Zebra Sharks: Gentle, Sweet and Disappearing

Zebra sharks are wonderful to work with and are becoming more popular in public aquaria due to their size, appearance and gentle disposition.

Guest post by Lise Watson, Wild Reef collections manager, Shedd Aquarium

I’ve been passionate about sharks ever since I started working with them in the mid-80s at the beginning of my career. During this time, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a variety of species of sharks, both in public accredited aquariums and in the wild. Over the past few decades, shark populations have experienced dramatic worldwide declines due to overfishing and habitat loss. As one of the apex predators in the wild, sharks serve a vital role in helping to maintain population balance in our seas, so when shark populations decline, other species can become more prolific, causing serious imbalances in a very delicate food chain.

Zebra sharks are wonderful to work with and are becoming more popular in public aquaria due to their size, appearance and gentle disposition.

In the late 1990’s I began working with Zebra sharks, Stegostoma faciatum, at Shedd Aquarium. At the time, Shedd Aquarium was one of only a handful of aquariums in the United States working with the tropical, bottom dwelling species found in the shallow coastal waters of the Indo-West Pacific. They inhabit sandy bottom areas in close proximity to coral reefs and are known to live at depths up to 200 feet. Zebra sharks are wonderful to work with and are becoming more popular in public aquaria due to their size, appearance and gentle disposition.

Lise Watson is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ studbook keeper and Species Survival Plan manager for zebra sharks.

Two decades later, in 2008, the AZA Marine Fish Taxon Advisory Group (MFTAG) identified Zebra sharks as a species of concern and recommended they become part of a managed breeding program known as a Species Survival Plan (SSP). In 2004, Shedd —> Read More

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