Kentucky's Newport Aquarium has announced that Sweet Pea, the first documented Shark Ray to breed in a controlled environment, gave birth to seven pups on January 24! Coincidentally, Sweet Pea's pups arrived during the same week as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report estimating that one in four shark and ray species are at risk of extinction. Shark Rays are considered a vulnerable species.
With Sweet Pea housed at an offsite facility in Northern Kentucky, the first pup arrived at 12:25 a.m. ET. A total of three females and three males survived the nearly five-hour birthing process, while a fourth female pup did not. Newport Aquarium now has 10 shark rays in all, which is the most in the world from any one institution.
Photo credits: Newport Aquarium / Justin Cain (4-8)
See a video from the birth:
See a video of the pups:
Three high definition surveillance cameras were installed at the offsite facility earlier in the week to monitor Sweet Pea’s progress. With this technology, Newport Aquarium officials had the ability to remotely watch Sweet Pea online.
General Curator Mark Dvornak first noticed the pups at around 5:20 a.m. while checking the live video feed on his tablet from his home. He immediately sent an alert out to the rest of the husbandry staff and by 5:35 a.m. biologists were on site monitoring the six newborn pups.
“Seeing the live video feed of the small pups swimming around was a bit surreal this morning,” said Dvornak. “Racing into work, I felt a bit of trepidation too as I realized our seven-year dream of successfully breeding these wondrous creatures had become reality.”
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