"Several years ago, a mysterious coral disease began decimating the Florida Reef. The only way to save the animals from extinction? An unprecedented mission to relocate them to facilities across the country."
"On any given day, aquarist Sara Stevens whips up a slurry of plankton, amino acids and other powdered nutrients to feed a voracious group of rescued corals. Using a turkey baster, she blasts the cloudy concoction over each colony made up of thousands of individual organisms called polyps, watching as their tiny tentacles slowly extend and envelop the meal. For the especially carnivorous ones housed at the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colo., she hand-feeds them full-bodied krill.
This ritual is just one part of the painstaking care Stevens and other aquarists across the country have been giving to a group of corals rescued from disease-ridden waters in Florida. Their future depends on it.
Since 2014, a mysterious illness known as stony coral tissue loss disease has plagued Florida’s reef tract, killing off nearly half the state’s hard corals, whose rigid limestone skeletons provide the architectural backbone of the largest bank reef in the continental United States. By 2018, it became clear that without drastic intervention, these corals would face imminent localized extinction.
“We couldn’t sit back and watch these corals disappear,” said Stephanie Schopmeyer, a coral ecologist from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission."