Zoo goers of all ages are encouraged to touch the stingrays, which often glide beneath guests' fingertips. To ensure everyone's safety, caretakers who carefully monitor the exhibit also trim the animals' barbs-the whip-like tail parts that can sting-in a painless process that is similar to trimming human fingernails.
The white-spotted bamboo sharks and nurse sharks are extremely shy, gentle creatures, and they prefer to stay together in the center of the touch pool to avoid human contact. However, there may be rare occasions when one of the sharks may decide to rest close enough to the pool's wall that would allow some lucky guests the opportunity to touch it. The horseshoe crabs may also be touched when within reach.
The Sharks! at Stingray Bay experience is an incredible opportunity to learn about and view these beautiful and amazing sea creatures. Sharks and stingrays are actually related-both are members of the vertebrate class Chondrichthyes, a group of fish characterized by jaws, paired fins, a skeleton made of cartilage, and many other features. To help guests learn more about each species at the exhibit, interpreters will be on hand to answer guests' questions, explain how sharks and rays live, and demonstrate the best ways to view or touch them.
The sharks' and stingrays' home is landscaped with its own waterfall. The pool is less than two feet deep and measures about 25 feet by 55 feet, allowing guests to gain access and touch the stingrays while still providing a center area where the animals can rest.
"It is our mission to connect people with animals and nature. This exhibit is an excellent way to allow people to do so in a safe setting," says Andre Copeland, public programs manager for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. The Sharks! at Stingray Bay exhibit includes a focus on sustainable seafood and provides information to help guests make choices that promote an abundance of healthy wildlife at markets or restaurants. And, the choices are healthy for people too.
Adjacent to the animal exhibit is a gift shop filled with an array of stingray-, shark-, beach-, and Caribbean-themed merchandise, including apparel, gift items, plush animals, toys, and jewelry. In addition, an outdoor café situated on a 50-foot by 60-foot wooden deck features char-grilled sandwiches and made-to-order stir-fry, alcoholic and non-alcoholic tropical drinks, and several varieties of beer. A railing encircles the deck with additional bar-stool seating. An indoor, 1,600-square-foot snack area carries sodas, bottled water, Dippin Dots®, pretzels, hot dogs, popcorn, and other munchies.
Admission to Sharks! at Stingray Bay is $2 ($1 for Brookfield Zoo members) in addition to the general zoo entrance fee; advance tickets are not required. Children 2 and under are admitted free. For more information about Brookfield Zoo, including directions and admission prices, visit www.CZS.org.
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service.