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Types of Animals You'll Soon See at Jungle Reef

REPOST / Article Excerpt / by Luis Rios / El Paso Inc. Reporter

Some of the animals that Jungle Reef is advertising on social media include blacktip reef sharks, otters, stingrays, and reptiles like an albino Burmese python and bearded dragons.

The reptiles will be rehomed and come from adoption centers and rescues according to Jon Hepworth. The aquatic animals will come from fish rehabilitation farms and zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, including Underwater World and Sea Dwelling Creatures in California.

“Fishes like the black tip reef sharks, which have been overfished in the panhandle of Florida, are a good educational opportunity for kids and families,” he said. “We’re also going to be conserving them by having them in a safe enclosure, where they won’t be threatened.”

About five staff members will care for animals and maintain the tank ecosystems. Hepworth said they are recruiting from Unity College, a university in Maine known for its environmental programs.

Hepworth and his siblings opened Monkey Rock at Sunland Park Mall in October 2022. He says the family fun center, which has indoor rock climbing and other attractions, has proven successful and an average of 400 to 500 people come on weekends.

While the aquarium will be a separate attraction from Monkey Rock, Hepworth said that some of the branding and color schemes will match.

“We went after a very similar concept with a name like Jungle Reef because we like the jungle theme,” he said. “But it’s going to be apples and oranges when it comes to the actual business model.”

Why Open an Aquarium in a Shopping Mall?

Sunland Park Mall, like many malls across the country, has struggled to attract customers and national retailers. Hepworth said he and his brothers hope attractions like the aquarium and Monkey Rock will help to boost foot traffic.

Nationally, malls have increasingly relied on entertainment options to drive traffic as brick-and-mortar retail has shrunk. It’s a trend that inspired the entrepreneurs to open Monkey Rock in 2022, with Jungle Reef soon to follow in early 2024.

“If you want to revitalize a mall like Sunland Park, which was a destination location in the ’90s and early 2000s, entertainment offerings are the way to go,” Hepworth said. “It’s also going to help the small businesses at the mall by bringing more people to the food courts and even the clothing stores here.”


View the original article at El Paso Inc.


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