Killer shark may have been aroused - expert

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Posted by on November 15, 2004 at 23:09:52:

In Reply to: GWS eats woman in South Africa posted by on November 15, 2004 at 21:00:16:

The behaviour of the Great White shark that attacked swimmer Tyna Webb three times before it dragged her under the water appeared to be that of "a very determined and motivated shark", according to Geremy Cliff of Natal Sharks Board.

This is the third shark attack death in the Cape since September 2003.

Commenting on eye-witness descriptions of Monday's attack in Fish Hoek, Cliff said it was not easy to say whether the shark had been motivated by hunger or by aggression.

"The fact that it attacked and left and came back indicates it was highly aroused. Many sharks just bite a human and then let go. This attack could have been a form of aggression, of the shark saying 'this is my space'," Cliff said.

Cliff said humans did not form part of a Great White's natural diet, and it was very rare to find human remains in sharks.

"There have been two cases that I know of, one in 1981 on the Transkei coast when a shark reportedly devoured a person. The other one in Gansbaai where the shark had partially eaten the victim," Cliff said.

Fisherman Jeffrey Andries, who saw the attack through binoculars, said Webb had been doing backstroke, "swimming directly into the path of the shark".

Cliff said the average death from sharks in South Africa over the last 15 years was one death a year but "there has been a steady, but very small, increase in the number of shark attacks over the years".

"There are a number of contributing factors. One is that surfing has really taken off, with far more people in the water. Also wetsuits were not so available or so thick 15 years ago. Now they are, which means people are spending more time in the Cape's cold water than they would have done.

"The greater the number of people in the water, and the longer they stay in the water, the greater the likelihood of attacks - but it is nevertheless a very small chance."

Asked if shark-cage diving and chumming could be a contributing factor, Cliff said it was difficult to prove.

In June 2004, Nkosinathi Mayaba was killed by a Great White near Gansbaai. In September 2004, bodyboarder David Bornman was killed by a Great White at Noordhoek. In April 2004, surfer JP Andrew lost his lower leg to a Great White at Muizenberg.

According to Natal Sharks Board statistics, there have been 71 shark attacks in Cape waters since 1990 - seven fatal. In KwaZulu-Natal there has been one fatality in 16 attacks since 1991.

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