LasVegasKids.net is thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview Adrienne Rowland, Director of the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Adrienne offered a wonderful glimpse into the fascinating "living sea life metropolis" thriving in the desert landscape of Las Vegas.
Opened in June of 2000, this 90,500 square foot aquarium contains 1.6 million gallons of water and a total of 14 exhibits. The Shark Reef Aquarium is the only American Zoo and Aquarium Association credited institution in the state of Nevada. It also holds the distinction of being the only predator-based aquarium in North America. There are over 100 species providing a total of 2,000 animals. Adrienne told us that over a million visitors annually enjoy the rare chance to view five different sea habitats filled with some of the most mesmerizing and powerful animals on the planet.
Tourists and locals have the opportunity to see three unique and endangered species that have found a home at the Shark Reef: the Komodo dragon, the Sawfish and the Green Sea Turtle. During the interview, we asked the Adrienne to share a few fascinating facts about their Komodo dragon:
-He was born in captivity at the Miami Metro Zoo in 1997 and relocated to Honolulu in 2005
-This 8' long, 100 pound specimen has been at the Shark Reef since 2008
-His diet includes a meat sausage mixture that is prepared on-site in addition to fish and rats
Komodo Dragons are found only on four specific islands off Indonesia and can live to be between 15-20 years old.
Although, not considered endangered, there are many protected species within the exhibits. The largest animal within the aquarium is the Sand Tiger Shark measuring 9-10' long and 200 pounds. The heaviest, weighing in at 350 pounds, is the Green Sea Turtle. The coral reef is home of their smallest fish, just one inch long.
In the largest exhibit, 1.3 million gallons, 15 species of sharks and several species of rays spend their days swimming and eating surrounded by an amazing underwater environment that includes a ship wreck. These sharks feed 3 times a week, each consuming 1 and a half to 2 times their body weight. Each food portion is carefully measured and charted by the staff to ensure health and strength.
Sharks are fed by attaching the food to long tongs that are lowered into the water. Interesting fact that Adrienne shared is that the fish fed to the animals in the Shark Reef are purchased from the same vendors that supply the city's many local seafood restaurants. The fish, mackerel and sardines for example, are kept on ice until feeding in prevent spoilage ensuring the highest quality of food for the animals. By using these seafood vendors, the aquarium joins in the pursuit of the least amount of compromise to the natural wildlife population.
The next time you’re child is eating a seafood dish in Las Vegas let them know they’re eating the same food at the sharks at the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef!
Far from being solely an exhibit, there have been 166 baby rays and sharks born in the Shark Reef's eleven year history. Many of the baby Zebra sharks, or "pups", are displayed in the aquarium's "touch pool" where visitors get to actually find out what a shark feels like. Once the pups mature, they are found new homes at other facilities. There are multitudes of other fish that are born annually, proof that this aquarium provides their animals with a diverse and healthy community.
The Shark Reef provides classroom events that include a guided tour and classroom instruction. Class instructions meet the state's curriculum requirement and Adrienne added that they also travel to schools providing the same classroom experience without the fish, of course!
The Shark Reef provides an unforgettable adventure for children's birthday parties or group activities such as Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops. Each party includes one hour touring the aquarium and one and one half hours in the party room. Aquarium themed paper ware, decorations and invitations are included.
"Dive with the Sharks" is the Shark Reef's newest program. Valid and certified scuba-divers will have the experience of a lifetime on this four hour adventure diving alongside their guide among 30 sharks in depths of 22 feet. Each diver receives all necessary equipment, safety instructions and, upon completion, a "Dive with the Sharks Certificate" as well as a video of the dive. Participants are allowed to bring up to four guests to observe their dive. This program provides the bravest among us the opportunity to observe and learn about this ever changing underwater realm inhabited with sharks, green sea turtles and glittering, translucent schools of fish. This one-of-a-kind tour is $650 per single diver or $1,000 for two divers that are booked together. To date there have been 200 dives with not one single 'close encounter' and the Shark Reef has earned 8 years of safe staff diving!
When asked what Adrienne would like for their guests to take away from a visit to the Shark Reef, she replied. "I would like our guests to view the exhibits in a leisurely fashion; to take their time! This is a 'living exhibit' with the animals changing constantly." Adrienne added, "Besides the everyday exhibits, the Shark Reef has specials events throughout the year such as 'Haunted Reef', 'Picture with Santa' and 'Party for the Planet', our way of celebrating Earth Day."
We were curious as to what the Director thought was her most memorable experience since she joined the staff of the Shark Reef nine years ago? Adrienne said, "I would have to say my very first dive... just to be able to touch the animals and interact with them instead of only looking through the Plexiglas." She feels it is a unique opportunity, in the middle of the desert, to teach ocean conservation and animal awareness. Adrienne invites everyone is visit their Facebook page: Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.
The Shark Reef Aquarium is located at the Mandalay Bay hotel. General admission prices to tour the exhibits are $18 for Adults, $12 for Children ages 5 - 12 and Children 4 and under are free. Nevada resident prices are $15 for Adults, $10 for Children ages 5 - 12 and Children 4 and under are free.
Hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday 9:30 am to 7 pm, and Friday and Saturday 9:30 am to 9 pm. For additional information please call 702 632-4555. Their website, www.sharkreef.com contains a wealth of information along with fun and educational facts.