Walking Sharks!

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  • Author: D.O. Gordon
  • Press: Shark Magazine
  • Date: Monday, 09 September 2013

A new shark has been found strolling the ocean floor in a reef near an island in Indonesia. Yes, strolling. The shark was actually using its fins to walk along the bottom of the ocean, moving quite quickly and effectively. The discovery was made by scientists from Conservation International and the Western Australian Museum.

The new shark has been dubbed Hemiscyllium halmehera. Hemiscyllium is the longtail carpet or bamboo shark family. Halmehera is the Indonesian island where the shark was discovered in the waters.

It cruises along the ocean floor to find food – small fish and crustaceans. Watching videos on the Conservation International blog, the unusual movements appear to be a combination of walking at times and gliding others. It is quite interesting to watch and will, no doubt, appeal to young and old alike with its rare talent. The only time the shark actually swims is to evade predators.

These distinctively spotted sharks are harmless to humans and are only about 32 inches long and 3.3 pounds. There are only nine species of shark that “walk” in the world. All of these species stay in shallow waters and six of them are found in the waters of Indonesia. What makes this shark different is its size and distinctive coloring. The body is mostly brown with dark marks and white spots overall.

This is a fortunate discovery because Indonesia is increasing protection of rare sharks and manta rays that are vulnerable to extinction, according to Conservation International. One of the reasons for this increased protection is related to an economic upturn. Many Indonesians have begun scuba diving. As they explore the waters, the awareness of the decreases in the populations of sharks and manta rays – species that are popular for viewing by divers – has become more obvious. In order to continue to make economic gains from tourism, the main attractions cannot become scarce, which is causing everyone to take notice.

The Indonesian government has obviously considered this potential for scarcity as they attempt to increase tourism and use the scuba diving experience for viewing various species, especially sharks and manta rays. They realize this will benefit the country financially in a significant way. Indonesia is even using #savesharks liberally throughout social media – especially Indonesian celebrity conservationists with larger followings. Indonesia has finally realized that the financial gains from tourism far outweigh the money that is made from catching the rare fish for serving as an exotic meal.

In fact, Indonesia has recently introduced shark and ray sanctuaries, hosted a conservation symposium, and has instituted regulations to protect whale sharks – while working on protection for more species of sharks and manta rays in the waters surrounding the islands and within the reefs. The fact that it is kind of cute doesn’t hurt its chances of becoming animated or a spokes-animal for conservation, either.

For now, the world is watching the new walking shark. With nearly a half million views on YouTube, the small-but-distinctive little shark is getting a LARGE amount of attention.

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