Swimmers attacked by more than one shark
Published 08/12/2010 | 05:00
Scientists scouring the waters off Egypt's premier Red Sea resort have admitted that they are facing a "worst-case scenario" after concluding that a spate of attacks on swimmers was the work of at least two sharks.
Conservationists and marine biologists had hoped that a lone shark was responsible for the death of a German woman and the mauling of four other tourists in Sharm el-Sheikh over the past week.
But officials in the Sinai peninsula disclosed yesterday that a shortfin mako shark captured last week had been forensically identified as the culprit behind last Wednesday's attack on two swimmers from Russia and Ukraine.
"The bite on one of the victims has been matched with the teeth of the mako," said Ahmed el-Edkawy, the deputy secretary general of South Sinai governorate.
"We are confident that this shark was responsible for the second incident."
But with witnesses saying that the latest attack was carried out by a whitetip, scientists are being forced to confront the likelihood that sharks from two different species have developed man-killing tendencies. More worryingly, they have no idea how many sharks may now have a taste for human flesh -- making both the hunt for the killers and a search for the explanation more complicated.
"Our best case scenario was of a single shark that would move out of the area, solving the problem", said Elke Bojanowski, an expert on Red Sea sharks.
"But if there was more than one, then we have to look for a trigger that is influencing the sharks' behaviour and it may be impossible to find. If we don't have a clue what the trigger is then what are we to do?"
Three US experts joined the investigation yesterday. The team was examining whether changes in underwater ecology or the illegal practice of baiting the sharks with meat could be responsible. Scientists said they had heard reports of tour guides throwing chickens from boats to attract the sharks. (© Daily Telegraph, London)