SeaWorld Orlando is proud to now be caring for two critically endangered great hammerhead sharks in its 700,000-gallon aquarium at Shark Encounter that features one of the world’s largest underwater viewing tunnels. Shark enthusiasts are encouraged to come and see the pair of young male sharks, named Dutch and Dillon, who have joined five other shark species and a large array of saltwater fish on display at SeaWorld Orlando. Dutch arrived in November 2022 and Dillon arrived last week, both transferred from Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta as part of a collaborative effort caring for shark species in accredited zoos and aquariums. Protecting endangered species like great hammerheads through human care is an important part of helping prevent their extinction.
SeaWorld Orlando and Georgia Aquarium are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to uphold the highest standards of care. As conservation partners, they are active participants in the Association of Zoos and Aquarium SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) program that includes sharks. This pair were safely transferred to SeaWorld's Shark Encounter habitat from Georgia Aquarium where they will become an important educational tool for the public to learn more about this incredible species. Caring for endangered species like the great hammerhead at accredited and certified zoological settings is vital to ongoing conservation and preventing species extinction.
“These are our first great hammerhead sharks and we are thrilled to have these extraordinary animals join our population at SeaWorld Orlando,” said Jim Kinsler, Curator of Aquariums at SeaWorld Orlando. “It is our privilege to provide care for this critically endangered species and to bring greater awareness and understanding of this shark to the tens of millions of guests that visit us every year.”
The great hammerhead is the largest of the nine hammerhead shark species. The new sharks measure approximately seven feet long and weigh about 120 lbs. They are expected to reach between 10-15 feet in length.
“Both of our organisations are committed to providing exceptional standards of animal care and these great hammerheads are in great hands with the team at SeaWorld,” said Chris Coco, Senior Director of Aquatic Sustainability at Georgia Aquarium. “We have cared for hammerheads throughout our 17 years, and we’re excited to spread awareness and respect for this beautiful shark species with SeaWorld’s visitors.”
World-Class Shark Care
Sharks at SeaWorld receive the same standard of individualised care as every other species and animal in the park. They are fed a nutritious diet including a variety of seafoods such as herring, mackerel, salmon, squid, and shrimp. Every piece of food consumed by every single shark is accounted for as part of the individualised care each animal receives. Animal care specialists feed adult sharks about five percent of their body weight a week during twice weekly feeding. Every shark at SeaWorld also receives regular health examinations that include blood draws, weight, size and more to ensure their ongoing health is monitored and tracked.
Guests can see the new great hammerhead sharks at Shark Encounter® at SeaWorld Orlando. This habitat offers a rare, fascinating, up-close look at sharks, a prehistoric predator whose ancestors dominated the sea more than a hundred million years before the dinosaur. The aquarium includes several species of sharks, rays, and fish.
A Visit to SeaWorld Helps Save Species
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists great hammerhead sharks as critically endangered. Their very large dorsal fin makes them very valuable on the shark fin market which is the biggest threat to all shark species.
Approximately 100 million sharks are killed by people every year in the wild, mainly for their fins. They are also frequently bycatch victims in large nets and other indiscriminate fishing practices. Experts estimate great hammerhead shark populations have declined 50-80 percent. Conservation is essential to preserve the species from extinction.
SeaWorld is committed to educating and inspiring the next generation of shark conservationists through its park experiences. It is also committed to shark conservation outside its parks through partnerships and the SeaWorld Conservation Fund that has donated more than $300,000 to shark research conservation projects.
Guests visiting the park can also play an important role in conservation. A portion of the proceeds from every visit goes directly toward rescue, rehabilitation, and marine animal conservation efforts. Guests can also donate in the park or online to the SeaWorld Conservation Fund that supports important third-party conservation research.
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