranks as its latest investment. The facility was officially opened on June 29 as an extension of the aquarium on the edge of Cape Panwa in Muang district.

The Dome, occupying an area of 500 square metres, houses 150 species of fresh and saltwater marine life. It makes use of interactive multimedia technology at its Ocean Hall and Deep Sea areas to bring the experience even more to life for visitors.

Ocean Hall has a 30-seat, dome-shaped theatre. Here, visitors can hear a narrated story about the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources’ work to care for Thailand's marine resources, which has drawn inspiration from Queen Sirikit’s Project on Sea Turtle Conservation in Koh Man Nai in Rayong in 1979.

The Dome also features a visual presentation combining animation with real life recordings of diving experiences at popular sites in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.

The animation introduces audiences to colourful characters like Sudsakhon, who figures prominently in Phra Aphai Mani, one of the nation’s longest and most famous epic poems. It also features Ma Nil Mungkorn, a mythical steed with a dragon-like head and scaly, black body that is ridden by the equally adventurous young boy.

In presenting this animation the facility both hammers home the importance of conserving marine life while helping to promote Thai folklore.

The two characters were adopted by the Aqua Dome after they served as the chief mascots for the Thai Pavilion at the World Expo Yeosu Korea 2012 and because they are excellent symbols, explained Pimpattra Sirithapong, associate museum and exhibition director at Index Creative Village PCL, which designed the project.

In the 30,000-line epic poem, the wild and seemingly untamable horse was brought to heel by Sudsakhon. The steed was first spotted on the legendary island of Koh Kaew Pissadan (which translates as "Miracle Island" or "Crystal Wonder Island"), located near the poet's home in Rayong and Koh Samet. After the horse rescues the boy from a perilous cliff they bond and the boy becomes its master.

Meanwhile, at the Deep Sea hall, visitors can see photos of and learn more about creatures that live at staggering depths of 2km below sea level. The hall employs special effects, “fog screens” and 4D technology to create a more vibrant experience including fun photo souvenirs, Ms Pimpattra said.

C and C Marine

The building resembles a coral reef due to the piecing together of cubic-polygon plates on its exterior – an architectural style that is becoming more popular in public buildings.

The interior design incorporates shades of sand giving way to azure that evokes the beach and sea as visitors ascend. Curiously, the floor changes colour from light blue to navy and then black as people move on to Ocean Hall, creating the feeling of slowly submerging into the oceanic depths. Iron-wrought decorations complete the effect by evoking a coral reef.

“We were given the task of displaying the information on marine life in a technologically inviting way to draw more visitors to Phuket Aquarium, which is outstanding in many aspects including its ideal location and the vast array of marine life on display,” she said.

“But it also needs an ‘extra magnet’, which in this case is our multimedia information display. This can heighten the experience as visitors peer into this window showing the sea as a paradise.”

The Aqua Dome project was launched on March 19, 2013 with the cabinet’s approval of an 80-million-baht budget to extend the aquarium at the marine department’s request. It was completed this February and opened its doors at the end of last month.

Ratree Suksuwan, who runs the aquarium, said families flock to the Dome as a fun-filled learning centre. It expects to welcome 300,000 visitors in its first year.

A hatchery for brownbanded bamboo sharks at Phuket Aquarium, Thailand's leading breeder of sharks in captivity. The sharks bred here are released into the sea annually.

Some may be surprised at the “token” entry fee for Thai nationals of B20 for children and B50 for adults but the aquarium was never intended to be a profit-driven, commercial entity. Rather it was modelled as a knowledge hub, Ms Pimpattra said. Nonetheless, foreigners must cough up B100-B180 for the privilege.

The aquarium was established in 1983 as part of the internationally renowned Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC), a research and monitoring station under the marine department.

Must-see features include its giant groupers, the biggest of which weighs 120kg, according to Ms Ratree.

Three of them were named by Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana during a previous visit, the names being Khun Similan, Khun Fueng Fha and Khun Punawat.

“Similan” refers to a cluster of protected Andaman Sea islands near Phuket treasured for their natural beauty.

Also resident at the aquarium are exotic species like the piranha, an omnivorous freshwater fish native to South America that is known for its razor-sharp teeth and incessant bite (piranha translates as “tooth fish” in Tupí, one of Brazil's indigenous languages).

Read original story here.



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