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sand tiger shark

Group of sharks found swimming in New York basement pool and it's not OK

Someone's been very naughty and has been keeping pet sharks at home. Not the inflatable kind: the kind with multiple rows of teeth.

A group of 10 sharks have been found in a New York basement on August 23. They were found swimming in an above-ground pool 4.5 metres in diameter in a home in LaGrangeville, following a search by authorities.

A team of Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) found seven live sand tiger sharks, as well as two dead leopard sharks and one dead hammerhead shark in the relatively shallow pool.

The exotic shark species were likely kept for breeding and illegal sale. The sharks were unfazed by the presence of the ECOs, and were captured “with ease” to be measured, tagged and have blood samples taken.

They were then transported in a truck fitted with plastic tanks, oxygen and climate control to the Long Island Aquarium. A veterinarian checked the health of the animals, and they will continue to be monitored in quarantine as the investigation continues.

shark basement pool new york Credit: Twitter

Sand tiger sharks, also known as grey nurse sharks, are a species listed as 'vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The seven sharks that were found were between 0.6 to 1.2 meters long, estimated to be babies aged between one and three years old. This species of shark can grow massively to 3.2 meters long, weighing around 200kg. Their life expectancy can be up to 16 years.

An investigation is still underway, but the homeowner who kept the sharks in their basement has not yet been apprehended. The investigation came after a search warrant was granted for the residence after it was suspected that the homeowner was harbouring illegal wildlife. It is likely they could be facing criminal charges.

sand tiger shark, Odontaspis taurus, South Africa, Port Elizabeth, Ibhayi, Madiba Bay, Indian Ocean Credit: Getty

A senior law enforcer for the Dutchess County SPCA, an animal welfare organisation in the area, said she's looked into over 4,000 cases and has come across incidents involving snakes, alligators, crocodiles and stingrays, but never sharks.

LaGrangeville is approximately 75 miles north of New York City and about 50 miles from the ocean. Locals were surprised to hear that there were sharks in their relatively quiet neighbourhood.

Sand tiger sharks are protected because of overfishing. They've experienced a significant drop in their population because they have low reproduction rates, not to mention their predictable habits that make them easy to fish. Like many other sharks, they are caught for their fins, meat, cartilage and liver oil to be sold as products for consumption. In some cultures, shark products are regarded as highly valuable ingredients to dishes served on special occasions, like shark fin soup.

Finding the sharks in the New York basement is a bizarre case that could be linked to the illegal trade of shark products, although nothing has of yet been confirmed.

The investigation is still ongoing at the moment.