AP PHOTOS: Dubai-bred baby sharks released into Persian Gulf

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The baby sharks, bred at a gargantuan luxury resort on Dubai’s artificial palm-shaped island, had never before encountered the open sea.

But on Thursday, the tiny carpet sharks were jolted out of their warm pools at the flashy Atlantis Hotel aquarium to travel farther than they ever have in their two years of existence. A team of Dubai conservationists gingerly caught the sharks with nets and moved them into oxidized tanks in a Ford pick-up truck.

Soon, the baby sharks were on the move. The specialists plopped them into big plastic bags and carried their squirming bodies over the white sandy beach of the Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary, a short drive from the hotel. For the past few years, the hotel’s aquarium has sought to contribute to the conservation of native marine species by breeding honeycomb stingray and brown Arabian carpet sharks before releasing them into the wild, rich with coral reefs and mangroves.

The team stood shin-deep in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, surrounded by the small and slowly circling sharks. The creatures are harmless to humans, preferring a diet of snake eels, shrimps, crabs and squid.

For a few minutes, many of the sharks appeared spooked, staying close to the shore, before venturing into their vast new home.