Spring Garden fourth-graders visit aquarium rescue program

Neighbors

February 05, 1997|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN ERICA GUENTHER'S fourth-grade students visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore last week, they were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Marine Animal Rescue Program.

The Spring Garden Elementary School students became interested in marine animals in the fall and adopted two Florida manatees. The 25 students held a bake sale, raising almost $300. Besides adopting the manatees, the money enabled them to buy videos and classroom items and make a donation to the aquarium's rescue program.

That program, comprised of veterinary staff and volunteers, has treated and released 22 marine animals since 1994. Perhaps the most well-known rescue involved Chessie, the Florida manatee who scientists feared would die in the Chesapeake Bay when the water turned cold.

While two playful dolphins swam in the tank behind her, Virginia Manley, an aquarium guide and rescue volunteer, talked to the Hampstead students about the ups and downs of marine animal rescue.

She showed students a turtle shell gruesomely sliced by a boat propeller. Although it was expected to live, the sea turtle eventually died, she told the students.

Manley displayed a balloon removed from the stomach of a young pygmy sperm whale (the mammal was rehabilitated and released). Balloons are dangerous, she said, because they resemble jellyfish, which are eaten by many marine animals.

"Whenever wild animals are here, we observe strict protocol to protect the collection [in the other tanks]," she said, while leading students through the off-limits hospital area, which contained disinfecting foot baths and showers.

"Once you've been in this area, you're not permitted to go into the rest of the aquarium," she said.

She let the students know their donations were appreciated.

"It takes awareness and help like you guys did to keep the 24-hour care and rehabilitation program afloat," she said. "Your money is being used to feed the [marine animals], for medication, and to [maintain] the pool."

Donations may be sent to: National Aquarium in Baltimore, Marine Animal Rescue Program c/o Medical Department, Pier 3, 502 E. Pratt St., Baltimore, Md. 21202-3194.

More sea creatures

Small and amusing ocean creatures visited Spring Garden Elementary School last month as the school wrapped up a monthlong study of water.

The traveling crabs and snails were brought by "Under the Sea," an educational program developed by marine biologist Andrew Wilson of Vienna, Va.

"I keep the animals about a year and then release them. Sometimes it's hard to see them go," he said, holding a horseshoe crab estimated to be about 20 years old.

The children were delighted by the parade of crabs, which included a minuscule mud crab, hermit crab, giant hermit, rock and blue crab.

Snails, or any conch, Wilson told them, spiral left or right. From the fingernail-sized mud snail to the kitten-sized lightning whelk, snails, it seems, benefit from the decorative protection of variously lobed and spiked shells.

The children clapped when Wilson showed them a large sea horse. He followed with a sea star, sea urchin, skate and flounder. The highlight for many was the puffer, a fish that uses water for defense. The fish furiously doubled its own size by ingesting sea water, a display that made a memorable lesson in adaptations by ocean life.

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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