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Nine Shark Ray Pups Born At Newport Aquarium
Updated January 7, 2016 11:09 AM
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(NEWPORT, Ky.) - Newport Aquarium confirmed that its pregnant shark ray, Sweet Pea, gave birth to nine shark ray pups on Tuesday evening at its offsite animal health facility.

Six female and three male pups were born. The pups' weight ranged from 2.0 to 2.4 pounds, while their length ranged from 18 - 22 inches.

"All indications are that this was a successful birth," said Mark Dvornak, Newport Aquarium's General Curator. "We are optimistic, but know the most challenging days are ahead, as the animal care team's focus shifts to closely attending to, and monitoring the shark ray pups."

Sweet Pea now has the distinction of being the only shark ray in the world with two documented pregnancies and births. And, the successful delivery of these nine shark ray pups helps Newport Aquarium further advance its Shark Ray Breeding Program with the long term goal of sustainability of this vulnerable species.

"The world's shark ray population is depleting at a faster rate than it's being replaced due to habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing and the use of their fins for products like fin soup," said Ric Urban, chief conservation officer at Newport Aquarium. "The knowledge gained from Sweet Pea's pregnancy and the pups' births have already proven valuable in gaining unprecedented scientific knowledge to help shark ray populations in the wild survive."

Sweet Pea is doing well and will return to the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit when the aquarium's veterinarian team approves her move. Shark rays do not tend to their offspring. The pups will remain under constant observation at the aquarium's offsite animal health facility and will transition to the aquarium at a future date. Three shark rays are currently on exhibit at Newport Aquarium- Scooter, Sunshine and Spike.

Background:
In October 2015, Newport Aquarium announced both its female shark rays, Sweet Pea and Sunshine were pregnant- the second and third documented cases of shark ray breeding under professional animal care in the world. Sweet Pea became the first documented shark ray to become pregnant in 2013.

Nearly seven years after Newport Aquarium established the Shark Ray Breeding Program, Sweet Pea became the first shark ray to have multiple documented pregnancies.

Sunshine, Newport Aquarium's second female shark ray, is no longer pregnant as previously announced in October 2015. Newport Aquarium's veterinary team is working to learn more, but it appears that her body either expelled or reabsorbed the fetuses, which is not uncommon with similar species.

Newport Aquarium has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since May 15, 1999. Named one of the best aquariums in the U.S. by Travel Channel and USA Today, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.



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