Last month, a team from WILDOCEANS, a programme of the WILDTRUST, invited members of the public to the Durban beachfront to come face to face with the world’s most dangerous predator – which was in a mysterious tank covered in black cloth.
WILDOCEANS is the driving force behind the Shark & Ray Protection Project: a three-year project implemented together with multiple partners with an overarching objective of increasing protection for sharks and rays, which include some of the most endangered species on the planet – arguably even more than rhino and pangolin.
When seated and asked to guess what could be in the tank, responses included a python, an escaped crocodile from Tongaat, and even plastic. “Plastic is going to kill us one day,” commented one of the participants.
The mysterious tank housed two shark shaped mirrors, revealing the most dangerous predator on the planet: humans.
Humans are responsible for killing approximately 100 million sharks globally due to a combination of bycatch, fisheries, pollution, trade, loss of critical habitat and negative perceptions linked to sharks.
“There is strong scientific evidence proving how important our sharks are in balancing our ocean ecosystem,” said Dr Jennifer Olbers, a Marine Scientist at WILDTRUST. “Surely, we as humans entering the ocean should be modifying our behaviour to protect them rather than trying to eradicate them.”
South Africa is in a unique position to spearhead efforts in the conservation of sharks, as the nation’s waters are home to around 200 shark and ray species and are one of the top three global biodiversity hotspots in the world. South Africa can provide sanctuary for the species if non-consumptive and sustainable use can be successfully promoted.
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