SMUGGLED GIANT CLAMS GO ON DISPLAY AT BRISTOL AQUARIUM

A collection of giant clams which were seized by customs officials at Heathrow Airport has gone on display at Bristol Aquarium.

The southern giant clams, which can grow up to 60cms in length, were part of a consignment which was intercepted and confiscated after they were illegally flown in to the country.

They were donated to the Harbourside attraction by aquarists at London Zoo who have been looking after them since their seizure.

After spending time in the aquarium’s quarantine, the fist-sized shellfish will go on display in the aquarium’s tropical reef area.

Bristol Aquarium curator, Dan de Castro, said: “We have a total of five clams here at the aquarium and they are extraordinary looking creatures.

“Their shell is quite smooth and relatively unremarkable and it is only when they open up that you get to see the amazing colours and marking of the actual bivalve inside.

“We’ve also already had a few incidents of them spitting jets of water at aquarists so we’re having to keep a close eye on them.

“Although these specimens are already quite large they still have plenty of growing to do as full-sized adults usually measure in excess of half-a-metre long. No one is entirely sure how long they can live for but there are records of other giant clams surviving for more than a century in the wild,” he added.

Found in waters around Australia, Cocos Islands, Fiji, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vietnam, the giant southern clam is mainly a filter feeder.

However it also uses a symbiotic algae to produce additional food via photosynthesis.

A popular food item, the clam has been designated as being ‘Vulnerable’ in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

A ‘Vulnerable’ species is one which is likely to become ‘Endangered’ unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.

Issued by Bristol Aquarium. For more information and to arrange interviews, picture or filming opportunities please contact David Waines or Tina Patel on 0117 934 0944 or Dan de Castro or Juan Iraola on 0117 935 0943.