African Black Footed Penguins to March in March

GATLINBURG, Tenn. – Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has announced the opening of “Ripley’s Penguin Playhouse,” a new indoor/outdoor multi-million dollar habitat featuring a colony of African Black Footed Penguins. The exhibit is scheduled to open in March of 2010.
The 4,000-square-foot exhibit features a habitat that closely models the home of African Black Footed Penguins, also known as Jackass Penguins for the distinctive braying sounds they make. Naturalistic rockwork and plantings surrounded by more than 30,000 gallons of temperature-controlled saltwater depict the coastal island rookeries along the coast of South Africa.
“We are really happy and proud that we are able to debut this amazing exhibit during our 10th anniversary. We feel our “Penguin Playhouse” will soon become another iconic exhibit within the aquarium and will be at the top of must-see lists for visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains,” said Ryan DeSear, manager of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
Aquarium guests will be able to view the penguins from both above and below water level. Visitors will also be able to crawl through clear underwater acrylic tunnels and pop up on the penguins’ private beach to view the birds nose to beak. At the same time, as visitors crawl through the tunnels, penguins swimming above and below them will be able to get a good close-up of the human species.
The highly interactive habitat will have two wave machines and multiple spa jets that will create continual water movements, which in turn will create an inviting watery playground for the birds.
Ripley’s Vice President of Husbandry, Joe Choromanski, who helped create the exhibit, notes that “we have studied penguin exhibits from zoos and aquariums around the world, as well as their natural habitat, and we are building what we believe to be the most realistic, interactive and fun exhibit in existence.”
The penguins that will be calling Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies home have all been bred at other zoos and aquariums and are a part of the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. When these young birds reach breeding age, they too will contribute to the survival of this species in the wild.
The exhibit is the largest and costliest expansion ever at the aquarium, now celebrating its 10th year in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. More than 14 million visitors have visited the aquarium since its opening in December 2000.

The Aquarium of the Smokies is the second most attended attraction in Tennessee. For more information about the exhibit and the aquarium, please visit

Middle Tennesseans Evacuated from Haiti

Missionaries from Woodmont Christian Church safely arrived in Santa Domingo

NASHVILLE—Volunteers from the Woodmont Christian Church from Tennessee have safely arrived in Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic. They have been given a fresh set of clothes, and are currently making travel plans to fly to Miami. They are expected to be back in Nashville tomorrow, most likely in the later afternoon or early evening. Again, we will update you with any new information as it comes in.

Iglesia Católica ayuda a Haiti

Knoxville-El Obispo Richard F. Štika de la Diócesis de Knoxville ha pedido a las 47 parroquias del Este de Tennessee hacer una colecta especial el 16 y 17 de enero para ayudar a las victimas de Haití y a los esfuerzos humanitarios de los Servicios Católicos de Socorro en ese país. Él ha pedido especialmente que se hagan oraciones dirigidas a pedir por todas las víctimas y las personas que sufren de Haití, así como también por los trabajadores de ayuda. La Diócesis de Knoxville ha tenido una larga historia de ayuda directa a las iglesias en Haití a través de numerosos programas de “hermanamiento de parroquias”. Esta asistencia ha incluido la visita de profesionales médicos locales y de expertos en construcción y logística. El obispo Štika ha pedido a las parroquias que tienen una parroquia hermana en Haití que encuentren la manera de responder eficazmente a la crisis. El obispo Štika también ha pedido a todos los sacerdotes de la diócesis que ofrescan misas dominicales utilizando oraciones especialmente diseñadas para las víctimas del terremoto en lugar de las oraciones de costumbre en domingo.

New evidence shows caloric restriction affects longevity in monkeys

The new research was published in Science and traces its origins to 1989, when the study began with 30 adult monkeys. Another 46 monkeys were added in 1994.

Half the monkeys were fed a low-calorie diet, and the other half a standard diet. All were closely monitored, with researchers regularly measuring their body composition, blood chemistry and endocrine function, as well as heart and brain function. When monkeys died, they were necropsied and the causes of death established.

All the surviving monkeys are now at least 27 years old, the rhesus equivalent of old age. Those fed a calorically restricted diet have dramatically lower levels of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, brain atrophy and lean-muscle loss. Just five of the 38 restricted monkeys have died from age-related causes, compared to 14 of 38 in the control group.

“Now we know that it works in a species closely related to humans. We can probe at the mechanisms, and hopefully understand them well enough to modulate them in some other way,” said Colman.

Whether drugs that mimic caloric restriction will benefit humans remains to be seen, and side effects are yet to be determined. But researchers can at least contemplate the possibility of slowing aging.

“It used to be said that it’s not going to be possible to affect aging, because there are so many different factors involved,” said Holloszy. “That’s no longer true. There are studies showing that affecting just one pathway produces long increases in longevity.”