Baby zebra sharks, named Charlie and Kathlyn, are the first of 500 to be released in the first-ever effort to revive an endangered species of shark.
Organizations from 15 countries are working to return 500 zebra sharks to their native waters in Indonesia, where they are believed to be extinct.
This giant corporation is building a nursery in Raja Ampat where eggs are shipped and developed so the pups can swim freely to their new homes, according to National Geographic.
Zebra sharks have all but disappeared around the archipelago in Indonesia’s West Papua province due to overfishing – only three zebra sharks have been seen in the area from 2001 to 2021.
A pair of baby zebra sharks, named Charlie and Kathlyn (the shark), are the first of 500 to be reintroduced into the wild in the first-ever effort to revive an endangered shark species
“It’s such a milestone,” Nesha Ichida, an Indonesian marine scientist who helps manage this work for ReShark, told National Geographic.
“This is such a hopeful, memorable moment.”
The effort is ReShark and takes inspiration from other rewilding programs that have seen the reintroduction of California condors and Chinese giant pandas — but this is the first to do so with marine animals.
The group includes 44 aquariums and 70 organizations and released the two sharks in January, with more to come throughout the year.
Raja Ampat was selected for its globally acclaimed conservation success as Asia’s first shark and ray sanctuary, supported by a healthy and well-managed network of nine marine protected areas (MPAs).
National Geographic photographers Jennifer Hayes and her husband David Doubilet documented this effort in Raja Ampat.
The eggs, called mermaid purses, are grown in labs and then sent to hatcheries in Indonesia, where they hatch and are cared for by “shark nannies,” a team that nurses the babies until they’re strong enough for the wild.
Like Kathlyn and Charlie, future zebra shark pups will be released into marine protected areas monitored by conservation rangers and monitored by scientists.
However, the team understands that reintroduction can also fail – young sharks are susceptible to disease, predators and struggle to find food on their own.
The eggs, called mermaid purses, are grown in laboratories and then sent to hatcheries in Indonesia, where they hatch and are cared for by “shark nannies,” a team that feeds and cares for the babies until they are strong enough for the wild
Organizations from 15 countries are working to return 500 zebra sharks to their native waters in Indonesia, where they were extinct
That is why the team aims to have at least 500 zebra sharks swim into Indonesian waters.
When the first pups were released in January, crowds flocked to the coast to see the epic event — including actor Harrison Ford.
Before releasing Charlie’s hands, Ichida said goodbye to the shark, hoping it would spark a movement to restore ocean predators.
“I’m hopeful that Charlie will be the ambassador” for all shark species, she said as she let Charlie slip away.
“Like everyone else, Ford stood in the crowd and held up a phone to capture the scene himself,” reports National Geographic.
Like Kathlyn and Charlie (the shark), future zebra shark hatchlings will be released into marine protected areas patrolled by conservation rangers and monitored by scientists
The success of this program could lead to saving more shark species, as scientists revealed in 2021 that nearly 40 percent of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction.
The findings, spanning eight years, show that the number of sharks, rays and chimeras – a group known as chondrichthyan fish – that are in danger of extinction has doubled since 2014 to 32.6 percent.
Eight years ago, 24 percent of species were considered endangered.
The researchers note that overfishing is the main cause of population loss among the species, but that habitat loss, climate change and pollution are also to blame.
“Habitat loss and degradation amplify overfishing of nearly one-fifth of threatened species,” the researchers wrote in the study.
“Climate change is a rapidly emerging concern for endangered chondrichthyans, exacerbating the effects of overfishing and habitat loss for 6.1 percent of species.
Climate change is not only causing ‘the loss and degradation of habitat’ through coral bleaching, but rising water temperatures are also to blame.
Some habitats are becoming less suitable for certain species, such as the spiny skate, whose population has declined by more than 80 percent in the past three generations.