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Shark Ray Pups Ready To Make Aquarium Debut

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Tana Weingartner
/
WVXU
A shark ray pup swims about its enclosure in February.

Some of the five month old shark ray pups born at the Newport Aquarium are almost ready to make their public debut. The aquarium says the pups will go on display June 24.Not all of the five pups (three females and two males) will join the Coral Reef tunnel exhibit. Aquarium officials told WVXU in February that only one or two of the pups would be added to the exhibit. Some could be sent to other facilities.

Nine pups were born in January. One died shortly after birth and three others died in the last few months.

"We learn more things and the (three) that did not make it are all part of this growth process," says Chief Conservation Officer Ric Urban. "In the wild, many species just like this will have multiple pups for the reason that you have greater percentages of survival."

The Aquarium is one of the first in the world to breed shark rays. Not much is known about raising shark rays. All seven pups from the mother's first pregnancy died shortly after birth. Biologist believe they didn't get enough nutrients. Special foods were brought in this time.

"We've learned a lot about... the growth rates of these animals and their metabolic rates. We've made many changes to adapt to the questions that were brought up through their development. It's really going to be good when we have all this data collected at the end to be able to present to our peers and talk about what we're doing for the sustainability of these animals in zoos and aquariums and then how we can use this information to help our field biologists in their research out in their range countries and range waters."

The aquarium says its Shark Ray Breeding Program is vital "because the world’s shark ray population is depleting at a faster rate than it is being replaced." Adding in a statement that "This is due to habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing and the use of their fins for products like fin soup."

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Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
A female shark ray swim around her tank in February.