NEWPORT, Ky. (AP) — The Newport Aquarium is mourning the deaths of six shark rays born at the facility last month.
General curator Mark Dvornak told The Kentucky Enquirer (http://bit.ly/1bLykbc ) that staff members working around-the-clock to care for the animals were deeply saddened by the deaths.
"Right now, I'm in a bit of a fog," he said. "All of our staff is. It's going to take a while for us to recover."
The six pups born on Jan. 24 were among the first of their kind born in captivity. Because of that, Dvornak said staff knew it would be a challenge to keep the creatures alive.
"It's very difficult," Dvornak said. "There's no manual to consult, and there's nothing to go by. You're writing the book as you go along."
He said biologists learned a great deal about the animals, but don't know why they died.
The pups weighed 2.1 to 2.4 pounds and were each about a foot-and-a-half long. They were removed from their mother, Sweet Pea, because sharks don't care for their young.
Dvornak said the last pup died on Monday.
He said the husbandry team noted that the pups were losing weight instead of growing and though biologists saw some eating they eventually tube-fed the animals to ensure nutrition.
He said biologists would make their best guess on how to treat the pups after noticing behaviors that didn't seem right.
"It's like juggling six pieces of fine china," Dvornak said.
He said the staff wants to learn as much as they can about the lives and deaths so the facility will be better prepared in the event more pups are born.
"We will clear our minds and go back to all of the data we've collected and analyze it," Dvornak said.
Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, http://www.nky.com