It has been years since “Jaws” put fear into our hearts, but sharks are still just as popular as ever. In an annual event, the Discovery Channel dedicated a week to them in early August. And the Phoenix Zoo has added sharks to Stingray Bay, an interactive exhibit with a 12,000-gallon “touch tank,” which returns to the zoo today.
In an annual event, the Discovery Channel dedicated a week to them in early August. And the Phoenix Zoo has added sharks to Stingray Bay, an interactive exhibit with a 12,000-gallon “touch tank,” which returns to the zoo today.
The exhibit will feature seven white-spotted sharks and four nurse sharks, along with seven southern stingrays and 33 cow-nose stingrays.
Stingray Bay exhibit supervisor Erin Mayall says the zoo wanted to bring something new to the exhibit this year and thought sharks would be a good fit.
“It’s visually more exciting,” she says. “People love sharks. … We wanted to give (guests) a little bit more information about some of the different species that are out there in our oceans and what we could do to protect them.”
So what’s the difference between the two sharks?
“The white-spotted bamboo shark is a smaller shark with a maximum length of about 3 feet,” Mayall says. “They’re found in the Endo-Pacific region. Your nurse shark is a shark that can get up to about 9 feet. They’re found pretty much throughout the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans along the coast of Mexico, in the Caribbean and down the African coastline. They are both bottom-dwelling sharks. They’re very docile. They like to just hang out on the bottom.”
Mayall says that one of the sharks is about 4 feet long.
“She’s quite impressive to look at,” she says.
Guests will also be able to pet the animals, says Mayall. But don’t worry — they won’t bite.
“It will be neat because they can feel the difference between the sharks’ skin and the stingrays’ skin,” she says. Guests can also feed the animals.
“The rays are very interactive,” Mayall says. “They’re very sociable animals. People just love to feed them. They eat their food just like a vacuum cleaner. You put your hand in and they come over your hand and suck the food up. Guests get a thrill.”
When: Opens today, continues through spring. Hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Where: The Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway
Cost: $3 in addition to zoo admission
Information: (602) 273-1341 and www.phoenixzoo.org