Ziggy the Nurse Shark is Back at Newport Aquarium After Doing Rehab for a Spinal Deformity

“It’s so rewarding to work with an animal like Ziggy with special needs. She really needs us and to see her back swimming at the aquarium with an improved quality of life just makes all the hard work worth it.”

click to enlarge Ziggy in an acclimation tank - Photo: Newport Aquarium
Photo: Newport Aquarium
Ziggy in an acclimation tank

One of the Newport Aquarium's longest term residents is back in the Surrounded by Sharks habitat after a stint doing physical rehab.

Ziggy the nurse shark has been at the aquarium since it opened in 1999 and has always dealt with a spinal deformity "that slowed her down but never kept her down," the aquarium says. 

Recently, Ziggy had been taken off exhibit while the aquarium team worked with her to help improve her mobility. During her rehab, they had her swim against a current on her "non-favored" side and gave her special treats, like mackerel. They say that while her spine will never be fully corrected, her rehab has helped her improve enough that she can rejoin her friends in her tank.  

“It’s so rewarding to work with an animal like Ziggy with special needs,” says Kelly Sowers, Newport Aquarium’s Curator, in a release. “She really needs us and to see her back swimming at the aquarium with an improved quality of life just makes all the hard work worth it.”

Unlike most shark species — which have to swim constantly to keep "water flowing over their gills," says the aquarium — Nurse Sharks are able to rest and use muscles around their mouths to move water. That means Ziggy can hang out in her favorite spots, like under the clear walkway in the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit tunnel. 

"There, she’s long been a guest favorite as they look down at the large shark beneath their feet," reads the release.

Visit newportaquarium.com for tickets and more info. Advance tickets/reservations are required to control capacity and social distancing.

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