By: Deanna Rebro | Category: Recreation/Leisure | Issue: August 2009
Teri Bowers, executive director of the Oklahoma Aquarium, stands inside the new dive cage replica.
Blame it on the 1975 blockbuster “Jaws,” but young and old alike seem to have a fear of those predatory monsters called sharks and their infinite hunger for humans.
“That actually isn’t the case,” says Teri Bowers, executive director of the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. She believes these fish have a real public relations problem. “Most sharks become aggressive and defensive only if they feel threatened. Otherwise, they just go about their business of doing what sharks do.” During Shark Week – Sunday, August 2 through Saturday, August 8 – you will have the opportunity to learn what sharks do, what their role in conservation is, myths about sharks, the importance of sharks, what causes attacks, when to be afraid and when not to be, and a whole lot more.
This educational and entertaining presentation will be carried out in conjunction with the Discovery Channel. Each day a special program will focus on certain aspects of one of the most fascinating, mysterious and misunderstood creatures in the world.
The Aquarium’s “Siegfried Families Shark Adventure” features 20 sharks held in a half-million gallon saltwater tank. “People don’t realize how big our shark tank really is,” says Teri. “Even many larger cities don’t have one this size.” The longest shark is nine feet and weighs 400 pounds. Two of the sharks were donated to the aquarium from larger facilities that lacked the capability to house them.
Does this fish have a public relations problem? Should you be afraid of him? Find out during Shark Week.
Each shark species has its own personality, individual food habits and eating style. No one knows this better than the marine biology team responsible for their care and feeding. John Money, curator, Christa Clawson, assistant curator, and Penny Regier, staff biologist, feed the sharks every Monday and Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Guests are always on hand to watch. Standing on the deck, a team member uses a pole to offer them a specially prepared mix of salmon, bonita and mackerel infused with vitamins. All of the sharks' food is prepared onsite.
Once every one to two weeks, the marine biology team cleans the tank. To do so, a person dons a tightly looped suit of armor called chain mail and scrubs the interior of the tank under the watchful eyes of the other team members.
Teri explains that nurse sharks do their own version of cleaning by dwelling on the bottom of the tank. These gentle giants actually have no teeth and are harmless to humans. Sand tigers are also docile. The bull sharks, however, are another story. They are one of the most dangerous species of shark and are responsible for most attacks on humans.
During Shark Week, you will see a chain mail suit and have the opportunity to ask questions about it. You’ll also see shark teeth necklaces and get the chance to meet Shipley, the aquarium’s shark mascot. “Shipley is the only shark you can hug,” Teri says with a smile. Go online to www.okaquarium.org for a detailed schedule of Shark Week.
Another new attraction is a dive cage replica that was locally fabricated to resemble those used in oceans. Visitors are welcome to step inside; a backdrop with an illusion of water provides the setting for a memorable photo opportunity. Guests in wheelchairs are also able to enjoy this permanent fixture at the aquarium.
The Oklahoma Aquarium has enjoyed record attendance since opening six years ago. Teri reported a 16 percent increase in out-of-state visitors during this past spring break. The aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Tuesdays stays open until 9 p.m. The facility is also available for private functions – birthday parties, corporate meetings, reunions, proms, weddings and receptions.
Deanna Rebro has worked in the publishing industry 30+ years, including eight years writing for Value News. She has also worked in real estate for the past six years. Deanna graduated from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio with a B.A. in Journalism. Outside of work, she serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors for Pet Adoption League. “Every story I write is a learning experience,” she said.