Grey Nurse — A Visit to the Nurse

We go on a 1000-mile air-rescue mission flying a precious 8ft female Grey Nurse shark from Mooloolaba Seaworld on Australia’s Sunshine Coast to the new Melbourne Aquarium. It is hoped that the shark will play a vital part in the new aquarium’s breeding programme, but it’s a risky procedure transporting a 230 pound shark by airline freighter!

Produced by NHNZ

Presenter Ian Gordon takes us along on a 1000-mile (1600km) air rescue mission to help save the rapidly declining populations of Grey Nurse sharks in the wild.

Australia’s new Melbourne Aquarium needs a young female Grey Nurse to start its captive breeding programme.

The lucky girl is Julie, an 8ft (2.4 metre) four-year-old Grey Nurse, born at Mooloolaba Seaworld on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

We visit Seal Rocks, 300 miles north of Sydney, an area where Grey Nurse sharks lived in abundance 20 years ago. There is scarcely a Grey Nurse in sight today.

Australia moved to protect these sharks, not prone to human attacks, in 1984, but not a moment too soon.

Ian explains the importance of captive populations as both a study tool and reservoir of breeding stocks.

Mooloolaba holds the world’s largest captive Grey Nurse population where their visibly sharp teeth and fierce appearance make them a big hit with the public.

Julie will be ready to breed in a year or two, which makes her a valuable specimen.

Ian teams up with Melbourne Aquarium’s curator of sharks, Craig Thorburn, to capture Julie using a new clear experimental tube and fly her in a specially-designed one and a half ton (1.5 tonne) tank to her new home in Melbourne.

But it can be a risky procedure. If Julie gets too stressed during the transfer the resulting increase in toxins in her system could kill her.

She amazes Ian and Craig by swimming calmly into the tube.

They tilt her to make her belch, which will help her sink and lie flat in the transport tank. It’s then all hands on deck to help carry the 230 pound (104 kg) shark by stretcher to the transport tank.

Blood samples are taken to analyse stress factors and water quality in the tank is critical.

Ian and Craig aren’t taking any chances – they’re in for a long night of regular checks on Julie’s condition.

Julie is whisked off as guest of honour onto a regular freight flight where Ian and Craig play ‘Flying Doctors’ to the ‘Flying Nurse’ maintaining her condition for the two-hour flight to Melbourne.

Once in the holding pool at Melbourne Julie is clearly keen to stretch her fins and explore her new home. It’s been a textbook transfer.

As is expected Julie is initially sinking a bit and Ian guides her to the surface, encouraging her to gulp some air into her stomach to help her flotation.

Four months later Ian checks on Julie’s progress. The males have been following her closely. Craig now has the beginnings of a breeding population, which means Grey Nurse sharks to study for years to come.

Ian’s work is over – it’s now over to Julie to impress the boys!

Episodes From This Series

White Tips of Osprey

30 mins / 2001

A Whale of a Shark

30 mins / 2001

Mako—Friend or Foe?

30 mins / 2001

Great White—The Ultimate Predator

30 mins / 2001

Thresher Shark

30 mins / 2001

Hammerheads

30 mins / 2001

Galapagos Sharks

30 mins / 2001

Grey Nurse — A Visit to the Nurse

30 mins / 2001

Prickly Sharks

30 mins / 2001

Hawaiian Tigers

1 hour / 2001

Port Jackson – A Family Secret

30 mins / 2001

The Sailor’s Nightmare

1 hour / 2001

Shark Attack

30 mins / 2001

Great White Bite

2 Minutes / 2007

Great White – The Ultimate Predator

2 Minutes / 2007

Feeding Frenzy

3 Minutes / 2007

Bull Sharks

3 Minutes / 2007

A Whale of a Shark

2 Minutes / 2007

Mako

3 Minutes / 2007