Helsinki's Sea Life attraction has lost its largest marine exhibits, as two tropical nurse sharks were transferred to Germany - in stark contrast to the fate of the Brighton captive turtle, Lulu (see 'Campaign to free Lulu the turtle', The-Latest, General News).
The nearly two-metre sharks (ginglymostoma cirratum), Bill and Ben, have grown too big to fit comfortably into their tank in the Finnish capital. Their new home in Germany will feature a 1.5 million litre pool - six times the size of their present habitat.
Sea Life Helsinki has not tried such a large-scale transportation of sharks before. Denise Friend, of Brighton Animal Action, gave words of warning when she spoke to The-Latest. She said: "I hope these two fare better than the last sharks they transported some weeks ago. The Sea Life Centre moved three sharks just 70 miles, from Great Yarmouth to their refurbished tank at the Hunstanton, and managed to kill them by putting them into a tank of water that was too cold."
The Finnish sharks are travelling to Germany through Sweden and Denmark in two separate 2,500 litre tanks loaded on a truck. The truck also carry two additional tanks filled with reserve water.
"The mere filling of the tanks with seawater is a project in itself", Sea Life display manager Markus Dernjatin comments.
In addition to the nurse sharks, the main tank of Sea Life Helsinki is home to nine other species of shark and hundreds of smaller fish. Dernjatin and aquarium keeper Jouni Jaakkola dived into the pool and captured the nurse sharks one at a time with a nylon net.
"It may sound simple enough, but it is in fact extremely difficult. Presumably all the other inhabitants of the tank will be startled in the process", Sea Life Helsinki managing director Allan MalmstrÃ¶m explains.
Normally nurse sharks are gentle creatures. It is possible, however, than when nervous they may harm the divers. Nevertheless, no medical doctors were called in to stand by in case of difficulties. A stretcher was used to carry the sharks one at a time into the truck. Nurse sharks have been known to survive on dry land for several hours. A spokesman said the journey from the Sea Life tank to the truck tanks took no longer than a couple of minutes.
Ben and Bill are the only nurse sharks in Helsinki. In their new home in Oberhausen in Germany there have not been nurse sharks before. There was some competition between different aquariums as to which one would get to house the sharks. In the end, Sea Life Helsinki chose Oberhausen because of the relatively close proximity to Finland, and because of the ample size of the tank there.
"Bill and Ben will be missed in Helsinki", MalmstrÃ¶m admits, "but as they are a couple, maybe we'll get to house their offspring one day."