Want to pet a shark? New shark and ray touchpool heading to Audubon Aquarium

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas announces plans to build a new interactive exhibit — a “Shark and Ray Touchpool Gallery,” according to a release. The exhibit is set to open on the aquarium’s second floor in 2019.

Photo courtesy: Audubon Nature Institute

The aquarium says the new exhibit will be larger than the current Stingray Touchpool Gallery. The new touchpool will also “accommodate several different species, including a variety of small sharks and rays, some of which have not been part of the Aquarium collection for some time,” according to the release.

Guests will have the opportunity to interact with small sharks and rays while under the supervision of the Aquarium’s curatorial and education staff. There will also be opportunities to see daily training and educational programming. A high-tech underwater camera will offer visitors a peek at images from below the surface on a nearby giant screen.

Photo courtesy: Audubon Nature Institute

“We hope this new exhibit encourages an appreciation for this often-misunderstood but essential species by highlighting sharks’ considerable contributions to the health of our planet. Sharks have far more to fear from humans than we do from them,’’ Rich Toth, Audubon Aquarium’s vice president and managing director, said.

The new pool will still include the cownose rays currently found in the Stingray Touchpool. Other species being considered for the new gallery include zebra shark, catshark, bamboo shark, southern ray, Atlantic ray, yellow ray, blue-spotted ray and guitarfish.

The new, kidney-shaped pool will measure approximately 60 feet long by 16 feet at its widest point.

Construction will begin in August and the exhibit is scheduled to open in summer 2019. The existing 5-foot-by-10-foot stingray touch pool will be open throughout the estimated 10-month construction process. The contractor for the $2.9 million project is C M Combs Construction of Madisonville, La.

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