Baby Sharks At Sea Life Park
11:01am 1st August 2014
A historic trio of baby sharks have been unveiled to the public for the first time at Weymouth Sea Life Park.
The three baby black-tipped-reef sharks are the first multiple-birth triumph for a new global breeding project launched by the Sea Life network.
Though not officially endangered many local populations of black tipped reef sharks in the Indo-Pacific region have been decimated by shark-finners.
With around 140 black-tips now at breeding age across its global estate, Sea Life has embarked on the world's first black-tipped reef shark breeding programme.
"Should a re-introduction programme ever be planned to replenish wild stocks, we hope to be able to provide the expertise to make it a success," said Weymouth-based Sea Life biologist Chris Brown.
The first baby was born in Scheveningen, Holland last year and is still flourishing.
Then in January this year one of the large females at Oberhausen Sea Life in Germany produced three pups.
Just 30 cms long, they were removed to a quarantine tank for safety, and in late March were brought to Weymouth to be housed in a specially developed nursery tank.
Now more than 50 cm, they have moved from their behind-the-scenes nursery to a larger public display where they will live for the first time among other juvenile sharks and shoals of assorted reef fish.
"We're thrilled with their progress," said Chris. "They should now go on to reach maturity and perhaps in four or five years time produce some second generation pups of their own."
Sea Life centres have appealed for help from their visitors in monitoring their black-tips for signs of courtship and pregnancy.
Special 'Shark Watch' survey forms have been distributed at more than 20 centres from Benalmadena in Spain to Helsinki, Finland, showing visitors what signs to look out for and encouraging them to record their observations.
Tell-tale signs of mating having taken place - bite wounds to neck and pectoral fins - have just been spotted in one of Weymouth Sea Life Park's mature female black tips.
"There are suspected pregnancies in Loch Lomond and Blackpool among others," said Chris. "Having early warning enables us to plan ahead and put measures in place to ensure successful births."
Growing to over five feet long, black tipped reef sharks are found in shallow coastal reef areas throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans.
The species has also colonized the Eastern Mediterranean after some migrated through the Suez Canal.
The three special babies newly unveiled at Weymouth are already attracting crowds of admirers.