Sharks on a Truck
Tracking Aquarium predators after their exhibit closes.
Thursday, September 7, 2006
Coral cat sharks are the equivalency of aquatic couch potatoes. This temperament and their size (they span 1 to 1.5 feet) make them the perfect candidate for overnight shipping.
When the time comes to drain, dissemble, and ship-out sea creatures at the close of an exhibit like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sharks: Myth and Mystery, which closed Monday, senior aquarists like Jonelle Verdugo pack many of the smaller animals in tanks pumped full of oxygen. She says tropical sharks like the cat sharks get additional warm-water packs to keep them thriving.
The staff begins fasting all of the sharks a couple of days ahead of time to make sure the sharks don’t muddy the waters of their unfiltered habitat during their voyages.
Tuesday morning aquariums across the United States became proud new owners of one or several sharks from the 102 animals in the exhibit. In this case, Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Casino, the Long Beach Aquarium, and SeaWorld in San Diego represent some of the better-known destinations.
Verdugo says the majority of sharks, skates, and rays won’t go back to the wild because they’re in demand. “This prevents other aquariums from taking more sharks from the wild,” she says.
The temporary shark exhibit has seen a fair amount of drama since its inception in Spring 2004.
Verdugo says puffader sharks pups hatched out of hard orange-brown egg cases and wowed touch pool patrons. She also says two male southern stingrays often squared off in aggressive fighting matches.
And although Verdugo calls the exhibit “challenging” due to space restrictions and filtering problems, she recalls one of those unique human-to-animals encounters with the pelagic sting rays fondly.
“We have to get right in there with them,” Verdugo says of cleaning 15,000 gallon tank that holds the rays. “They came over to us and began swimming up our legs.”