Latest News from SEA LIFE
*Happy First Birthday for Penguin With Splayed Legs*
The plight of a penguin chick with badly splayed legs captured hearts all over the UK when it emerged his condition was being remedied with the aid of special elastic trousers!
His special pants soon had Pebbles the Humboldt chick on happy feet again…and yesterday staff wished him a happy first birthday with the help of an iced fish cake.
“Pebbles’s mum and dad were a bit over zealous with their brooding, and by the time we were able to disturb the nest without upsetting them his legs were growing out sideways instead of straight,” said Scarborough Sea Life Centre displays supervisor Lyndsey Crawford.
“It’s a common problem with many bird species, but unless treated quickly it can result in a permanent disability.”
Lyndsey and her colleagues used coloured elasticated bandage to make Pebbles tight-fitting trousers, and gradually they succeeded in correcting his gait.
“It’s brilliant to see him getting about just as well as all the other penguins one year on,” she added.
“He’s not exactly graceful, but at least now he’s only as clumsy and ungainly as all penguins are on dry land.
“I don’t think he had a clue why he was getting a special treat today, but he looked very happy about it all the same…and of course, he shared with all his feathered friends.”
Pebbles is a VIP member of a 20-strong flock of Humboldts residing in a newly redeveloped enclosure christened Penguin Island, which includes a unique walkthrough path for visitors, as well as a large dive pool and underwater viewing area.
Who's the Daddy?
A cute baby seal pup born unexpectedly at a Norfolk sanctuary could be the product of a holiday romance.
Staff at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary were taken by surprise when resident common seal Tyne gave birth to a healthy pup. They had no idea she was expecting!
The birth was witnessed by aquarist Natalie Emerson, who had grown concerned about Tyne’s loss of appetite and listless behaviour and returned to the Sanctuary at 8pm to check on her.
The youngster must have been conceived last July while Tyne and other residents were ‘holidaying’ in Scarborough …while the Sanctuary was re-built after being devastated by storm floods.
“Tyne and our other girls Sally, Amber and Miley were all on contraceptives at the time, which is why we never suspected Tyne was pregnant,” said Natalie. “She must have found some way of discarding the tablet, even though it was tucked inside a tasty fish.
“Our solitary male Pendle is only two and not sexually mature yet, so the finger of suspicion is pointing at five possible culprits at Scarborough…Bruno, Mando, Bubbles, Ed and Herbie.”
When Natalie made her unscheduled visit to check on Tyne she found her hauled out of the seal pool and breathing very heavily.
“I was initially worried that she was seriously ill, but she was in labour, and a few minutes later the pup was born.
“Now I just feel incredibly privileged to have witnessed such an amazing happy event,” she said.
Natalie alerted other staff members who helped her raise the water level in the pool to make sure the new arrival, which took to the water within an hour of being born, could easily haul out again.
“Tyne is being a model mum, suckling her pup regularly, escorting it on swims around the pool and being very protective,” Natalie added. “The other residents are curious, but Tyne won’t let them get too close.”
The pup’s gender won’t be confirmed until vet’s can take a blood sample, which will not happen until mum and pup have had several weeks together with minimum disturbance from their human carers.
The birth has also provided an unexpected bonus for visitors however, who can see Tyne and her pup from the seal viewing walkway adjacent to the enclosure and when they’re in the pool even watch through an underwater window.
*MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS AND WDC BELUGA SANCTUARY UPDATE*
Merlin Entertainments plc (‘Merlin’), and its conservation partner, WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) are continuing efforts to establish a natural sea sanctuary for the three belugas currently housed in Merlin’s Chang Feng Ocean World aquarium in Shanghai, China.
Merlin’s SEA LIFE team of veterinarians and marine life experts, together with WDC and a team of independent whale and dolphin specialists and advisors have spent months investigating various options for the belugas’ future.
A considerable amount of exploratory work has been undertaken so far with the ultimate goal of bringing the belugas to a purpose-built, coastal sanctuary in a safe and secure natural habitat, where the belugas will benefit from the enrichment and stimulation of a natural coastline. Here the whales would live out the rest of their lives in a much larger, more natural environment, well cared for and no longer performing for public audiences.
The whales will also be assessed by independent experts as to their health and suitability for release back into the wild. If this is viewed as possible, a programme for their phased return to their native waters would be planned and enacted.
The proposed sanctuary will also serve as a global centre for non-invasive research, education and conservation.
Research that will serve not only to further knowledge about the care of belugas in natural sanctuary environments; but also focused on the rehabilitation of individuals for possible wild reintroductions. Such research will greatly increase the chances of such opportunities being available to the many other belugas, and indeed other cetaceans (whales and dolphins), in captivity around the world.
Given the primary objective is the welfare of the belugas, finding a suitable location for the sanctuary has proven very challenging and time consuming. In order to ensure the health and welfare of each individual whale is not compromised, very rigorous ‘site-selection’ criteria have rightly been established. Failure to undertake this work would only jeopardise the health of the belugas.
Initial considerations focused on returning the belugas to Russia, where they were born in the wild. However, after months of negotiation and research, the site identified proved to be unsuitable on welfare grounds. Every effort is now being made to investigate alternative locations in suitable cold water environments.
These dedicated efforts include engaging with local, national and international decision-makers and other stakeholders to make this ambitious and pioneering project a reality.
A project like this involves many variables and has never been attempted on this scale before. Therefore, no exact timeline can be provided as efforts to obtain special permits and necessary long-term funding also present many on-going challenges.
While efforts to identify and secure a suitable sanctuary location continue, Merlin continues to support the belugas’ health and welfare, and, importantly, to prepare them physically and behaviourally for relocation to a wild sea sanctuary. A new regime is currently being developed for the belugas, a critical part of which are natural behaviour and enrichment programmes which not only help improve their health and fitness, but which also form the basis of educational messaging about the whales to visitors to Shanghai.
Commenting, Merlin reiterated that their only objective in this matter has always been the welfare of the belugas and they are committed to working with WDC to find a suitable sanctuary where the belugas can be relocated as soon as possible.
Cathy Williamson, WDC’s anti-captivity programme lead said, “As the welfare and conservation partner in this project, and an organisation that campaigns to end whale and dolphin captivity, we have been working with and advising Merlin for many months. We welcome their continued genuine commitment to helping WDC identify and develop a purpose-built wild sea sanctuary for the belugas. This has been a long process to-date, but one that we will make every effort to bring to fruition for the long term welfare of these amazing creatures.”
The Otter Whisperer
True happiness is an otter on your lap!
That’s the verdict of 23-year-old Rosneath girl Robyn Hunter, who studied to be an artist and spent five years as a chef before finding her true vocation at Loch Lomond Sea Life Aquarium.
Robyn has spent 12 months gradually winning the trust of resident Asian otters Lily and her two offspring Pickle and Cub.
“They are naturally wary of humans, and new faces especially, and it takes a long time for them to fully accept anyone,” she said.
Lily’s maternal instincts mean she is the more guarded of the trio, and so when Lily suddenly climbed onto Robyn’s lap and lay there to be petted Robyn was moved almost to tears.
“It was confirmation that she has complete trust in me, and a signal to Pickle and Cub that they too could abandon any lingering nervousness in my presence.”
Now the trio are enthusiastic participants in a range of enrichment activities with balls, frisbees and even their own musical keyboard, and a subtle signal from Robyn will have them stand on hind legs to have their tummies inspected and spin in a circle to make sure their legs are in good order.
“Pickle has even learned to ‘high five,’ “ Robyn added, “but in general their routine is designed either to keep them interested and stimulated or to make health checks easy and stress free.”
After leaving Helensborough’s Hermitage Academy Robyn spent three years studying art & design, but then opted for the catering trade instead, working as a restaurant and hotel chef for the next five years…including at Cameron House hotel in Balloch.
It was during that period that she visited and fell in love with the Loch Lomond Aquarium, and she joined the entertainments team there two years ago.
A lifelong animal lover, her true goal was always to join the displays team to help care for the fish and other residents, and her chance finally came 10 months ago.
“I love every aspect of it from preparing food for the sharks to giving sea turtle Cammy the regular back-scrubs she enjoys so much,” said Robyn, who now lives in Renton, Balloch.
“But that moment when Lily climbed on my lap was the moment I realised I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.”
Robyn’s affection for otters especially made her the natural choice to represent the Aquarium on a visit to Skye last summer with a team from the International Otter Survival Fund to see and learn about our native otters.
“We were lucky enough to find a male otter which we tracked and observed for four hours,” she recalls.
“Now we talk about the IOSF and its work protecting otters around the world at all our of otter talks.
“Having learned what signs to look for, I now plan to investigate the woodland and countryside around the Aquarium to see if we have wild otters locally,” she added.
Meanwhile, visitors are thrilled to see the interaction between Robyn and her otter family; and even by their reaction when she simply walks by their enclosure.
“They generally scream at me,” she said. “It’s just their way of saying hello and maybe enquiring as to when I’ll next be calling in.”
Don't Peck On My New Suede Boots
Visitors to a new walk-through penguin attraction are being advised to choose their footwear carefully.
The Humboldt penguins in the brand new enclosure at Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary are demonstrating a vehement dislike for a popular Australian brand of boots.
The two youngest birds in particular – hand-reared pair Rico and Skipper – will chase anyone wearing the suede or fur covered boots and peck repeatedly at their toes and ankles.
The penguin walk, a supervised trek through the enclosure with no barriers between visitors and birds, was an innovative new feature introduced after a £300,000 redevelopment of the Sanctuary’s penguin attraction.
It also saw the former colony of 12 South American Humboldt penguins welcome six new captive-bred additions from Belgium and hand-reared pair Rico and Skipper from another UK wildlife centre.
“We opened at Easter and it’s been a tremendous success so far,” said boss Richard Dilly.
“The walk-through follows a set route, and the penguins can approach or keep their distance as they choose.
“They seem completely relaxed with the whole business, until someone appears wearing those boots. Then Rico and Skipper and one or two of the others will try to see them off with a series of well-aimed pecks.
“The boots protect their wearers from any harm, but it’s clearly disconcerting for them to have their feet pecked constantly until they are safely out of the enclosure.”
The animal care team are baffled…but speculate that the fur covered footwear triggers an inherited memory of predatory seals, and the penguins instinctively want to chase those boots away.
Appropriate warnings are now being issued prior to every walkthrough, and several boot-clad visitors have passed up the opportunity as a result.
Hyper Rare Blue Shore Crab Walks Into Sea Life Sanctuary
Britain’s rarest crab has literally walked into a Scottish Sea Life centre and offered itself up for public display!
It is a ‘one-in-a-million’ blue shore crab…a species that is generally green or reddish brown. It’s common name in North America is the green shore crab.
Aquarist Anna Price at the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary in Oban was not unduly surprised to find a shore crab shuffling about beneath one of the display tanks.
“We are right by the edge of Loch Creran and we get shore crabs visiting maybe two or three times every year,” she said. “They are probably drawn by the smell of the fish.”
Anna was astonished, however, when she picked up the latest gate crasher and saw that instead of the usual brown or green colour, it was a lovely shade of blue.
“There’s a fair bit of natural variation in the colour of shore crabs but they are generally brown or green,” said Anna. “Nobody here has ever heard of a blue shore crab, let alone seen one before. This must be a one-in-a-million.”
Richard Harrington of the Marine Conservation Society said very small juvenile shore crabs occurred in a wide variety of colours, but gradually reverted to the more familiar green or brownish hue through progressive moults.
“A bright blue specimen the size of the crab in Oban is very unusual,” he added. “It is probably a result of a lack of pigment rather than an unusual pigment colour.”
Shore crabs are one of our most common crabs, and anyone who has ever explored a rock-pool is likely to have seen one.
They grow to just over three inches across the shell, feeding on a variety of molluscs, worms and small crustaceans.
Females can produce up to 185,000 eggs which they carry on the underside of their shells.
The Seahorse Nursery Nurse
Aquarist Natalie Emmerson has been entrusted with a very special job…nurse to a fast-growing litter of baby seahorses.
Feeding and caring for around 20 fast-growing baby Australian big-bellied seahorses is a huge responsibility for the 28-year-old displays team member at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary.
Experienced senior colleague Chris Power advises and supervises, but he has been quick to harness Natalie’s natural ‘maternal’ instincts and assign her as chief seahorse nursery nurse in his absence.
Now around six weeks old, the 20 babies have grown tenfold, from around 2mm at birth to 20mm.
The litter originally numbered around 100, but seahorse offspring are so delicate and tiny that only around one in every thousand is believed to reach maturity in the wild.
“To have 20 still flourishing after six weeks is a remarkable achievement,” said Natalie, “and each passing day increases their prospects of reaching full maturity.”
Natalie’s duties include feeding her growing infants four times daily. They have now progressed from newly hatched microscopic brine shrimp to adult brine shrimp.
“They don’t have a stomach as such, and need to eat almost continuously to extract sufficient nourishment from their food,” she explained.
The babies have their own special nursery pen floating in the tank their proud parents occupy.
“They were almost the first babies born here since we re-opened in the autumn after suffering horrendous flood damage the previous winter,” said Chris Power.
“They would have been pampered regardless, but that fact makes them extra special and has probably ensured that Natalie and I have developed an even stronger bond with them.”
Seal Pup Freed In Record Time
*Athena the grey seal pup has broken all previous recovery records at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary and returned to the wild after only six weeks.*
The Sanctuary’s first grey seal casualty of the year, she was rescued from Mundesley Beach on March10th in a lethargic state and covered in small bite wounds, either from another seal or possibly from a dog.
A thorough veterinary inspection back at the Sanctuary’s seal hospital revealed she also had a nasty infestation of parasitic lungworm.
“Even with all her ailments Athena was a strong and otherwise fit seal, and she was happily feeding herself on whole fish that first day,” recalls animal care team member Chris Powers.
“She weighed 30 kilos when rescued, but within six weeks she had reached 54 kilos and had recovered enough to go back to the wild.
“Most of our casualties need about three months care and convalescence, so Athena’s bounce back has been one of the quickest on record,” he added.
Athena was released at Snettisham beach on Tuesday morning , and after pausing briefly on the beach to look at Chris as if to say ‘thankyou,’ swam strongly out to sea.
The Sanctuary team is now caring for just two convalescing seals Artemis and Hemera who are expected to be released in a few months time.
World's First Octographer
Aquarists at Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium in New Zealand have trained octopus Rambo to take pictures of visitors.
This strange endeavour was in conjunction with Sony, to help promote a special underwater camera, and Rambo's new photographic skills have earned him international notoriety.
You can see him in action via this You Tube link
BIRDMAN TODD USHERS HIS BABIES INTO NEW ENCLOSURE
*It was an anxious moment for penguin foster dad Todd German when two chicks he had lovingly hand-reared were finally introduced to the flock!*
The 30-year-old senior aquarist at Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary became surrogate dad to baby Humboldt penguins Rico and Skipper when they were five days and one day old respectively.
He fed them a special fish soup six times daily with the aid of a syringe and even took them home with him so he could give them their last feed at 10pm.
When a couple of months old they lived in a heated seal hospital at the Sanctuary, but went for daily walks with Todd as he made his rounds of the displays.
Now fully fledged, they have joined 18 full-grown Humboldts in the Sanctuary’s new ‘Penguin island’ enclosure…and to Todd’s great relief the older birds have given them a warm reception.
Both were hatched in December at another UK wildlife centre and were rejected by their parents. Without swift intervention they would have died.
Matt Ford of the Specialist Wildlife Services re-homing centre near Heathrow knew just who to call.
Matt, who recently helped move Scarborough’s Humboldt penguin colony to another Sea Life while their enclosure was transformed, knew that Todd had reared many abandoned baby birds and numerous orphaned, oiled and injured seabirds.
“I was thrilled to be given the chance to bring up Rico and Skipper,” said self-confessed bird nut Todd.
“It was hard work, and I’m not sure what the neighbours made of their braying calls in the middle of the night, but it has been a hugely rewarding experience.”
Happily for Todd his girlfriend Amy McFarlane is also a Sea Life aquarist and shares his passion for wildlife, so was more tolerant of the lodgers than many partners would have been.
Rico and Skipper weighed a miniscule 67 grams when Todd first adopted them. They now weigh in at four kilos.
“They definitely think Todd is their ‘mum’ and until they were introduced to the adults in the new enclosure hadn’t seen or heard another penguin,” said Sanctuary boss Richard Dilly.
“We spent £300,000 sprucing up the penguin enclosure and adding a waterfall and special walkthrough trail for visitors.
“Having been hand-reared by Todd, Rico and Skipper have no fear of humans and are likely to give our visitors some incredible close encounters.”
*All newlyweds treasure their wedding photographs…but thanks to a novel suggestion from their photographer one York couple will also have a spectacular pictorial celebration of their engagement!*
Tom Douch and Jemma Holmes, of Oaklands, Strensall, met when both were stationed at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, and Tom proposed last autumn when the couple were holidaying in Portugal.
When they started laying plans for their wedding - set for December 16th in Edinburgh - Jemma contacted Nottinghamshire-based photographer Ed Godden after seeing his work on Facebook.
Award-winner Ed suggested an ‘engagement shoot’ so he could gauge how ‘to read the couple best’ before the big day…and the result was a stunning souvenir of a memorable day in Scarborough.
“The first place Tom and I visited when we moved to York was Scarborough Sea Life Centre,” said 26-year-old Jemma, a technician with the Food Environment Research Agency.
“We both love fish and plan to visit every Sea Life centre in the UK, but Scarborough seemed the perfect choice for our photo’ assignment.”
Tom, 25, is originally from Dalby Forest near Pickering and joined the RAF in 2011, later than he had originally planned after being hit by a car when he was 16 and spending months recovering in Scarborough Hospital. He only narrowly avoided losing a leg! He is now based at RAF Linton on Ouse.
Thanks to their day out in Scarborough, which also saw Ed capture a great selection of images along the seafront, Jemma and Tom already have a stunning photo album to flick through…even before tying the knot officially.
Engagement Ring In A Shark Egg
*Engagement rings generally come in neat little cushioned boxes…but Thetford man Ashley Sproston hatched up a much more dramatic delivery method for his proposal to girlfriend Emma Moore.*
The 28-year-old popped the question on a visit to Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre yesterday, and conspired with staff to guarantee an occasion young Emma (23) will never forget.
Her first clue came when staff member Ellery Child interrupted his shark talk to invite Emma to examine a dummy ‘mermaid’s purse’ – an eight-inch rubber replica of a shark egg with a convenient pouch in the side.
Instead of an embryonic shark, she discovered it contained a glittering diamond ring neatly wrapped in protective tissue…and when Ashley then drew her attention back to the Centre’s ocean tank, she saw a pair of scuba divers displaying a sign reading: “Emma, will you marry Ashley?”
The answer was of course a resounding ‘Yes!’
Ashley and Emma have known each other for 12 years, and have a young daughter and son respectively from previous marriages. They became an item three years ago.
“Emma has been dropping hints recently,” said the Gloucester Way, Thetford man, who has worked as a butcher in Tesco’s, Swaffham, for three years.
“She didn’t have a clue about the Sea Life plans though, and thought we were just making another visit to one of our favourite Norfolk attractions.”
Emma currently lives with her two-year-old son Tanner in Anson Way, Carbrooke, but the couple hope soon to have a new home together in the Swaffham area.
Recently treated to a £500,000 redevelopment and re-christened Shark Encounter, the Sea Life ocean display’s underwater tunnel made a spectacular and romantic setting for Ashley’s proposal.
And Emma is the first girl in the world to receive her engagement ring wrapped in a Mermaid’s Purse with an audience of bowmouth, zebra and blacktip sharks.
Deputy PM Visits Seal Sanctuary
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary hosted a visit by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last week.
The Lib Dem leader toured the Sanctuary meeting its staff and resident seals and other animals to highlight green achievements across the UK and the countdown to an end to free plastic shopping bags, which from October 5th will cost 5p.
“Plastic is a serious hazard for marine life, including seals,” said Animal Care Supervisor Tamara Cooper, “and plastic bags are one of the biggest killers.
“We are delighted there will be an obligatory charge on plastic bags, and echo the Deputy Prime Minister’s hopes that reusable bags quickly become second nature.”
Mr Clegg said he had made protecting the environment a priority.
“We made ambitious promises and I’m proud to say that in the last four years we’ve made real changes that will conserve our environment for years to come.
“It is so important that we stop polluting our environment and protect our natural spaces and wildlife,” he added.
Sentiments very much shared by the Sanctuary, whose GM Trevor Broome told his VIP guest about the work of its partner charity the newly launched Sea Life Trust, including its campaigning for a new tranche of Marine Conservation Zones around the UK.
He urged the Deputy PM to lend his support to this mission too.
Among the resident and rescued seals Mr Clegg was introduced to was 37-year-old common seal Babyface, the oldest common seal in captivity who in spite of his advancing years and having only one eye has managed to sire two pups Bo and Buddy, with females Sija and Luna in the last two years.
“Mr Clegg also met our resident grey seals and learned about some of the more serious casualties we have had in the past with terrible injuries sustained from getting tangled in discarded fish nets,” said Tamara.
Big Belly Babies Flourishing In Scotland
Sea Life Loch Lomond is celebrating after becoming the first aquarium in Scotland to successfully rear Big-Bellied Seahorses.
Australian Big-Bellied Seahorses are one of the biggest seahorses in the world’s oceans reaching around 30 cms in height and, like all species of seahorse, are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity.
However Sea Life Loch Lomond has successfully reared two babies through the critical first months of their lives and the year-old juveniles are now thriving. Staff hope they will soon be ready to join the adult seahorses in the main tank.
As well as being a first for Scotland, the seahorses form part of Sea Life centres’ captive breeding programme to help stock educational displays across the global Sea Life network.
“A recent investigation revealed that as many as 120 million seahorses every year are being taken from the wild for the Chinese traditional medicine trade, while others end up in souvenir shops,” said Loch Lomond’s Kirsty Morrison.
“Our displays help raise awareness of these problems and foster support for efforts to curb them.”
It is also hoped that captive reared stocks may in the future help replenish the most severely depleted wild populations.
Sea Life Loch Lomond is also home to Lined Seahorses as well as many other rare creatures, including Scotland’s only Giant Green Sea Turtle.
Busan SEA LIFE Rescues Rare Whale
Staff from Sea Life Busan have successfully rescued one of the world's rarest whales after it became trapped by ropes in a sea mussel farm.
The attraction's displays staff were alerted by local maritime police to the discovery of a Northern Right Whale - rarest species in the world - caught up in ropes at the farm at Miyo-myeon, Namhae-gun, Gyeongnam.
They raced to the scene and went to work immediately, using knives and hooks to try and free the whale - thought to be about seven years old - from three 10cm diameter ropes each bound tightly to its caudal fin.
Hampered by the whale's own frantic struggles to free itself, the rescue party managed to free two of the ropes before darkness fell and it became too dangerous to continue.
On their return the following morning, however, the whale had vanished...and after a thorough search of the area it was concluded that it had managed to free itself from the last rope.
There are thought to be only about 300 Northern Right Whales left in the world, after their decimation by the whaling industry. Slow moving whales, they were easy targets for whalers...which is how they got their name.
Whalers considered them the 'right' whale to be hunting!
There has not been a sighting of a Northern Right Whale off the Korean coast sine 1974, making this extraordinary rescue an even more significant event, and not suprisingly it attracted huge media coverage in the country.
Chance To Learn About Fish With Cartilage Instead of Bone - And About Fish Senses
Gardaland SEA LIFE Aquarium is running special workshops on sharks and other cartilaginous fish, and another on the senses of fish. for the next three months.
Targeting families, the former will take place every Saturday, at 1pm and 3pm, and provide an insight into the private lives and strangest facts about cartilaginous fish..
The workshop dedicated to “The senses of the sea” will be presented at 1pm and 3pm every Sunday, revealing the extraordinary sensory abilities of fish.
Every workshop will finish with a make-up session for children, enabling them to take on the guise of their favourite fish.
The workshop activities are part of the Aquarium’s edutainment approach, a methodology that allows guests of every Sea Life worldwide to heighten their knowledge of marine animals, learning interesting facts about their life habits and their protection..
Roll Up For The Carnival - And Be Sure to Wear A Mask
There are likely to be as many fascinating creatures out of water as in it at Gardaland Sea Life Centre next week – Monday and Tuesday, Feb 16 and 17 – when it hosts its annual Carnival.
Younger visitors – the under 12s - will be encouraged to turn up in masks to claim a special discount, and even the adults will be invited to join-in at an on-site mask-making workshop resulting in hundreds of two-legged creatures with sea-creature faces admiring the myriad real sea creatures in the Centre’s stunning displays.
Winners of a special draw staged at 2pm on both days will receive souvenir gifts and the chance to help feed the tropical fish.
Costume characters from the adjacent Gardaland Theme Park will also be dropping by to add to the fun.
* SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium sitting pretty as penguins sit tight*
SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium is sitting pretty as they await the arrival of their newest residents. SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium’s aquarists have confirmed numerous eggs are currently being incubated and they are very excited with the news of another egg's arrival just before the end of January.
“We are very excited to have our first eggs for this year’s King penguin breeding season; however you can never count your penguins before they hatch as there is always a chance eggs can be infertile,” said Lead Bird Keeper, Tanith Davis.
“King penguins do things the hard way when it comes to producing offspring, as no other bird in the world has a longer breeding cycle. The ritual of courtship, egg laying, egg hatching and fledging the chicks takes between 14 to 16 months.”
King penguins are the second largest penguin behind the Emperor species and they are among the most dedicated parents in the penguin family.
They incubate eggs on the adult’s feet using their body heat as protection from the cold. Both parents share the incubation duties over about 8 weeks.
SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium is one of very few places where you can see this amazing ritual up close.
“Last year we were lucky to have five chicks, marking SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium’s most successful breeding seasons since the exhibit opened in 2008. We’re crossing our fingers we will have plenty of fluffy chicks waddling around the exhibit soon.”
Visitors can catch a glimpse of the expectant King penguin parents incubating their eggs on the ice in the Penguin Playground exhibit and check out the amazing Art Aquarium.
They can also use their imagination to create their very own sea creature and watch it come to life as it is magically released into the huge nine-metre virtual aquarium!
The Penguin Playground and Art Aquarium are part of the 12 amazing zones of discovery at SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium.
14th February 2015: the most romantic day of the year in the evocative atmosphere of Gardaland SEA LIFE Aquarium!
Gardaland SEA LIFE Aquarium offers couples in love a Valentine’s Day made of romantic atmospheres for the price of just one admission!
At 12 AM and 2 PM at Gardaland SEA LIFE Aquariumthere will be a special presentation on the courting strategies of the marine species present in the Aquarium, like the suave dance of the Seahorse or the colour changes of the male Sea Goldie.
There will also be an elegant and romantic treat that will be offered to the loved ones: a… tender gift, a souvenir that will make the visit even more evocative and unforgettable.
Lulu The Turtle Immortalised In Steel
The world’s oldest captive sea turtle may be in her twilight years…but her memory will live on in steel!
Lulu the 75-year-old giant green sea turtle at Brighton Sea Life Centre has been immortalised in two stunning sculptures created by Brighton artist Piers Mason.
Piers, who specialises in endangered creatures, chose green turtles for his latest creation after swimming with them off the coast of Peru.
“I was snorkelling just off shore when two green turtles appeared and swam around lazily for a few minutes, seemingly unconcerned about my presence,” he said.
“They vanished for a while before one of them returned and playfully pushed me in the back with its beak.
“It was an incredible experience and I decided there and then that these amazing animals would be my next subjects.”
He contacted the Sea Life centre, where staff were only too happy to let him watch and film Lulu from the vantage of the underwater tunnel.
Seven months later he emerged from his seafront studio at Embassy Court with Lulu’s likeness captured perfectly, in two slightly different aspects and in beautiful burnished steel.
The life-sized sculptures are now entertaining visitors to The Sculpture Park in Churt, Surrey.
Originally from Bristol, 40-year-old Piers gained a Masters Degree in Fine Art at Winchester and Barcelona, and began his art career as a painter in London.
He soon grew disillusioned with the commercial art scene, however, and headed to Kenya where he spent the next five years working with disabled children and other groups…latterly on the Maasia Mara wildlife reserve.
“I have always loved wildlife, and working on the Maasai Mara got me very interested in endangered species,” he said.
On later hiring premises in Brighton he discovered that one of his neighbours was a metalworker, and it was seeing this operation that convinced him that sculpting in steel was what he wanted to do.
Uniquely, he works exclusively in marine grade stainless steel, which is notoriously difficult to use because of its rigid strength and tendency to crumble.
The proof that he successfully overcame these obstacles can be found in that Sculpture Park in Surrey, where along with the turtles, some of his earlier pieces like a barn owl and a pair of crested cranes in flight are also on display.
Piers has been sculpting happily for six years now, combining this labour of love for most of that time with assorted building and decorating jobs to supplement his income.
Happily, the sale of one of his creations – a spectacular leaping salmon sold to a private buyer last year – has enabled Piers to now devote himself full time to his sculpting.
Staff at Brighton Sea Life would certainly offer him every encouragement, so impressed are they with Lulu’s steel likenesses.
“They may be static, but the two different poses he has captured really convey the grace of Lulu’s swimming, and the dark glassy eyes really bring them to life,” said curator Carey Duckhouse.
Piers commissions the eyes from White Rabbit Glass, situated in the North Laines.
“We would love to buy them ourselves,” added Carey, “but sadly we can’t spare the five figure sum that work of this quality quite rightly commands.”
To viw more of Piers' amazing work visit his website www.piersmason.co
Ben Joins Shark Mission
A 22-year-old Preston man has been seconded to a team of shark experts working on a pioneering captive breeding programme.
Ben O’Neill, of Balfour Road, Fulwood, is helping marine experts in Dorset refine the protocols for breeding black-tipped reef sharks, a tropical species under pressure from the shark-finning trade.
The European network of Sea Life Centres has one of the world’s biggest captive collections of the species, and has already had successful births at centres in Germany, Holland and Denmark.
Now the network’s Marine Animal Welfare Department in Weymouth is plotting a concerted breeding effort to boost stocks and perfect techniques for a potential reintroduction programme in the future.
Former Our Ladies RC High and Cardinal Newman pupil Ben is more than two years into a four year Zoology degree at the University of Manchester, and his shark breeding work will contribute to his B Sc.
A lifelong wildlife enthusiast, Ben developed a passion for marine life when snorkelling off Turkey and Africa, and has recently become a qualified scuba diver.
“The shark assignment is right up my street,” he confessed, “and it came about through sheer chance.”
Sharks are a speciality of University lecturer John Fitzpatrick, who was already helping the Sea Life network on a genome mapping project for rare Undulate Rays and potential ‘artificial insemination’ project involving sharks.
“John approached Sea Life on my behalf and they quickly agreed to host me for my year’s work-experience, my studies so far being perfectly suited to helping with the breeding project.”
Before he knuckled down to some serious academic investigation, Ben was lucky enough to get ‘hands-on’ with 11 blacktips, helping tag them and then transport them from the Sea Life centre in Great Yarmouth to its sister attraction in Birmingham.
“Great Yarmouth’s ocean display was being cleared for redevelopment,” said Ben, “and when the work is completed it has been chosen to host what could be the most critical and exciting phase of the blacktip breeding programme.
“Captive born juveniles from Germany and Holland will be held there and allowed to mature together in the hope that they will eventually produce offspring of their own.
“The measure of success with any captive breeding programme is second generation captive births,” he added.
Ben is now hard at work analysing data from the Sea Lifes that have already bred blacktips and from other aquariums across the world that have enjoyed similar happy events.
“My task is to try and identify the factors most conducive to achieving good sized litters of healthy pups,” he said. “I’ll be writing my findings up in a paper which could be helpful not only to Sea Life, but to shark researchers generally.”
Blacktip reef sharks, which can grow to six feet in length, are classed as ‘near threatened’ in the wild,” said Sea Life’s Chris Brown.
“Though still fairly common some populations have declined sharply through overfishing, and some virtually wiped out by shark-finning operations,” he added.
“It’s very possible that a captive breeding programme for reintroduction could become necessary in the future, in which case everything we learn from our own programme could prove very valuable.”
Seal Pup 'Boo' Given Permanent Home
A lovable seal pup with seriously impaired vision is to be given a permanent home at the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary in Oban.
Common seal pup Boo was rescued in June last year when he was barely a week old and was very tiny.
"He had become separated from his mother and still had his umbilical chord attached," said aquarist Anna Price.
Thanks to dedicated round-the-clock care from Anna and her colleagues, Boo soon put on weight and gained strength and was able to join resident seals Lora, Pippa and Macey in the outdoor pools.
He appeared on course for a return to the wild in a month or two, until a veterinary inspection revealed that he is almost blind in one eye.
Even fully blind seals have been recorded in the wild, but experts believe these animals probably lost their sight gradually and learned to adapt.
"Our vet felt that in Boo's case, his impaied sight could prove a fatal handicap, and recommended we give himn a permanent home," said Anna.
"We are sad he can't go back to the wild, but he's a real character and a firm favourite already with both staff and visitors, so given that he needs full time care we are more than happy to provide it."
TRUST DONATION WILL AID BATTLE AGAINST CYANIDE FISHERMEN - January 2015
A crucial salvo in a war against deadly cyanide fishermen has been delivered in Portugal by the new SEA LIFE Trust.
Chris Brown, senior curator with the Sea Life network, visited the University of Aveiro near Porto to deliver funding for full-time testing of water samples for cyanide traces.
The cash - from new marine conservation charity The Sea Life Trust - will help speed up analysis of samples from fish deliveries to Sea Life centres across the globe.
The use of cyanide to stun fish for collection is widespread in Southeast Asia, and not only kills most of the fish targeted but also destroys coral reefs.
“Worryingly, it is particularly prevalent in the collection of fish for the live food trade, especially for restaurants in Hong Kong,” said Chris, who works at the Marine Animal Welfare Department based at Weymouth Sea Life Park.
“It has also been used by some collectors for the ornamental trade though,” he added. “We want to makes sure no cyanide-caught fish find their way into Sea Life centres and help end the practice altogether if we can.”
Sea Life has teamed up with a Portuguese scientist Ricardo Calado, who has developed a test making it possible for the first time to check if live fish were exposed to cyanide.
“We vet our suppliers and check their sources rigorously,” said Chris, “but it is impossible to accompany every single fishing expedition.
“This test will enable us to identify any newly arrived fish that has been exposed to cyanide, and to alert the relevant suppliers.
“The onus will then be on the supplier to track the delivery back to source and make sure the fishermen involved are boycotted.”
He added that the ultimate objective was to drive the guilty fishermen out of business.
Randomly selected fish from any new deliveries to Sea Life centres are transferred into fresh saltwater and a sample of that water taken 24 hours later.
“If the fish has been in contact with cyanide there will be traces in the water from any waste passed by the fish,” Chris explained.
“Currently, the samples all have to be sent to the University for analysis, but we are close to developing a field-test which will speed up the process.”
In the interim the grant from the Sea Life Trust will enable sample testing to proceed much more quickly.
Though barely a year old, the Sea Life Trust has also made grants of £50,000 to charity Whale & Dolphin Conservation, and £10,000 to The Shark Trust.
The Trust’s Head of Global Projects Andy Bool, formerly of the Marine Conservation Society, said it was an encouraging start.
“The Trust is already making a vital difference in the ongoing battle to safeguard our seas and the creatures that live in them,” he said.
“Wiping out cyanide fishing would save habitats and thousands, if not millions of fish, but the Trust has other ambitious projects lined up and the potential to make a really significant contribution to marine conservation in the years ahead.”
Great Yarmouth Plans Ultimate Shark Encounter - January 2015
A £500,000 project underway at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre aims to deliver the ultimate shark encounter.
The Centre’s mighty 250,000 litre ocean display has been drained to create a coral- themed environment with relics from a sunken city to house the east coast’s biggest selection of tropical sharks.
Viistors will get to do far more than just watch the residents however, with a variety of new devices installed enabling them to interact with the sharks and other creatures.
A push-button control in the ocean tunnel will trigger a stream of bubbles from the mouth of a giant Medusa head, and activate lights in her eyes. Medusa also provides a commentary on the marine life surrounding her.
Hi-tech sensors in the tank will be linked to a display panel on which visitors can monitor the water chemistry and learn about the delicate balance required for a healthy marine environment.
A huge dome window is being transformed into a simulation of a deep sea submersible, enabling visitors to take the controls and manoeuvre a real in-tank camera to spy on a pair of bowmouth sharks, black-tipped sharks and others up close.
“It’s all part of our mission to improve the image of the world’s most misunderstood and unfairly maligned predator and boost support for shark conservation efforts,” said senior aquarist Darren Gook.
Visitors will also use a separate control to guide an animated sea turtle safely through a sea of plastic hazards.
A real-live green sea turtle Noah will be among the ocean tank inhabitants, along with zebra sharks, tropical rays and hundreds of colourful smaller fish.
Shark Encounter is set to launch at Easter.
Sanctuary's Flying Start to 2015 - January 2015
The improved fortunes of Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary show no signs of abating more than two months on from its re-launch after being ravaged by floods.
The Sanctuary started 2015 by smashing all previous records for visitor numbers in the first week of the year.
No fewer than 2,350 people explored the new-look Sanctuary last week, compared with just 716 in 2013, a figure that was itself more than 100 up on the previous year.
“Even more gratifying is that fact that a massive 96-per-cent of those who filled in visitor surveys said they would recommend it to others,” said General Manager Nigel Croasdale.
“Simple curiosity no doubt played a part in the good numbers we enjoyed in the first few weeks after re-opening,” he added, “but to still be breaking records after this length of time, and in the middle of winter, is testament to the quality of the attraction.”
Flooded to a depth of three feet during the storms of December 2013, and its resident creatures evacuated to foster homes across England, the Sanctuary had to be virtually re-built from the ground up.
“We took the opportunity to introduce a host of more modern, hi-tech’ features to the displays in what is one of the oldest Sea Life centres in the UK, and it seems to be paying off,” said Nigel.
Penguin Family Reunited - January, 2015
A £250,000 project at Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary has brought about a happy family re-union further down the east coast in Great Yarmouth.
Work on a spectacular new attraction ‘Penguin Island’ has led to Scarborough’s 12 resident Humboldt penguins taking a short break at the Sanctuary’s sister attraction in Great Yarmouth.
They are currently lodging with the eight Humboldts already resident there and six new arrivals from Belgium.
As well as briefly creating one of the biggest flocks of Humboldts in the country – 26 birds in all – the move has brought penguin mum Clumsy back together with son Nester and daughter Mumbles and introduced her for the first time to her three granddaughters.
Mumbles and Nester transferred from Scarborough two years ago, and Mumbles has since hatched out chicks Pitcher and Blossom, while Nester has sired a daughter Leia.
“With so many penguins milling about and socialising it’s hard to pick out individuals even with the help of their uniquely colour-coded wing tags,” said Scarborough Sea Life’s Lyndsey Crawford.
“Our colleagues in Great Yarmouth soon realised though that Nester and Mumbles and their off-spring were being especially friendly with Clumsy.
“The way they posture and chatter at each other it’s as if Nester and Mumbles are showing off their children to grandma and reminiscing,” she added.
The reunited family will have until mid-March to bill and coo about old times before the Scarborough penguins head back to their smart new enclosure with their six new friends from Belgium.
Sea Life Marine Conservation Trust (SLMCT) Statement Condemning the Dolphin Drive Hunts
January 22nd, 2014~ In light of the ongoing dolphin drive hunt season in Taiji, Japan, the Sea Life Marine Conservation Trust (SLMCT) – the conservation charity launched by the global network of Sea Life centres – strongly condemns these activities and calls upon all zoos and aquaria to cease association with the dolphin drive fishery in Japan.
“The Taiji drives involve the herding of dolphins at sea to be then driven and corralled into the confines of a cove. After sometimes being held for days, the dolphins are then slaughtered for meat or kept alive for sale to marine parks and aquaria across the globe,” said Sarah Taylor, Head of the Sea Life Marine Conservation Trust.
“Yearly quotas for these drive hunts reach into the thousands. They are a brutal reminder that we have a very long way to go towards securing a safe and humane future for all whales and dolphins,” she added.
Sea Life, with 44 attractions around the world, is working with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), to establish the first permanent sanctuary for captive whales and dolphins where they can be retired or rehabilitated and live a more natural life.
Issued by The SEA LIFE Marine Conservation Trust.
SEA LIFE Marine Conservation Trust
The SEA LIFE Marine Conservation Trust (SLMCT) is a registered charity established in 2013 to raise awareness of issues affecting the world’s marine life; to promote solutions, and where relevant, provide funding for valuable marine conservation work across the globe. Its mission is to support marine conservation endeavours, examples of which include those which promote healthy marine habitats and species; protect vulnerable species; and promote sustainable fishing. As part of its remit the SLMCT supports breed, rescue and protect projects and campaigns developed both by the world’s leading aquarium network, SEA LIFE; and other leading conservation organisations.
Sea Life Rescue Mission**
Sea Life staff from across the UK rallied to help save more than 3,000 creatures at the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary when the building was floo**ded and the power lost.
An exceptional high tide combined with strong winds saw the North Sea surge through flood defences and deluge the Sanctuary.
At the height of the onslaught staff were forced to cut the power and leave the building, as the water level rose to nearly waist height.
When they were able to get back in again to allow the fire brigade to start pumping water out, it became clear that power had been knocked out completely in the vicinity, leading to fears for livestock deprived of their vital life support systems.
Transport vehicles with emergency back-up systems were immediately dispatched from Sea Life's main collection centre in Weymouth, and by early the following morning a massive evacuation was underway.
Sea Life marine experts raced to Hunstanton from as far afield as Blackpool and Stafforshire, and a round the clock operation lasting nearly 48 hours successfully relocated more than 3,000 creatures - among them sharks, a sea turtle, penguins, crocodiles and seals.
Sadly, the best efforts of all involved could not prevent more than 20 of the older weaker fish from perishing...most as a result of the loss of temperature in their displays.
Sanctuary staff were saddened and distressed by these losses, but relieved that so many were saved in such difficult and traumatic cricumstances.
Sea Life's senior biologist Rob Hicks, who coordinated the rescue mission, said its success was testament to the valiant efforts of everyone involved.
"All worked tirelessly to help save the Sanctuary's residents, and spirits were buoyed throughout by the tremendous help received from the fire brigade and the incredible support from the local community.
"People who were following events on the news turned up in droves bringing flasks of tea and coffee and sandwiches and ready to pitch in and help."
Rob also praised Matt Ford, of Specialist Wildlife Services, who also joined the evacuation operation and has temporarily re-homed some of the animals at his facility near Heathrow.
Penguins, sharks and green sea turtle Ernie have bee re-homed at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre. Seals and otters have moved to Scarborough and thousands of fish have been relocated to the Sea Life London Aquarium and Weymouth Sea Life.
The damage to the Huntanton Sanctuary is still being assessed, but is substantial.
It will be weeks if not months before it is able to re-open again and welcome back its thousands of residents.
For more information contact Mark Oakley 01202 440040
Astonishing Discovery Down Under
A species of jellyfish not seen for more than a century has surfaced off the Australian Sunshine Coast, and is now being studied at the soon-to-be new Sea Life centre in Mooloolaba.
The incredibly rare Crambione Cookii was last seen by American scientist Alfred Gainsborough Mayor off Cookstown, Queensland in 1910.
His detailed sketch was until now the only record in existence, and helped jellyfish expert Dr Lisa-Ann Gershwin, of the Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Service, confirm identity.
Ironically, it was another jellyfish specialist, aquarist Puk Scivyer, who chanced upon the animal while releasing a rescued sea turtle.
Puk had been recruited by the Sea Life network to take charge of a new jellyfish exhibit planned at UnderWater World aquarium in Molooloba, which will be re-launched as Sea Life, Molooloba next month after a $6.5 million redevelopment.
“As soon as I saw it I realised it was a species I’d never seen before,” said Puk, “but to then discover I was the first person to see this species in over a hundred years was just incredible.”
The Crambione Cookii will not appear in the new exhibit, but will be observed closely behind the scenes to learn as much as possible about it and afterwards donated to the Queensland Museum.
Nothing is known about the species, and marine scientists are baffled as to how it could have evaded notice for more than a century…but Sea Life aquarists will now be on the look-out for more whenever they venture off-shore.
_New Sea Life Resident Is A Real Dictator_
A newly-arrived fish called Napoleon is stirring things up in the ocean tank at Blackpool Sea Life Centre.
A Napoleon wrasse, a metre-long tropical reef dweller with a reputation for ruling the roost, he has upset the hierarchy in the Centre’s showpiece display.
One of the biggest of his species to feature in the UK, he will grow to twice his current size, but already he is big and feisty enough to challenge the resident tropical sharks for ‘top dog’ status.
“Napoleon wrasse are like underwater generals,” said displays supervisor Scott Blacker. “They like to cruise over the top of the reef inspecting all the other residents and seeing off predators with a steely glare or a threatening charge.
“Our Napoleon has already set up territory in the middle of the display and let all the other residents know who’s boss.”
An endangered species, Napoleon wrasse have been targeted by fishermen supplying the live food market in China, and have also been easy targets for spear-fishermen.
“Cyanide and dynamite fishing have also taken their toll,” said Scott, “and because these fish don’t become sexually mature until they are five to seven years old, they do not reproduce quickly enough to make up for the losses.”
In common with other wrasse species they are all born female, with a dominant female undergoing a dramatic sex-change at about nine-years-of-age if there are not enough males around already.
Blackpool’s Napoleon is around 10-years-old, so has probably only been a boy for a year or so.
He was collected under special license from the coast of Australia so that Sea Life can try and establish a successful captive-breeding programme which could provide a vital lifeline if the wild population is driven close to extinction.
There is a possible partner for him in Belgium, but since Napoleon will live to be 25 to 30-years-old, his new keepers are content just to let him settle in before they try any match-making.
Ironically, though humans have put their future in peril, Napoleon wrasse are notoriously friendly with divers and generally inquisitive about humans.
“Our Napoleon is no exception,” said Scott.
“He likes to hold his head above the water to have it stroked, and really seems to enjoy a bit of human company.”
That could be great news for those taking advantage of the Sea Life centre’s special new ‘Snorkel with Sharks’ attraction…which enables them to get underwater with the Ocean display residents inside a special cage.
“Napoleon has no fear of people and will provide our snorkelers with some really amazing close encounters,” said Scott.
Divers Use Wig to Distract Fishy Hair Nibblers
Tropical fish with a hair fetish have driven divers at Manchester Sea Life Centre to distraction!
Lead diver Myke Bell and his colleagues who escort visitors on dives in the Centre’s ocean tank, are having their hair constantly nibbled by a pair of tropical ‘scrawled filefish.’
Now, in an effort to distract their tormenters so they can concentrate on supervising their guest ‘Sea Trekkers,’ they have started taking a mannequin’s head and wig for a dip with them.
“At least a couple of times every day we will suddenly feel the tug of tiny teeth on our hair,” said Myke.
“The filefish eat sea grass ansd algae in the wild and I guess they must mistake our hair for marine plant-life,” he added.
“It doesn’t hurt, but it’s impossible to ignore, and we really need to stay focused on looking after our guest divers, so now we’re using the wig as a decoy.”
And luckily for Myke it appears that filefish prefer blondes. The golden real-hair locks of his decoy keep them happily occupied while he escorts visitors in special suits for their stroll on the seabed.
Scrawled filefish are found in tropical waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, and in the wild are notoriously shy with divers.
“I confess I thought they’d lost their own heads when the dive team came up with this crazy idea to keep the filefish at bay,” said Sea Life boss Neil Crittenden, “but it really works, and has become a real talking point for visitors. The only other option would have been to have Myke shave his head.”
Myke, 28, is no stranger to underwater hair issues however…and the file fish are a minor irritant compared to the last fish which took a liking to his dark wavy locks.
“I used to dive regularly at another Sea Life Centre, and a huge bowmouth shark called Betty just wouldn’t leave my hair alone.
“At least with the file fish I don’t have to worry about losing my scalp too.”
Cuttlefish Breeding Success is Boon For Scientists
Researchers investigating a true miracle of nature have received a welcome boost with the birth of dozens of baby cuttlefish at Brighton Sea Life Centre.
A batch of cuttlefish eggs laid by adults that were themselves born at the centre have begun to hatch out.
The 25 babies so far emerged are the attraction’s first ever ‘second generation’ offspring, and they will make perfect subjects for an on-going study by the University of Sussex.
“We usually get eggs brought in from the wild by fishermen who find them attached to lobster-pots or anchor ropes in the summer months,” said curator Carey Duckhouse.
“We already have about 30 babies from eggs that came to us that way, but our latest babies are from eggs laid by our own captive reared adults, which is really exciting.”
Cuttlefish have the ability to rapidly change their skin patterns to camouflage themselves.
“In less than a second a cuttlefish can view its surrounds and alter its skin pattern to achieve the perfect camouflage,” said Carey.
“We have provided a special laboratory in the Centre which University researchers are using to learn more about how the cuttlefish brain passes such swift and precise instructions to its body.”
Led by neuro-scientist Dr Daniel Osorio, the research is designed simply to advance knowledge about one of nature’s most extraordinary phenomena, but has been closely followed by the Ministry of Defense.
“If the process can be simulated by computers it’s not unfeasible that one day computer-linked cameras mounted on military vehicles could feed continuous data to colour-shifting receptors on the vehicles’ skin,” she said.
The Brighton research has already shown that cuttlefish at rest on a variety of surfaces not only accurately mimic different shades of light and dark, but even the microscopic pattern of the tiniest grains of sand.
“They adopt the pattern most effective for hiding them from specific predators, from the distance those predators are most likely to attack,” added Carey.
“They are genuinely amazing and fascinating creatures, and the fact that we are now captive-rearing them means we can provide plenty of subjects for the University’s research and rotate them regularly to ensure they suffer no ill effects.”
It also means plenty of cuttlefish babies for Brighton Sea Life visitors to admire and to marvel at.
Rare Turtle Babies Surprise Sea Life Team
After the Prince George snaps…another very special baby has been posing for some historic pictures.
This week-old Roti Island Snake Necked Turtle is one of two born in a special breeding facility at the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham.
The species is one of the rarest in the world and the surprise appearance of the two Birmingham babies brings the total captive population to just 250 worldwide.
“That’s more than the population left in the wild,” said Curator Graham Burrows.
“The species is confined to a tiny area in the middle of a single small island, Rote Island, in Indonesia, and was hunted almost to extinction for the pet trade,” he added.
“It has been protected since 2001, and with luck the population will recover.
“If it doesn’t, captive reared animals like our two new arrivals could be used for reintroduction to give the species a vital last lifeline.”
The freshwater turtle sanctuary at the Sea Life centre has several species, and has already successfully bred another endangered species the Indian Spotted Turtle, and several Pink Bellied Short Necked Turtles, a more common species from Australia and New Guinea.
Most were hatched out in the sanctuary’s incubator, but Graham and his team had no idea that one of their adult Roti Island turtles had actually laid eggs.
“She must have buried them in the sand in the tank, and the first we knew of it was when we came in one morning and found these two youngsters swimming around,” said Graham.
Bid To Combat Cyanide Fishing
A project championed by Weymouth Sea Life Park biologist Chris Brown aimed at curbing the deadly practice of cyanide fishing has been launched today (Monday, July 1st).
Though illegal in most countries, the use of cyanide to catch live fish for both the ornamental and food markets is still widespread in parts of East Asia.
Now, for the first time, a test developed by a Portugeuse University research team has made it possible to find out if a fish has been exposed to cyanide…without having to kill and dissect the fish first.
The 40-plus strong network of Sea Life centres around the globe begins random testing of newly acquired fish stocks from today, in a bid to staunch this cruel and destructive trade.
“Cyanide fishing has decimated fish populations and killed huge areas of coral reef from the tropical mid-Pacific right across to east Africa,” said Chris, who is based at the network’s main collection centre at Weymouth Sea Life.
“Fishermen squirt the poison into the corals to stun fish, enabling them to make quicker, bigger and more lucrative catches, even though most of the fish caught will often be dead by the time they reach port,” he added.
The test developed by Dr Ricardo Calado at Portugal’s University of Aveiro, involves transferring a fish into artificial seawater, leaving it long enough to pass waste, and then sampling the water for a specific by-product of cyanide.
“A positive result will tell us if the fish has been exposed to the poison, which might mean it was caught using cyanide but may simply mean it was taken from an area where the poison has been used by others,” said Chris.
“Either way, it will enable our suppliers to track the delivery back to source and identify the holding facility they were first housed at.
“Everyone we work with wants to stamp out this evil practice and already polices the supply chains vigorously, but without having a representative on every single tiny fishing boat it has been impossible until now to be sure that cyanide has not been involved.
“For the end purchaser, a cyanide-caught fish can appear perfectly healthy, and then die mysteriously days or weeks later.”
Chris, who is based at Sea Life’s main collection breeding centre in Weymouth, Dorset, was shocked by the extent of the problem when he travelled to China earlier this year in search of sustainable supply sources for the Sea Life chain.
“In some coastal collection centres I saw tanks full of newly-delivered reef fish which the fishermen who landed them freely admitted they had caught using cyanide,” he said.
In spite of being the world’s largest aquarium chain, Sea Life’s own import of wild-caught fish amounts to less than 0.003-per-cent of the global catch, most of which goes to the hobbyist market.
“Because many of the same original collection points and wholesalers are involved, however, we believe our project will help clean up supply lines for everybody,” said Chris.
“In the first six months we will report positive tests to our suppliers in confidence, to give them the opportunity to take action to ensure there is no repetition.
“If we get further cases from the same supplier and we’re not satisfied enough is being done to identify and sanction the culprits, we will simply drop them,” he added.
Samples currently have to be sent to Portugal for testing, but Dr Calado’s team is working on a simple ‘field-test’ which will enable checks to be made in any location.
The test was developed using clown fish, and may still need fine-tuning to be equally effective for all species, but the samples from Sea Life will help Dr Calado’s team apply any necessary refinements as they are processed.
“Once the formula is perfected for all species we will urge other aquarium operators to follow suit,” said Chris, “and with everyone on board we think we can start to stem the supply of cyanide-caught fish to the ornamental trade.”
Perhaps even more alarming however is the little-publicised trade in cyanide-caught fish for the live food market.
Some estimates place the quantity of live fish supplied to this market per annum at around 35,000 tons, with Hong Kong restaurants and food markets accounting for 60-per-cent of the total.
“Most authorities confirm that cyanide is used frequently to cater for this demand,” said Chris, “but it is doubtful that consumers realise they are being willfully dosed with cyanide.”
Chris and Dr Calado are both hopeful that the impact of the new test for aquarium fish will raise awareness of the ‘food fish’ problem and force health authorities in the affected regions to act to stem that trade too.
“There is also a considerable health risk to the fishermen themselves,” said Chris, “I have heard of boys as young as 11 and 12 equipped with bottles full of poison and hopelessly inadequate protection from getting dosed themselves.
“In contrast, there are also many fishermen who use sustainable methods and do their best to actively protect reefs, and it is these practices we want to support and encourage.”
Something In The Water! 24 June 2013
There must be something in the water at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre…which is in the grip of an unprecedented baby boom.
In the space of three days no fewer than six baby thornbacked rays, a brood of baby Malawi cichlids and hundreds of baby guppies and tetras have been born.
Delighted displays staff are also nurturing dozens of baby Upside Down Jellyfish, and now a pair of South American ‘Oscars’ have begun busily preparing a nest.
“We took more ray eggs out of our main display tank this morning, and at least 20 of them seem to be fertile,” said curator Christine Pitcher.
“It’s the right time of year for a baby boom, but I don’t recall ever having so many youngsters appearing at once before,” she said.
“It’s the ultimate endorsement for our husbandry techniques and the quality of water and theming in our displays,” she added, “which makes it even more pleasing.”
The tetras and guppies share their tank with a trio of Cuban crocodiles, but are too tiny to attract the attention of these stealthy predators.
“You have to look for a while before you spot them,” said Christine, “but once you get your eye in you can see literally hundreds.”
Christine and her team are also still hopeful that their largest resident Aphropdite the nurse shark may soon follow suit and produce off-spring after a recent flurry of mating activity with male Hercules.
“That would certainly be the ‘happy event’ of the year,” she added.
Seal Saved By Facebook - 24 June 2013
A simple Facebook alert led staff from Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary to the rescue of an abandoned one-day-old seal pup.
Social media proved its worth in the animal welfare arena when dog-walker Keith Stockdale was told about the stranded pup on the beach at Heacham in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“I was out walking my husky at 6.30am like I do every morning when this woman approached me and told me there was a stranded seal pup further up the beach,” said Keith.
“I went and took a look, but didn’t want to get too close with the dog.”
Knowing the Sanctuary would not yet be open he pinged a Facebook message to displays supervisor Kieran Copeland.
It read: “Hi mate, hope u get this. Seal pup heacham south beach half way along the huts. But walk straight down turn towards Snettisham you will come to it. Calls when it sees you.”
Sure enough Kieran and colleague Hollie Stephenson soon found the forlorn youngster, and after satisfying themselves it’s mum was nowhere to be found, carried him back to the Sanctuary.
“At such a tender age he will need to be tube-fed a special fish soup for a couple of weeks before we can wean him onto whole fish,” said Hollie.
“He seems pretty healthy overall, so we’re confident we’ll be able to fatten him up over the next few months and get him fit enough to face life in the wild.”
Ironically, Kevin’s life-saving Facebook message came just hours after the Sanctuary was featured on national television, in an item which closed with other rescued books being freed back into The Wash.
Heacham man Keith, 43, who runs Stocky’s Lawn and Garden Machinery in nearby Terrington St Clement, was amused to learn he had found a worthy new use for social media.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever received a rescue alert via Facebook,” said Kieran.
Pregnant Shark Rescued by Sea Life Pair - 11 June 2013
A pregnant four-foot-long smoothound shark has been rescued from a storm drain at Portland by marine experts from Weymouth Sea Life Park.
The shark had swum into the drain at high tide and found itself trapped when the tide receded.
Coastguard officers were alerted to its presence when they spotted people trying to catch it with a line and hook baited with a mackerel head.
“He warned them off and then called four our help,” said senior aquarist Jen-Denis Hibbitt, from the Sea Life displays development department in Weymouth.
Jen-Denis and colleague Anna Russell raced to the scene and waded chest deep to catch the shark and – after checking it was okay – release it back into the sea.
“It was heavily pregnant female, probably due to give birth very soon,” said Jean-Denis.
He added that many native British sharks would be close inshore at this time of year and many would be pregnant females like this one.
He and Anna were horrified to learn someone had been trying to hook the shark, which he said had suffered minor damage to a fin as a result.
Happily the shark swam away to deeper waters where it could soon produce anything between four and 15 off-spring.
“We would naturally urge anyone else who might come across a shark in similar difficulties to help it back out to sea if possible, or call their nearest Sea Life centre for help,” said Jean-Denis.
“No-one need be afraid of them,” he added. “Few sharks, even of the big tropical species, are actually a danger to people, but certainly our native British species are all perfectly harmless.”
Smoothounds feed mainly on hermit crabs, lobsters and shrimps and grow to a maximum of about five foot.
Turtle Fitted With Dive Belt! - 20 May 2013
A sea turtle with a damaged spine has been out with its own dive-belt to help it swim underwater.
Green turtle Ali is one of five now living at the Weymouth Sea Life centre after being hit by boats in Florida Keys and suffering back injuries which left them unable to dive.
“All five had weights glued to their shells to help them submerge, but Ali’s shell is so badly damaged the weights won’t stay attached,” said curator Fiona Smith.
Now Ali has been fitted with a specially tailored dive-belt, made by the centre’s own dive-suit supplier Portland-based O’Three.
“It has pockets for the weights, to act just like a diver’s weight belt,” said Fiona.
“Attaching weights direct to the shell means keeping the turtle out of water long enough for the resin to dry. With a harness like this we can adjust or replace weights in a matter of seconds.”
Ali was rescued in the spring of 2002 at Palm Beach, and as well as a badly damaged shell was also discovered to be riddled with tumors.
In spite of his woes, Ali was such a feisty individual he was named after heavyweight boxing legend Mohammed Ali.
He and fellow casualties Sharky, Gumbo, Josie and Cracker were originally rescued by the Florida Turtle Hospital.
Staff there devised the weight system to restore their diving abilities, but were only able to watch the results from above…as their home was a converted swimming pool.
“It was not until we got them into our ocean tank with its big windows and underwater tunnel that we could see some of them were swimming at odd angles,” said Fiona.
“We have been regularly adjusting their weights ever since to try and correct their buoyancy.”
The fitting of Ali’s new belt coincided neatly with the launch of a major sea turtle conservation month at Sea Life centres across the UK.
Christened ‘Turtle Fest’ the event highlights the growing threats to turtles from pollution, fishing bycatch and tourism development.
And it is raising funds to off-set the running costs of a new £250,000 Sea Turtle Rescue Centre on the Greek island of Zakynthos, built with donations from Sea Life visitors.
'Turtle Fest' runs from May 13th to June 2nd in most centres and also features special talks, quiz trails and childrens’ activities.
Follow the link below to see how the Daily Mail covered the story online.
Oil Be Seeing You…! - 16 April 2013
An unusual rescue mission for Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary culminated today in the successful release of five guillemots, a razorbill and a puffin from Bempton Cliffs.
All were victims of a mystery oil spill which also affected some seal pups and led to new patients in the Sanctuary’s seal hospital.
Though not usually involved in bird rescue, Sanctuary staff did a sterling job of cleaning up their avian patients and administering a charcoal-based concoction to help absorb any of the foul liquid they had swallowed.
Today’s ‘take off’ was testament to the dedication of the hard-working displays team.
Senior aquarist Todd German is pictured readying the recovered puffin for launch, while our second picture shows two of the guillemots following close behind.
Singing For Sea Turtles - 26 march 2013
Dorset band Paint It Blue has been plucked from relative obscurity to headline at a charity concert in Greece this autumn.
The up-and-coming Bournemouth-based blues band will appear in early September in Zakynthos, at the special invitation of Greek wildlife group Earth, Sea & Sky.
Zakynthian and Earth, Sea & Sky founder Yannis Vardakastanis has seen the band three times on visits to the South West and become an ardent fan.
“Yannis has been working with Sea Life centres to build a rescue centre for loggerhead turtles,” said Paint It Blue singer songwriter Hannah Robinson.
“He tells us there’s a strong blues following on the island and is convinced they will turn out in force to support a live show.
“We’re very excited about it, and delighted that ticket proceeds will be helping the new rescue centre,” she added.
Hannah and her fellow band-members - virtuoso guitarist Pete Quintin, harmonica player Ed Fish, drummer Marcin Dyba and bassist Albert Dyba - also hope the event will help boost the band’s fan base back in the UK.
“Yannis is confident lots of UK holidaymakers on the island at the time will also attend, so we’re hoping to make lots of new friends and maybe line up a few future dates back in blighty, outside our usual patch.”
Having been together for more than five years now, and followed up their acclaimed debut studio album with a live album released last year, Paint It Blue have a strong following in the south west and have recently been making inroads in the capital.
Their debut album made Blues In Britain’s ‘Best of British CDs’ list in 2010, and a year later they won the Cooltura Music Awards, performing to a sold-out crowd at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Zakynthos hosts the biggest concentration of loggerhead turtle nests anywhere in the Mediterranean – as many as 2,000 in peak years - but the tourism boom of the last four decades has had a devastating impact.
“Numbers are in decline and without better protection the turtles could disappear from Zakynthos altogether within the next ten years,” said Yannis.
“Only 811 nests were recorded in 2012, one of the lowest ever tallies, and only 500 actually hatched, mainly because of bad weather, but a few were also damaged by humans.
“Every adult loggerhead of breeding age is becoming more and more vital to the long-term survival prospects of Mediterranean loggerheads.
“Until now though, any adult turtle injured by fishing gear or pleasure craft has had to travel to Athens for treatment and care, a journey of more than eight hours.” he added.
The new Rescue Centre in Gerakas at the island’s southern tip, built by Earth, Sea & Sky with funds donated by Sea Life centre visitors across Europe, offers one glimmer of hope.
“As well as being able to offer care and rehabilitation on location for injured turtles, it is raising awareness of the problems they face and educating holidaymakers to help prevent them from adding to the problems,” said Yannis.
Paint It Blue’s charity performance will take place opposite the new facility in Gerakas on Wednesday, September 4th.
Sea Life centres are helping foot the band’s travel bill and Yannis is providing them free accommodation for the duration of their stay.
There are also plans to produce a DVD of the event with a donation from every sale providing a further boost for the new rescue centre.
Special chips have been cooked up to go with some of Britain’s rarest fish. - 22 March 2013
The strikingly marked undulate ray was once widespread in the English Channel, but overfishing has made it one of our rarest native species…now confined to a small pockets off southern Ireland and the coast of Devon and Cornwall.
Protected since 2009, fishermen are obliged to return any they catch safely back to the sea.
Now, a determined effort to establish a healthy captive-bred population is underway, spearheaded by marine expert Jean Denis-Hibbitt, at the breeding and research facility at Weymouth Sea Life Centre.
“We had a number of mature undulate rays in Sea Life display tanks across the country,” he said. “We are micro-chipping all these adults plus a few at other aquariums and have created a stud-book to help pair-up unrelated adults to produce genetically sound offspring.”
Jean-Dennis is pictured microchipping one of two 18-month-old juveniles born to an adult pair which have occupied the Bay of Rays display at the Weymouth attraction for many years.
“We have so far micro-chipped 33,” said Jean-Dennis, “and have a few more juveniles waiting to be chipped.”
The 8mm microchips are smaller than those used by vets on cats and dogs, and each has a unique 14-digit number. Jean-Denis’s stud-book records the date and location of chipping, the parents if known, weight and width.
The Sea Life network hopes to expand the programme to include another 16 centres in continental Europe.
“Ultimately our aim is to establish a thriving captive-bred population which could feasibly be used for re-introduction should the wild population fall to a dangerously low level,” said Jean-Denis.