Aquariums are often viewed as places to observe seals and whales, creatures we may never otherwise encounter in the wild. In fact, aquariums are also research institutions, rescue organizations and rehabilitation facilities that provide invaluable information about the challenges facing marine life and its preservation.

Mystic Aquarium (www.mysticaquarium.org) has played a leadership role in caring for marine life, birds and other creatures for 40 years. Recently, the facility treated a seriously injured harbor seal pup, who was admitted with a respiratory ailment and swollen left rear flipper. Despite intensive treatment to treat the flipper, a life-threatening infection occurred and Pup 49, named for her rehabilitation identification number, had her infected flipper amputated by Mystic Aquarium's veterinary team.

Pup 49 has been deemed non-releasable because she is a weaker, less agile swimmer, but she is thriving in the aquarium's aquatic animal study center.

"Our animal care team has done an incredible job treating her over the last seven months and we are confident that Pup 49 will have a comfortable and healthy life," said Mystic Aquarium Veterinarian Dr. Allison Tuttle.

Mystic Aquarium has submitted a letter of intent to provide a permanent home for Pup 49. If approved, she will be moved off display for training until the fall. If denied, she will move to another institution that is permitted to care for rescued, non-releasable harbor seals. So bring the family to Mystic Aquarium to observe the marvelous progress Pup 49 has made under the care of the dedicated aquarium veterinarians.

While there, visitors should also catch "Scales and Tails," a new reptile encounter program highlighting Reptile Week Saturday, April 13 through April 21. This is a chance to get up-close and personal with a variety of reptiles, including a ball python, baby alligator, bearded dragon or jeweled lacerta. Children will love touching reptiles, hearing fun facts from an educator, and having their picture taken. For anyone who has ever considered a reptile as a pet, here's a chance to learn what it takes to care for them.

Other highlights at Mystic Aquarium include the beluga whales, African penguins and daily California sea lion shows. The aquarium is a pioneer in creating up close encounters with a wide range of marine animals. There is also a fascinating exhibition about the Titanic, whose wreckage was discovered by Dr. Robert Ballard, who is president of the Ocean Exploration Center at Mystic Aquarium.

The State of Connecticut is indeed fortunate to be the home of Mystic Aquarium. In addition to making the world a better place for marine life through research, the aquarium educates visitors on how to care for and protect our extraordinary ocean planet.

Cathy Kangas is a member of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States. She can be reached at cathy@praibeauty.com.

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