Sea Life: New zebra shark joins the tank

There’s a creature of a different stripe living at Sea Life Orlando Aquarium now. The attraction has added a zebra shark named Joy to its population.

She represents the sixth shark species to be represented within the International Drive aquarium. Visitors can see her wiggling her long, cylindrical body among fishes and near a big loggerhead turtle named Ted in the Sea Life’s Indian Ocean section.

Joy was hatched three years ago at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, and she comes to Orlando as part of the Associations of Zoos & Aquariums' Special Survival Plan. Although zebra sharks are not considered endangered, their prominent dorsal fins are coveted by some cultures.

Joy currently is about 4.5 feet long, and her tail fin is almost as long as the rest of her. (An adult zebra shark reaches about 8 feet in length.) She weighs about 50 pounds.

Her light skin is punctuated by dark stripes, thus the zebra moniker.

“When they’re born, they have stripes just like a zebra, then as they get older, the spots turn into a spotted pattern,” said Sonja Gspurning, lead aquarist at Sea Life Orlando.

Joy joined the tank last week after about a month of quarantine backstage at the attraction. She was kept away from other animals, made sure she was healthy and workers ironed out a diet for her.

They also “target-trained” her. Now when she sees a specific symbol – in her case, a big neon green asterisk – lowered into the tank, she knows it’s feeding time.

“She loves squid and mackerel the best, so we usually stick to that just because she can be picky,” Gspurning said. Joy also gets clams on occasion and regular doses of vitamins for nutritional purposes.

The trials of 2020 inspired Joy’s name, Gspurning said.

“Just because it’s been such a hard year for everyone, we need her joy,” she said. “Just to bring some joy here to everybody working and then everybody around the Orlando area that comes to visit her. She’s so lovable.”

Seeing the zebra shark is included in regular SeaLife admission. For more information, go to www.visitsealife.com/orlando.

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