Updated: Tuesday, 17 Nov 2009, 7:12 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 17 Nov 2009, 7:12 PM EST
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - It's a project that's been in the works for nearly a decade and under construction for the last three years, but Tuesday it became a reality as the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach opened the curtain on its newest exhibit, "The Restless Planet."
It features four habitats from around the world - a Malaysian peat swamp, the Sahara Desert, the Red Sea and the Flores Islands - habitats that, millions of years ago, could be found in Virginia.
In the exotic Malaysian habitat, the Exhibit Curator pointed visitors to a rare sight.
"Directly behind me, in front of you, are a pair of one of the most critically endangered crocodiles in the world. This particular species is called the Tinisima Crocodile."
While the Tinisima Crocodile is not an indigenous species to the Old Dominion, researchers at the museum say you can make a connection because Virginia's geological past was similar to their current habiat.
Other interesting animals in the exhibit include a Komodo Dragon.
"You hold a rat in front of them and they'll pretty much follow you anywhere," said one curator.
Visitors can also follow Sea Rays to the Red Sea habitat, and go under the sea.
"It is immersed,"said Art Webb, a Marketing Representative for the museum. "I mean you're like right down there in it as opposed to just in an architectural space."
The Aquarium has already entertained more than 600,000 guests this year. Hundreds of thousands more are expected to visit the new exhibit.
"We are hoping for more guests this year than Colonial Williamsburg," said Aquarium Director Lynn Clements, "and our long-term goal is to have a million guests."
Tuesday's tour was limited to the media and invited guests but the general public is welcome to come see it all beginning Saturday.
The "Restless Planet" exhibit covers 12,000 square feet and cost $25 million to build.
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