Wild Encounters: Coral

Wild Encounters

Micah: Welcome into another edition of Wild Encounters.  This week we’re headed under the sea and not for something that moves around a lot, something pretty stationary, but very vital for the ocean.  We’re talking about coral.  So coral is something you see a lot of, it’s beautiful, you see it in the oceans, people scuba dive to see it, and some folks might not realize what coral is.  It’s not a rock.  It’s a living creature, so describe coral for us Kendra.

Kendra:  So coral is actually an invertebrate.  It has a symbiotic relationship with some algae that lives in it called zooxanthellae.  It is a rock in the sense that it does create a structure and it’s reef building, that’s what you see with coral reefs.  It’s built up by calcium carbonate and coral dying over time and building on other corals.  But it is a living creature, you know with the algae in there it’s polyping out.  It eats things that float by like plankton so it is very much alive.

Micah:  Very much alive and very beautiful.  A lot of folks like I said, they go scuba diving, they go to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  There’s reefs all over the world and people love going to see them but unfortunately, reefs struggling right now in the ocean. 

Kendra:  Correct.  There is environmental factors due to water temperature changes and pH changes.  And there’s also human factors, pollution, different damages done because of fishing practices and boating practices on reefs as well. 

Micah:  So that’s why Riverbanks Zoo…that’s once again why we always talk about being big on conservation and they’re working on conservation for coral, so what program are you doing here to help propagate that coral?

Kendra:  We’ve partnered with Seagrass Farms, which is out of Florida and they’re one of our vendors that we use for some of our fish that we get.  They have given us some corals that we are going to…small little guys that we’re going to grow up over time and then hopefully display them for them at some point and just show that these corals have been aquacultured so they’re not pulled out of the ocean, which is also a really good thing.  Pulling coral out of the ocean is not the best idea.  It does take a very long time to grow.  You’re also going to be removing fish habitat, so that’s not good as well.  If you can get an aquacultured coral or even aquacultured fish, then you’re doing a really good thing for the environment. 

Micah:  And speaking of doing good things for the environment, we all want to see coral last a long time and impact our oceans in a positive way, so what are some of the things that folks at home can do to help save coral out there in the ocean?

Kendra:  Well, if you are a home hobbyist and do have reefs, try to get aquacultured animals or animals that have been collected sustainably.  And if you’re just a person that likes to enjoy the reefs for moving forward in the years, pick up your trash when you’re at the ocean, always recycle if you can, and just make really good choices as far as your environmental impact.

Micah:  So we’re all going to do that and make sure we’re going to see coral in the oceans for years, decades, and centuries to come because it’s beautiful and it’s a living creature and, of course, here at Riverbanks Zoo, we love helping those out.  We’ll see you next time.

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