Posted on Monday, 31 March 2008
Dear Shark lovers!
I had a lot of news to pass on regarding February but I am afraid March has not been quite so exciting.
I believe the weather has been un seasonal in other parts of the world with snow in both the US and Europe at the end of March. Cape Town has also has not yet had its autumn and as such we have been blasted by the summer southerly winds. As a result we had to cancel 12 shark trips in a row (both white sharks and pelagics). Needless to say this has been very frustrating!
Our pelagic trips at the beginning of the month were good and we saw good numbers of blue sharks although no mako sharks. We are scheduled to go out a lot in April so hopefully the wind will play ball on these trips.
I do however have exciting news on the Great white shark front. March is generally still the low season for the white sharks at Seal Island but we have had good sightings on most of our trips, including a shark of 4,5 meters. (14/15 feet)
We have even had 4 breaches and have observed a number of predatory events. The season started early in 2007 so we are hoping that the same will hold true for 2008.
Great White Sharks
People are often curious as to why the sharks are seasonal and Chris & I believe that it is mainly to do with their feeding habits.
The summer months bring warm currents into False Bay and with it various species that move with this.
A seal is a difficult animal for a shark to catch and as it bites and claws it is also potentially dangerous for the great white shark. For this reason we think that the sharks prefer to feed on easier to catch and potentially less dangerous prey.
Species such as smooth hound sharks, soup fin sharks, bronze whaler sharks as well as game fish such as yellowtail (amberjack) make up the menu in summer. These species move through out False Bay making the great white difficult to find.
When the water temp cools down these summer species leave and the white sharks only alternative is to feed on cape fur seals at Seal Island.
There are 64 000 seals on Seal Island, which is a breeding colony. As you can image a massive slick is created by the seals from their waste etc and this could well be the calling card for the great whites.
The water temperature at the end of March went down to a bone biting 12 deg C coinciding with the return of the sharks.
I must admit that I have been stuck in the office and have not seen a shark yet but Chris has been very excited about seeing his big friends again. As for me, I am itching to get out there again. Even though we have both seen thousands of great white sharks we are still quite overwhelmed by them and we are very excited about the up coming season.
As I do not have too much shark talk this month I would like to pass on a special experience we had a few weeks ago.
Baboons, like sharks, have a very controversial history and the problems we have in the South Peninsula in Cape Town is highly emotive from both sides for those that support the baboons and those that do not.
The chacma baboons have historically always inhabited the southern Cape but with urbanization growth their ranges have become smaller and easy meal opportunities from waste generated by people have also increased. This had led to conflict between us and them. In some areas the baboons raid houses and create havoc once inside people’s homes. Unfortunately this has led to people killing and/or maiming the baboons.
A baboon monitoring system has been put in place. Each troop is monitored and when they come to close to sensitive residential areas they are chased off. As a whole this system works well but is not always fool proof.
It is now possible to spend a morning or afternoon with a troop of baboons in their natural habitat which is organized through a conservation group called baboon Matters. Chris & I were curios to do this as personally we had only seen baboons interacting with people, and really this does not give the best impression of them.
Before the start of the walk we were given an educational talk about them and we learnt that one of the key factors to reducing human/baboon conflict is to manage our waste properly. For instance using baboon proof rubbish bins. This does not only apply to us in Cape Town but around the world with “problem animals” waste is always the common factor. I was amazed to learn that in the UK two thirds of all food items purchased are eventually disposed of uneaten!
After a good climb up the mountain with our experienced guide we began looking for “Eric’s Troop”, a troop of about 30 baboons.
When we came across them they were busy foraging and we were able to observe them from a short distance.
The baboons would sometimes look up at us but even when we were within 10 meters of them they were completely unfazed by us and carried on with their feeding and social interactions within the troop. In fact the whole morning was spent like this and the baboons were quite happy and comfortable with our presence.
I came away from this special experience thinking how we as humans can always learn from nature…the baboons were so accommodating to us in their environment but it seems whenever nature dares venture close to our comfort zone there is conflict. Being of higher intelligence (supposedly!) we should be aware of issues such as waste control and other ways we should be sensitive to the animals we co-exist with.
I can highly recommend this experience to anyone visiting Cape Town as well as to everyone who lives in Cape Town...it will certainly broaden your understanding and appreciation of the baboons.
The Great White Shark Shop
Our home base in Simonstown has successfully been open for one month and we are very pleased with the interests and positive responses we have received thus far.
We are now broadening our services to booking other nature, diving and adventure trips in South Africa, including the Baboon Walk! All trips are booked with 0% commission added on so if you would like help booking various activities and any suggestions on what to do please stop by or drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org . All our merchandise, including high quality photographic prints are also on sale here.
Otherwise I look forward to reporting on April activities which will hopefully include both great white sharks and pelagic sharks if the weather allows.