August 25, 2022
#SharkSummer wraps up with a focus on education and conservation
Newport, KY (August 25, 2022) There’s only a few more weeks of #SharkSummer, but the honoring of sharks is a year-round thing at Newport Aquarium. The aquarium’s popular Shark Summer event focuses on telling the stories of sharks of all shapes and sizes, but one species tends to stand out. The rare shark rays have captivated visitors ever since Newport Aquarium became the first to exhibit these critically endangered animals in North America. Shark rays Sweet Pea, Scooter and Sunshine have brought smiles to countless faces over the years, but they’ve also helped teach scientists across the globe more about this rare species.
Newport Aquarium biologists began working with shark rays in 2005, when Sweet Pea first arrived. Thanks to the hard work and efforts of the aquarium’s Animal Care Team, she later became the first shark ray in the world to be target trained. This allowed biologists to perform physicals and collect data to learn more about the critically endangered species. Senior Biologist Jen Hazeres has been working with and caring for the shark rays since the very beginning. “The first time I saw a shark ray I was hooked,” said Senior Biologist Jen, “but after diving and working with them for so many years we have learned that they are engaging, intelligent and individually unique. It’s been humbling and incredible to have this opportunity.” In 2007 Newport Aquarium welcomed its first male shark ray, Scooter, marking the beginning of the world’s first ever shark ray breeding program.
Over the years, Newport Aquarium Animal Health and Quarantine Manager Jolene Hanna and Senior Biologist Jen Hazeres have shared their research across the globe on shark ray hormone cycles and reproduction. What they’ve been able to learn from Sweet Pea, Scooter and Sunshine has helped contribute to the industry standards and practices of caring for the entire shark ray species. They are able to do this alongside the American Elasmobranch Society, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and through their published work. Senior Biologist Jen is also currently serving as the AZA Species Survival Coordinator for shark rays. Through knowledge and education, Newport Aquarium biologists are working to make sure this rare animal will survive and thrive on earth. #SharkSummer runs through September 11. Advance tickets are recommended and can be found at NewportAquarium.com.