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|Mystic Aquarium Honors Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation with Rededication of Arctic Coast Exhibit|
Mystic, Conn. (November 21, 2008) – Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, a division of Sea Research Foundation, Inc., today hosted a rededication of the Arctic Coast exhibit to recognize the generous gift from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation that made construction of the exhibit possible.
In 1996, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation made a gift of $5 million, which funded the expansive outdoor exhibit that currently houses the Aquarium’s three beluga whales and the seven belugas visiting from Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Containing more than 750,000 gallons of water, it is one of the largest outdoor beluga exhibits in the nation.Originally named the Alaskan Coast, the exhibit was recently renamed to accommodate a wider range of species and reflect the Aquarium’s ongoing research in the Arctic to understand climate change and its effect on belugas.
“We saw the renaming as the perfect opportunity to reaffirm our gratitude to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation for their generous gift – the largest in the history of the Aquarium,” said Steve Coan, Ph.D., president and CEO of Sea Research. “The Arctic Coast was an invaluable addition to the Aquarium, providing visitors an up-close and educational experience with the belugas, and therefore helping Sea Research Foundation further its mission.”
“In 1996, then chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Richard A. (Skip) Hayward brought this proposal forward for tribal council consideration, which gained full approval. This relationship with the Aquarium was a natural for the Tribe because we have long placed an emphasis on education not only in our own community but also in the community at large,” said
Michael Thomas, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. “Historically, the Pequot people occupied the coastal regions of our state, and we recognize the importance of understanding the gifts our Creator gave us in nature, including the water and all the creatures placed there.”
The ceremony included speeches from Sea Research and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation representatives, as well as a blessing of the exhibit and animals by tribal elder George Eleazer, ceremonial dance performance and the unveiling of the new exhibit plaque, which commemorates the tribal nation’s gift.
The ceremony also served as a starting point for future collaboration between Sea Research, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the people of Point Lay, Alaska, where Dr. Tracy Romano, senior vice president of research and zoological operations at Sea Research, conducts beluga research each year.
“The opportunities for educational partnerships are vast and include student exchange programs among the three groups and collaborative programming,” said Dr. Romano. “Everyone at Sea Research looks forward to this new partnership and the possibilities it presents to educate more people about protecting our oceans and the fascinating cultures of the tribal nation and Point Lay.”
To provide visitors a deeper understanding of belugas, the Aquarium has installed a new video kiosk at the Arctic Coast, where guests may watch the birth of a beluga, the transport of Shedd’s belugas to Mystic or hear belugas’ vocalizations live through a hydrophone.
On the main exhibit floor, a new kiosk features a video on climate change in the Arctic, and a television features a live feed into the pool where five of Shedd’s belugas are currently staying. All were available for the first time today.
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