Santa Claus swims with sharks in Rio to thrill, educate kids

Rio de Janeiro, Dec 21 (EFE).- Diver Felipe Luna, who for the past six years around Christmas has been feeding the sharks at the Rio de Janeiro seaquarium dressed as Santa Claus, says he is happy with the work that allows him to bring joy to the children and give them some environmental education at the same time.

“I’ve been playing this part for six years and it’s really incredible to see the shining faces of the kids, the magic of Christmas, and to give them some environmental education,” said Luna, 36, one of the divers at AquaRio, South America’s largest marine aquarium.

“It’s magical to be a diving Santa Claus and to be able to show the kids the fish and get out of their heads the notion that sharks are aggressive and murderous,” he said before immersing himself in the main watertank at AquaRio to, before dozens of invited media and other cameras, he embraced and fed the seaquarium’s sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus).

The ocean aquarium in Brazil’s iconic city, which houses more than 2,000 examples of 50 species of fish in 28 tanks, since 2007 has been offering visitors the additional attraction of Santa Claus swimming with the sharks, a show that especially fascinates youngsters and which was only temporarily halted in 2020 due to restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The show takes place in the tank where the sand tiger sharks are kept, and into which Luna dives with oxygen tanks, flippers and a facemask but dressed in red and wearing the traditional white beard of Father Christmas.

In addition to the sharks, each day Santa also feeds the rays and other marine species living together in the gigantic saltwater tank.

“It’s always something magical. I can even give a verbal talk and see that the kids are happy to see Santa Claus diving. It’s an incredible feeling and experience to see the shining faces of the kids, (their) spirit of conservation and, mainly, (their) joy,” Luna said.

EFE –/bp

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