The Hawaiian word for shark is mano. When it comes to awe-inspiring marine animals, sharks are up there toward the top of the list, so it’s no wonder they hold such a special significance in Hawaiian culture. In fact, for many Hawaiian families, the shark is an ‘aumakua, meaning a family god or deified ancestor. Observing these impressive (and elusive) creatures in the wild requires caution and respect, but the safest way to get a look at them is in captivity. Luckily for all of you shark enthusiasts who are on a Maui vacation, or planning one, the Maui Ocean Center (MOC) has some big news on this subject.
Five blacktip reef shark pups have just recently been added to the MOC’s amazing collection of marine animals. The youngsters are alert, healthy and full of energy after their quarantine, a vital process for keeping the center’s animals safe from various maladies. They also received a blessing the traditional Hawaiian way. According to Head Curator John Gorman, the pups have successfully acclimated to their new environment.
At around two feet in length, the pups are small in size, but they’re big on charisma. They’re cruising around the Deep Reef exhibit like they own the place, and now we may as well think of it that way. This opportunistic species is near the top of the food chain, after all. Blacktips tend to scavenge near the ocean floor for squid, octopus, crustaceans and bony fish.
The MOC is big on temporary captivity, helping vulnerable young sharks and turtles grow to a safer size before releasing them back into the wild. Their plan for these pups is no different. They’ll only be at the center for a year before being returned to the ocean to live out their lives. In the meantime, scientists have the opportunity to learn more about them, further illuminating the best stewardship choices.
According to MOC aquarists, blacktips gather in nearshore waters in the summer to establish pup nurseries where they can protect their offspring from larger predators in the shallows. We’ll likely continue to see them come into the MOC temporarily, but it’s hard to say when. That’s why the next 12 months make for a special opportunity to observe them on your Maui vacation. As for all your other marine animal sightings, you can always hop aboard one of our Maui snorkel tours to Lanai and Molokini. We hope to see you onboard with us soon! Mahalo!