Dubai Aquarium launches shark assisted breeding programme

Flagship asset of Emaar Retail begins pioneering initiative to help protect the Sand Tiger Shark
Dubai Aquarium launches shark assisted breeding programme
By Staff writer
Sat 15 Aug 2015 09:50 AM

Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, a flagship asset of Emaar Retail, is marking a global historic first with the launch of a pioneering assisted breeding programme for one of its star inhabitants, the Sand Tiger Shark. 

Dubai Aquarium has the largest of its kind aquarium population of Sand Tiger Sharks, which is listed as ecologically vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. 

The population is facing vulnerabilities due to a slow reproductive cycle and indiscriminate shark finning, with the result that only 1,500 of them are accounted for along the Australian East Coast, one of the species natural habitats.

At current rate, the species could become extinct in the next three decades. 

This assisted breeding programme undertaken by Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, is being carried out in collaboration with SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium and aims to sustain the population of the Sand Tiger Shark.  

Maitha Al Dossari, CEO of Emaar Retail, said: “A species that is even older than dinosaurs, sharks face innumerable threats across the world. Through a global collaboration, we are putting the spotlight on shark conservation while taking a proactive step to build the population.”

Paul Hamilton, general manager and curator of Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, added: “We are committed to raising awareness on conservation issues both locally and internationally. It is exciting to take a trailblazing role in the fight to save the Sand Tiger Shark species. We are hopeful that our efforts will set a research benchmark in assisted reproduction of sharks as well as inspire aquariums globally to develop skills to self-sustain their inhabitants."

He said techniques learnt in Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo will likely be applied to the conservation of sharks worldwide.   

As part of the programme, Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo expects to set scientific protocols in areas including the handling of Sand Tiger Sharks, sperm collection and its cryopreservation, ultrasound monitoring of female sharks and hormone analysis to assess their reproductive cycle, the artificial insemination process and potential live birth of pups. 

A full-fledged cryopreservation lab has already been set up in the Underwater Zoo and the sperm collection will commence in the coming days. It will be stored at the cryopreservation lab until the female Sand Tiger Sharks within Dubai Aquarium are ready for the assisted reproduction. 

The project will be led by research consultant Dr Jon Daly who, together with The Aquarium vet, Dr Rob Jones, made history at SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium in 2013 with the birth of a Brown Banded Bamboo shark – the first ever shark in Australia to be born via artificial insemination.

A full-time research veterinarian is on staff at Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo to oversee the assisted breeding programme and other conservation based initiatives.

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