Posts Tagged ‘voice of the animal’

Sharks

January 2, 2011

We’ll be doing a radio show on this story this Fall! It will air on the Animal Radio Network via XM Satellite and over 140 independent stations in the US and Canada.

What do Harry Potter, Brahmin Priests and Jimmy Buffett have in common?

Sharks.

“Fins to the left. Fins to the Right. And you’re the only bait in town.”

Jimmy Buffet had a point when he compared sharks to the guy at the bar with the creepy pick-up line. Sharks represent the universal fear of those dangers that lurk out of sight –while the creepy guy represents the universal fear of making a really, really bad dating decision. Maybe that is why the name for a group of sharks is “shiver.”

The Great White Shark is the creature most feared by humans. Here’s why. A shark’s favorite prey is anything in a vertical posture making spastic movements. Treading water? There you go.  Thirty percent of the shark’s brain is about scent signals. Scratch your arm on the rocks while boogey-boarding? Sharks can smell your blood from half a mile away. Biggest menace on the coast of California? Nope, not the guy at the bar. Sharks.

And it doesn’t help to know the stories: 300 Persians eaten by sharks when Xerxes’ invasion fleet wrecked off the Greek coast in the fifth century B.C., a delightful fact supplied to us by the great philosopher Herodotus.  Or, the one about the sixteenth- century sailor found completely intact in a shark’s stomach. At that time, sharks were known by the more benevolent name of “sea-dogs,” but I doubt that mattered to either the sailor, or to the two South African surfers eaten—whole—by sharks last year. How about the discovery by a zoologist that the embryos of sand sharks attack each other while in the womb, leaving only the victor to find its way into the birth canal? How did the zoologist discover this? He was attacked and bitten by an embryo while he was dissecting the mother shark. (Although, one might argue in favor of the embryo if someone is dissecting his mother).

In Hawaiian myth, god-like shark-men appear mysteriously on shore and are scorned and ridiculed when they warn beachgoers of sharks in the water. Why would anyone ridicule and ignore a warning from a god-like shark man about sharks? Could this really be a story about respecting the presence of sharks?

Over 100 million sharks are killed every year in recreational and commercial fishing. The most heinous of this killing is about soup. Soup. Shark’s fin soup is considered a delicacy in China. The sharks are caught and hauled onto the boat, all their fins cut off, tossed back into the sea—alive and completely paralyzed–to sink helplessly to the bottom of the ocean and drown. For soup. Why do humans not show awe and wonder in the presence of the biggest predator on the planet? If we kill—and slurp– them all, will the universal fear of those dangers that lurk out of sight – the fear we humans have projected onto the shark– disappear?

Brahmin priests cast stupefying spells on sharks to protect pearl divers. If a stupefying spell works for Harry Potter and Brahmin priests, perhaps it will also work for the creepy guy at the bar. Let’s be stupefied with awe at these 300-toothed ancient wonders, and leave those fins where they belong- on the left and right of the shark.

Rae Ann Kumelos, Ph.D.  www.voiceoftheanimal.com

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