One of Two Oceans Aquarium's star attractions, a large spotted ragged tooth shark called Maxine, is being released back into the wild.

Phase one of her release began on Tuesday when staff and shark conservationists moved her into a temporary holding tank.

She was first drugged then captured in a net and finally transferred to the holding tank on the aquarium roof.

It took three or four attempts, but she was finally safely installed in the tank that will be her home until Thursday when she will be taken to Struisbaai near Cape Agulhas, the place where she was found.

But although she is being released back into her natural habitat, shark conservationists will still keep an eye on her - via satellite.

Three transmitters are being attached to her so they can check how she is getting on.

The transmitters, which do not hurt Maxine, will show where she is and how often and how deep she dives.

Two of the transmitters will fall off within six months and the third, a coded tag which has a unique identifying number, will continue to transmit signals for up to two years.

Shark conservationists hope the information they get from the transmitters will make it easier for them to look after other sharks in the future.

Maxine is being released under a research programme called the SOS Foundation M-Sea Programme jointly run by the aquarium and AFRI Oceans Conservation Alliance (AOCA), and sponsored by Save Our Sea Foundation.

Project director Lesley Rochat said part of the programme had been named after Maxine.

The Maxine Science Programme will see four more of the aquarium's ragged tooth sharks also released back into the wild.

She said: "We hope Maxine's release is the beginning of a long-term scientific research project that will help towards shark conservation in general and ragged tooth sharks in particular."

A documentary called Maxine's Journey is also being made.

When the shark first arrived at the aquarium nine years ago she was injured after being caught in shark nets.

Aquarium staff nursed her back to her health and she has become a favourite with the public.

Aquarium spokesperson Helen Lockhart said: "It is always difficult not to become emotionally attached and Maxine will be missed because as the biggest shark in the tank, she stood out.

"She has been an ambassador for sharks while she has been here at the aquarium.

"Now she will continue to be an ambassador, but in the ocean."

To follow Maxine's release and progress in the wild log on to www.aoca.org.za