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New Eagle Ray Spotted at N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher

The list of new exhibits and animals introduced this summer at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher continues to grow. A spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) now swims in the Cape Fear Shoals among the schooling fish, eel and bonnethead sharks. Aquarium staff introduced the spotted eagle ray, named Twister, to his new home on July 10.
The young male is acclimating well to the Aquarium’s largest exhibit and his new neighbors. Visitors can easily recognize the animal by his whip-like tail fin, the fluid winging movement of his large pectoral fins, a pronounced snout, and, of course, a white polka-dot pattern on the brown dorsal body. “We are thrilled to offer visitors a chance to see this amazing animal,” said Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan. “The Aquarium at Fort Fisher is the only facility in North Carolina to currently exhibit a spotted eagle ray, and one of a small number in the country.”Visitors can watch as divers hand feed Twister during the Aquarium’s two daily dive shows at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Of the nearly 5,000         animals in the Aquarium’s care, Twister is the only one to be fed in this manner. The animal was conditioned to hand feeding before arriving at the Aquarium. Twister was born into human care, on January 20, 2011, through a breeding program involving Disney’s Living Seas and Ripley’s Entertainment. Due to a strong professional relationship between Ripley’s and the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Ripley’s offered the animal to the Aquarium as a permanent resident. Twister arrived at the Aquarium in March 2012 and received special attention behind the scenes for several months before his debut.
Disney’s Living Seas, Ripley’s Entertainment aquarium facilities and the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher are all accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Only 224 zoos and aquariums globally meet the rigorous AZA professional standards for animal welfare, veterinary care, wildlife conservation, scientific research, education, expert staffing and safety.
The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher received its most recent accreditation in March 2012 after a thorough review. Spotted eagle rays can grow to 9 feet wide and weigh as much as 500 pounds. They live throughout tropical and warm waters as far north as North Carolina in the summer and as far south as Brazil. This species also lives in the Red Sea and waters surrounding the Hawaiian islands.
The species is near threatened globally. Small litter sizes, schooling tendencies and inshore habitat preferences make this species particularly vulnerable to overfishing.