The Story of the Great White Shark Discovered at an Abandoned Zoo

There is an exhibition center in Australia that houses one very unique attraction—a dead and preserved great white shark.

The shark, known as Rosie, lies suspended in a tank at Crystal World, in Victoria—which is owned by botanist, geologist and entrepreneur, Tom Kapitany.

Visitors from far and wide come and see her for free in the center's parking lot—but this wasn't always the case. Before then, she was discovered at an abandoned wildlife park, in, green, toxic sludge.

So, how did she get there?

Before she was preserved, Rosie the Shark once swam the waters off Portland, South Australia. This is before she became entangled in a tuna net in 1997.

Kapitany, the new owner of Rosie, was not there at the time, but knows the history.

He told Newsweek that Rosie's life ended when she became entangled in a tuna net to the point where she was "thrashing around."

"Everybody was too afraid to go in and get her out [...] if you do that to a white shark, it's gonna bite you and eat you. So everyone's too afraid to go in there and the problem with these animals, when they get heavily stressed their blood starts to boil and that just kills them. So rather than let her thrash in the net, they used one pole with a bullet in it. And they put a bullet through her head, so that was instant death," Kapitany said.

Rosie the shark
Rosie is pictured in her tank when she first came to Crystal World. People had vandalized her tank and thrown objects into it. Tom Kapitany/Rose the Shark, Facebook

The 18-year-old shark was then put in a tank, and transported to the Wonderland wildlife park in Victoria where she was put in a tank of formaldehyde—a highly toxic preservative—where she would remain for the next few years.

Then, in 2012 , the park shut down and all the attractions were taken away. Apart from Rosie... Rosie remained in a dark shed within the abandoned park for a number of years.

Discovery

It was not until urban explorer Luke McPherson stumbled across Rosie in 2018— while looking around the abandoned amusement park—that she caught global attention.

McPherson took a video of the discovery and posted it to YouTube, where it has now received over 17 million views.

"The problem with that, was that all these other people wanted to come and do the same thing, they wanted to see Rosie the Shark, even though it was private property. People started breaking in there at night and they vandalized all the buildings, exhibition halls and galleries and all the old amusement displays," said Kapitany.

People also decided they wanted to take some of Rosie's teeth, and broke open the tank in order to do so.

"They broke over top of the tank and exposed the really, highly toxic formaldehyde, to the point that when we got to see the place, you needed oxygen or you need breather masks to go in there. Full hazmat suits and everything because it was just so bad," Kapitany said. "The owner started freaking out because of the public liability issue. And so they were going to destroy Rosie. [...] I said 'I'll have her.'"

And the rest is history.

Rosie the shark
People travel far and wide to see Rosie the shark (pictured) Tom Kapitany/Rose the Shark, Facebook

Rescue

Kapitany set to work with colleagues to restore Rosie to her former glory and bring her to Crystal World—a center dedicated to crystals, fossils and minerals.

"I'm one of these instant-decision-type people. I just don't hesitate, and worry about the consequences at a later date. As a kid I played around with taxidermy animals and put them in jars of alcohol and formaldehyde. So I'm used to playing around with formaldehyde," Kapitany said.

However, Rosie had been so neglected by the time she came to Crystal World in 2019 that the tank was incredibly toxic.

Kapitany decided to replace the inside of the tank with glycerin—a much safer, natural preservative.

Rosie now lies in about 5,000 liters of glycerin, which enables visitors to see her clearly, and away from toxic chemicals.

Although Crystal World doesn't fully track visitor numbers, they believe around 50,000 people visit Rosie every year.

"It's important to keep specimens like Rosie preserved as white [sharks] are a protected endangered species," Kapitany said. "Preserving and displaying her is about education and the preservation of natural history. Making people aware of life in the ocean, and even a dangerous looking shark, can have world wide interest."

Rosie the shark
Rosie is pictured with an employee, when efforts to restore her were underway. Tom Kapitany/Rose the Shark, Facebook