Wyland Mural

This wall mural by artist Wyland shows sea turtles, fish, an octopus, and various types of coral in an underwater setting. The marine animals are brightly colored, but the water and rocks are darker shades of blue.

Thirty years after painting his first mural at the Zoo, marine muralist Wyland returned to paint a new mural raising awareness about a different group of magnificent sea animals: coral. The mural is located on an entrance wall to the Visitor Center.  

The Mural 

Wyland’s mural portrays the Cathedrals of Lanai, a natural wonder off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Lanai near Maui. The mural features an array of marine animals such as sea turtles, octopuses, fish and several species of corals as they live in a diverse underwater ecosystem. The mural measures 30 feet long by 15 feet high. 

The Science 

Coral reefs rival rainforests in diversity of life, and together they hold the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Coral reefs support one-quarter of all ocean life, help feed millions of people, and protect homes and cities.  

However, their existence is threatened by rising water temperatures and ocean acidification linked to rising carbon dioxide levels, both of which affect the corals’ ability to feed themselves and successfully reproduce. In the past few decades, one-tenth of all coral reefs have been destroyed and one-third have been seriously degraded. 

Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute scientists have pioneered low-cost, high-impact reproductive technology to offset the effects of climate change on reefs, mainly through the creation of frozen repositories for reef species around the world. 

Don’t miss the corals at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Amazonia exhibit

How to Help Corals 

You can make positive choices to help corals! Help save our oceans by following these six simple actions: 

  • Keep beaches clean. Remove your trash and help pick up after others. 
  • Avoid buying souvenirs and jewelry made from corals. 
  • Practice safe and responsible diving and snorkeling by not touching reefs or anchoring your boat on a reef. 
  • Eat fish that are caught sustainably. 
  • Conserve fresh water. Take shorter showers and turn off the tap while you brush your teeth.  
  • Talk to your parents and grandparents about what energizes you to live sustainably.