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Newport Aquarium animals enjoy space-themed enrichment on May the 4th

What happens when you get a team of Star Wars super-fans who are even bigger fans of the animals in their care? May the 4th at Newport Aquarium! The annual tradition brings together a team of biologists, aquarium visitors and thousands of animals for a special day of space themed fun. But a deeper look reveals the importance of the effort in providing optimal quality of life for the animals that call Newport Aquarium home.

As visitors explore Newport Aquarium on May the 4th, they’ll come across everything from character
figurines to TIE fighters, a Millennium Falcon and even an X-wing Starfighter crash landed into the Lake
Malawi habitat. Each item is carefully placed in an environment where it makes sense to the well-known
sci-fi epic – like Naboo, a world of intelligent amphibians otherwise known as the poison dart frogs of the
aquarium’s Frog Bog exhibit. More importantly, they’re placed in a way to provide very specific
enrichment experiences for the animals.

All this work is a labor of love for Biologist Michelle Fry who spends weeks carefully planning each
placement for optimal effect. “One aspect of my job that I love is developing enrichment ideas and
items for the animals,” said Fry. “It is both challenging and rewarding to see how they will interact with
what we come up with.” The goal of enrichment is to increase the animal’s behavioral needs, optimize
their level of mental stimulation and create a rich variable environment. All of that adds up to healthy
and happy animals that are free to exhibit their naturalistic behaviors.

The baby fish of the new Hatchling Harbor exhibit are getting in on the fun with special carved
watermelons as food and habitat enrichment. Visitors on May the 4th are invited to wear their favorite
space gear to the aquarium. They’ll also want to keep an eye out for special surprises like underwater
lightsaber duels between aquarium divers. Find more information, including a $15-off deal on
Memberships, at

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