image of proposed brevard zoo aquarium

It was Brevard Zoo’s deep involvement in Indian River Lagoon conservation that led to the idea of an aquarium… Photo Attribution: Brevard Zoo

​Brevard Zoo Aquarium Highlight:  For nearly 30 years, the Brevard Zoo has been a cherished institution in the community. It started as a dream by a small group of people. It rallied community leaders, inspired a tribe of dedicated people, and is now a top zoo that receives recognition from Associtation of Zoos and Aquariums.  More than 400,000 people agree; that’s how many visitors the zoo receives annually.

The zoo’s official mission is: “We Share our Joy of Nature to Help Wildlife and People Thrive.” Their work is based on animal wellness, conservation, and education. However, the zoo’s mission extends far beyond its own grounds – it has become a leader in coastal conservation. Time and time again, when there is a need, you can find Brevard Zoo answering the call to protect vital Florida ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.

This commitment has led the zoo, officially known as the East Coast Zoological Society, on an ambitious journey: build a world-class Aquarium and Conservation Center focused on the unique marine environments of the Indian River Lagoon and Florida’s Atlantic coast. Along the way, the zoo has already launched critical initiatives to improve water quality, restore habitats, and enhance rehabilitation efforts for iconic species like manatees and sea turtles.

As a result, it was their deep involvement in Indian River Lagoon conservation that led to the idea of an aquarium. They saw a need, and then just like that first group of ambitious and passionate people, were inspired to help with a solution.

Aid to Florida’s Manatees: Brevard Zoo Aquarium Goal

manatee floating on surface-Brevard Zoo Aquarium

The Brevard Zoo facility helps the larger manatee rescue community in Florida by providing additional “bed space” for animals that are in recovery.

​One of the most urgent calls has been the plight of the Florida manatee. Because of declining health of seagrass beds in the Indian River Lagoon,these gentle marine mammals have suffered tremendously in recent years. Seagrass is their primary food source and because of their size, manatees eat a lot of it every day. To help address this crisis, the zoo opened an interim Manatee Critical Care facility in late 2023 to rehabilitate sick and injured manatees before their release.

The Brevard Zoo facility helps the larger manatee rescue community in Florida by providing additional “bed space” for animals that are in recovery. In addition, by starting with these smaller pools, the Brevard veterinarians are getting important hands-on experience caring for these unique animals. Consequently, this training will serve them well once the aquarium is completed and they begin to take on the responsibility for critical care manatee patients.

The current manatee pools are designed to make treatments easier. Their floors can be raised to assist in handling the massive creatures, which can range from 800-1200 pounds. An on-site algae farm also helps supplement the manatees’ diet during rehabilitation.

This is Just the Beginning…

But this is just the beginning. The future Aquarium will feature an expansive, state-of-the-art Manatee Critical Care Complex that will allow the zoo to care for manatees from rescue to release. Visitors will be able to observe real-time rehabilitation through large viewing windows.

By seeing the rehabilitation process up-close, the aim is to inspire people to see the vulnerability and beauty of this animal, and by extension, its habitat. This creates an opportunity for a new or renewed level of empathy and understanding for Florida’s wild beauty. As a result, when a connection is made between human actions, simple things like littering, using harmful chemicals that may run-off into our waterways, or racing a watercraft’s engine in shallow waters, and the plight of the manatee, the potential for alternating our behaviors is possible.

Because, change begins with education and understanding.

Restoring Habitats, Improving Water Quality

To tackle environmental threats at their source, the zoo has launched several projects to restore habitats and improve water quality in the Lagoon. For example, they have established over 200,000 clams and dense oyster reefs across multiple locations. These filter feeders are important for water filtration, nitrogen removal, and carbon storage.

Seagrass restoration pilots are also underway. The zoo is experimenting with techniques to encourage the regrowth of this vital habitat. Healthy seagrass meadows don’t just feed manatees – they help absorb nutrients, stabilize sediments, and provide nursery areas for fish and other marine life. The goal is to take what they learn with these plots and devote more resources to seagrass restoration. The manatee are going to love them for that!

Collaboration is key and has been since the zoo’s inception. Brevard Zoo partners with organizations like the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program.

In addition, thousands of small donations and large private donations are helping to turn this next dream into a reality.

Expanding Sea Turtle Rehabilitation

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The Sea Turtle Healing Center at Brevard Zoo has rehabilitated and released hundreds of endangered sea turtles.

Complementing this proactive conservation work is the zoo’s long-standing Sea Turtle Healing Center, which has rehabilitated and released hundreds of endangered sea turtles found sick, injured or prematurely hatched on local beaches. At the new Aquarium, this vital rehabilitation facility will be expanded and, for the first time, open to the public, allowing visitors to observe real-time treatments and learn about the threats sea turtles face.

Looking to the Future: Brevard Zoo Aquarium

manatee zoo aquarium showing manatees in a pool with lettuce floating

The future Brevard Zoo Aquarium will inspire the next generation of conservationists and empower all visitors to be better stewards of Florida’s natural treasures.

As the Brevard Zoo moves forward with construction of the Aquarium and Conservation Center, set to open in early 2027, Floridians can take pride in an institution that is making a tangible difference for coastal environments and wildlife. In this case, what is good for Brevard, is good for Florida.

Through rehabilitation efforts, habitat restoration, research, and immersive educational experiences, the future Aquarium will inspire the next generation of conservationists and empower all visitors to be better stewards of Florida’s natural treasures. This $100 million endeavor, bolstered by generous donations from community members, promises to leave a lasting legacy – ensuring the Indian River Lagoon, Atlantic beaches, and the creatures that inhabit them remain healthy and vibrant for generations to come.

Brevard Zoo’s aquarium project ushers in a new and exciting era for Florida’s Space Coast. And just like exploring the skies above, the work of environmental conservation is an odyssey that has no final destination, only continuous progress.

Get Involved at Brevard Zoo Aquarium

To find out more, visit The Brevard Zoo Website

To get involved, visit Our Legacy Website