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‘Dangerous Beauties’ points to region’s role in curbing Illegal Wildlife Trade

These days, zoos and aquariums are playing critical roles when it comes to shining a light on regional and worldwide conservation efforts. From poaching to habitat loss, the planet’s wildlife is in more and more peril with each passing year.

Ocellete river stingray

Currently, The Aquarium of Niagara is hosting a new exhibit that features rare fish that have been confiscated at the US-Canada Border. Illegally smuggling fish and animals out of their natural environments, into the hands of traders, has become increasingly concerning. 

The “Dangerous Beauties” exhibit demonstrates the harrowing nature of the ornamental fish trade, which is a constant battle to monitor and curb. To raise awareness of the plight of the animals, fish, birds, etc. that are prime targets for smugglers and traders, two “beautiful and rare” specimens are on display in a 3,200 gallon tank:

  • An Asian arowana, highly prized in Asian cultures for their vibrant color and large, metallic scales – the fish are considered good luck, and are said to bring prosperity
  • An ocellete river stingray, another animal whose species suffers from the ornamental fish trade

The exhibit includes interpretive signage that invites visitors yo learn about, the impacts of wildlife trafficking, and Western New York’s role in the realm of nature conservation. 

“It is easy to think globally when you hear about illegal wildlife trade,” said Aquarium of Niagara President and CEO Gary Siddall, “but the reality is that we are dealing with this issue right here in Western New York, especially because of the close proximity to several international bridges. Many species involved in trafficking are threatened and endangered, which increases the risk of extinction while posing a substantial risk to both human and animal health.”

It is rumored in 2009 a Chinese Communist Party official purchased an Asian arowana for $300,000. 

As part of the exhibit, NOCO (sponsor) has posted an infographic detailing the company’s River Road Research project that was featured on Buffalo Rising last September. The project converts food waste into insect feed, upon which time the insects are fed to fish.

“Through this exhibit and NOCO’s partnership with the Aquarium of Niagara, we hope to bring conservation and sustainability to the forefront and help educate Western New Yorkers about the impact both have on our community,” said Scott Ernst, vice president of sustainability services, NOCO – the company that is sponsoring the exhibit. “Within a few months, River Road Research will be producing feeds for commercial aquaculture from food waste feedstocks. Ultimately, that initiative will take pressure off the wild cousins of the Aquarium’s residents. In addition, we are proud to provide the benefits of solar energy to the Aquarium through our community solar program.”

The exhibit is enhanced by a mural of scales and spots that was hand-painted by local artist Kimberly Halavin

The new exhibit is included with general admission.

Aquarium of Niagara | 701 Whirlpool Street│Niagara Falls, NY 14301

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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