The executive director of the Newport Aquarium is optimistic that Sweet Pea will give birth again and when it happens he's confident his team will have more information about caring for shark ray pups. Eric Rose says the problem was they were not able to digest their food, and consequently did not put on weight. This was despite efforts to tube feed them with a paste of shrimp, fish and vitamins.
Gestation for shark rays is about a year. The Newport Aquarium didn't find out Sweet Pea was pregnant until a few weeks before she gave birth. The team mobilized trying to collect live and artificial food from all over the region. Rose says, " while we were somewhat prepared, we were caught a little off guard because we didn't expect this to happen."
Rose says the aquarium has a very large and extensive council of international shark experts and it "will come up with a plan" for the next shark ray pregnancy.
The first Shark Ray pups born in captivity have all died at the Newport Aquarium. The seven pups were born January 24th. The last one died on Monday.
“We are mourning the passing of the shark ray pups,” said Chris Pierson, director of husbandry operations. “Our husbandry staff has poured its collective hearts into caring for these animals,working around the clock to give them every opportunity to develop," Pierson said in a release. "Since this is the first time shark rays have bred in captivity, we were in uncharted territory. The knowledge and experience that we’ve gained has been vast and will hopefully assist us in the future."
The pups mother, Sweet Pea, returned to the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit yesterday afternoon. Today will mark her first full day back from maternity care at an off-site facility in Newport. She was the first shark ray to go on display in the Western Hemisphere in 2005