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A baby great white shark that washed up on a popular Sydney beach has been released back into the ocean after spending the night in an aquarium.

The 1.5m (4.9ft) animal, nicknamed “Fluffy” by marine experts, came ashore on Manly beach on Monday.

Staff from the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary made repeated attempts to return the injured shark to the sea, but it kept returning to land.

The team then put the shark in a sling and carried it to a nearby rock pool to assess its health as crowds of beachgoers looked on.

Dan Korocz, who was at the beach with his family, told ABC: “When you see a real-life shark, it’s scary.

“I’ve got a four-year-old and a two-year-old, and we went down to the water’s edge and then it came in.”

Fluffy was taken to the sanctuary, where he made a good recovery overnight, according to senior aquarist Robbie McCracken.

He said: “This animal is better suited to recovery out in its environment.

“These great white sharks usually are animals that would tend to be offshore a bit, out in the deeper, more unrestricted waters.

“This one for whatever reason found its way up into the beaches of Manly and then into the surf zone where it came into a bit of grief. That is where we were able to step in and sort of intervene.”

Mr McCracken added it was “extremely rare” for a shark to beach itself.

Divers from the sanctuary got into the tank overnight to prevent the shark from bumping into the walls during its stay.

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