To commemorate 10 years as one of the top tourist destinations in the Southeast, the Georgia Aquarium has launched a new dolphin presentation and added a sea lion experience.
The AT&T Dolphin Celebration and SunTrust Pier 225 sea lion gallery are scheduled to open to the public Thursday, March 31 along with a renovated 4D theater featuring a “Happy Feet”-themed show and several new touch pools throughout the downtown facility.
The Georgia Aquarium “has brought the ocean to the city of Atlanta and provided a huge economic impact to the rejuvenation of downtown Atlanta,” aquarium Chairman and CEO Mike Leven said. “This would not have been possible without the generous gift from Bernie and Billi Marcus, and we celebrate that and all the things we’ve achieved as we commemorate our 10th anniversary.”
Before ending its session Wednesday, March 23, the Georgia Senate honored the aquarium for its 10th anniversary. “The aquarium is a powerful economic force for metro Atlanta and our state,” said Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta). “It is a great influence on the city of Atlanta and the downtown area around Centennial Olympic Park.”
The aquarium housed sea lions from 2006 to 2010, but when the original AT&T Dolphin Tales presentation was added in 2011, the sea lion habitat was removed to make space. Those sea lions were sent to the marine habitat at Atlantis in the Bahamas.
In March 2015, the Georgia Aquarium rescued two sea lion pups from California and brought them to Atlanta after rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif.
Neptune and Jupiter, who were named by fans of the aquarium, will serve as ambassadors to educate the public on the challenges sea lions face in the oceans, including dwindling food sources. The two pups join four other rescued sea lions that were judged to be not releasable.
“We’re very excited to premiere our new California sea lion exhibit and presentation … and inspire guests about this amazing species,” Leven said.
The new AT&T Dolphin Celebration focuses on the beauty, grace, athleticism and intelligence of bottlenose dolphins, as demonstrated through a variety of new behaviors.
“We hope every guest takes away a deeper understanding and connection to these magnificent animals after experiencing AT&T Dolphin Celebration,” said Lisa Mignogna, the director of zoological operations and dolphin training at the aquarium. “This high-energy educational demonstration highlights the relationships we have developed with each dolphin and the training processes that help us provide exceptional care every day.”
The original Dolphin Tales completed its five-year run Jan. 3 after 4,618 shows.
Opened in November 2005, the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. It attracts more than 2 million visitors annually, 60 percent of whom come from out of state.