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MAMA RAY FANDOM: TikTok 600k, Instagram 378k, Facebook 41k

Kinsley Boyette shows Charlotte the ray.

Although Charlotte still has not delivered the baby rays, the world is watching and waiting along with Brenda “BJ” Ramer and the workers and volunteers at Team ECCO.

Ramer and the team have been interviewed by news outlets from Brazil, Austria, Poland, New Zealand, France, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Emirates, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Canada, the UK, Colombia, Argentina and India, she told the Hendersonville City Council in an update Thursday night.

“We have brought in 378,000 Instagram followers who are coming down and spending money in our community,” she said. Sixty-four percent of those are from the United States, 7 percent  from Brazil. “I'm learning a new language through all on this because I have to keep hitting ‘translate’ when they send me messages,” she said.

Charlotte has 600,000 TikTok followers and 2.3 million likes, and 41,000 Facebook followers and 26,000 likes. Open 1-4 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 12:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday, the aquarium has been attracting 180 people a day, many of them waiting in a line that snakes in front of several Main Street storefronts.

Ramer checked with city administrators and the police chief “to make sure that we're not clogging anything up on Main Street, but everybody has been very receptive of having such an influx of people downtown.”

Forty-five high schools have asked ECCO “to do presentations on this phenomenon called parthenogenesis, where Charlotte basically is creating a clone of herself,” Ramer said. “We've done two late night shows, which I'm sure most people have seen. We didn't do them. They did them about us. We've done dozens of newspapers, magazines, the social media, we were even in Forbes magazine, of all places, and Scientific America. We've done CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, NatGeo.

“And I had a group of teachers last weekend that came down from New York City to meet her and then talk to me about how can we get a curriculum to put into their schools on basic biology.”

The media inquiries and public interest is so overwhelming, Ramer had to hire help to field calls and organize responses. “Charlotte does have her own consulting firm working for her — no lie — because I don't know how I would have handled this,” she said.

Once a modest collection of fish tanks that prided itself on bringing the ocean to the mountains, the Team ECCO aquairum, at least for now, has drawn the eyes of the world.

“I appreciate the fact that people let us have this crazy dream,” Ramer said. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that it would have gone like it did when we invited WLOS and people to come down and say ‘Hey, we're gonna announce this pregnancy.’”

Everyone who visits, from across town to across the globe, has become part of Charlotte’s story.

“We are doing things that other aquariums around the world are not doing, and we are writing a book,” she said. “This town and everyone that comes to visit the aquarium are helping write science history.”

During the wait for Charlotte to deliver, Team ECCO formed a partnership with renowned marine scientists to test the baby ray.

“This is the first and only known occurrence of parthenogenesis happening in a California round ray in captivity,” she said. “We are working with the Field Museum in Chicago. They did all of our shark partho studies, and they already have the baseline for the genotyping for this when she gives birth. So we will be sending our stuff to the Chicago Field Museum and working with the lab there.

She and Kinsley Boyette, the aquarium’s assistant director, plan to travel to Chicago to see the results when the museum tests the baby ray’s DNA.

“When they hit the button that says these are the results, we’ve gotta be there,” Ramer said.

Mayor Barbara Volk thanked Ramer for the uplifting report.

“There's so many bad things going on in the world, it’s nice to have a positive, fun thing happening, especially in our town,” said Mayor Barbara Volk.

Ramer and her team had come to believe that, too.

“Covid ripped everybody apart a few years ago and this little stingray’s brought everybody back together,” she said before excusing herself to go back to her 24-7 maternity watch. “It's given people a purpose to look for something happy.”