Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Power of Shark Photography

Interacting with a Tiger Shark in Aliwal Shoal (South Africa)
Photograph: Felix A. Leander

I don't want to start, or continue, the seemingly never ending discussion of how humans should interact with animals in the wild all over again. As far as I am concerned, my limited knowledge is about sharks, and my respective opinions can only be personal, and as such highly subjective.

A few people in the "business" have been rather critical of my 'special relationship' with tiger sharks lately. Why? Well, I have an idea but I shouldn't speculate....

Instead of "defending" my way of interacting with large sharks,
here is a link that I want to share with you.

What is telling about the photograph taken by Amanda Cotton are the comments.

The basic tenor of the comments is -

Surprise at the visual "proof" that one can be close to sharks, even touch them, without being eaten, at least not right away :-), which should make the viewers think that sharks can't be all that dangerous after all which, in turn, should make them more sensitive and sympathetic to the grave plight of the sharks.

Thus, shark photographs that carry a strong message can have a palpable educational impact - an essential element, actually
the most basic element in shark conservation.

One last word to clarify my position: Hugging sharks is NOT for everyone; I DON'T encourage anyone to do it; quite the contrary: I'd say "Don't get too close to them; don't let them get too close to you."

The problem is NOT touching sharks per se; the problem is how to react to an unexpected move or, worst case, how to safely handle a burst of aggressiveness against the diver / snorkeller. If you have no or little experience with sharks, chances are that you won't do the right thing to fend-off an agitated shark.

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