You can see these endangered zebra sharks at Port Stephens when you visit Irukandji! Although we have 14 different species of shark, ray and stingray, all incredibly unique from each other, zebra sharks seem to be a favourite amongst staff and visitors.
Zebra sharks (Stegostoma tigrinum) are commonly known as leopard sharks in Australia. They get their name not due to their spots but actually because they are born with stripes like a zebra! As they grow their spots fade into a unique pattern of leopard-like spots.
As one of Australia’s many species of carpet sharks, these gentle animals live in the tropical waters around the Indo-Pacific region, but will sometimes come as far south as Coffs Harbour. You can spot them hanging out together among reefs and sandy seabeds in shallow water.
Unfortunately, because they like to stick to a home range, these beautiful sharks have become endangered due to overfishing. Luckily here in Australia, zebra sharks are not targeted by fishers, leading to a healthier population than other regions.
We currently have 3 gorgeous zebra sharks who will be a part of a breeding program to help these endangered species. Sahara is our adult who is very gentle, patient and great at responding to the keepers. On the other hand, our juveniles, Kalahari and Greg, are a little different.
Kalahari is a bit of a princess! She’s very playful, loves attention, especially when there’s a camera around, and doesn’t always like to listen to her keepers, even though she can.
Greg is our newest addition who has well and truly made his home here interacting with the other animals and people. He is learning very fast and absolutely loves his food! Greg will sometimes swim in quick circles and turns upside down in excitement when he gets fed. Watch how he swims around in the video below.
Just like any animal, they all have a favourite food, and some (like Sahara) can be quite picky. Using food-based training, our keepers have been able to teach all 3 of these incredible animals their name! To help with target feeding and enrichment, the keepers can call their names for the sharks to respond. They then swim over to the keeper and wait to be fed, showing how intelligent they really are.
If you’d like to have a one-of-a-kind experience with our zebra sharks, you can book an encounter to meet them in person and learn more about them!
Go here to book online or buy a gift card for a zebra shark encounter!