Shark Tale

BEES Zoology graduate Katie O’Dwyer writes about her work at Dingle Oceanworld and explains how to move two sharks from Ireland to the UK with the mimimum of fuss:

Having worked part-time in Dingle Oceanworld in summer 2009 as part of the AE4019 Work Placement module, for 4th Year Zoology, I was offered a full-time position there in April 2010.  I continued studying for my finals and held off on work although admittedly I did commence work in May before my final final exam!!

I was given the title Head Aquarist at the aquarium and it soon became obvious we needed to do something with our four Sand Tigers in the Shark Tank.  They had arrived the previous summer while I was there part time but literally ballooned in only one year.  It was decided we would remove two and keep two.

In September we finally got a response from an interested party – Blue Planet aquarium in Chester and Deep Sea World in Fife (sister aquariums).  They had agreed to rehome one shark each.  Then began much planning and coordinating.  Luckily the team at Deep Sea World had undertaken a previous capture at Oceanworld and so they knew what was involved.  The date for collection was first to be December, then January, then February and finally it happened on March 6th.  Definitely one of my most interesting days working in any job yet!!

Firstly the team arrived on Saturday March 5th and got in the tank to get the sharks used to them being around.  They erected a scaffold platform to help them in removing the sharks the next day and they also placed the sling to be used in the capture at the bottom of the tank for the night.

Not so bright and early the next morning we all gathered at 6am at the back of the aquarium and waited for the Dutch driver to arrive, and waited, and waited, and waited…….  After phoning him to see where he was he told us he had missed his ferry the night before and was now delayed but would be with us by 11am.  This turned out to be 12pm but hey he had arrived!

From the moment we saw him drive towards the aquarium it was all systems go.  He reversed the artic truck up the hill behind the aquarium, losing a reflector on the way, and pulled right up to the back entrance of the shark tank.  The next issue was filling the tanks with water.

Due to the size of each tank the first one had to be removed and the inside one filled and the shark put in before the second one could be put back in the truck and filled.  They were also sealed tight for some strange reason, important to someone I would hope.  Anyway once the covers were removed and tanks filled it was time to begin the captures.

Due to the delayed driver flights and ferries had been rescheduled in the meantime for all the Scottish team and the BBC crew who were covering the story for The One Show.  It was hoped the sharks would cooperate so they could catch their various means of transport back to the U.K.  They didn’t!!

The divers entered the tank around 1pm and had caught the first shark in about an hour.  They then re-entered to catch the second who definitely did not want to be caught with many near misses of him swimming over the sling but out over the sides just in time to get away again!  The joy of working with animals!!!  Finally by 3.30pm the sharks were in the truck and ready for their trip to the U.K.  Due to the delay they missed their scheduled ferry from Belfast so stayed in the truck overnight.

Luckily this seemed to have little effect on them and they arrived safe and sound at Deep Sea World the next day.  Here one shark was removed to a quarantine tank and the other had its water changed and continued on down the road to its new home at Blue Planet in Chester.

At both aquariums the sharks were quarantined for ten days to ensure they were eating and to correct their temperature.  The temperature issue was interesting as the shark in Edinburgh had its temperature reduced from 15 degrees Celsius (temperature on arrival) to 12 degrees, as this is the temperature the Shark Tank at Deep Sea World is maintained at.  Conversely at Blue Planet the shark had its temperature raised gradually to 24 degrees as they are kept in a tropical tank there!

A great conclusion to the whole procedure for me was that I was owed holidays so booked a trip to the U.K. which would incorporate a visit to Deep Sea World.  So on April 1st I made my way across the Forth Bridge in Edinburgh to Deep Sea World and got to go for my first ever dive in their Shark Tank with two members of staff.  It was amazing to think I was in the tank with our shark and definitely a good ‘last goodbye’!

Dingle Oceanworld aquarium hosts Ireland’s largest collection of sharks and over 1,000 species of marine life. Their new Polar Penguin Exhibition will open on the 15th April 2011. For more details, see their website.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.