(2 January 2011, Hong Kong) Ocean Park’s iconic Atoll Reef, a unique underwater world perched high up on Brick Hill, today played host to a heartwarming event as veteran aquarists shared touching behind-the-scene stories before the aquarium undergoes a renovation to become a new exhibit after 34 years of service. To prepare for the public opening of Aqua City on 27 January, the Park will be overseeing the largest and most ambitious fish migration in its history, as more than 2,000 incumbent ambassadors will be transported down Brick Hill to the new flagship Grand Aquarium. They will be joined by new ambassadors, including hammerhead sharks, a manta ray, bluefin tunas and mackerel tunas, in delivering important conservation messages.
Mr. Tom Mehrmann, Chief Executive of Ocean Park, said, “As our main aquarium since the first day Ocean Park opened, the Atoll Reef has indeed grown up with the community, overcoming different challenges and evolving over the years. During the last renovation in 1995, for instance, the theme of the aquarium was expanded from that of the South China Sea to the Indo-Pacific Region, allowing us to enhance the viewing and educational experience for our guests by introducing more species and diversity to the exhibit. While we will all miss the cozy setting of the Atoll Reef, our new Grand Aquarium, with double the tank volume and six times the guest capacity, will take Ocean Park to a new level of excellence and offer much more to both our guests and the animal ambassadors.”
Mr. Mehrmann added, “Although we have experienced moving large numbers of fish before, the work of transferring the animals from the Atoll Reef to the Grand Aquarium has proven to be exceptionally intricate as it involves traversing the significant distance between the Summit and the Waterfront. A move of this level of difficulty has only been performed in facilities in Japan and South Africa before.”
Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director, Zoological Operations and Education, said, “Keeping over 2,000 fish of about 250 different species at the Atoll Reef is a very involved process as different species have different needs in terms of environmental factors, food and conditions for breeding. Over the years, we have provided refuge to different rescued animals, such as our three green sea Turtles, and developed one of the largest collections of Napoleon fish in the world. Our success at breeding various species, including zebra sharks, has also enabled us to acquire unique species like the leafy sea dragon from other facilities through exchange arrangements. We remain committed to maintaining the highest animal-keeping and husbandry standards as the animal ambassadors move into their new home.”
Some of the aquarists at the Atoll Reef have developed a strong bond with both the animals and the aquarium as they have helped the facility overcome many different challenges since the first day it opened. Mr. Keung Siu-fai and Mr. Lam Cho-hee, who have been with Ocean Park since 1974 and 1976 respectively, were particularly grateful for the opportunity to contribute to marine conservation after a former career as professional fishermen. They recounted at today’s event the long and arduous hours spent nursing a Giant Grouper “Ah Gong” (which means Grandpa, for its advanced age) back to health when it had stopped eating for 60 straight days. The two keepers also reminisced about the time when the Park had resorted to transporting feed for the entire aquarium via the cable car during a 1-month period as road access to the Summit had been temporarily blocked. The two keepers both said, “The Atoll Reef will always have an important place in our hearts!”
In light of the scale and level of difficulty in moving the fish from the Atoll Reef to the Grand Aquarium, Ocean Park is taking extra care and precautionary measures to ensure their safety and comfort. The construction of the tanks used in the transfer and the hygiene conditions must both meet exceptionally high standards. For instance, the Park recently created a special container with a glass window that would enable staff to monitor the behaviour of the fish during the moving process. This same container had proven extremely effective when it was used recently to transport the new bluefin tunas and mackerel tunas to the Park.
Sharks and other cartilaginous fish, including the different rays, will be the first to be moved, followed by the smaller fish, such as the various coral fish species. Napoleon fish and groupers will be among the last group to be transferred. The entire migration process will take three to four weeks to complete.
Mr. Mehrmann also announced that Aqua City will officially open on 27 January 2011. He added, “I encourage everyone to plan ahead for a visit to Ocean Park so they can be among the first to greet the fish ambassadors in their wonderful new home!”