MANTEO, N.C. (WAVY) – Baby alligators, yellow stingrays, and new sea jellies (nettles) have joined the family at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
Additionally, new viewing windows have been introduced as additions to the aquarium allowing an even more immersive experience.
The Seven Rivers Gallery is home to four new hatchling American alligators. The foursome comes from Alligator Adventure in South Carolina — which provided the animals on loan to the aquarium.
Baby alligators were last introduced to the aquarium four years ago, with the arrival of four hatchlings that had been recovered by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission after being illegally sold online.
As they matured and began to grow too large for the habitat, they were safely transferred to the same South Carolina facility earlier this year.
Aquarium staff says the new alligators are responding quickly to training that helps their caretakers keep them safe and healthy.
“They are really fast at learning because they are really motivated by food,” says Aquarist Connie Quattlebaum. The 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 see the newly introduced yellow stingrays as they mingle with Atlantic stingrays and horseshoe crabs.
“The five rays have distinctive light coloring accented with spots that very closely resemble the sand on the bottom of the pool, which helps them to camouflage,” says aquarium staff.
Like all the rays in the touch pools, the yellow rays have their barbs trimmed regularly, but Aquarist Sheena Jones says the task differs from the Atlantic rays because of the barb’s location near the end of the tail.
“Yellow stingrays have short, blunt tails so they have a little more force and leverage,” Jones says. “So you have to be careful.” Still, Jones says, she and the rays have always remained safe during handling.
In the popular Delicate Drifters Gallery, visitors can see the Pacific sea nettles (jellyfish). With the larger kreisel viewing window back in operation after being renovated for nearly two years, the gallery once again offers a surrounding view of these quiet and graceful creatures.
Animal arrivals are not all that’s new; since reopening, the aquarium is asking all guests to purchase tickets in advance online at ncaquariums.com and to remember that cloth face masks are required inside.
Meanwhile, social distancing markers and hand sanitizer stations can be seen throughout the aquarium.
“These steps help provide the safest possible environment for both our guests and our staff,” said Communications Manager Brian Postelle. “We need our animal caretakers healthy to best provide for the well-being of all of the animals here. And we greatly appreciate the community support.”
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