Sea horses (illustrative)
Sea horses (illustrative)Israel news photo

A unique new exhibit explaining the complex issues affecting today's aquatic habitats in Israel and around the world has just opened at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

'Wet Side Story' -- a takeoff on the title of the classic musical, "West Side Story" -- explains the importance of preserving water sources and their proper use, in addition to describing wildlife conservation in aquatic habitats.

The exhibit tells the story of a drop of water that falls in the Hula Valley in northern Israel, following it on its worldwide journey as it encounters fish and other aquatic animals. The little drop of water passes through various habitats, including Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the Jordan River and the springs around the Dead Sea, the coral reefs of the Red Sea and down the Mediterranean coast. It even makes it to a lake in Africa and the Amazon in South America -- and through human creations such as dams, contaminated rivers, water pumps and agricultural irrigation water.

The $1.5 million exhibit, made possible by a gift from the Friends of the Zoo in San Diego headed by Robert Price, also includes a wooden viewing bridge installed by the Japanese company Nipura. Engineers from Japan installed and sealed the planks for the bridge, according to a statement by zoo officials.

Visitors can buy fish food to feed the colorful Koi fish and even to try and touch them in the pool. A small aquarium of Sea horses will also on display. The only mammal to be included in the exhibit will be the South Asian Otter, gamboling and frolicking in the water.

The complex includes three huge water tanks, measuring two meters by four meters (approximately 7 ft x 14 ft), and 17 large fish aquariums. Officials estimate it will take three more months to put the finishing touches on the exhibit "and the correct balance between fish, plants and other animals is set."  By spring, as in the rest of Israel, the new complex should be green with vegetation, they said.