Mall of America's new "Meet the Rays" stingray exhibit was great at first.
People could line up at the edge of a new $2.2 million saltwater pool and touch and feed the flat, spongy sea creatures -- a weird and interesting sensation, by all accounts.
But the starring attractions appear to have developed a case of stage fright.
"At first, at the soft opening, the rays were really friendly; they were touching our hands, everything like that," says Dan Beard, a season pass holder who frequently goes with his one-year-old kid. "Then we went the next week and they were already changing their behavior. It was clear they weren't happy."
Last week the 12,000-gallon pool shut down unexpectedly, and will not reopen for another "week or two," according to John Sullwold, marketing director for Sea Life. Sullwold says the rays need more time acclimate to the new environment.
"[The stingrays] were just not used to that tank and that environment and they just needed more time to acclimate to there," he says. "Some animals acclimate really quickly, some take a little bit longer, so we're going to move some off-exhibit for a little bit and move ones we've had for a little bit longer on-exhibit."
Beard says he heard a rumor about one stingray dying during a frenzied day during spring break, but Sullwold assured us none of the rays have perished.
"We did have one stingray we did some tests on, and we found that they were getting stressed out a little bit, so we took them off-exhibit," he says.
The stressed-out stingrays will be allowed to relax and recover in special tanks behind the scenes.
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