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February 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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From Shark Baiters to Shark Riders?

the misguided effort to tame wild animals

from the February, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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It all started many years ago with shark feeding at Stella Maris in the Bahamas. They wanted to stimulate some sharks into a feeding frenzy for the purpose of wildlife filming, and the German-run dive center there stumbled on what was to become a regular and spectacular diving experience. It became a way of getting close-up to these predators that was hitherto thought to be impossible.

Other dive centers in the Bahamas soon caught on, and before long, such shark dives were springing up all over the tropical world. Ben Rose at UNEXSO used a chain-mail suit and found that, so protected, he could actually pet the sharks. Herwarth Voigtmann in the Maldives first went that bit further by feeding them with the bait held in his mouth. His daughter was even photographed doing it in the nude! (An accident later resulted in shark feeding being banned in that country.)

Inevitably, people seek to be more adventurous as they get more confident. Today, we are regularly regaled with YouTube footage of snorkelers riding tiger sharks, pretty young women wearing little or nothing at all while breath-hold diving with sharks, and shark-feeders performing a variety of stunts for the benefit of the ubiquitous underwater cameras....

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