Sand tiger shark exhibit use and reproductive behavior

The large, charismatic sand tiger shark (STS) is a focal species of conservation in the aquarium industry that both fascinates guests and represents the dire need for conservation action.  It is estimated there are <500 STS left off the coast of Australia due to hunting, bycatch, and illegal fishing, and the populations in the US Atlantic Ocean are a species of concern due to population declines, fisheries interactions, and low productivity.  The behavior of STS has rarely been studied in aquariums, and efforts to properly care for them will greatly benefit from studies investigating their normal behaviors and social interactions.  Using freely-available software from the Lincoln Park Zoo, called ZooMonitor, this study seeks to improve STS health and husbandry by evaluating their behavior within different exhibit environments and under different management regimens across multiple AZA facilities.  By synchronously assessing tank use, social behavior, and a range of environmental parameters, results will shed light on exhibit designs and management techniques that are preferred by STS and that promote reproduction.  This study represents the first collaborative initiative to establish a STS behavioral database, the analysis of which will enable improvements in ex situ husbandry and population management.  Participating aquariums currently include North Carolina Aquariums and Ripley’s Aquariums.