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CONTACT: Jennifer Diliberti
PHONE: 414.256.5411
DATE: 5/15/2013

Milwaukee County Zoo to Open
Sting Ray & Shark Bay

Sponsored by Sendik's Food Markets

Sting rays

Beginning Saturday, May 25, Zoo visitors will be encouraged to “please, touch the animals!” as Sting Ray & Shark Bay, sponsored by Sendik’s Food Markets, officially kicks-off its summer run. This interactive exhibit allows guests to dip their hands into a saltwater pool displaying a variety of harmless species of sting rays and sharks.

The exhibit will feature cownose rays, known for foreheads resembling a cow’s nose, and diamond-shaped southern rays. There is no harm in touching these animals, as their barbs have been painlessly clipped and will grow back, much like clipped fingernails.

Don’t be too surprised if you see a smaller pool in the center of the larger, 14,000-gallon pool because this means the sting rays had baby rays! When pups are born, they’re self-sufficient, but in the beginning they must remain in the shallow water. When they reach 2-weeks-of age, these rays will make the transfer to the large pool to join their adult companions.

White-spotted bamboo shark
White-spotted bamboo shark

The 78-degree pool also will contain white-spotted bamboo sharks and bonnethead sharks, known for their bonnet shaped heads. You’ll easily notice these are not great white sharks, as these fish are only about three-feet-long. Notice the stout body and tail of the bamboo shark, with a rounded snout and two fleshy lip appendages. Also, look for horseshoe crabs in the exhibit. These rather large crustaceans contrast sharply with the fish.

The best way to touch both the sting rays and sharks is by keeping your hand still, and letting the animals come to your hand. Often, a cup of food can help, and visitors can purchase food for the sting rays which will be fed several times during the day. Sting rays enjoy a mixture of cut capelin, mackerel, shrimp and squid. (Exhibit staff will feed the sharks from special poles throughout the day.)

While the sting ray’s eyes peer out from the top of its body, its mouth, nostrils and gills are located on its underbelly. It’s thought by scientists then that their eyes do not play a significant role in hunting. 

Interestingly, like its shark relatives, the sting ray is outfitted with electrical sensors called ampullae of Lorenzini. Located around the sting ray’s mouth, these organs sense the natural electrical charges of potential prey.

This tropical exhibit runs through September 2, and is located in the Zoo’s Otto Borchert Family Special Exhibits Building, behind Macaque Island. Admission cost is $2 per person and sting ray food can be purchased for $1. Make plans now to visit, and touch some rays!

For further information, please call the Zoo’s Public Affairs and Services Division at 414.256.5411.

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