Celebrating Shark Week in Illinois

Shark Week, a creation of the Discovery Channel in 1988, has grown immensely in popularity over the years. Since 2010, Shark Week, which is held annually in July or August, has become the longest-running cable television programming event in history. Shark Week also been dubbed a ‘cultural phenomenon.’ The 1975 film “Jaws” set the stage for the rise in awareness and popularity of sharks in the U.S.

Illinois is home to several unique shark-related exhibits and events that residents can enjoy this summer. A national traveling shark exhibit debuted at the Peoria Riverfront Museum in May. The Peoria exhibit is on loan from the American Museum of National History in New York, and it features life-size models of more than 70 shark species. The exhibit includes sharks that range from the 5.5-inch pocket shark to the 33-foot whale shark.

Sharks’ at the Peoria Riverfront Museum is open now through Labor Day, September 2. Visitors will learn about the evolutionary history of sharks, which includes 540 species and 670 species of close relatives. The exhibit includes replica fossils from the American Museum of Natural History, along with models of both ancient and modern shark species. Visitors can also learn about fears and dangers related to sharks, as well as the ongoing efforts to protect the overall species.

In Chicagoland, shark history is celebrated at the Brookfield Zoo and Shedd Aquarium. At Brookfield Zoo, a Shark Feeding Adventure is open on select days from now through November 9 (please note that there is a cost involved for participants). Shark enthusiasts will enjoy working with zoo personnel in preparing food and feeding sharks. 

Participants must be at least 12 years of age. Once the food preparation is complete, participants will assist staff during a scheduled public feeding time for the sharks. Animal care staff will educate shark enthusiasts on how to identify different shark species and also how to safely feed them. Participants will also be able to interact with staff and ask questions.

Shedd Aquarium currently offers shark feeding tours on Saturdays and Sundays through August. This 75-minute tour is available to ages 6 and up and involves a cost. Participants are able to go behind the scenes above the 400,000-gallon shark habitat at Wild Reef and learn how seafood diets are prepared for the sharks. In addition, shark enthusiasts will learn how the sharks have been trained to respond their own personal dinner bell at feeding time. 

At Shedd, more than 20 sharks make their home at the Wild Reef exhibit, which includes the 400,000-gallon habitat as its main attraction. These shark species include blacktip reef sharks, sandbar sharks, spotted wobbegongs, zebra sharks, whitespotted bamboo sharks, horn sharks, leopard sharks, and swell sharks. 

The global threat to the shark population is not over, and field scientists from Shedd Aquarium continue to do important research in the Caribbean while monitoring shark populations and patterns. Human impacts that include commercial overfishing contribute to an estimated 100 million sharks being killed each year. Shedd scientists are working with other partners to build better shark protection plans, as sharks are vital to maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems. Sharks | Shedd Aquarium