CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s not quite like swimming with dolphins, but starting this spring visitors to the Shedd Aquarium will have a chance to touch the stingrays.

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports the aquarium is opening a new outdoor exhibit; an 18,000-gallon pool that will allow visitors to dip their hands in the water, and feel the slippery soft wings of the cownose and yellow rays as they swim by.

“When the animal swims by, the guests can stick their two fingers in, and just touch them along the back,” Shedd collections manager Michelle Sattler said.

Sattler said, while a stingray’s barbs can be deadly, they do that only as a defense against predators.

“These animals are acclimated to us, they’re actually eating from our hands. We’re definitely not a threat to them, so they’ll approach us, and when they want to retreat, they can,” she said. “We also clip the barbs, so that there’s nothing accidental that happens; and that’s just like clipping fingernails.”

About 40 rays will be in the 80-foot by 22-foot habitat, a 2 ½-foot deep pool.

Sattler said rays actually are docile, social creatures.

“These animals are absolutely wonderful, they’re soft, they’re sociable,” she said.

The new “Stingray Touch” exhibit is set to open at the Shedd on April 27, weather permitting.

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