122 September 2022- In celebration of the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA Mo), officials from the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago visited the award-winning Philippine Wild Reef Exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium on 21 September 2022.
Shedd executives led by Ms. Andrea Densham, Senior Director for Government Affairs & Conservation Policy, and Ms. Kristen Neria, Director of Exhibit Services, provided a guided tour of the 27,500 square-foot exhibit which features over 450 species of coral, 2,500 different species of fish, and over 40 sharks. The Philippine Wild Reef Exhibit, which features the marine ecosystem of Apo Island in Negros Oriental, is the most visited exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium since it opened in 2003.
Mr. George Parsons, Senior Curator for Fishes of Shedd and lead husbandry designer for the $47 million Philippine Wild Reef exhibit, shared that the exhibit’s flora and fauna are largely self-sustaining, with many of the corals, fishes and sharks originally imported from the Philippines still flourishing with the succeeding generations of underwater animals and plants. He recalled that it took three years to airlift them from Apo Island together with a nipa hut, fishing boat and indigenous tools, which are still displayed at the permanent exhibit. He sought to faithfully recreate the beauty of the marine sanctuary, with some of the aquariums patterned after photographs he took underwater when he visited the Philippines.
Ms. Neria provided updates on the modernization of the exhibit, which will be completed before the end of the year. Signages have been streamlined, with more detailed information migrated to interactive computer tablets that can also be accessed by visitors through their phones using a user-friendly mobile application. She added that the exhibit remains one of the highest rated attractions at Shedd, one of the top tourist destinations in Chicago that welcomes 2 million visitors annually.
Ms. Densham, who actively participates in international policy discussions on marine conservation, expressed appreciation for the Consulate’s visit to commemorate MANA Mo and the 40th anniversary of the signing of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Consulate team was composed of Consul Ryan Francis D. Gener, Atty. Eunika Lesli Leyva-Tiongco, Mr. Noly Dulay, Ms. Janice Kathleen Lobien, and Mr. Joseph Alcantara.END