Doug and Spud’s new bun­dle of joy

Whitsunday Times - - LIFE -

DAY­DREAM Is­land has wel­comed what Liv­ing Reef man­ager Johnny Gaskell de­scribed as an Aus­tralia first.

The new­est mem­ber to the team, a baby gi­ant shov­el­nose ray (Glau­coste­gus ty­pus), born in the Liv­ing Reef la­goons, is be­lieved to be just the sec­ond to be born in cap­tiv­ity.

Long-term res­i­dents of the Liv­ing Reef “Doug” and “Spud” be­came par­ents on Jan­uary 19 when marine bi­ol­o­gist Nick Guinee found a yet-to-be-named baby in the shal­lows.

Mea­sur­ing in at a healthy 34cm in length, the pup is ex­pected to take seven years to ma­ture to more than 1.5m.

Mr Gaskell said in early Septem­ber 2017, the Liv­ing Reef bi­ol­o­gists wit­nessed early signs of breed­ing be­hav­iour among their pop­u­la­tion of adult gi­ant shov­el­nose rays.

“Con­di­tions to breed have to be per­fect and sim­i­lar to the wild, which is helped by the ac­tual sea wa­ter be­ing pumped through the Liv­ing Reef and im­i­ta­tion of their nat­u­ral habi­tat,” he said.

The species is na­tive to the warmer wa­ters of the Indo-Pa­cific re­gion, in­clud­ing the Whit­sun­days, and has be­come a vul­ner­a­ble species and faces a high risk of ex­tinc­tion in the wild due to a di­min­ish­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Mr Gaskell said this was likely the re­sult of the species be­ing tar­geted for fins and taken as by-catch.

The adult gi­ant shov­el­nose rays have been liv­ing in the Liv­ing Reef for eight years and at the time were 1.7m in length.

Marine bi­ol­o­gist Louise Kirk said the Liv­ing Reef ran a cog­ni­tive en­rich­ment pro­gram which built on the nat­u­ral learn­ing and prob­lem solv­ing abil­ity the gi­ant shov­el­nose rays had in the wild.

PHO­TOS:CON­TRIB­UTED

GREAT NEWS: Liv­ing Reef marine bi­ol­o­gists Nick Guinee, Lou Kirk and Johnny Gaskell. IN­SET: Ray pup.

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