[The Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary]

Shark in a baby bottle!

A miniature baby bottle has been turned into an artificial incubator for a premature baby shark.

Staff at Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary feared the worst when a baby shark popped out of its protective egg-case at least two months too early. The youngster, still attached by a slender umbilical chord to its own food-sac, was discovered on the bottom of a nursery tank in the Sanctuary´s Marine Hospital.

″The egg-case must have been unusually thin, because it generally takes a fully developed baby shark quite a long time to break out, and this toddler is nowhere near full term yet,″ said Sanctuary boss Nigel Croasdale.

The surprise escape act has prompted SEA LIFE staff to christen the new arrival ″Houdini″.

A tiny plastic bag was employed as a temporary substitute egg case, but then Nigel - whose baby son Nathan was born only a fortnight ago - hit on an ideal longer-term alternative. ″It was probably because I´ve had babies on the brain for quite a while lately that I straight away thought of using a miniature baby bottle″ he said.

He found one in a store in Hunstanton and after a few strategic holes had been applied in both the bottle and its rubber teat to allow water to flow through, Houdini was carefully transferred.

″The bottle is a similar texture to the leathery skin of the egg-case and gives Houdini a bit more protection than the plastic bag″ said Nigel.

″We´re all hopeful that Houdini will now carry on growing normally, and we´ll know when to release him by keeping an eye on his food sac. When the sac´s empty we´ll know it´s time to help Houdini swim free″.

Houdini in his baby bottle, suspended in the midst of other conventional shark eggs, can expect a steady procession of concerned viewers during Marine Hospital visiting hours.

″The natural egg-cases are just opaque enough for people to be able to see the embryos moving in normal circumstances″ said Nigel, ″but with Houdini, of course, they can enjoy a much clearer view than usual″.

For more details contact: Nigel Croasdale on 01485 533576.

Press Release date: 23rd May 2006

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Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary / hunstanton@sealsanctuary.co.uk