Great excitement at Sea Life as rare sharks breed
THERE has been great excitement at Ireland’s Sea Life Centre of late where, in the year of the shark, two short tail nurse sharks have bred for the first time.
The eggs from the rare sharks, which are now facing a dramatic decline in the wild, can be seen growing in their tank at the Bray facility and the pups are expected to hatch towards the end of the year.
The female shark was born at Sea Life in 2006 from a wild egg and is one of the first of the species to breed in captivity. The male shark was also born in 2006, in Artis Zoo in Amsterdam, and came to Sea Life on loan in 2013 as part of a European breeding programme. This shark is only found in three locations in the wild: off the coasts of Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa and in the waters surrounding Madagascar.
Pat O’Suilleabhain, Director of Sea Life Bray, said it is a great achievement to have these rare sharks breed successfully in Bray through the breeding programme.
‘We became a part of this very interesting programme when Artis Zoo in the Netherlands agreed to loan us the male shark. There is little known about their breeding habits so there is great excitement throughout Europe as we wait for the pups to hatch,’ he said.
The shark has been placed on the ‘vulnerable’ list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Its decline has resulted from commercial overfishing for food and, particularly, for its fins, which are regarded as a delicacy in Asia. It is also caught as a bycatch in the heavily-fished inshore waters of East Africa and has suffered from the destruction of the coral reefs.
An inshore bottom dwelling species, it has a unique feeding apparatus with a small mouth but an enlarged pharynx that allows it to create a vacuum and suck up its prey. It is a nocturnal feeder, preying on sea urchins, squid and octopus. It has a habit of regularly floating upside down and can live for up to 33 years in captivity, becoming mature when it is 56 cm long.