5ft Shark “Desmond” Released From Aquarium

April 22, 2014

As we previously reported, on Good Friday staff at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo [BAMZ] — in conjunction with the research and camera crew of the upcoming television series Ocean Vet – released a five-foot Galapagos shark named Desmond back into the wild, requiring an intricate transportation process from start to finish.

A spokesperson said, “The shark has been a resident of the North Rock Tank at BAMZ for the last two years and is estimated to weigh about 50 pounds. While he initially did well in BAMZ’s care, over the last year he developed a rub lesion on his nose which if left would have worsened. It was a sign that he was not thriving as well as the staff would have liked and the decision was made to release him.

“Transporting a shark can be a very challenging scenario for a variety of reasons; every movement must be planned in advance and carried out quickly and carefully. One of the most important challenges lies in the fact that many kinds of sharks, including the Galapagos, need to maintain ram ventilation, which means that water must continually pass over their gills in order to keep breathing. As a result the aquarium built transport boxes that are specially fitted to allow water to be pumped over the shark’s gills continuously.”

Team members race Desmond to a sling to be carried to a waiting truck fitted with a tank of water


“Also, sharks can build up high levels of lactic acid very quickly in their muscles and, unlike humans, only have a limited buffering mechanism to prevent damage. To help protect the shark, it was placed in state of tonic immobility by rolling him onto his back, which induces a state similar to hypnosis.

“In addition, a veterinary team, consisting of two veterinarians and a veterinary technician, assisted with the transport to reduce the risk. Special drugs and intravenous solutions formulated specifically for sharks had been prepped in advance to provide veterinary care if necessary

“Aquarists at BAMZ had been working for weeks to familiarize Desmond with a net, with which they captured him out of the tank. He was then, literally, run in a sling to a waiting transport box which had running water and was being bubbled with pure oxygen on the back of the aquarium truck. Desmond was then driven across the street to a boat, also equipped with a transport box with running water and oxygen.”

The truck was driven across the street to a boat, also fitted with a tank of water for transporting Desmond


“A hose was inserted into his mouth to make sure raw salt water continued to pass over his gills, while an aquarist kept him moving in a swimming pattern to assist with his metabolism and reduce lactic acid build up in his muscles.

“Once settled onboard the boat, Desmond was then quickly taken out to North Rock where he was successfully released. Unlike previous shark releases, Desmond’s movements will not be tracked, as he was deemed too small to be fitted with a satellite transmitter, but he has been fitted with a NOAA Fisheries Tag so he can be identified in the future.

“Having this particular species of shark does tell an important story and as such they are an important display animal in aquariums. Sharks are increasingly threatened in the wild worldwide. It is important that people understand them, respect them and realize they are a vital part of the ocean’s ecosystem,” stated Dr. Ian Walker, Principal Curator for BAMZ.”

Desmond is carefully placed aboard the boat, kept in state of tonic immobility to protect him for the ride


“Successfully moving sharks requires in-depth knowledge of their biology and physiology, and a coordinated team approach. I’d like to express my thanks to the talented team at BAMZ, the Ocean Vet team, and particularly Dr. Neil Burnie and Choy Aming for their continued assistance and support.”

“Footage of Desmond’s release will appear in the series Ocean Vet once it hits television screens around the world sometime next year, which is, in part, sponsored by the Atlantic Conservation Partnership, the US-based sister charity of the Bermuda Zoological Society.”

A tube filled with flowing oxygenated water is inserted into Desmond’s mouth in order to maintain Ram Ventilation


- Photo credits Sara Westhead

Read More About

Category: All, Environment, News

Comments (10)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Redo says:

    Very happy to see this wild animal gain his freedom and able to live out the rest of his life in the wild. Now, if we could only let the dolphins free from their prison at Dolphin Quest. What did any of theses animals do to deserve a life sentence in a cell? Yea, yea, research, good for school children…bollocks.

  2. longbaytrading says:

    Is it me or what???? This is the second shark to be “released” in a week or so………………..could the timing have been worse?? Why now when we are so close to May 24th and the traditional start of Bermuda’s swimming season (many of us have already started btw!!)…Did anybody check the calender or is the need for more footage/material for “Ocean Vet” more important? Don’t get me wrong – I am all for releasing any wild animal, mammal,bird or fish from captivity into its natural environment but I just find the timing curious! Only in Bermuda would sharks be “released” at the start of the swimming season!!! Geesch…………you could not make this up…………..

    • longbaytrading says:

      and before I get an avalanche of responses, this is as much about the shark’s safety as ours! They don’t need to be run over by boats, injured or caught as they learn to make their way back into what has become for them a alien environment. Especially as life on the water becomes hugely busy over the next months. It is a much for their safety as ours.

      • Come Correct says:

        You should probably read the article again, if you did at all.

      • Redo says:


      • Dumb or nah? says:

        These sharks don’t attack people….. They are not no big 11ft great whites…… You need to read more

    • J Starling says:

      Well, as the shark came from our waters and there’s lots of other sharks already in our waters, I don’t see the relevance of your argument regarding safety.

      Also, while sharks like this one do have a limited capacity for learned behaviour, instinct is dominant in them. It’ll ease back to ‘the wild’ no problem. It will be no more at risk (or a risk to others) than any other shark in our waters.

      So, nothing to worry about really!

    • Jordan says:

      I’ve seen small sharks in the great sound and also on north shore… Only a fool would think there are no sharks in Bermuda waters.. Typical bermudian , speak first, think later

    • UM JUST SAYIN... says:

      Bredren sometimes it’s just best to keep quiet. I’m pretty sure a 5ft Galapagos Is more worried about small bait fish and squid more than ya 5 year old at Jobsons Cove… Oh by the way North Rock isn’t just “down de road”, it’s 9.3 miles from Flatts inlet…. Um Just Sayin…

  3. One Up One Down says:

    This is the same shark from last week…….it’s just additional info/pics.

    I’m not sure but I THINK North a Rock is far out enough to keep humans and the shark safe from each other…..