AN INTRODUCTION ABOUT SHARKS, TOILETS, AND STARTLING STATISTICS
How many of us remember watching Jaws, that iconic film about the great white shark of behemoth proportions, and vowing to ourselves to never place one toe in open water ever again? I could have been no more than six years old when images of that shark& 39;s razor sharp teeth lunging from the depths had me quaking in such fear that I could barely sit on a toilet without wanting to run for my life.
The shark represents to us, after all, the dangerous and unknown. As mammals who prefer to keep their feet planted solidly on terra firma the majority of the time, we feel out of our element and extremely vulnerable when in water. When the first tetrapods crawled out of the sea and ventured onto land, human evolutionary history took a slimy path away from sharks and never looked back.
The fundamental differences between people and sharks, the former being a relatively young, warm-blooded species and the latter being an ancient, perfectly-honed cold-blooded predator, are what both intrigue and terrify us.
Terror leads to hysteria, and hysteria leads to destruction. The great white shark, particularly following the aforementioned blockbuster hit of the 70s, has suffered a bad case of having A Bad Reputation. These predators that have patrolled the seas, maintaining balance in a delicate underwater world, have been hunted to near extinction. Estimates indicate there are only around 3,000 great whites left in the world, and humans are largely to blame.
Despite my overwhelming fear of the shark that most assuredly lived in my toilet, and those that lived in pools, ponds, bathtubs, sharks of any variety (real or imagined) in my youth, I find myself drawn to the plight of these magnificent animals. There are campaigns to protect tigers, polar bears, lions, panda bears, whales...all while the destruction of shark species on a global scale has gone largely unchecked.
While not many are willing to jump in the water with the sharks of their nightmares, there are loads of us who are. There are those of us who wish to share a different side of sharks: less the maneater you imagine, and more the endangered, absolutely necessary part of the food chain that they are.
MY PROJECT TO SINGLEHANDEDLY SAVE GREAT WHITE SHARKS EVERYWHERE
Okay, so that& 39;s an exaggeration. I can& 39;t be a sort of vigilante shark warrior keeping a watchful eye on those that wish to harm our ocean& 39;s great whites. What I CAN do, however, is quite literally throw myself to the sharks and show you just how much they need our help.
Armed with my camera, pen and paper, and courage (and cage) of steel, I will be spending August of this year on a shark diving boat in South Africa, alongside a team of marine biologists and volunteers to observe, study, and promote the need to protect great white sharks. The end result of my weeks at sea will be a tribute to these animals in the form of interactive media outlining the story of the great white shark, from king of the ocean to species on the brink, and how responsible ecotourism and education can prevent one of the most intriguing animals from meeting extinction.
The project will, in essence, create a website where content is driven by the photographic contributions of myself and other shark enthusiasts, the latest news in shark research and conservation, information on access to responsible ecotourism for those who wish to meet the great white shark in person themselves, and fundraisers to promote the protection of the great whites scattered around the globe. I also plan on drafting educational materials for school-age kids, who tend to have exceptional enthusiasm for sharks!
These are the things I can do. However, what I can do is going to in part depend on what YOU can do.
HOW WILL YOUR DONATIONS BE USED?
My target amount of £1,200 is somehow both modest for the task and a monumental hurdle. With many organisations and individuals asking for donations, it can be difficult to know where to put your hard-earned cash. I am hoping that the details provided here will help you make that decision in whatever way you feel is best. Donations will be used for:
- Initial setup and hosting of the project website
- An underwater photography package
- Creating and producing educational materials and publications for promoting the conservation of the great white shark
- Fees for travel during August& 39;s expedition
WHAT DO YOU GET IN RETURN?
I do not ask for donations lightly, and I am a firm believer in giving back to those who contribute selflessly to a cause they believe in, as well as in paying it forward.
- Contributors of £20 or more will receive an information pack about great whites, including: a species fact sheet, a guide on responsible ecotourism to see great whites, ongoing conservation projects and how you can help, and information on the illegal trade of shark products.
- Contributions of £50 or more will receive the above and a t-shirt designed for the project.
- Contributors of £100 or more will receive the above and a Shark Trust Great White adoption package. These packages come complete with a photo of a great white, pack of goodies, and a personal certificate.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THIS PROJECT?
Not only does the great white shark desperately need an image makeover, they are crucial to maintaining balance in a lively, healthy ocean. Without top predators, the food chain falls apart, turning our oceans into empty wastelands of algal slime and rubbish.
Simply put, our world is a less beautiful place without the creatures that intrigue us, and they need all the help they can get.