Marine life probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind as a distinguishing characteristic of Missouri. But a wide variety of both freshwater and saltwater species now have a presence just a few hours southwest of St. Louis.
Shelby Stephenson joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh this week to talk about Wonders of Wildlife, a new aquarium adjoined to Bass Pro Shops’ national headquarters in Springfield.
Nine years in the making, the facility opened in September and is home to about 35,000 animals native to the Arctic, the African savanna, the ocean floor, the Amazon rainforest and other habitats.
“It’s not easy to recreate an ocean in a landlocked state,” Stephenson, a spokesperson for Wonders of Wildlife, told Marsh. “But we have an incredible team who monitors everything 24 hours a day to ensure that saline levels [and] oxygen levels are all kept at just the perfect amount to literally recreate an ocean in the Ozarks – one-and-a-half million gallons. So it’s no small feat.”
Wonders of Wildlife takes visitors on “a journey around the world, traveling through some of the world’s most diverse and extreme habitats,” Stephenson said. The various exhibits and dioramas are immersive, including temperature changes as well as shifts in smells and sounds.
“So many people are living such a digital life,” she added. “We spend so much time behind screens, whether it’s our computers or our cell phones, and people like to connect with nature … When you get to visit Wonders of Wildlife and see all of these animals in these habitats that reflect their natural habitats, it inspires people to say, ‘Yeah, we do need to spend more time outdoors as a family – put the phones down, connect with each other.’”
During the conversation, Marsh pointed out that the Springfield aquarium will see some “competition” from another marine-focused attraction in the works at St. Louis Union Station. That project is expected to be complete sometime in 2019.
Wonders of Wildlife was recently voted USA Today’s “Best New Attraction” for 2017.
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.