S.E.A. Aquarium makes waves with shark ray pup

A boy getting a closer look at the shark ray pup at the S.E.A. Aquarium in Resorts World Sentosa. S.E.A. is one of the few aquariums in the world to have bred and raised a shark ray.
A boy getting a closer look at the shark ray pup at the S.E.A. Aquarium in Resorts World Sentosa. S.E.A. is one of the few aquariums in the world to have bred and raised a shark ray.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

An aquarium in Singapore has, for the first time, successfully bred a shark ray, a vulnerable species whose young are known for their high mortality rates.

Visitors to the S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) can view the six-month-old shark ray pup, the only one of eight born last November that survived longer than three months.

S.E.A. is one of the few aquariums in the world to have bred and raised a shark ray, which gets its name from its ray-like broad front section, with dual dorsal fins. The aquarium has 11 adult shark rays.

Little research has been done on the biology or population of this species dwelling in the sea bottom and threatened by the destruction of its habitat in the Indo-Pacific region.

So the aquarium has had to find out by trial and error how to feed the pups, its curator Akira Yeo said.

"The first few weeks were frustrating. We fed them prawns and squids, but they didn't eat. But we were persistent," he said.

The team later found that the pups eat anything and fed them fish, crabs, prawns and squid.

A post-mortem did not flag any abnormalities that could have led to the seven pups' deaths, he added.

The surviving pup is one of more than 500 babies, from about 10 species, born or hatched between last October and this April at the aquarium and Dolphin Island in RWS.

Among these are five threatened species such as the black-blotched sting rays - large rays found in the Indo-West Pacific that face unregulated fishing - and the endangered Banggai cardinalfish, a strikingly coloured fish found only around the Indonesian Banggai islands.

Over at Dolphin Island, a female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin named Kundali was born on Jan 31, in addition to two calves born last October and one in December 2014.

The newborn is in a private pool with its mother for nursing and observation, said RWS.

Said Mr Adrian Penny, assistant vice- president for general management at S.E.A. Aquarium and Dolphin Island: "Breeding programmes are key in sustaining a healthy and diverse zoological population, and... offer hope in protecting species from extinction."

As part of Mother's Day celebrations, the attractions are offering special packages from tomorrow to Aug 31. Tickets for two adults and a child will cost $64 for S.E.A. Aquarium, instead of the usual $86, and $78 for Adventure Cove Waterpark - where Dolphin Island is located - instead of $98. The promotion is valid for online bookings made in Singapore only.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'S.E.A. Aquarium makes waves with shark ray pup'. Print Edition | Subscribe