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