The Oceanarium will open to the public on May 23.
On Thursday, the staff was busy getting everything ready.
Shedd's belugas, dolphins, sea lions and Oceanarium are back. On Saturday, the world premier Marine Mammal Pavilion will open to the public. On Thursday, the staff is putting the finishing touches on the much anticipated renovated Oceanarium. Guests will be able to welcome home their favorite animals.
"All of the dolphins, the whale, the sea lion, otters, they've all returned. And we've welcomed some new animals," said Ted Beattie, president and CEO of Shedd Aquarium.
Visitors can experience the magic of the Shedd and its unique setting on the lakefront giving it the feel of the Pacific Northwest with temperate rain forests, rivers, tide pools and the rocky ocean coast. Visit the Polar Play Zone, the beluga trail along with various degrees of the ocean.
"Our vision has been to connect the people to the animals. We give them an opportunity to do that in brand new ways," said Ken Ramirez, senior VP of animal collections.
It is exciting to see the Pacific white sided dolphins. Guest can also visit and play with all types of penguins. Workers have spent over 300 hours underwater polishing the glass where penguins will reside.
"Hope it will inspire you to learn more," said Bryan Schuetze, Shedd senior director of planning.
Shedd has upgraded and expanded its food service areas including a new north terrace overlooking the city. They have also added a number of guest amenities.
"We have VIP concierge rooms. All these things resigned to make that visit really great and get folks ready to learn and have fun," said Mike Delfini, Shedd senior VP of planning and design.
Shedd ranks as Chicago's top-attended cultural attraction and one of the top-attended aquariums in North America welcoming two million guests every year.
The Shedd will be offering discount prices on tickets throughout the holiday weekend. Check Shedd's Web site for more details about the animal homecoming festivities: sheddaquarium.org
(news release) About the Animal Transports
How do you transport seven beluga whales, two Pacific white sided dolphins, and two California sea lions? By FedEx, of course. With thanks to the world's largest all-cargo carrier, FedEx planes brought Shedd's precious cargo back to Chicago. From Hartford, Conn., FedEx Express brought home Shedd's whales and dolphins, and from Tacoma, Wash., FedEx Express transported Shedd's newest members, the sea lions.
"FedEx strives to make a positive difference in the communities we serve, whether here in Chicago or across the globe," said William J. Logue, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of FedEx Express. "We at FedEx are happy to put our logistics expertise to work and make this special delivery for the Shedd Aquarium."
"We are very grateful to FedEx for their support and care of transporting our animals," said Ted A. Beattie, Shedd Aquarium President/CEO.
Trucks were the main mode of transportation for Shedd's Alaska sea otters that returned from the Minnesota Zoo, along with temperate weather penguins that arrived from various accredited zoos across the country.
Planes and trucks were the mode of transportation of Miami Seaquarium's Pacific white-sided dolphin, and for all of the new Pacific Northwest fishes. The shortest transport, however, was moving Shedd's resident California sea lion, Tyler, from a behind the scenes area to his new habitat in the Oceanarium.
Marine Mammal Favorites Return to Shedd
After their "vacation" at the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, beluga whales Naluark, Mauyak, Naya, Puiji, Kayavak, Bella, and Miki have returned home. According to Ramirez, the biggest adjustment the beluga whales had to make while away was getting used to the snow and the seagulls.
Along with the beluga whales, Shedd's four Pacific white-sided dolphins spent their "vacation" at the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration. Piquet and Katrl have returned home, while Tique and Kri have been temporarily relocated to the Miami Seaquarium as part of the North American breeding cooperative.
All five of Shedd's Alaska sea otters, one of which is an Exxon-Valdez oil spill survivor, have returned from their "vacation" at the Minnesota Zoo.
Shedd's resident California sea lion, Tyler, remained in Shedd's care behind the scenes, along with 12 Rockhopper penguins. They have all moved to their new habitats a few yards away.
Nearly 20 Shedd staff members who were on location in Mystic, Conn. and Minnesota have all returned home safely, as well. Shedd's strong commitment to providing consistent animal care meant that Shedd's expert animal care staff packed up and moved to care for the animals during their nine month "vacation."
Shedd's Newest Residents
Shedd has acquired two California sea lions from the state of Washington as part of a relocation plan to protect endangered salmon at the Bonneville Dam along the Washington/Oregon border. The two sea lions – named Otis and Biff – were named for places along the Pacific Coast where they live. Pacific white-sided dolphin Ohana has arrived at Shedd from the Miami Seaquarium as part of the two accredited marine mammal organizations' support of the North American breeding cooperative. Ohana was born at the Seaquarium in 2006 and will remain at Shedd while Kri and Tique are away.
In further support of its mission, Shedd modified its penguin habitat and collection to feature temperate weather penguins. Shedd's 12 resident Rockhopper penguins, which spend considerable time in temperate climates, are now joined by eight Magellanic penguins.
For the first time, the Oceanarium will be home to dozens of fish. From anemome, octopus, jellies and isopods in the Polar Play Zone exhibit, to flounders, surfperch, sculpins and more in the South River estuary, Shedd's marine mammal pavilion is expanding its educational reach.
On May 23, Shedd reopens the Oceanarium doors to the public with a weekend-long celebration. Check Shedd's Web site for more details about the animal homecoming festivities: sheddaquarium.org