A little 'Joy’ is being added to Sealife Orlando aquarium

Female zebra shark set to be ambassador for endangered ocean species

ORLANDO, Fla – Officials at Sealife Orlando aquarium are counting down the days until they can release a new female zebra shark into one of the colorful and eye-popping exhibits.

The shark, named Joy, is currently in a quarantine tank away from normal guests as curators watch and monitor her health, feeding habits and movements.

The 3-year-old shark came to Orlando three weeks ago after being selected through a species survival program at the Georgia Aquarium.

The strategic partnership allows specific ocean species to breed in aquariums across the country, without taking, or hurting any populations in the wild.

During Joy’s time adjusting to her new surroundings curators are training her to eat through daily target feedings.

Target feeding device at SEALIFE Orlando Aquarium (WKMG-TV)

A disc-like device with a neon-colored target is lowered into the tank signaling the shark when its time to eat. “Mackerel are her favorite food, but we offer her a big variety trying to get her to eat more, but those are her favorites” said Kelli Cadenas, curator at Sealife Orlando.

Curators at SEALIFE Orlando Aquarium feed their newest zebra shark, Joy (WKMG-TV)

Zebra sharks are a species of carpet sharks that are described as having distinctive spotted markings on their bodies and long wavy tails. The ocean predators can be found hanging out near the sand in shallow coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Unfortunately, like other shark species their main threat are humans.

“They really suffer in the wild from overfishing. They have that big tail that’s attractive to the shark finning industry. There’s actually several places where they’re extinct in the wild where they’ve been completely overfished” said Cadenas.

Zebra shark, joy gliding through the water during a feeding Friday morning (WKMG-TV)

Sealife curators are hoping Joy will help serve as a positive ambassador for her species and spark a potential conversation about shark conservation.

Officials said once veterinarians feel Joy is ready to be introduced into her new home, a metal gate at the edge of the quarantine tank will open allowing her to swim into her new exhibit.

Indian ocean exhibit at SEALIFE Orlando Aquarium (WKMG-TV)

Joy will be introduced into the Indian ocean exhibit which already features colorful tropical fish, stingrays and the aquarium’s famous loggerhead sea turtle, Ted.

Sealife Orlando aquarium is open daily at ICON Park which is located along International Drive. Leaders have incorporated new health and safety protocols which include mask requirements, reduced capacities, cashless transactions options and QR codes for aquarium experiences.

Safety Protocols in place at SEALIFE Orlando Aquarium (WKMG-TV)

Click here for tickets and information about the Sealife Orlando aquarium.

SEALIFE Orlando Aquarium at ICON Park (WKMG-TV)

About the Author:

Landon joined News 6 in 2017. He grew up in Southern Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in TV and digital media. When he is not at work you can catch him at one of Orlando's theme parks or the beach. Before working at News 6 he worked for stations in Miami and Fort Myers.