A safe way to see seven species of sharks up close is to visit the Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium at Concord Mills in Concord.
On July 10 the aquarium’s newest shark – Freedom, a female zebra shark – was introduced to the Bay of Rays tank after waiting in the wings for more than a year.
Zebra sharks are named for the stripes that line their body, resembling a zebra’s stripes, when they are juvenile. As the shark grows, the stripes break up into spots.
David Cochran, displays curator for Sea Life, said that Freedom was only 11/2 feet long when she arrived in May 2014. Cochran said the aquarium used the off-exhibit time to train her for being on display with people looking through the glass
“They are a very popular species in public aquariums,” said Cochran. “They get to be a decent size, about 8 feet long, they are beautifully patterned, and they’re really docile,” he said.
Aquarist Carly Hulse helped Danielle Dallis, senior aquarist, lift the net with Freedom in it over the edge of the glass and lowered it into the Bay of Rays tank as visitors and members of the press took pictures. Cochran said that Freedom now about 4 feet long, will live in the tank until she reaches a length of 7 feet to 8 feet, large enough to be moved into the main ocean tank.
The rays, eels and other sea creatures seemed at ease as the spotted shark glided around the tank, drawing everyone’s attention. Cornelius resident Eli Cornelison, 4, rested his chin on the glass wall of the tank, almost in a trance as he watched the shark swim by. “Look, look,” he said to his sister Sophia, 6.
Sophia had a close encounter with a sting ray earlier, as it climbed the glass wall in front of her. She didn’t seem as impressed with Freedom, who wasn’t coming as close to the glass. Later, as the shark was circling an eel in a large jug, Charlotte resident Charlotte Dahle, 5, pressed against the glass. Trying to get as close as possible. Then Freedom came by for a couple of passes, eliciting a smile and a quiet giggle each time.
Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to go?
Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium, located in the Concord Mills Mall, is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices vary. www.visitsealife.com/charlotte-concord.