magine stumbling upon an old wildlife park. The paint on the signs is faded, the buildings are starting to crumble, and the whole thing has a sweet-sour air of decay. Ahead, one low building with a door that is slightly ajar beckons. You pull open the door, and the first thing you notice is the smell of formaldehyde. The light streaming in through a hole in the roof illuminates a huge tank, the liquid inside bright green. At first, it looks empty, but then the tank’s occupant comes into view: impossibly sharp teeth, huge jaws, a tall, triangular fin.
You’ve just met Rosie the Shark, a preserved Great White killed off the coast of Australia over twenty years ago. How did she get from the deep blue sea to a shallow green tank in the middle of an abandoned park?
Rosie started off as a fishing casualty, then became a murder suspect
In 1998, the shark who would become known as Rosie was caught in a fishing net (something that’s not uncommon) off the southern coast of Australia. After being killed in a humane way, the fisherman sold the shark to Wildlife Wonderland, a park in Victoria, Australia. (Another version of this history states that Rosie was displayed at an Australian ecotourism center before being temporarily rehomed to Wildlife Wonderland.)
The shark didn’t make it to the park right away — after a woman went missing, the government claimed the shark and performed an autopsy. Rosie was cleared as a suspect, and her body was preserved in a tank of formaldehyde to be put on display.
Rosie’s descent into decay
Wildlife Wonderland went through many owners and operators before finally closing in 2012 due to violation of wildlife display regulations. The living animals at the park were rehomed, but Rosie was left there to rot.
Many years passed before Wildlife Wonderland was rediscovered by urban explorers. The video of their exploration went viral; it currently has almost fifteen million views. You can watch the full video below (all of it is creepy, but skip to about 19:15 to see Rosie).
After the secret of Rosie’s existence was out, vandals found her and pulled part of the tank’s roof off before throwing pieces of a broken television inside. Others took a hammer or similar tool to the glass, which didn’t break the tank, but did release highly toxic formaldehyde fumes. The release of formaldehyde coupled with the rest of the damage to the tank turned the liquid inside an almost neon green.
Where is Rosie now?
Don’t worry — Rosie is now safe from vandalism in her new home at the Crystal World Exhibition Centre, also in Australia. At Crystal World, experts are working to replace Rosie’s tank and preservatives with newer, better alternatives.
A documentary is also being filmed about Rosie’s journey, which I for one can’t wait to see (you can see a small snippet below).
At first glance, Rosie looks like a monster, but her story is only monstrous because of the way she was treated. She was trapped, killed, autopsied, stuffed, put on display, and abandoned before finally being restored and treated with some modicum of respect. Let Rosie serve not as a nightmare, but as a reminder: treat the environment and all its creatures with dignity.
Viggy Parr Hampton, MPH is a health care content strategist, writer, and horror novelist.