Buzz Arrives at Audubon!

November 17, 2010 | Tag(s): Aquarium, endangered species, Gulf of Mexico, Sawfish
By: Dee, Aquarist at The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas


 The Aquarium Husbandry department welcomed a very special addition into our collection on Sunday.  Buzz is a smalltooth sawfish, (Pristis pectinata) a critically endangered member of the elasmobranch (sharks and rays) family.  Buzz was collected off the coast of Galveston, Texas in 1968.  He spent many years at the Galveston Sea-Arama that closed to the public in 1989.  He was being housed with another smalltooth sawfish (whom many long term Aquarium visitors and members may remember) Mr. Bill. As is the case with mature males of a lot of species, the two did not get along very well.


Mr. Bill was transported to the Aquarium of the Americas, shortly before the building opened to the public, in 1990. He resided in our Gulf of Mexico exhibit until Hurricane Katrina. We estimate he was at least 52 years old at the time of his death.


Around the same time, Buzz was transported to the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi in 1989, and later transferred to Marine World Africa USA Park – now called Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California.   He has lived there for the past 18 years. 


We estimate him to be twelve and a half feet long and weigh around 250lbs.  At Six Flags Discovery Kingdom he was eating about 12 lbs of mackerel a week. He should be a great addition to not only our Gulf of Mexico exhibit but also the daily 1:00pm feeds.


This type of acquisition is extremely important to the Aquarium for a few reasons. Primarily there are only FIVE other smalltooth sawfish in captivity in the United States, and a total of only TEN in the world. So seeing a fish of Buzz’s size on exhibit may be a once in a lifetime experience. Buzz will eventually be a part of the captive breeding program run by the Ripley’s Aquariums. The Aquarium of the Americas has worked hard to establish a close relationship with the folks at Ripley’s. They have been extremely generous to us over the years, and especially after Hurricane Katrina.


Ripley’s was kind enough to fund the transfer of Buzz from California to New Orleans in their state-of-the-art transport trailer. As you can imagine it is no easy task transporting a long-term captive animal of his size, and  3,000 gallons of water such a long distance.  In return we are helping by holding Buzz for a couple years until they can arrange the breeding group.  The Ripley’s Aquarium currently plays an integral role in all three Association of Zoos and Aquariums sawfish population management plans and the sawfish studbook.


At the present time, federal and state authorities are not permitting the collection of smalltooth sawfish from the wild for any purpose.  Smalltooth sawfish are extremely vulnerable because of their predisposition for becoming entangled in nets, their restricted habitat, and low rate of reproduction. They are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List.


If you do just one thing while visiting the French Quarter, I recommend coming in to see Buzz. He is truly an amazing creature that we hope will serve as both an ambassador for his (endangered) species and eventually play a large role in the long range goal of captive sawfish breeding.