Latest News from Fort Fisher

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Friday, May 15th, 2015

A green sea turtle swims at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

A world without penguins, sharks or sea turtles is one the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is working hard to avoid. Today, on the 10th Anniversary of Endangered Species Day, the Aquarium is highlighting the extreme challenges faced by several endangered and threatened animals.

“Animals are disappearing from our planet in frightening numbers,” said Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan. “Today we are asking guests to consider the plight of certain animal species, like sharks and sea turtles, and what can be done on an individual and larger scale to help save these animals from extinction.”

Aquarium educators will share facts and stories about endangered species throughout the day. Guests may collect endangered species stamps in a “passport” at each education station. Those who collect all the stamps receive a small prize and the big reward of learning how they can also help make a difference for animals. Additionally, at 2 p.m., in partnership with Cucalorus Film Festival, the Aquarium will screen “Sticky”, a short film about remarkable stick insects who survived the brink of extinction.

Today’s programs at the Aquarium are part of a larger, national effort organized by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), of which the Aquarium is a member. Specifically, the 229-accredited members of AZA are coming together in a variety of ways to raise awareness of endangered species and to launch AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE).

For decades, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums have been leaders in species survival, and are already working to restore more than 30 species to healthy wild populations, including the American bison, the California condor and a variety of aquatic species.

AZA_SAFE_shark_1200x1200Through SAFE, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums will convene scientists and stakeholders globally to identify the factors threatening species, collect new resources and engage the public.

In 2015, SAFE will focus on 10 species and add an additional 10 species each year for the next 10 years. The inaugural species include: African penguin, Asian elephants, Black rhinoceros, cheetah, gorilla, sea turtles, vaquita, sharks and rays, Western pond turtle and Whooping Crane.

“AZA aquarium and zoo conservationists have identified more than 100 species facing the greatest threats and where accredited zoos and aquariums have unique conservation and science knowledge to contribute,” said Jim Maddy, AZA President and CEO.

The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher is involved with conservation efforts including the breeding and repopulation of the Carolina gopher frog, bonnethead and sand tiger shark reproduction, lined seahorse propagation and sea turtle rehabilitation and tracking.

To learn more, visit




Community Arts Day at Aquarium

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Monday, May 11th, 2015

CommArtsDay14Channel your inner Picasso at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The Aquarium and DREAMS of Wilmington team up to present DREAMS Community Arts Day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 16.

Local teaching artists from DREAMS help visitors tap into their creative side while exploring the magic of the ocean. Artists lead demonstrations, workshops and hands-on activities in recycled art, ceramics, painting and more. The theme for the day will be turtles in honor of World Turtle Day celebrated globally in May.  Activities are appropriate for children and adults of all ages and are free with Aquarium admission.

DREAMS Community Arts Day continues a multi-year partnership between the Aquarium and the Wilmington-based non-profit. The organization is dedicated to providing youth in need with high-quality, free instruction in the literary, visual, multimedia and performing arts.

Luna Hits Double Digits

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Luna now measures 6.6 feet long and weighs 68 pounds.

Luna, the albino alligator living at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, celebrates a major milestone soon. Staff and visitors will celebrate her 10th “hatchday” over Memorial Day weekend.

Luna arrived at the Aquarium in early 2009 at the age of four and immediately wowed visitors. Though she weighed less than 19 pounds and measured only 4.6 feet long from snout to tip of tail, she stood out with her unusual white coloring.

Left alone in the wild, the albino alligator would not survive. Yet, at the Aquarium, Luna has thrived.

“Initially, Luna had to be sensitized to natural sunlight,” said Aquarist Julie Johnson. “Staff also worked patiently to train her to be hand-scrubbed in order to remove algae and dirt on a regular basis.”


Luna with NCAFF Aquarist Julie Johnson in 2009.

For several years, Luna lived alone in a habitat and could often be seen warming herself on a log. In February 2014, staff decided to move her into a larger habitat with several natural-colored American alligators. She now shares a swimming area and lounging space with one male and two females.

“They get along well, and in the larger exhibit Luna has the ability to do more swimming,” said Johnson.

Because of the exhibit’s large acrylic viewing panels, visitors can at times get eye-to-eye with Luna. Many repeat Aquarium visitors marvel at how much the animal has grown. During her most recent physical in April, Luna weighed in at 68 pounds and measured 6.6 feet long.

During Memorial Day weekend, guests can sign a birthday card celebrating Luna’s 10th hatchday.

Mother’s Day Treat

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Monday, April 27th, 2015

NCAFF_MotherSon_CFSLet the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher help share the love with mom this Mother’s Day.

Aquarium admission is free for all mothers on Sunday, May 10. Create memories while strolling through the gardens, catching a dive program or meeting a sea turtle. Make the day more special by treating mom to a Mother’s Day Brunch and take-home craft 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The prix fixe menu, catered by Bon Appetit, includes meat lovers and vegetable quiche, mini fruit kabobs, finger sandwiches, cashew-encrusted chicken fingers and pasta salad. Cost for the brunch is $24 per adult, $22 for children 3–12, $5 for two year olds, and free for children one and younger. N.C. Aquarium Society members are $13 and children two and younger are free. Reservations are required for the brunch. Space is limited. Click here to make a reservation for Mother’s Day Brunch.

In addition, various tours and classes are offered during the holiday weekend including Surf Fishing and Behind the Scenes tours. For more information, pricing and registration for tours visit



Lorikeets Land at Aquarium

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Monday, April 6th, 2015
Lorikeets flock to eat nectar offered by two young guests at the new Lorikeet Landing at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

Lorikeets flock to eat nectar offered by two young guests at the new Lorikeet Landing at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

Fins and feathers now flock together at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. A new interactive, live-animal exhibit featuring lorikeets opened April 4, 2015.

 Visitors delight in admiring small, tropical birds perched on vines. The birds display feathers in dazzling color combinations from brilliant blues and greens to reds and yellows. Guests may purchase a cup of nectar to hand-feed these winged beauties. The free-flying birds land on arms and hands (and sometimes a head) to drink up the sweet juice with their unique brush–like tongues.

“’Lorikeet Landing’ continues to tell the story of valuable pollinators in nature,” said Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan. “Feeding a lorikeet is fun and exciting and will help guests make a personal connection with this beautiful and important species.”

Aquarium staff worked for months planning and preparing the aviary space which temporarily housed exotic butterflies in 2014. “Lorikeet Landing” is situated in a natural area adjacent to the main Aquarium and surrounded by an outdoor garden. The interior consists of hanging vines, trees, flowers and grasses.

Lorikeets, tropical birds from Australia, perch on a vine in a new exhibit at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

Lorikeets, tropical birds from Australia, perch on a vine in a new exhibit at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

Lorikeets belong to the parrot family and average around 10” tall. Their natural habitat is tropical forests in Australia. In the wild, lorikeets face predators such as falcons, pythons, humans capturing the birds for the illegal pet trade and habitat destruction from logging and agriculture.

“Lorikeet Landing” is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. now through September, weather permitting. The exhibit closes 12:30–1:30 p.m. daily for the health of the birds. Admission to the exhibit is $3 per person; nectar cups are $1. General Aquarium admission is not included.


Science Exploration Made Fun at Aquarium

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Friday, March 27th, 2015

FamilyScienceDayThe North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher hosts Family Science Day on Sunday, April 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Family Science Day will include science exploration and discovery for adults and children of all ages. As many as two dozen regional organizations will help guests discover the wonders of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). Demonstrations will include remotely operated vehicles, robots and Legos. No Sleeves Magic will present “The Science of Magic.”

“We are excited to connect our visitors with real science taking place in our community,” said Aquarium Educator Megan Ennes. “We want everyone to know that science is fun and has real applications in our everyday lives.”

As an official 2015 North Carolina Science Festival event, the Aquarium’s Family Science Day is among hundreds of community-based events showcasing STEM activities for the citizens of North Carolina.

Family Science Day is free with paid Aquarium admission.

Community partners scheduled to attend Family Science Day include the New Hanover County Arboretum, Army Corps of Engineers, Bricks 4 Kids, Cape Fear Audubon Society, Cape Fear Community College, Cape Fear River Watch, Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CE STEM), Cape Fear Museum, Children’s Museum of Wilmington, the Center for Marine Science and Technology, North Carolina Coastal Federation, DREAMS of Wilmington, Fort Fisher Recreation Area, FrogWatch USA, Marine Quest, New Hanover County Soil and Water Conservation District, Sea Biscuit Bird Rescue, University of North Carolina Wilmington Math Preservice Teachers, Museum of Coastal Carolina, UNCW Coastal and Marine Educators, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, Plastic Ocean Project, Inc, Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences at Whiteville and Wired Wizards.

Founded in 2010, the North Carolina Science Festival is the first statewide science festival in the United States. During a two-week celebration each spring, the Festival brings hundreds of events (hosted by schools, colleges, libraries, museums, parks, businesses and other community organizations) together under one banner to recognize the economic, educational and cultural impact of science throughout North Carolina. The Festival is presented by Biogen Idec Foundation and produced by Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For more information, visit


Sea Turtles Return to Health and Sea

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

NCAFF-ColdStunnedRelease1Staff of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher recently prepped a group of temporary residents for a road trip to Florida. The group was expected to experience warm temperatures and lots of swimming. Yet, a wild spring break wasn’t the objective.

Five strong and healthy Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles made their way from Kure Beach to Cape Canaveral Thursday. Their chaperone, Sarah Finn, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologist, picked the group up and headed south driving them more than 600 miles. Their stay on the beach was brief, with all five turtles released from the beach into the warm ocean.

The endangered sea turtles were part of a mass cold-stunning event of more than 1,000 sea turtles along the New England coast in late November. They arrived at the Aquarium ill from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures of the northern Atlantic. The extraordinary number of rescued turtles required extensive collaboration with wildlife organizations and aquariums around the country offering space and resources to care for the sick turtles.

The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher cared for a total of 22 turtles. Several did not survive their injuries, while others were released off the N.C. coast in recent months as their health dictated.


Initial rehabilitation plans estimated short recuperation times. Yet, many of the animals were more seriously injured than originally thought Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan said.

“Aquarium staff provided the turtles with more than five hours of daily care, special diets and close monitoring,” said Sloan. “It has been a tremendous amount of work, but in a crisis of this magnitude it is our responsibility to do whatever is needed to save these endangered turtles.”

The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher does not routinely rehabilitate sea turtles, but works closely with the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail, the Aquarium’s sister facilities in Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island and other facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to offer assistance when needed. The Aquarium receives no additional funding or staff to assist in the turtle care.

Volunteers Honored at Aquarium

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Time, dedication and willingness are hallmarks of a committed volunteer. The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher recently hosted the annual Volunteer Appreciation and Awards Dinner to celebrate the hundreds of individuals who selflessly assist with Aquarium operations on a daily basis. More than 490 volunteers donated 29,888 hours to the Aquarium in 2014.

Dan Bennett (l) wins 2014 Volunteer of the Year honors at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner hosted by (r) Volunteer Coordinator Dan Radley.

Dan Bennett (l) wins 2014 Volunteer of the Year honors at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner hosted by (r) Volunteer Coordinator Dan Radley.

Dan Bennett won the top honor of 2014 Volunteer of the Year. Bennett, an Ogden resident, divides his time between Education, Outreach and Special Events. Bennett began volunteering at the Aquarium seven years ago. He’s taught guests about the mysteries of horseshoe crabs, dressed as a sea turtle to thrill crowds and assisted with events large and small including Trick or Treat Under the Sea.

“Dan is selfless, passionate about the Aquarium and deserving,” said Volunteer Coordinator Dan Radley. “He has even recruited family members to join the Aquarium team.”


Volunteer Coordinator Dan Radley recognizes Aquarium Volunteer Tim Wright for his more than 555 hours of service in 2014.

Tim Wright of Wilmington was also recognized at the dinner for contributing the most individual volunteer hours in 2014, with 555 hours. Wright won Volunteer of the Year in 2013. He can often be seen talking with guests from inside the Cape Fear Shoals habitat while swimming with sharks during daily dive shows.

“We aren’t the Aquarium without our volunteers,” said Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan. “Each year we acknowledge these individuals who exemplify commitment, teamwork, creativity, enthusiasm and love for the Aquarium.”


Lorikeet Landing Opens This Spring

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

lorikeet canvas-small

Alligator Egg Hunt

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

FF-Alligator-EggHuntBunnies may be hopping down the trail soon, but alligators are on a roll at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The annual Alligator Egg Hunt offers children a chance to learn, create and play this spring.

Aquarium educators introduce children to a live baby alligator and share fun facts about these amazing reptiles found in North Carolina. Kids will also create their own special alligator egg basket. Next the hunt is on for candy-filled eggs in the Aquarium’s garden.

The Alligator Egg Hunt is recommended for children ages 3–10 and limited space is available. Children ages 14 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

Dates and times are as follows:

Saturday, March 28 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Friday, April 3 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Saturday, April 4 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The program fee is $20 per child; $11 for N.C. Aquarium members. Regular Aquarium admission applies to adults accompanying program participants. Preregistration is required by March 25 for March 28 programs and April 1 for April 3–4 programs. Register for the Alligator Egg Hunt online here or by calling (910) 458-8257.