The National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham is calling on volunteer ‘Shark Watchers’ to aid breeding programme

The National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham is recruiting visitors to act as ‘shark watchers’ to help with a special breeding scheme as part of its Breed, Rescue Protect programme, and to launch the scheme it’s holding a free event next Wednesday, 14th May, with Canadian wildlife artist and animal behaviourist, Ila France Porcher.

63-year-old Ila has been acting as an advisor on the centre’s Blacktip shark breeding programme and, after spending 15 years snorkelling daily with the same group of Blacktips off Tahiti, until they were tragically caught and finned, she will be sharing some of her experiences and ‘shark knowledge’ at the centre from 7pm to 9pm.

Visitors will then head to the shark tunnel where they can put their new found knowledge to the test by watching the sharks and completing specially formulated survey sheets.

James Robson, Senior Curator at the centre, explains:

We have the opportunity to establish a world-leading captive breeding programme, but we will need to learn a great deal very quickly.
It requires very close monitoring of our sharks, but our aquarists also have thousands of other fish to care for, which is why we plan to involve visitors. With their help we can detect courtship activity when it first occurs, we will know when mating has taken place and be able to monitor females through their pregnancy.

Dozens of black-tipped reef sharks at centres across Europe have all reached the sexually mature age of five years or more, meaning a breeding bonanza is expected. The National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham has five mature black-tips, three of which are female, and hopes the sharp eyes of Sea Life visitors can help them rear some baby sharks to help safeguard the species in the wild.

Throughout the summer, five or six volunteer visitors will be selected each day to receive a four-page shark guide telling them what to watch out for and how to record any significant observations. The forms will be completed and handed in on site and checked by the centre’s displays teams so they can act swiftly. There have already been successful births at Sea Life centres in Holland and Germany and suspected pregnancies at Blackpool’s Sea Life Centre, so Birmingham could well be next!

The pressures on sharks in the wild, mainly from shark-finning, have been devastating to shark populations. What the centres learn from their captive breeding programme could help scientists calculate how quickly the wild population may decline. They have already learned that a female can give birth to six pups, which is one more than the previous assumed maximum, and although there are currently no plans to reintroduce captive-bred blacktips into the wild, the knowledge gained may make this a viable option for the future.

Visitors at more than 25 Sea Life centres across Europe will be invited to become Shark monitors when they visit.

Spaces are limited so if you’d like to attend the free event from 7-9pm on Wednesday 14th May, please visit The National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham’s Facebook page where you can join the event - https://www.facebook.com/sealifebirmingham

For further information or to pre-book tickets online before your visit please go to www.SEALIFE.co.uk/birmingham/. Reduced prices are available for tickets booked in advance.

For regular news, updates and competitions, The National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham is also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sealifebirmingham and Twitter https://twitter.com/sealifebham. You can also keep up-to-date with what new resident, Ginny the Gentoo, has to say by following her on twitter at https://twitter.com/ginnygentoo.

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