Once or twice a year, reports of shark attacks hit the media, often graphically headlined with phrases such as “Blood everywhere” or “Killer shark strikes again!” But no-one celebrates the remaining 364 days, when these apex predators that swim off our coastlines contribute to the marine ecosystem – without affecting us negatively.
On those days, we don’t give them a thought. Yet it is these magnificent creatures that are the species really under threat. Consider the great white, or white shark as it’s also known. This one-tonne animal has a reputation like no other, but it is protected in South African waters. Some people would think of the fish’s status as a triumph for conservation, but is it really?
Recent reports of a young bodyboarder being “attacked” in Kogel Bay in the Western Cape sparked a media furore when speculation and opinion about the cause of the incident was voiced. A witness at the scene was quoted as saying: “I feel we are interfering way too much with the great whites, with chumming the waters and cage-diving, etc. This may be causing the sharks to behave unnaturally.” The Ocearch Team, a non-profit shark research organisation studying great whites and making a television show called Shark Men, came under fire as the culprits at the centre of the controversy. But there are always two sides to a story, or even more! Enter outraged surfers, business-conscious shark cage-diving operators, wary bathers and truth-crazed scientists. What is the future for the white shark?
After our main feature, we catch up with a marine-loving community on the country’s east coast who protest passively against the deaths of tiger sharks in nets with a flower-strewn “paddle-out”, a ritual performed traditionally by surfers as a memorial for and to honour shark-attack victims.
We then review White Sharks: Magnificent, Mysterious & Misunderstood, a book by Dr Dirk Schmidt.
For the past 25 years, Jacob has been working in the game industry; he was just 14 when he started. Jacob is one of a multitude of African gamekeepers who have fostered a unique understanding of game and wildlife in general by working hands-on with the animals in the bush.
About four years ago, Zagrys Jordaan, the owner of the game farm brought in two buffalo bulls and two cows for breeding purposes. Jacob was the natural choice to take care of the new arrivals and, over the years, he built a unique relationship with the growing herd. Every day the gamekeeper walks among the buffaloes, able to tell immediately when an animal is sick, hurt or unhappy, or when a cow is about to calf. As a single buffalo can fetch up to R20-million (US$2.3-million) on auction, as one recently did in North West province, the animals’ welfare is an extremely important job.
At the game farm, the big stud bull is called Maponjane; the other members of the herd respond to numbers ranging from One to Twenty-two when Jacob calls them.
Eko-Ondersoek: Rico, the sniffer dog
This season Pierre and Faye are the eco-warriors who head out to hunt down eco-heros and investigate eco-villains in our regular Eko-Ondersoek slot. And our first hero is a four-legged friend. Rico the sniffer dog was recently employed to fill a vital gap in the defences used to fight the illegal exporting of rhino horn. If poachers manage to get the horn past the anti-poaching authorities, their next step is to get it through our international ports, where Rico’s skills play a vital role.
More on the rhino front involves the launch of a new RAGE Campaign
Also on 50|50 in episode 2:
* VeldFokus: Appearances can be deceiving
* SimonSays: The SKA’s uses