Florence the shark prefers the veggie option

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A Nurse shark at a public aquarium in Birmingham has decided she wants to go vegetarian.

Florence already has one claim to fame, as she was the first shark anywhere in the world to survive a surgical procedure 'out of water' and it seems she may now also lay claim to the title of world's first 'vegetarian' shark, shunning her usual fishy diet in favour of lettuce and other greens.

Staff at Birmingham National Sea Life Centre are having to resort to devious tactics to make sure the 6' shark gets the protein she needs.

"We’re having to hide pieces of fish inside celery sticks, hollowed out cucumbers and between the leaves of lettuces to get her to eat them," said curator Graham Burrows.

"And it has to be well hidden, because if she realises it’s there she’ll ignore the offering and wait for the strictly vegetarian option."

It is not the first time Florence has caused the Sea Life Centre staff some concern.

"She was off her food for a good while when she first arrived from Florida with three other Nurse sharks at our main collection centre in Dorset," said Graham.

"She was given an ultrasound scan which revealed a fishing hook buried deep inside her mouth."

Florence was operated on by specialist vet Nick Masters from the International Zoo Veterinary Group in Bristol.  In the groundbreaking procedure Florence was sedated, then lifted onto a makeshift operating table where the hook was removed while tubes pumped saltwater through her gills.

"The hook had obviously been there for years and was badly rusted which is what had made her so ill," said Graham. "She was put on antibiotics and made a swift recovery."

Now the team are keen to ensure that Florence doesn't fall ill again through lack of proper nourishment, and are using every trick they can devise to make sure she has a proper diet.

Graham said that because Nurse sharks occasionally graze on algae in the wild, staff weren’t surprised at first when Florence stole some of Molokai the green turtle's greens.

"We just weren’t expecting her to go completely veggie. We wouldn’t want her to be an embarrassment to the other flesh-eating Hammerheads and Black-tipped reef sharks in the ocean tank," he said.

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