TALES FROM THE TANK

Sport Diver - - News - By SO­PHIE MONTGOMERY, DIVE OF­FI­CER, BLUE PLANET AQUAR­IUM

In re­cent weeks at the aquar­ium we have had a new ar­rival; we would like to in­tro­duce Seb, a zebra shark (Stegos­toma fas­cia­tum). Seb has joined us from The Deep in Hull, which has man­aged a suc­cess­ful cap­tive breed­ing pro­gramme with this species. Once Seb has been through his quar­an­tine pe­riod, he will be on dis­play for peo­ple to ad­mire this cheeky lit­tle chap in our reef sec­tion. The quar­an­tine pe­riod for Seb is es­sen­tial for him, it al­lows him to get used to our water’s pa­ram­e­ters, such as tem­per­a­ture, ph and gen­eral chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion, as it is water that he will be liv­ing in for the rest of his days. It is es­sen­tial for the team of aquar­ists and scuba divers to mon­i­tor his be­hav­iour, en­sur­ing we can pro­vide the best qual­ity of life pos­si­ble. Quar­an­tin­ing an an­i­mal is also im­por­tant in keep­ing a close eye on any signs or symp­toms of ill health or dis­eases, so they can be reme­died ef­fi­ciently - in­tro­duc­ing a sick or dis­eased in­di­vid­ual into a thriv­ing pop­u­la­tion is very ir­re­spon­si­ble and po­ten­tially deadly for all concerned. Hav­ing our quar­an­tine fa­cil­ity also al­lows for our scuba team to get up close and per­sonal with Seb; it gets the divers in­ter­act­ing with him and be able to start feed­ing him by hand - es­sen­tial for mon­i­tor­ing the in­take of food for this species. Thank­fully, Seb ap­pears to have a clean bill of health and has taken to hu­man in­ter­ac­tion like, well… like a shark to swim­ming.

Seb is cur­rently 168cm and weighs 21.5kg; zebra sharks tend to at­tain a size of 250cm with un­con­firmed re­ports of a max­i­mum size of over three me­tres in length, so he has some grow­ing to do yet. We are cur­rently feed­ing him ev­ery­day on a va­ri­ety of chopped up fish, like mack­erel, sprat and whit­ing, this has aided with his ‘set­tling in pe­riod’ and will cease soon as we will get him used to a more-con­trolled and reg­u­lated diet to give him the high­est qual­ity of life we can. He is ad­just­ing per­fectly and we know he will love his new home, he loves play­ing with the divers and when they get in the tank with him, he is al­ways close by wait­ing for in­ter­ac­tion.

In the long term, we are hop­ing to add Seb to our own breed­ing pro­gramme, as zebra sharks are an IUCN vul­ner­a­ble species - cap­tive breed­ing pro­grammes like The Deep’s in Hull are vi­tal in sus­tain­ing a healthy pop­u­la­tion of this species in the wild and cap­tiv­ity. We are hop­ing our breed­ing pro­gramme gets off to a good start and has long term suc­cess. Once we have any off­spring from our own zebra sharks, we would then be able to col­lab­o­rate with other aquar­i­ums across the world to help them with their breed­ing pro­grammes. Hope­fully in the not too dis­tant future, we could have some zebra pups (a strange con­cept?). You will then be able to see why they are called zebra sharks, as they have a striped pat­tern when they are young, which slowly de­vel­ops into the spotty pat­tern we all know and love as adults, and ex­plains why they are some­times called leop­ard sharks.

Hav­ing had the ex­pe­ri­ence of div­ing with these sharks in the wild and here in our amaz­ing shark ex­hibits, they are just such cu­ri­ous amaz­ing an­i­mals, and I would rec­om­mend div­ing with them.

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