Preventive health care plays an important part in keeping our resident collection healthy. Recently, we performed routine wellness examinations on four of our blacktip reef sharks from the Wild Reef habitat.
The day started early with Fishes staff members moving the four sharks from the 400,000-gallon exhibit to the adjoining medical pool. A net deployed and moved by scuba divers along the tank bottom concentrated the sharks near the entrance to the medical pool, where the sharks were individually identified before being moved, one-by-one, into the pool. There the sharks were sedated with a water-soluble anesthetic which was dissolved inside a floating inflatable pool filled with exhibit water.
Then the fish were moved to a special transport on the service deck for the examination. While the sharks’ respiration and heart rates were monitored and they were ventilated with oxygenated anesthetic water, the veterinary and husbandry teams took measurements, collected blood and cloacal washes, evaluated fins, skin, gills, eyes, mouth and body condition and performed cardiac and coelomic ultrasounds.
I’m pleased to say that all four sharks “passed” their exams with flying colors. In fact, the exams revealed that one of the sharks is pregnant with five well-formed fetuses. These routine examinations are important: They provide a picture of the individual animals’ health and add vital “normal” data about the species to our medical database, which can be used in the future for evaluation of clinical cases.
Posted by Caryn P. Poll, animal health