Aquarium in Jenks gains four nurse sharks on temporary loan

BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: October 30, 2008 at 10:20 am •  Published: October 30, 2008
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JENKS — Four nurse sharks are on temporary display at the Oklahoma Aquarium after biologists moved them one at a time from an off-exhibit holding pool.

Biologists moved the sharks from the off-exhibit tank to the main shark tank to make room for a growing population of younger sharks, said Teri Bowers, the aquarium’s executive director.

The 500,000-gallon shark tank is already home to 19 bull, lemon and Atlantic blacktip sharks, Bowers said.

The bottom-feeding nurse sharks taste bad, she said, so the more aggressive bull sharks won’t be interested in eating them.

Nurse sharks weigh about 200 pounds and are social with one another.

"They are very cozy,” Bowers said of the animals. "They cuddle.”

All four sharks are living temporarily at the aquarium while their home zoos finish construction projects, she said.

A female and two males are owned by the Tulsa Zoo, and one male is owned by Wonders of Wildlife in Springfield, Mo.

The Tulsa Zoo sharks were moved to the aquarium about a year ago and could be back as soon as March, said Barry Downer, curator of aquariums and reptiles for the Tulsa Zoo.

They were moved because their exhibit, the North American Living Museum, is undergoing a $5 million renovation, Downer said.

All the smaller fish are living in a holding tank in the exhibit basement.

A few project delays have caused the sharks to be at the aquarium longer than expected, but they will return to an updated building and a better filtration system, Downer said. New sharks may also be added to the improved exhibit in Tulsa.


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How to move a shark
Moving a 200-pound nurse shark from one tank to another isn’t easy, even if the species is one of the most docile sharks, said Teri Bowers, executive director of the Oklahoma Aquarium.

1 Biologists got into

the large tank

holding the four nurse sharks. They used screens to create narrow alleyways within the tank, and they spent about an hour corralling the first shark.

2The handlers used a net to pull the shark out of the water and place it into a transport tank.

3The shark was then driven to the main exhibit tank on the other side of the aquarium.

4The shark was put into a holding well, where biologists watched to be sure the animal was healthy after the move. Once all the sharks were in the holding well, the gate was opened to the main shark tank, which is on exhibit.


What are Nurse sharks?

Weight: 200 pounds or more

Length: Up to 14 feet

Habitat: In the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern Pacific Ocean

Diet: Shrimp, snails and other invertebrates

Behavior: Nocturnal and known for docile temperament

Source: MarineBio

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