Sharjah Aquarium is celebrating a new - if unexpected - arrival. Amber, a blacktip reef shark, was born in the main exhibit ocean tank on August 7, to the delight of staff. It is the first time the species has been born at the aquarium, which acquired its first three blacktip reef sharks, Gold, Silver and Diamond, in April. The 40cm-long pup, who will eventually grow to around two metres, came as surprise bonus for aquarium officials who did not know her mother, Silver, was pregnant when they got her.
"Silver must have got pregnant in the wild because we don't have any males," said Mr Porter, the aquarium's curator. The youngster is being kept in a separate tank where she is being monitored by marine biologists until she is mature enough to be released back into the main tank in a few months. "She was born two weeks ago, but she's very strong and we've got people looking at her in the water and monitoring her diet 24 hours a day," said Mr Porter.
"Right now she's too small to go on display. She could get eaten by some of the big hammour we've got." Blacktip reef sharks are shy creatures, which rarely pose a danger to humans. Despite being common in the Indian and Pacific oceans, they are classed as "near-threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to a decline in numbers in some areas due to overfishing. "They occur in other oceans in the world, but not regularly in the UAE. Humans have overfished sharks everywhere," said Mr Porter.
Education and ocean conservation are two of the aquarium's main missions. "Amber's an ambassador of the ocean," Mr Porter said. "That's the bigger picture. "The reason we display these animals is to get people aware and get people to change because it's pretty bad about the amount of overfishing." The celebrations may not yet be over. Another blacktip reef shark, Diamond, is also thought to be pregnant and will undergo ultrasounds in the coming weeks to confirm her condition.