Kids love to explore by touch. Discovering the natural world is no different. This is part of the reason Brookfield Zoo has expanded its Stingray Bay "touch tank" to now include sharks and crabs.
"We want to strengthen the connection between people and the natural world. Children’s empathy toward animals grows along with their ability to touch them," says Andre Copelan, the zoo’s interpretive programs manager.
The popular Cow Nose and Southern stingrays remain the stars of the show, but families will also be able to view Nurse sharks and White Spotted Bamboo sharks as well as Horseshoe crabs. If you’re thinking there’s no way your child is going to stick her arm in a tank filled with sharks, you’re just the kind of visitor the zoo is looking for.
"One of the goals of this exhibit is to dispel the myths about sharks that are promoted by the media and Hollywood," he says. Far from the dreaded Jaws-like giant sharks, the Nurse sharks in the tank are largely nocturnal who group together in the bottom of the pool, wanting nothing to do with people. The beautiful spotted and striped Bamboo sharks, who look more like catfish than sharks, may choose to cluster at the side of the tank, giving lucky visitors the chance for a very safe touch.