Zebra shark: endangered species

The zebra shark is a species that is on the verge of extinction. To save the species, an international organization of 15 countries is breeding zebra sharks in captivity. The goal is to release 500 pups in Indonesia in order to restore the wild population.

Zebra shark breeding
Zebra shark breeding. Wikipedia. From Liné1
Breeding zebra shark embryos in captivity to save the species.

It often happens that science reintroduces endangered animals into the wild. Previously, the offspring are born in captivity, as happened with Californian condors or Chinese giant pandas. However, this is the first time in the world that an attempt has been made with sharks, whose population is declining at an alarming rate.

For scientists, zebra sharks are the beginning of the recovery of other shark species. The international organization is called Reshark.

Indonesia’s zebra shark population almost disappeared. Between the years 2001 to 2021, with more than 15,000 hours of searching, they could only count three zebra sharks. The population was decimated due to fishing and the global shark trade.

The new hatchlings come from eggs brought from Australia, where the species’ population is still stable.

Introducing hatchlings into the wild

The fertilized eggs were flown from Queensland to Indonesia, where they hatched in a new shark nursery in Raja Ampat. This protected area for the animals is located on the remote Wayag Islands. It is only accessible by boat and is 144 kilometers from the nearest town.

The first zebra shark pup, named Charlie after an official supporter of the cause in West Papua, was introduced into its waters. The release of the first pup was an event attended by officials, celebrities such as Harrison Ford and the Kawe tribe, who will care for the sanctuary.

The shark is one of the oldest species on the planet.

Sharks were among the first inhabitants of planet Earth and survived five mass extinctions. However, because of human action, they are now the second fastest disappearing species. The first place is occupied by amphibians.

Of the approximately 1200 species of sharks, 37% of them are in danger of extinction. These data come from IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) statistics. Although some sharks die for various reasons, they are the fewest. The potential threat to their definitive disappearance is fishing, legal or illegal. In other words, the human species is responsible for the near extinction of sharks in the world.

Millions of specimens are killed on the planet to consume their meat. The United States, Brazil, Iceland and India are the countries where it is most consumed. In Asia, shark fin is a highly valued by-product.

In addition to the reintroduction of sharks to their natural habitats, it is necessary to implement other strategies, such as curbing overfishing. Especially the action of using nets that kill the smallest pups and destroy natural ecosystems.

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