Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Oceanic treasures from Colombian island emerge in France wildlife exhibit

Boulogne-sur-Mer (France), Jul 1 (EFE).- The remote Colombian island of Malpelo possesses a unique high seas ecosystem that has been replicated inside a huge tank at Europe’s biggest public aquarium, as documented by EFE on Sunday.

At first glance, the rocky islet _ located more than 500 kilometers (311 miles) off Colombia’s Pacific coast _ doesn’t seem to offer much of interest on its barren surface. But diving 4,000 meters into the depths beneath, one becomes dazzled by its submerged treasure trove of biodiversity

That hidden cornucopia of endemic flora and fauna has led the Nausicaä National Center of the Sea _ a gigantic aquarium located in the French northern coastal city of Boulogne-sur-Mer _ to build a special tank hosting a sample of the wildlife found under Malpelo, to the delight of visitors from all over the world.

The tank, with a volume of over 10,000 cubic meters (2.64 million gallons), contains an impressive display of fish species, including swarms of sharks, manta rays and herrings.

“We’ve chosen Malpelo for its ocean currents, which also pass by the Galapagos Islands and are used by migratory fishes,” Nausicaä’s director, Philippe Vallette, told EFE.

Visitors to the special exhibit are greeted by an audiovisual “trip” to the ocean’s murky depths, featuring an alien seascape in which otherworldly jellyfish known as sea nettles dance while their serpentine tentacles undulate in a hypnotic cadence.

Inside the tank, three seemingly-idle giant groupers and 10 silky hammerhead sharks placidly float among colorful corals, algae and anemones that recreate Malpelo’s rich and nutrient-filled ecosystem.

The islet has been protected as a wildlife sanctuary since 1995, when the Colombian government designated it as a national park, while the International Maritime Organization banned commercial vessels bound for the Panama Canal from entering its treasurable waters in 2002.

In 2006, the sanctuary was recognized by the UN’s scientific-cultural agency Unesco as a World Heritage site; it has since been expanded to an area spanning more than 27,000 square kilometers (10,425 miles).

Vallette said he hoped initiatives such as the exhibit at the Nausicaä would help make people aware about the pressing need to protect and preserve our oceans, which contain 99 percent of the planet’s living space and between 50-80 percent of all lifeforms populating the earth.