Skip to main content

The StAR Project - ReShark and SEA LIFE Sydney's breeding program for endangered zebra sharks

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium is thrilled to announce its pivotal involvement in the world's first re-wilding of an Endangered shark species, the zebra shark, also known as the Indo-Pacific leopard shark.

Laura Simmons Monitoring Zebra Shark Eggs

A world-first shark breeding project

From SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour to Indonesia. 

The StAR Project - ReShark and SEA LIFE Sydney's breeding program for endangered zebra sharks

A recovery project to help zebra sharks as an endangered species

The conservation initiative – called the ‘StAR Project’ (Stegostoma tigrinum Augmenation Recovery Project) is a multi-national, collaborative initiative led by ReShark which aims to establish genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations of zebra sharks in the Indo-West Pacific, to benefit local populations and support healthy marine ecosystems.

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium has been involved with StAR for several years, and as a project partner, has:
- Contributed valuable breeding, egg and pup data about ex-situ populations
- Worked in the husbandry working group creating husbandry manuals for shark, egg and pup care
- Established shipping and handling techniques for transport of the eggs
- Provided viable eggs to the StAR hatcheries in Raja Ampat

Laura Simmons - Regional Curator for SEA LIFE Australia/New Zealand, said “Bringing our team and animals into the StAR project, and being able to contribute to shark conservation in a meaningful way has been a dream come true. This is part of the “WHY” behind what we do every day! A recovery effort of this kind would not be possible without the successful husbandry, welfare and breeding expertise established at public aquaria like SEA LIFE.”


Due to their slow population growth rates, marine conservation actions such as increased fishing regulations and the establishment of marine protected areas have not proven sufficient for securing the species’ future. Augmentation with aquarium-bred zebra sharks is critical to re-establish the wild populations.

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium became a “Breeder Institution”, once its population of three adult zebra sharks (one male and two females) was identified as genetically suitable to support the newly established breed-for-release recovery program.

‘’Currently, we are one of two aquariums to have sent viable eggs to the StAR hatcheries. It’s an honour, and incredibly humbling, to be able to provide our animals to the people of West Papua and to bring this species back to such an amazing part of the world,’’ commented Laura.

Following a lengthy and rigorous permitting and governmental approval process, in August 2022, the founder eggs from SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, accompanied by Laura, embarked on an epic, multi-day transit, traveling more than 4200 kms. This was the first export of eggs for the StAR Project and a world first for a shark species recovery program.

“We’re delighted to know that the very first shark pups hatched in Raja Ampat came from eggs laid here in Sydney and were released in early January. This exciting milestone is a culmination of many years of hard work and planning to ensure a future for zebra sharks in the wild.

“We will continue working with our project partners to support this important recovery initiative through our breeding program and by inspiring our guests to protect the ocean and its inhabitants. We are hopeful that the continued success of the StAR Project can pave the way for the recovery of shark populations globally.”, concluded Laura Simmons.

June 2024 Update!

Zebra sharks make a successful comeback to the waters of Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Breeding program at Australian Aquarium drives hope for recovery of Zebra sharks

In a huge milestone for the shark re-wilding project, two Endangered, female zebra shark (Stegostoma tigrinum) pups have successfully hatched in Indonesia. The world-first initiative, known as StAR Project (Stegostoma tigrinum Augmentation Recovery Project) aims to rewild the waters of Raja Ampat, Indonesia. The pups bred at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, were shipped from Australia ahead of their return to the wild.

The latest shipment follows the remarkable success of the program’s first arrival of sharks from SEA LIFE Sydney – who successfully hatched and have been nurtured, and reintroduced into the pristine waters of Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

Taylah Starc, Aquarist at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium shared, “We’re so proud to support this multi-agency global effort in marine conservation. Never has human involvement provided so much hope for a shark species. To see sharks that were bred at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, now hatched and swimming in the wild, where they once faced regional extinction is incredibly rewarding.”

Recent research by ReShark and the Conservation Planning Specialist Group, estimates just 20 individual zebra sharks remain in Raj Ampat. Without human input it could take 100 years to recover the species and there would still be a 23% chance of extinction. With help from public aquariums including SEA LIFE Sydney, the program hopes to hit the viable population size of 500 zebra sharks in just 10 years, which is the minimum required for a healthy and genetically diverse population with help from public aquariums including SEA LIFE Sydney.

The success of the StAR Project is a testament to the unwavering commitment of SEA LIFE in its mission to breed, rescue and protect marine wildlife and habitats. By leveraging expertise in marine biology, conservation science, and collaborative partnerships, this groundbreaking endeavour is paving the way to revitalise this endangered shark species population.

"With the safe arrival of the latest pups, Lingka and Spotty Dotty, we are witnessing a beacon of hope for the future of zebra sharks in Raja Ampat. With pilot projects like this, it is hoped we can establish similar initiatives for other marine species which are also sadly in decline,” Concluded Taylah. 

7B6bb37f 2Bbc C9f9 82Cc D4287311493b

July 2023 Update!

We are happy to share the news of our 4th Stegostoma tigrinum pup, “Mali” being released into the wild yesterday as part of our efforts to help re-wild West Papua, Indonesia, with this beautiful, endangered species of shark, aiming to recover the populations to sustainable levels. Mali was shipped as an embryo/egg to our StAR hatchery facility on the island of Misool in December 2022.

Once she hatched, she was cared for by the site in the hatchery’s holding pools, then acclimated to wilder conditions by being released into the sea pens a couple of months ago. Despite this time of year being hammered by monsoon conditions, the team was able to release her in the north lagoon of Batbitim Island and then tracked her for her first 20 hours at sea.

In the coming days, the team will download data from passive receivers to see if she has “pinged” any of them, hopefully allowing us to track her movements.

Congratulations everyone! 

That’s 4 of our SLSA bred zebra sharks, now released into the marine protected areas (MPAs) of Raja Ampat for our ReShark StAR Project. 

Save up to 25%

  • Price includes Digi Photo Pass with 8 digital photos included – valued at $26!
  • Get your ticket on your phone
  • Children under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult (18+)
  • Guarantee entry by booking online

Unlimited Entry

  • 12 months of family fun at 10 top attractions in Australia and New Zealand
  • Receive a great range of exclusive benefits and deals
  • No blackout periods
  • Pre-Booking is essential across all attractions

Go Beyond the Surface

  • Access working areas usually closed to the public
  • Tours run 7 days a week, every hour for 30 minutes.
  • This combined ticket includes admission to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and a Behind the Scenes Tour

Explore Beyond the Surface

  • 20% off for Merlin Annual Passholders
  • Participate in hands on experience (Ages 5+)
  • Tours run 7 days a week, every hour for 30 minutes.
  • Please ensure you pre-book an Admission timeslot for entry to the Aquarium with your Merlin Annual Pass at least 30mins before your Behind the Scenes Tour..