Tagging Leopard Sharks in Australia

June 7, 2024
Posted in Filming
June 7, 2024 admin

Tagging Leopard Sharks in Australia

Leopard Shark Sydney Aquarium

Tagging Leopard Sharks in Australia

One of our latest projects was a visit to Australia to join the StAR team tagging wild leopard sharks. The StAR Project is part of the ReShark Initiative that we have been working with for two years documenting their mission to repopulate leopard sharks (Stegostoma tigrinum) in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. The trip started in the Gold Coast with a visit to Sea World Aquarium. We met their husbandry team to observe leopard sharks in captivity and their work first hand. This was a great introduction to the science the team does with these animals.

Leopard Shark and Diver

The main mission of the visit to Australia was to film the work of the StAR team in the field. This was timed to coincide with many supporters of ReShark being on location at one time. We met with Siobhan Houlihan, Dr Christine Dudgeon, Dr Mark Erdmann, Dr Lisa Hoopes, Dr Alistair Dove, Cameron Cotterell, Dr Adam Barnett, Dr David Robinson, Dr Simon Pierce and the Sea World Gold Coast’s Veterinary and Husbandry Teams. This all star team were on site to take advantage of the leopard shark congregation happening at North Stradbroke Island. This congregation happens each year and is believed to be a mating aggregation before the sharks disperse throughout the Great Barrier Reef. This large group of leopard sharks is something that we have personally wanted to witness for many years.

Sampling Leopard Shark

Tagging Leopard Sharks at North Stradbroke Island

Field work was carried out on North Stradbroke Island, not far from Brisbane, over a two day period. The island is home to one of the largest aggregations of leopard sharks in the world. The goals of the field work included taking photos for the ID database, inserting acoustic tags, taking cloacal swabs and blood samples from the sharks.

Working in the field with the team was certainly a fun challenge. Windy weather and choppy seas made for interesting times securing sharks at the surface to work on them. However, the professional and fun team were professional in what they do and the mission was a success. Three acoustic tags were deployed and a large number of sharks were photographed and sampled. The sheer number of sharks in the area was incredible and what we soon hope to see in Raja Ampat. What was a surprise to us was the large amount of marine life at this site. Wedgefish by the dozen, eagle rays, massive sting rays and more were all present at this amazing site.

Leopard Shark Sydney Aquarium

The final stop in Australia was to visit the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium to meet with Dr Laura Simmons and learn more about shark eggs. The Sydney Aquarium had several eggs on hand, the perfect opportunity to film. Dr Laura is a fountain of knowledge about the lifecyle of leopard sharks. The Sydney Aquarium was the first to supply leopard sharks to the StAR Project with these sharks being the first to be released in Raja Ampat. They are actively continuing to send eggs to the StAR Project as well.

Overall, it was exciting and invigorating to see a healthy population of leopard sharks in Queensland. This gives hope for the future that the excellent work that the team is doing in Indonesia will become successful in reintroducing this important member back into its natural ecosystem. Please watch the film in order to more fully understand this great project.

Leopard Shark Egg

For more information about ReShark and the StAR Project please visit their website at www.reshark.org