Charles Maxwell
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Tiger and Blacktip Sharks


The tiger shark, so named on account of the tiger-like stripes that cover much of its body, is one of the most striking of the world’s large sharks and is considered to be the second most dangerous after the white shark.

Until recently the tiger shark was considered mainly as a nuisance by anglers and spearfisherman. They are caught in the shark nets that protect some of the most famous bathing beaches in South Africa.

However, a few years ago a professional diver from the coastal village of Umkomaas, devised a method of working close-up with tiger sharks and since then some dramatic footage has been shot. For certain sequences required by producers, we had tiger sharks literally eating out of our hands. However, the technique takes many hours of diving time and patience to perfect before it can be done safely. Tiger sharks may seem relaxed and harmless but their powerful jaws are capable of crushing a large turtle shell with ease.

Since 2004 an amazing change has occurred. Thousands of blacktip sharks have arrived on the inshore reefs previously the exclusive domain of the tiger sharks. Blacktips are beautifully sleek and agile sharks, previously associated with the Sardine Run. While the odd blacktip would arrive at the tiger shark reef, they kept their distance from the larger tiger sharks. Now they are everywhere. Sometimes it is impossible to count them and, possibly due to safety in numbers, they seem unperturbed by the presence of the tiger sharks. Occasionally a tiger shark will have a go at a blacktip, but this appears to be uncommon.

So why are the blacktips here in such numbers, what are they feeding on, what triggered this? At this stage no one can say but the cameras keep rolling.

 

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