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Wonders of Wildlife

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Wolves hunt musk ox under fiber-optic Northern Lights.

Springfield, Missouri

Just because you live in the Midwest doesn’t mean you can’t have nice things.
Film star Mark Wahlberg in scuba gear entertains a VIP crowd — including a mermaid in the petting pool.
That’s the reason behind the debut of Wonders of Wildlife, an animal museum so lavish, so vast, that its founder, Johnny Morris, refused to say how much it cost (Local media guessed $300 million). Its employees simply call it WOW. In a previous incarnation (2001), WOW was the American National Fish and Wildlife Living Museum and Aquarium. Morris was ultimately dissatisfied with the place, so in 2007 he closed it for a few months of renovation and expansion. The months turned into years, and the only wonder in Springfield was if the museum would ever reopen. When it finally did, on Sept. 22, 2017, its restoration had taken longer than the Sistine Chapel’s. Wonders of Wildlife emerged from its chrysalis as an entirely new attraction, a butterfly four times the size of its caterpillar progenitor. That was thanks to Morris, self-described “Walt Disney of the Outdoors,” CEO of Bass Pro Shops, and rescuer of the Pyramid of Memphis. When he cut the ribbon at WOW’s grand opening he was flanked by the governor of Missouri, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Hollywood stars Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Costner, and two former Presidents: George W. Bush gave a speech; Jimmy Carter donated a live Rainbow Trout and a hand-tied peanut fishing fly.
“Shipwreck Reef” celebrates marine life that adapts itself to humankind’s sea floor junk.
Just as Branson, Missouri, gave the Heartland its own Vegas-style entertainment (sometimes with toilet seat guitars), Wonders of Wildlife was built, according to its press release, to “bring the depths of the ocean to the middle of …


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