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Newport Aquarium: Shark ray pups have died

NEWPORT, Ky. (Josh Knight) -- It is a sad day at the Newport Aquarium.

All of the shark ray pups born last month have died.  No one yet knows how they died. 

The team at the Newport Aquarium had been waiting and hoping for seven years that their first shark ray would get pregnant.  Last month they confirmed it.

Curator Mark Dvornak said, "We were excited very much by her pregnancy, but we also kind of had to temper our enthusiasm and excitement because we knew that historically shark rays can be often difficult to work with.  We didn't have very much time to enjoy just the fact that she was pregnant or to dwell on that, to oh my gosh, here we go."

Sweet Pea was moved to an off-site location and within just one week of discovering the pregnancy she gave birth to seven shark ray pups.

"The younger they are, the more fragile they seem to be.  Some of the pups were eating, but even though they were eating, we noticed they still were not thriving," Dvornak said.

Over the last month, they passed away one at a time.  The last surviving pup died Monday.  Sweet Pea was just put back in the tank Tuesday.  She was the mother of the seven shark ray pups.  Now, unfortunately, she's back in the tank without her pups.

But the good news, the biologists here a the Newport Aquarium learned a lot throughout the last month.

Dvornak tells us, "The team is exhausted, not just physically, mentally, emotionally.  It's been a roller coaster ride this last month for the team."

This is the first time, ever, shark ray pups were born in captivity.  They are hopeful it won't be their only shot.

"Let Sweet Pea ya know, kind of go about her business and hopefully we'll have another opportunity to work with another batch of pups," he said.

Biologists at the aquarium say, being the first to do this, there isn't a manual to follow but next time they'll have this experience to go on.  In the meantime, they will study data from this past month and come up with a new game plan.

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