Buzz the smalltooth sawfish calls Audubon Aquarium home

2010-11-17

BUZZ THE SMALLTOOTH SAWFISH CALLS AUDUBON AQUARIUM IN NEW ORLEANS HOME

November 17, 2010                                                                                                              New Orleans, LA
 

He’s 250 pounds, almost 12 feet long, 45-50 years old, and his name is “Buzz.” One of only ten of his kind to be seen anywhere in the world, he now calls New Orleans home.

Buzz, the smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), is the newest resident at Audubon Aquarium. Buzz joined the sharks and other fish in the Gulf of Mexico Exhibit after a long journey from San Francisco on Sunday, November 14, 2010.

Buzz journeyed in a state-of-the-art transport trailer, generously funded by Ripley’s Aquariums. Audubon Aquarium staff also assisted in the transport of this endangered creature cross-country to his new home in New Orleans.

“Buzz is an extremely significant addition for us at Audubon Aquarium,” says John Hewitt, Senior Vice President and Director of Husbandry for Audubon Aquarium, “Buzz will certainly do his part to educate our visitors on endangered species. He is so impressive in appearance; we know our guests will love seeing him. He’s already endearedhimself to our aquarists and he’s sure to be a visitor favorite as well.”

In close coordination with experts at Ripley’s Aquariums, who manage the captive smalltooth population on behalf of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Audubon Aquarium is housing Buzz not only as great display animal and ambassador for this endangered species but also as the initial step in a longer range goal of captive breeding.The Aquarium of the Americas has worked hard to establish a close relationship with Ripley’s Aquariums, which has been extremely generous to Audubon Aquarium over the years -  especially after Hurricane Katrina when Ripley’s provided Audubon with the sand tiger sharks currently on display in the Gulf of Mexico exhibit.

Smalltooth sawfish are a critically endangered species. Buzz is one of only six smalltooth sawfishes on exhibit in the United States. There are only a total of ten exhibited in the world. Buzz will join other sawfish in a few years to be part of a breeding program, coordinated by Ripley’s Aquariums, to hopefully help repopulate the species.

Sawfish are extremely rare in coastal Louisiana waters, and any confirmed information regarding their occurrence in Louisiana is important to research efforts regarding this unusual species.  The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas assists agencies throughout the United States in gathering information which may be key in preserving this critically endangered animal. Aquarists have been distributing ‘Sawfish Fliers’ locally at the Louisiana Fishing Tournaments to monitor the occurrence of Smalltooth sawfish in Louisiana coastal waters, where they were once common. 

 

 

Fun Facts about Buzz the smalltooth sawfish:

 ~Buzz was collected off the coast of Texas in 1968 by two fishermen and measured in at 3-4 feet in length. He lived for several years at Galveston Sea-Arama until it was closed in 1989, then he was transferred to the Texas State Aquarium. He was then relocated to what is now called Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA where he has called home for the past 18 years.

 ~ Sawfish are unique elasmobranchs (the sharks, rays and skates) that possess a large toothed rostrum, or “saw”, as it is commonly called. 

 ~ Sawfish are often confused with sawsharks, which also have saws.  However, sawfish are a species of ray and have their gills located on the underside of their bodies. Sawsharks are a shark and have their gills on the sides of their bodies.

 ~In Florida, newborn sawfish are about 2 feet long.

 ~ Three factors have been important in the decline of the population: overfishing, habitat loss and low reproductive ability.

 ~Very little is known about the age and growth of sawfish, the litter sizes (believed to be 10-20 young), how often sawfish mate and bear young, and the mating and pupping seasons.  It is known that shallow estuarine areas are important habitat that acts as a protective nursery for small, young sawfish.

 ~The dive team at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom were very fond of Buzz; he actually didn’t mind a good rub down every once in a while, often reacting by looking as if he were being tickled

 

For pictures and video of Buzz’s arrival at Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans, click here.

 

Media Contact:

                Meghan Calhoun

                Audubon Nature Institute

                Public Relations Manager

                (504)331-9476