VIDEO: Rare baby shark twins born in Blackpool take first swim at Sea Life aquarium
Blackpool is celebrating the birth of two rare baby shark twins at its Sea Life aquarium.
It is the first time that baby shark twins have successfully been born in the UK and the event is being hailed as a major breakthrough for British marine conservation.
The toothy blacktip reef pups were safely delivered in a special birthing area and are being hand-fed fresh salmon in a quarantine tank.
Matthew Titherington, general manager at Sea Life Blackpool said: " “I’m incredibly proud of the team and their achievement in successfully delivering two healthy shark pups.
"These are the first ever shark pup twins born in the UK and it is a major breakthrough as this is the first ‘litter’ to have been born as part of a dedicated breeding programme.
"Blackpool is the European hub for all blacktip reef breeding programmes and the birth of the baby sharks has taken aquarists five years to accomplish.
"It marks an important step forward as in the wild most shark pups die shortly after birth, facing threats from larger predators including other sharks and even their own mother!
"Unusually in the natural world, they have to be completely independent, hunting and feeding themselves, right from birth.
"To have both pups healthy and growing steadily is a huge result for all of the aquarists and they’re continuing to make good progress.
"Long nights and careful hand monitoring was required to provide the best possible care for these new arrivals."
Earlier this week, the twins were transferred to a nursery tank where they are now feeding independently, putting on weight and growing.
It marks a big milestone in the ‘breed, rescue, protect’ campaign of Sea Life Blackpool.
In a pilot trial last year, Sea Life Blackpool managed to successfully rear a baby blacktip shark, known as Ariel, after its surprise birth at the Legoland aquarium in Windsor.
What are blacktip reef sharks
Blacktip reef sharks are found off the coast of Australia and in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
They are classed as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Their numbers have declined significantly in some parts of the world due to overfishing and plastic pollution.
Litters of up to five have been recorded and young blacktips develop exceptionally quickly.
They can grow by up to nine inches per year during their first two years of life and gain weight at a rate of 100 grams per week.
Some blacktip reef shark populations living around specific tropical islands have been decimated by overfishing, chiefly for their fins, which are highly prized in China for shark-fin soup.
Blacktip reef sharks give birth to live young and gestation periods vary between seven to 11 months.
The size of newborns varies but most measure between 40cm and 50cm.