Want to pet a shark? Audubon Aquarium opens new Shark Discovery exhibit

The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas wants to give guests a chance to get hands-on with sharks and stingrays in a new interactive exhibit opening on July 2.

A new 13,000-gallon, $2.9 million shark and ray touch pool, called Shark Discovery, is set to open on the aquarium’s second floor, bringing visitors up close with marine life.

Shark Discovery Touchpool exhibit set to open at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Source: Audubon Nature Institute

Numerous shark and ray species will swim inside the touch pool, including white-spotted bamboo sharks, epaulette sharks, southern stingrays, coral cat sharks, bullnose rays, blue-spotted stingrays, and cownose stingrays. Plus, a massive interactive LED screen running the entire length of the pool features a variety of sharks, rays, and fish to highlight the diversity of the ocean.

Audubon Aquarium says the new pool marks the largest project at the facility since the 2014 opening of the Great Maya Reef. The pool itself measures about approximately 60-feet-long by 16-feet at its widest point, according to a release.

Shark Discovery Touchpool exhibit set to open at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Source: Audubon Nature Institute

“Sharks play a vital role in top-down maintenance of ocean ecosystems around the world,” senior vice president and managing director of Audubon Aquarium of the Americas Rich Toth said. “Globally, shark and ray species are threatened with extinction largely due to overfishing and other unsustainable human practices.”

By fostering a connection to marine life through hands-on interaction with sharks, Audubon hopes to encourage an appreciation for the often misunderstood, but essential, species. Overall, the goal of the new experience is helping guests realize that sharks have far more to fear from humans than humans do from them, Audubon Aquarium said in a release.

“Our hope is that by reaching into the touchpool creates a connection, sparking action to protect marine life and the ocean,” Toth said.

The gallery is located between the penguin and sea otter habitats, across from the seahorse gallery on the aquarium’s second floor.

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