On the heels of discovering the world’s largest bull shark – referred to as a Zambezi shark in most parts of Africa – in the Breede River on the southwest coast of South Africa, scientists from the South African Shark Conservancy (SASC) are ecstatic to have received project funding for 2010/2011 from the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF).
The research, which began in 2008 with an exploratory expedition to identify the shark species present in the Breede River, has been focusing on capturing, tagging and manually tracking Zambezi sharks to examine habitat use and behavioural patterns in an area that is thought to be their most southerly distribution in Africa.
<!–more–>Since capturing a 4m female Zambezi shark in 2009, two 3m males have been captured, tagged and tracked. We have now spent about 500 hours on the river following these three massive animals around, “watching” them interact with the human users of the system. In all this time we have hopefully succeeded in dispelling the popular local view that Zambezi sharks are man-hunting monsters of the inshore environment. In fact, they appear to be just the opposite – having interacted with residents of the Breede River for countless years without as much as one negative human-shark interaction.
The much-needed funds from the SOSF have been used to purchase additional acoustic tags and a VR100 and hydrophone for manual tracking, and will be used to fund several more field trips to the river where SASC scientists hope to discover more about Zambezi shark behaviour in South African river systems. We hope the data obtained through this project will help us develop a species-specific management plan for this near-threatened shark species.