Five fearsome Sand Tiger sharks arrive in New Zealand
After more than 18 months of planning, five fearsome Sand Tiger sharks – all the way from Maryland US – have arrived in New Zealand.
The sharks have been acclimatising to their new home at Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World in Auckland and on Saturday (December 18th) a special Sand Tiger shark themed exhibition opens.
As well as being an exciting draw card for the public – most of whom will have never seen these predators before – Kelly Tarlton’s hopes to study the sharks and contribute much-needed insight to breeding programmes.
The Sand Tiger sharks (also known as Grey Nurse sharks across the Tasman where populations on the Eastern Seaboard are listed endangered and vulnerable) have travelled more than 15,000 kilometres to their new home under the watchful eyes of a team of US and New Zealand marine experts – including Kelly Tarlton’s Head Curator Andrew Christie.
“As you could imagine, transporting five, live sharks – who weigh an average of 40 kilograms and measure up to 2 metres – is not as simple as checking in oversized baggage or even relocating the family pooch. The health and wellbeing of the animals has been our top priority throughout the entire operation,” he says.
Following a month long quarantine period State-side, Kelly Tarlton’s new Sand Tiger sharks were introduced into special freight tanks and loaded aboard a commercial airliner in New York. The sharks touched down at Auckland International Airport and were loaded onto trucks and driven to Kelly Tarlton’s. After vet checks and work to acclimatise them to the water in their new home, they were lifted onto stretchers and lowered, through an opening on Tamaki Drive’s footpath, into Kelly Tarlton’s Oceanarium below.
“The safe arrival of these wonderful Sand Tiger sharks is thanks to months of careful planning here and in the US. We are thrilled that visitors will now have the opportunity to see these fearsome looking predators up close,” says Mr Christie.
Sand Tiger sharks’ alarming appearance – including one of the meanest sets of teeth you’re likely to see on any predator – and their fondness for hanging out in coastal waters had previously earned them the title of Man Eaters, but Mr Christie says it’s an unfounded reputation.
“Sand Tiger sharks, like many shark species, pose little threat to humans when left alone and actually have much more to fear from us than we do from them. We really hope that, as well as marvelling over their frightening appearance, visitors to Kelly Tarlton’s will be able to learn more about these amazing predators and begin to understand why their conservation is so important.”
Kelly Tarlton’s is also hoping to learn a thing or two about its newest inhabitants. The curatorial team hopes that by studying their behaviour they can contribute to the work being carried out by marine biologists and in aquariums like Kelly Tarlton’s world-wide to successfully unlock the secrets of breeding Sand Tiger sharks in captivity – something that many experts think is essential to the species long-term survivability.
“Some experts estimate that in as little as a generation, species like the Sand Tiger shark could become extinct. We hope that the lessons we can learn from the Sand Tiger sharks in our care can one day help to assure the continuation of the species,” says Mr Christie.
To welcome these new, permanent residents, Kelly Tarlton’s has a special Sand Tiger shark-themed exhibition running all summer long (December 18th – January 31st). Kids can learn all about Sand Tiger sharks before meeting the new arrivals face-to-face in the Underwater World. To keep kids busy and engaged there are Shark Activity Sheets and lessons on how to draw sharks and spot different species, plus popular Kelly Tarlton’s costume character Sammy the Shark will be making an appearance at 12.30 every day throughout January.