Tiger sharks are one of the most fascinating species of shark, with a distinctive appearance and characteristics, and alarming threat to humans. These magnificent water creatures live primarily in tropical, temperate climates, and are considered sacred in Hawaii. To protect the species, shark conservation projects focusing specifically on tiger sharks are in operation, and these beasts of the ocean are often the focus of marine conservation volunteers.
Tiger sharks are a particularly large shark species, growing to a terrifying length of about 4 metres and weighing up to 635kg. With such size, it's no wonder they pose a threat to humans, particularly since they love shallow, murky tropical waters. For the brave, however, those interested in marine biology conservation ca experience these creatures up close, free from cages or glass divides.
Hunting for Prey
Aside from their appreciation of a tasty human, tiger sharks will eat just about anything, and shark conservation workers don't need to focus on a lack of food for these mammals. Being predators, their staple diet consists of smaller sharks, turtles, seals and other fish, and since they're excellent hunters, they have the choice of the ocean. They are also excellent hunters, and their ability to find and capture prey is impeccable. Their heightened sensory perceptions mean that they can catch their prey with relative ease. With their excellent eyesight, they can spot their prey a mile away, even in murky water. And their acute sense of smell means that they can smell even a small amount of blood from quite some distance away, and are able to trace it back to the unsuspecting victim. They also have the remarkable ability to pick up on low-frequency pressure waves, so they know when something is alive and moving in nearby waters.
But they are also known for their inability to differentiate between what is nutritional, and what is rubbish, and a number of human rubbish items have been found in their stomachs. From car license plates to bicycle wheels, these animals will eat just about anything. So while a lack of food may not concern tiger shark conservationists, pollution of the sea with rubbish is more worrying.
Attacks on Humans
Since tiger sharks have superb hunting abilities, they pose a certain amount of risk to humans. In fact, they are responsible for a large percentage of fatal attacks on humans, second only to the great white shark. While marine biology conservationists and Hawaiians who believe the tiger shark to be sacred may strive to keep the animal safe, swimmers and holidaymakers may have a different opinion! But it is important to keep in mind that tourist activities such as shark cage diving may also be responsible for attracting sharks into more shallow, populated waters, which poses yet another problem for shark conservationists to address.
Mark Bottell is the General Manager for Worldwide Experience, an online tour operator offering extended breaks upon which you can participate in a programme of marine biology conservation, an exciting, hands-on marine conservation volunteering opportunity.