Sleek, fast-moving blacktip reef sharks will today dive into their new home at the Blacktip Reef exhibit in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Ten sharks will swarm into the exhibit throughout the day to join their brothers and sisters that began entering yesterday, completing the full pack of blacktip reef sharks that will take up permanent residence in the National Aquarium’s new centerpiece attraction.
Just as they are a vital element to coral reef ecosystems found in nature, the blacktip reef sharks are one of the final and most important pieces to the new exhibit, which came to life throughout July. Their introduction today marks the creation of one of the most comprehensive recreations of an Indo-Pacific coral reef in the country.
“A coral reef like this would take hundreds of years to develop in nature, and it has likewise been a major undertaking to create an Indo-Pacific reef for these blacktip reef sharks to call home,” said John Racanelli, National Aquarium CEO. “The result tells the same story here in the aquarium as it does in nature – that coral reefs are stunningly beautiful but incredibly fragile ecosystems that need our care.”
Known for their distinctive and prominent black tips on their fins, the sharks, along with 65 other major marine life species, have been fully integrated into the self-contained 260,000-gallon ecosystem, making the exhibit the closest way to experience an environment of sharks and an endangered coral ecosystem without traveling thousands of miles or getting wet.
The $12.5 million coral reef exhibit is the first stage of a project to renew and refresh National Aquarium, which draws more than 1.3 million visitors each year. Several upgrades have been made to the aquarium to improve visitors’ ability to get close to the animals of the Blacktip Reef exhibit, including a 27-foot viewing window that curves four feet into the underwater reef itself, and daily diver presentations and feedings. On the upper level, visitors are able to look down onto the reef from viewing platforms, while the entire exhibit can be viewed on three sides.
The exhibit’s attractions include 5-foot wide whiprays, camouflaged ornate wobbegong sharks, aquarium favorites such as Calypso, the 500+-pound green sea turtle, and the beloved zebra sharks Zeke and Zoe.