A proud father indeed

2014-01-28 00:00

USHAKA Sea World’s Matt Needham’s New Year got off to an unexpected start when he suddenly found himself the proud surrogate father of five baby stingrays.

The stingray pups were born in Sea World’s large open ocean exhibit in Durban during the early hours of January 1.

The 40 cm-wide babies are mini “replicas” of the adults, with a row of large, spear-like thorns in front of the sting, as well as smaller, conical thorns behind the sting covering the tail to the tip.

The only exception is that each pup was born with a small, white round end to the barb, possibly to protect the mother during the birthing process.

Needham will be responsible for these “five young charges”, who are only four weeks old, from now until they are at the correct age and size to be moved.

Like any newborn, their diets have had to be monitored and Needham, with the well-being of these “little ones” at heart, has been keeping a strict eye on what they eat.

Having started them on cracker prawns, he is now feeding them sardines by hand.

The five pups currently reside in their own specially designed “play pen” pool that is back-of-house so that Needham and the Sea World staff can monitor their health and food consumption over the next few days.

“It’s hard work” being a surrogate father, admitted Needham, “but I am loving every minute of it.”

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