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SHARK LIKES TO VEG OUT; Flo prefers to get her jaws around greens.

Byline: Mike Lockley

IT'S Jaws - with a vegan streak.

Florence the six-foot nurse shark has confounded staff at Birmingham's National Sea Life Centre by turning vegetarian.

She's turned up her nose at all offers of tasty fish in favour of lettuce and is believed to be the world's only veggie shark.

Keepers are now having to use underhand tactics to make sure Florence gets the protein she needs. Without a balanced diet she may become too 'fin'.

Curator Graham Burrows said: "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.

"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."

Florence's mouth is filled with razor-sharp, serrated teeth designed for demolishing fish and crustaceans.

Now she uses them for pulping broccoli and cabbage and any other greens she can steal from fellow ocean tank resident Molokai the green turtle.

It is not the first time Florence has caused her guardians 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," added 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. It was the first time a shark has survived 'out of water' surgery.

The groundbreaking procedure saw her sedated, then lifted on to a makeshift operating table where Nick successfully removed the hook while tubes pumped saltwater through her gills.

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

He's been stunned by Florence's food fad. "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 blacktipped reef sharks in the ocean tank."

CAPTION(S):

Eat up: Florence being fed her greens. Five-a-day: Florence, the vegetarian shark, who lives at Birmingham's National Sea Life Centre.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:May 17, 2012
Words:374
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