How many of your friends can tell you they pet a shark or two this summer? In Vegas, you have the chance to do just that.
At the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef, you’ll get to pet three juvenile sharks (also known as “pups”) swimming within the aquarium’s touch pool. This is the same tank in which their parents stayed back in 2000. Unlike their parents (who hatched in Australia), the pups hatched at the Shark Reef this past January and debuted to the public just a few weeks ago.
“The most fascinating fact is that these animals are the same size and in the same exhibit as their parents were in 2000,” said Jack Jewel, curator at the Shark Reef. “We have watched these animals essentially go full circle.”
These guys grew quite fast: In the last six months, they went from weighing 100 grams to 450 grams.
“Now that’s a growing spurt!” he said.
Don’t be frightened to pet these sharks: As long as you just pet the top of these creatures, you’re in good hands. Also, staff members supervise the pool to make sure everything’s in order.
“Like the majority of sharks, these animals aren’t interested in harming anything except food,” Jewel said.
The pups remain on exhibit in the touch pool until they are ready to transfer to another Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited facility.
“These shark pups will become part of a cooperative breeding program to ensure the species’ survival so [others] are able to enjoy these creatures as we do today,” said Adrienne Rowland, director of the Shark Reef Aquarium.
Jewel said these zebra sharks will go through a process of successful breeding and placement instead of collecting from the breed from the wild.
While not endangered, zebra shark populations are declining in the wild. This species is listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Oftentimes referred to as leopard sharks, zebra sharks have dark bodies with tan stripes as puppies. As they get older, the color changes to tan with dark spots. Zebra sharks grow to about seven feet long. They naturally reside throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific region, frequenting coral reefs and sandy bottoms.
For more “fin-tastic” news, check out a behind-the-scenes look at the Shark Reef here.