TAMPA — The Florida Aquarium has begun work on a new exhibit built around the African island of Madagascar.
Journey to Madagascar will go into the space previously occupied by Aquariumania, an exhibit above the Wetlands Trail that explores the keeping of fish in tanks, said aquarium spokeswoman Katherine Claytor.
Aquarium officials requested a building permit from the City of Tampa last week to begin work on the exhibit.
The aquarium’s exhibit will be Tampa’s second Madagascar-themed program. Busch Gardens is presenting “Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation,” a stage show based on the animated films created by DreamWorks Animation LLC.
Busch Gardens spokesman Travis Claytor said the show is an original work completely different from the aquarium’s project.
“We’re not worried about confusion in the marketplace,” he said.
The aquarium’s project will focus on the real-life plants and wildlife of Madagascar, 80 percent of which are found nowhere else.
Current plans are for a face-to-face experience with ring-tailed lemurs and giant hissing cockroaches. Visitors will also see chameleons, tortoises and an Indian Ocean coral reef.
Even as it showcases the natural world of Madagascar, the program will address the challenges those plants and animals face from population growth and other forces.
“This new, interactive gallery will allow our guests to see the beauty of this unique island while learning about the challenges that threaten the diverse animals that inhabit it,” aquarium president Thom Stork said in a written statement announcing the new exhibit.
Journey to Madagascar will open in the spring of 2014. It will be included with admission to the aquarium, Claytor said.