E Cape-caught sharks thrill tourists

Six ragged-tooth sharks caught off the coast of East London have become the stars of a newly reopened Predator Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.

NEW HOME: Ragged-tooth sharks caught off the East London coast have been released into the newly renovated predator exhibit at Cape Town’s Two Ocean’s Aquarium which was closed for a year to undergo repairs. Picture: SUPPLIED

The raggies – three females and three males named Bernie, Lily-May, Jeff, Judd, Samtu and Gen – were released into the renovated two-million litre exhibit last week.

The tourist attraction, which opened in 1995, had to be closed for a year to repair leaks and for a new rockwork structure to be built.

The renovated exhibit now boasts a medical pool in the event one of its residents is in trouble.

The Eastern Cape-caught raggies are already thrilling visitors and will be the predominant attraction of the exhibit because they thrive in the 18 to 21ºC water.

Two Oceans Aquarium spokesperson Renée Leeuwner said the raggies – which can grow up to 3m in length and 290kg in weight – were eating freely, a sure sign that they had settled into their new environment, which will see an introduction of more animals in the next few weeks.

The raggies were sourced by the aquarium’s collection team who used rod and reel to catch them before they were transferred to a holding facility at the Pure Ocean marine fish farm at the East London Industrial Zone. Here they were housed in 150000-litre and 30000-litre pools until their road trip to Cape Town.

Leeuwner said the raggies will be the highlight of the exhibit for between five and eight years, depending on how they adapt.

“We will keep an eye on them and if necessary release sooner.”

Last year when the 21-year-old exhibit was emptied for the major upgrade, two ragged-tooth sharks made headlines when they were returned to the Indian Ocean after spending six years at the aquarium.

Raggies Reef, who was caught in the Mgwalana Mouth in Birha in 2010 weighing just 6kg, was set free off the beach in Seavale as a 200kg adult, while tank mate Nasa was liberated a couple of weeks later after spending some time at uShaka Marine World in KwaZulu-Natal.

Two Oceans Aquarium curator Maryke Musson said the new raggies would contribute to research into the species.

“I am really excited about having some impressive-looking ragged tooth sharks back, not just because they contribute to a beautiful and somewhat dramatic display with a strong ocean conservation message, but because we can continue with shark research.

“Once again we will be able to showcase our ability to combine art and science in order to tell remarkable underwater stories.” — barbarah@dispatch.co.za