Beyond the Aquarium
In addition to our many inspiring exhibits, we are also involved in a number of conservation and research programmes.
Shark conservation & awareness
In 2003 we joined forces with AfriOceans Conservation Alliance (AOCA) and the Save our Seas Foundation to raise awareness of the plight of sharks worldwide and the desperate need for their conservation.
The Save Our Seas Foundation M-Sea (Maxine Science, Education and Awareness) Programme consists of three components:
Science – tagging of Aquarium and wild ragged-tooth sharks with satellite and ultrasonic tags.
Education & awareness – including teacher workshops, children’s activity books and information boards placed at strategic points along the South African coast.
Documentary films – including a one-hour documentary on South Africa’s ragged-tooth sharks.
Central to the launch of this high-profile public awareness programme is Maxine, a large female ragged-tooth shark, released from the Aquarium on March 18, 2004. The exposure generated by this exercise has been substantial and far-reaching and, with the release of our other ragged-tooth sharks, we hope to contribute significantly to our knowledge of ragged-tooth sharks in the wild and change perceptions of sharks in general.
The beauty of this programme is that it allows us to extend our conservation reach far beyond the Two Oceans Aquarium. This is imperative if we are to contribute effectively to the well-being of all sharks in the oceans.
Aquatic animal health
Research into various fish parasites and other health issues affecting aquatic animals is conducted at the Two Oceans Aquarium by David Vaughan, our researcher for aquatic animal health.
By identifying potential disease-causing organisms and researching management strategies based on biological and ecological data, the overall captive husbandry of our animals is improved and they are kept healthy.
Our staff members have devised a successful method to cut strap bands, rope, fishing line etc from the necks of seals lying on the decks outside the Aquarium.
For some time, Assistant Curator Claire Taylor and Assistant Technical Manager Vincent Calder have been working on various methods to deal with these injured seals, the sight of which has distressed Aquarium staff and members of the public.
Release of African penguins
Our colony of African penguins in the Sappi River Meander Exhibit have been breeding successfully for a number of years and the chicks, once old enough, are sent to SANCCOB for release into the wild.
To date, approximately 80 chicks have been released to join the colony of these endangered birds on Robben Island.
The Two Oceans Aquarium often receives loggerhead turtle hatchlings from concerned residents who find them stranded on beaches around the Peninsula. These turtles are swept down from the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal (where they hatch) in the mighty Agulhas Current and washed ashore by stormy seas. They are often in a weak condition, having been exposed to cold water and are suffering from dehydration. This is an annual occurrence and so the Aquarium is accustomed to receiving the hatchlings.
“We encourage people to bring the turtles to the Aquarium where we will rehabilitate them and once they are strong enough, we will release them back into the Indian Ocean,” says Communications and Sustainability Manager Helen Lockhart.
Since the turtles will be fed mainly jellyfish and bluebottles (their primary diet at sea), they will adapt to their life in the wild with ease.
In the early years of the Aquarium we displayed several ocean sunfish (Mola mola) in the I&J Predator Exhibit, but always with limited long-term success.
These gentle open-ocean giants feed almost exclusively on jellyfish. They can grow up to more than 3m in length and weigh more than 2 000kg.
Although we have no sunfish on display, we remain committed to assisting injured or stranded fish and to contributing to research on these enigmatic animals.
We support Dr Tierney Thys from Monterey Bay, California, who is conducting research on sunfish on a global scale. We have supplied her with tissue samples for DNA analysis, helped her to tag sunfish in our waters with satellite tags and collected observer data from fishing boats.
Local finfish stocks have declined dramatically. In the interests of our fishing communities and wild fish stocks, we feel that more emphasis should be placed on fish farming rather than fishing. We supply aquaculture facilities with fertilised eggs and assist in collecting brood stock.
There has always been good collaboration between aquariums globally.
From the day the foundations of the Two Oceans Aquarium were laid, to the present, we have received tremendous support from international aquariums. We, in turn, have assisted many aquariums around the world with the exchange of ideas and/or the supply of animals.
We have established close associations with Tokyo Sealife Park, Japan; Underwater World, Singapore; Ocean Park, Hong Kong; The Scientific Centre, Kuwait; Valencia Aquarium, Spain; Lisbon Aquarium, Portugal; Zoo-Aquarium Berlin, Germany; Pittsburg Zoo and Aquarium, USA; Newport Aquarium, USA and Monterey Bay Aquarium, USA.
We are also involved in the international aquarium community through our presence, and often presentation of papers, at conferences in our field. Managing Director Dr Patrick Garratt is vice chairperson of the International Aquarium Forum.
Click here to read more about the 8th International Aquarium Congress, to be hosted by the Two Oceans Aquarium in 2012.