Aquarium operations manager Warren Baverstock works around the clock, both above and below the water’s surface, to ensure that everything goes swimmingly at the Burj Al Arab Aquarium.
The day before he arrived in Dubai, Warren Baverstock was diving in the UK, trying to capture the last of four seven-foot sand tiger sharks for the opening of the country’s deepest aquarium exhibit. After successfully relocating all four sharks, he left his job as aquarist diver with the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth to join the Burj Al Arab team as assistant operations manager. Two years in this role prepared him for the top job and by that time, Baverstock already had big ideas for the team. “After taking over the operations manager role 2003, I made it my personal goal to address and improve several areas of the life support system,” says Baverstock. “Working with Jumeirah’s vet and a top US life support specialist helped me realise these goals.” The result is that Baverstock now cares for one of the healthiest collections of marine life in Dubai. He is also responsible for a group of exhibits at sister hotel Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the successful Dubai turtle rehabilitation project at Mina A’ Salam.
One of Baverstock’s fondest memories is the release of ‘Dibba’, a rehabilitated Green turtle that was in his team’s care for more than 18 months. The group watched Dibba migrate 8700kms from the UAE to the Andaman Islands before losing satellite feedback. While there are some inspiring success stories like Dibba’s, the reality is that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. “My main priority is to check that the exhibits and animals are maintained to the highest standards, while also caring for four large quarantine facilities,” says Baverstock. “Together with my team, we ensure that the aquarium is successfully maintained, whilst anticipating and responding to the regular daily challenges that arise when working in a livestock and electro-mechanical environment.”
And not all of the work goes on inside the tanks, he explains. “Additionally, I undertake a traditional managerial role, ensuring that the team attends regular training and has sufficient development opportunities, which includes the very important diving aspect to their job roles,” says Baverstock. The seven-strong aquarium team comprises Baverstock, assistant manager David Robinson, four aquarist divers and a dedicated life support systems engineer with more than five years’ experience at the Burj Al Arab Aquarium. A typical day at the aquarium begins with a visual check of all front-of-house areas, followed by a morning briefing with the team. Daily duties include water management, life support maintenance, specialised feeding instructions, exhibit diving and maintenance. Keeping water quality at its optimum level is also a key priority. One of the more hands-on activities is feeding time. “Daily feeding is generally carried out by the team, but wherever possible I take the opportunity to feed as it allows me to get a closer inspection of the animals,” says Baverstock. “This is especially important when working with quarantined stock that is either recovering from some form of sickness or has recently been imported for the aquarium.”
Not having enough hours in the day is the biggest challenge for Baverstock, who admits he is “on call 24/7 for expert advice and guidance”. However, when he does get the chance to relax, Baverstock can usually be found back in the tank, indulging his passion for underwater photography. “Whenever possible I take the opportunity to bring images from beneath the waves to the surface,” Baverstock concludes.