Have playtime with zebra shark pups at Mandalay Bay

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.


Don't worry -- this pup won't bite! Pet a zebra shark inside Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef.

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.


Once mature, these zebra shark pups will be involved in a breeding program to ensure they do not become an endangered species.

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.


Most folks take their Vegas jackpot winnings back home, but my dad decided to stay here instead. That’s how I left Seattle almost 20 years ago. I moved from greenery and rainy days to hot summers, palm trees and desert. As much as I love my hometown, I decided to stick around Vegas. This city just has so much to offer. You don’t even have to be a gambler, bar hopper or an all-night partier. I love Vegas for its awesome vegan-friendly spots, concerts, swanky hotel suites and spas so big, they’re like castles. The pool scene is not too shabby either, which is why I love taking stay-cations. Besides living it up -- Vegas style -- I’m hanging out with my handsome hubby, adorable baby girl, two cats and super-fluffy Shih-Tzu. I’m also a huge fan of '90s music, shows and movies. You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.