23 September 2010

Coastal heritage – so many reasons to celebrate

Ingrid Sinclair

It’s fairly obvious to most of our fans why we’re called the Two Oceans Aquarium. Here, in the Cape, we have the honour of being flanked by two of the world’s greatest oceans – the Indian and the Atlantic. Today is Heritage Day and, beyond the fantastic people and inspiring history that make up our legacy, we also have a wealth of biodiversity to celebrate. According to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), South Africa is one of the top three countries in the world in terms of biodiversity.

Says the DEA: “The South African coast has a large number (over 10 000) of species of plants and animals. This is almost 15% of global coastal species, and 12% of these are endemic, that is, they occur nowhere else.”

Fifteen per cent! That’s a huge number, especially considering that South Africa ranks only 25th in terms of total surface area when compared to other countries in the world.

The Aquarium is lucky enough to be able represent the place where these two oceans – the Indian and the Atlantic – meet, providing a safe and healthy environment for the multitude of species that occur on our vastly different shores.

Check out our beautiful Oceans of Contrast: Atlantic Ocean Gallery for insight into our kaleidoscope of marine life, which includes – but is certainly not limited to – the common octopus, the endangered Knysna seahorse and the alien-like giant spider crab.

At the Oceans of Contrast: Indian Ocean Gallery, you can get a peek of the vibrant tropical beauties that live in the warmer Indian Ocean. Anemones, clown triggerfish and Western clownfish are but some of the colourful creatures that inhabit these waters.

Our Kelp Forest Exhibit is one of only three of its kind in the world, and shows just how the conservation-dependent galjoen, our national fish, and his friends the red stumpnose, roman and white steenbras, swim in and out of the beautiful waving kelp fronds.

And don’t forget about amphibious fun – the Sappi River Meander contains not only some of our favourite froggy friends, like the threatened Western leopard toad, but also feathered ones, like the too-cute rockhopper penguins.

Being situated in such a crucial biodiversity hotspot also means that we can spread awareness about environmental issues and lead by example when it comes to responsible, conscientious business practice. We recently improved our Heritage Environmental Rating Programme score by 11% – we now have a score of 86% and are well on our way to achieving that coveted Platinum status.

Plenty of reasons to feel super-proud on this Heritage Day. Want to come visit us? Skip the long weekend queues, buy your ticket online, and get a 10% discount!

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