MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A small room full of people had the opportunity to witness Spotted Eagle Ray's at Ripley's Aquarium getting their annual check-ups on Wednesday.
The small group was comprised of a team of veterinarians completing the work, Ripley's employees and students, who watched each of the rays take a turn getting checked out, having blood drawn, and the females checked for pregnancy. Each was a crucial step to make sure the rays were all healthy.
The Spotted Eagle Rays undergo a check-up at least once a year.
One of the features always stands out at Ripley's to people who visit the aquarium is the String Ray area, where people can literally put their hands in the water and interact with the animals.
"Eagle rays behave like puppy dogs," explained Robert George, the Chief Veterinarian over all of Ripley's Aquariums. "They're more personable than the other rays and they will come up to you and start 'snarfling' around waiting to be fed."
Wednesday, each female Spotted Eagle Ray was given an ultrasound by George and his team, to check if any of them were pregnant
Both male and females also had their blood drawn, a measure taken for their own safety.
"When we take these blood samples, it provides us a window to look inside them and see what's going on," George said. "We look at their blood sugar, their liver, their kidneys. In case there's a problem, we often can get it before it gets out of hand."
They take what they learn about the aquatic species, to better understand others.
"The more we learn about one species the more we can apply it to some of the more endangered species like our sawfish," according to George. "So we're, we get better with rays and we can apply it to sawfish or big sharks."
And the more ray pups they can reproduce, the less that have to take from the wild.
"If we get... don't have to take any from the wild, if we get a surplus, then we can trade them to other aquariums that raise animals that we need but can't raise," George continued. "It's a conservational effort."
While none of the Rays today was pregnant Wednesday, George said it's not unusual because pregnancy typically happens at the end of the year.