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First-Ever Tiger Shark at the Aquarium of the Pacific

First-Ever Tiger Shark at the Aquarium of the Pacific
© Aquarium of the Pacific

Animals

July 16, 2009

The Aquarium of the Pacific is excited to have a tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) on display for its first-time ever. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see this amazing five-foot predator. Few aquariums have had tiger sharks, and today only two other aquariums in the U.S. are home to these awesome predators.

Tiger sharks are often given a bad rap and labeled as man-eaters. “By having a tiger shark here, we aim to inspire visitors to learn the truth about these animals and to get involved in shark conservation while we further scientific information about their behavior,” said Perry Hampton, Aquarium of the Pacific animal husbandry director. These sharks can grow up to 14 feet and weigh over 1,400 pounds. A truly serious problem facing tiger sharks is that they have slow repopulation rates, yet they are heavily harvested for their fins, meat, and liver. “It is likely that the Aquarium’s baby tiger shark could have been part of the statistic of the 100 million sharks killed each year for human consumption, but instead she is serving as an ambassador to inspire people to protect tiger sharks in the wild,” said Hampton.

The Aquarium’s shark came from Taiwan, where her mother had been caught by a fisherman. The baby was born in captivity and was cared for until they found a permanent home for her with the Aquarium. When the Aquarium of the Pacific was contacted, they agreed to provide her a home even though it would be challenging to care for her since little is known about caring for this species in aquariums. The baby tiger shark was transferred into a portable holding system in Taiwan, loaded onto a plane to LAX, and finally transported on a truck before arriving to the Aquarium of the Pacific.

The Aquarium’s female tiger shark arrived at the Aquarium of the Pacific in late February. In late June, she was moved into the Aquarium’s Shark Lagoon exhibit where she can currently be seen in a pen within the exhibit. Aquarium experts have kept a close eye on her to keep her as comfortable as possible by reducing stress of all and any kind. Staff members have spent countless hours modifying the exhibit to enable her to swim more comfortably in it. After trying different methods, Aquarium biologists developed pen netting that best helps her to avoid exhibit walls, allowing her to navigate better. They’ve also tried close to 30 different food items to find out what she prefers to eat, which is a variety of fish and shrimp.

In the wild, juvenile tiger sharks eat a variety of fish as well as seabirds. They are one of the most diverse eaters and will eat just about anything, even trash in the ocean. For this reason, they are nicknamed the “wastebasket of the sea.” Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find undigested trash in the stomach of a tiger shark, including cans and plastic bottles. Recycling and properly disposing of trash to help prevent it from entering the ocean are other ways to help these sharks.

Learn more about tiger sharks in our Online Learning Center.

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