New animals add to the NC Aquarium adventure
Through Submitted story November 22, 2020
In the eight weeks since the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island welcomed visitors for up close animal adventures, thousands of people who have stopped by to view the new features have met animals and habitats that did not exist before. Baby alligators, yellow stingrays and a new sea jelly viewing window are all newly introduced additions to the aquarium, inviting an even more immersive experience.
The Seven Rivers Gallery is home to four new American alligators. The quartet comes from a partner facility in South Carolina, Alligator Adventure, which provided the animals on loan to the aquarium. The baby alligators were last introduced to the aquarium four years ago, with the arrival of four newborns that had been collected by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission after being illegally sold online. As they matured and began to outgrow the habitat, they were safely moved to the same facility in South Carolina earlier this year.
New alligators all respond quickly to training that helps their keepers keep them safe and healthy.
“They learn really fast because they’re really motivated by food,” says aquarist Connie Quattlebaum. Baby alligators can be seen actively swimming in the gallery, floating on the surface of the water, or basking on rocks.
Visitors to the Sea Senses Touch Pools will also see colorful changes, as the newly introduced yellow stingrays mingle with Atlantic stingrays and horseshoe crabs. All five rays have a distinctive light coloring accented with spots that very closely resemble the sand at the bottom of the pool, which helps them camouflage themselves. Like all rays in touch tanks, yellow rays have their barbs trimmed regularly, but aquarist Sheena Jones says the task differs from Atlantic rays due to the location of the barb near the end of the tail. “Yellow rays have short, blunt tails, so they have a bit more strength and leverage,” Jones says. “So you have to be careful.” Still, Jones says, she and the Racks always remained safe during handling.
Cownose rays are no longer in the Sea Senses gallery, known for their blunt snouts and smooth skin. Careful observation by the aquarium’s animal experts determined that they would be better suited to larger habitats and, in the interest of their future health and well-being, the four cownose rays were moved to a suitable location for the Norwalk Connecticut Marine Aquarium.
In the popular Delicate Drifters Gallery, a restored viewing window (known in aquariums as a kreisel) offers visitors unobstructed views of Pacific sea nettles. Some of the rare aquarium animals are not native to North Carolina, nonetheless sea nettles have beautiful drifting tentacles and a coloring that makes them unique.
The kreisel has been under repair and renovation for almost two years, while guests were able to observe moon frosts and other species through another wall screen and three viewing tubes. With the return of the largest kreisel, the Delicate Drifters Gallery once again offers a panoramic view of these silent and graceful creatures.
Animal arrivals aren’t all new; since its reopening, the aquarium has asked all guests to purchase advance tickets online at ncaquariums.com and to remember that cloth masks are required inside. Meanwhile, social distancing markers and hand sanitizer stations can be seen throughout the aquarium. “These steps help provide the safest environment possible for our customers and staff,” said Brian Postelle, Director of Communications. “We need our healthy animal keepers to best ensure the well-being of all the animals here. And we greatly appreciate the support of the community.
The NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is dedicated to the mission “To inspire the appreciation and conservation of our aquatic environments”. The aquarium is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pre-booked tickets and fabric covers are required. Info about ncaquariums.com/roanoke-island.