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Embracing Nature: Experience ‘Life’ at Orlando Science Center

Izzy, the two-toed sloth, has been leisurely hanging out in her residence, the new “Life” exhibit at Orlando Science Center.


Within this exhibit, she enjoys an array of amenities including trees to climb, a rope for dangling, and a cozy hammock for relaxation.

Upon the public opening on Thursday, visitors to the science center will have the opportunity to observe Izzy and other animal residents of the “Life” exhibit. This immersive nature display promotes up-close encounters within three distinct ecosystems: the rainforest, swamp, and ocean.

Spanning 10,000 square feet, “Life” stands as the museum’s most expansive exhibit to date, accompanied by a hefty price tag of $13.5 million.

The rainforest segment of “Life” stands two stories tall and serves as a habitat for Izzy, along with tortoises, birds, fish, and tamarins. These creatures have the freedom to roam and fly amidst the trees, with designated feeding zones to prevent monkeys from accessing bird food. The exhibit also features backstage sleeping areas for the animals’ comfort.

Jeff Stanford, the vice president of marketing, emphasizes that this exhibit is not merely a display but a representation of the animals’ home, aiming to establish a deep connection between visitors and the wildlife.

Prior to the grand opening, Izzy has been settling in nicely, munching on zucchinis, cucumbers, and various plant materials while engaging in activities like climbing and napping.

The animals, including the fish, have been gradually transitioning into their new living environment post-quarantine periods.

In the swamp section, visitors may catch a glimpse of two Prevost’s squirrels playfully moving through overhead tunnels. Additionally, a pair of burrowing owls adds to the lively atmosphere, hinting at a potential romance. However, the primary focus of “Life” is not on physical interaction with the animals.

The exhibit aims to educate guests through programs, training sessions, and discussions on wildlife conservation, without promoting direct contact with the animals.

Further exploration reveals more tortoises and alligators beneath the iconic cypress trees that have adorned the museum for years. The recent renovation allows visitors to get closer to the water and its inhabitants, fostering a more immersive experience.

The ocean section showcases a variety of marine life, including a young Bonnethead shark swimming amidst a diverse array of fish species commonly found in Florida.

An interactive underwater exhibit nearby offers a hands-on experience with creatures from the Indian River Lagoon, such as slipper lobsters, horseshoe crabs, and sea stars.

Visitors can also interact with a rotating selection of “animal ambassadors,” ranging from possums to Burmese pythons, while digital displays provide insights into different species and environmental issues.

Funding for the exhibit includes a significant contribution of 10 million from Orange County’s tourist development taxes, along with a 3 million donation from corporate consultant and philanthropist Sarah Layton, who is credited as the presenting sponsor. Layton’s contribution marks the largest individual donation in the science center’s history.

The vibrant and visually striking design of the new exhibit is evident from the science center’s parking garage approach. The elevated view offers a unique perspective for observing the animals within “Life.”

JoAnn Newman, CEO and president of the science center, highlights the intentional design of the exhibit to ensure animals are easily visible, contrasting with traditional exhibits where animals may hide from view.

The elevated vantage point enhances the aesthetic appeal of the exhibit and provides visitors with a captivating experience as they traverse the bridge overlooking “Life.”

Newman emphasizes that “Life” is more focused than its predecessor, honing in on three essential habitats that serve as a foundation for storytelling about the planet, animals, environment, and climate.