When there is no media stories around, the Media just add lib and make it up.

Ok, so I have just read an article entitled ‘Brush with death! Great white shark tries to take a bite out of a group of divers – Divers have described their terror when a great white shark tried to EAT them’. And apologies for using an English expression, but it’s really got my back up. The media have obviously had a slow day in England (it’s from a British tabloid) and have decided to sensationalise the cage-diving industry. They know that shark attacks sell newspapers. And when one hasn’t happened? They just make it up, and put a photo of a great white with rolled back eyes, big teeth and red gums as decoration. For people that do not know about great white sharks or the cage-diving trips, such as the ones we at African Shark Eco-charters run, this is a very damaging portrayal. It leads people to believe they are crazy man-eating killers, when this couldn’t be further from the truth. The article was very short, and it described in ridiculous words a ‘normal ‘cage-diving trip. The guys were in the cage, the shark swam close trying to go for the bait, and they got a few close up photos. But this has turned into ‘trying to eat us’! Ok, yes, they CAN eat us. But the fact that they don’t, speaks volumes! Every single person that has been on a trip with African Shark Eco-charters in the last week (and I’m sure probably for most of Robs 17 years working the cage-diving trips!) have all said that they did not feel scared, and knew the shark didn’t want to eat them! If a variety of people with different knowledge, experience and cultures all came to the same conclusion then….? But to further this maybe slightly more scientifically, sharks have the most incredible senses. As well as the normal 5 senses we have – sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, they also have 2 more; a lateral line and electro-receptors. The lateral line is a line that runs down its body, from just behind the gills to just in-front of the tail. It can detect any small pressure changes in the water, so they can basically feel when anything moves around them. The electro receptors are focused more on their snouts, and these detect electrical pulses. Anything that moves will give off impulses, and so the shark will know where everything is. Even if its hiding in the sand!

The point of this is to explain that sharks always know when people are in the water. Every day millions of people swim, surf, paddle, snorkel, dive in seas and oceans across the world. And with many of these people, a shark will know they are there. They can detect sound, smell and vibrations from huge distances away! So if sharks are these crazy, bloody thirsty man-eaters, why are we not a regular source of food? Why are people not eaten every single day? Why do the sharks not patrol the busiest beaches and take people all the time? There are so very few people that are attacked every year compared with the amount of people that go in the sea.  Maybe 100 attacks, with around only 15 fatalities. To put this into perspective, more people are killed each year by toasters, or vending machines, lightning strikes, rhinos and even toilets!! So why this constant media attack, on one of the most impressive animals to have ever existed? They should focus on the qualities that has kept these animals almost unchanged for nearly 400 million years?!! Yes we need to respect them, they are amazing predators and that in itself means we will not always be able to live side by side. But cage diving trips allow us to enjoy their behaviours, and learn more about the great whites. They do have big teeth!

But come on a trip with us at African Shark Eco-charters and we can show you what they really use them for! So to any of the media that might read my little rant today – stop with this ridiculous, ‘Jaws’ inspired hatred. We need to teach people to love and celebrate these animals. Not only because it would be true! But also as so many sharks are killed every single day (some reports suggest up to 200,000 – yes, every day!!!) there is a real possibility that in the near future many species will become extinct. If they become extinct, our seas will slowly die. The newspaper article should instead have focused on the ‘wow! We got to see this unbelievable animal up-close, exhibiting natural behaviour! How many people see that?!’ So come on, bring a little shark love into your life! Remember – the sea is only salty from the tears of all the misunderstood sharks 😀

 

Kimberley Bushe