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The Eagles Have Landed!

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Plymouth's National Marine Aquarium is proud to be the only UK aquarium to have Spotted Eagle Rays on display.
The rays have been in quarantine for a couple of months whist the husbandry team care for them ensuring they are fit, happy and feeding well. The intensive programme of care started with a familiarisation trip to Burgers’ Zoo in Holland to monitor how they look after their rays.
James Wright, Senior Biologist, picks up the story ‘Although Eagle Rays are pelagic, swimming in mid water, they feed on the bottom by using their head to burrow for food and then crush their prey such as bivalves and crustaceans with the bony plates in their month. This meant that we had to undergo an intensive training programme to change their normal feeding behaviour. Over a two month period we firstly taught them to take food from the bottom of the tank, then we put on a light at the top of the tank each time we introduced food. They began to associate the light with food which was then positioned next to a platform at the top of the tank. Every time the light went on they swam up to the platform to feed. So now we can place the food on the platform –out of reach for the other animals in the tank – and relax knowing they are getting all the nutrition they need. The rays are fed 5 times a day, 7 days a weeks – so I can relate to how a new mother feels endlessly feeding their babies!’
The aquarium is part of an European Eagle Ray Husbandry Group that are working together to develop a captive breeding programme, something the National Marine Aquarium is keen to lead so that in years to come James can look forward to babies of his own.
Eagle Rays can live for 25 years and grow up to 2 metres in wing span. They are all unique due to the individual pattern of spots of their body.