Is there a wild animal more feared than the shark? They are creatures that have a place in many people’s nightmares, partly because of films such as Jaws (1975) and Open Water (2004).Whenever sharks attack humans – such as in early December last year, at a holiday resort on the Red Sea coast of Egypt, when one person died and four were seriously injured in the same week – it ensures they keep their frightening reputation.
What many people might not realize, however, is how rare shark attacks are. In most years there are fewer than a hundred reported attacks worldwide, and fewer than ten are fatal. More people per year die from bee stings (usually because they are allergic to them), or from being struck by lightning.
It is true that sharks are highly efficient predators, but out of a total of around 400 different species, only about 30 are known to have attacked humans. In the seas off northern Europe, for example, there are various species of shark but none of them are dangerous.
In fact, just four species are responsible for most of the attacks on humans: the great white (made famous by Jaws), tiger shark, bull shark, and oceanic whitetip. The great white, which can grow to more than five metres in length, is found mostly off the coast of Australia, South Africa, California and Mexico. Even with these more aggressive species, however, experts say some attacks probably happen when the animals mistake humans for their normal prey such as seals (for example in the case of surfers lying on their boards).
The largest shark of all is the whale shark, which can grow to up to 12 metres in length. That may sound terrifying, but in fact they are gentle creatures that eat mostly plankton. Some whale sharks will even allow divers to hitch a ride by holding on to one of their fins.
Overall, humans are far more dangerous to sharks than they are to us. It is estimated that at least 100 million sharks per year are killed through fishing (shark meat is eaten in various different countries), and a large number also die when they become trapped in nets put in place to catch other fish. As a result, many species of shark are now in danger of becoming extinct.
nightmare – rémálom
jaw – állkapocs (jaws – állkapcsok volt az eredeti angol címe a híres cápa című filmnek)
to attack – megtámadni
coast – part
seriously injured – súlyosan megsérült
to ensure – biztosítani
reputation – hírnév
fatal – halálos
bee sting – méh csípés
to be struck by lightning – villámcsapás éri
efficient – hatékonyseal
predator – ragadozó
species – fajok
to be responsible for – felelős valamiért
the great white – nagy fehér cápa
tiger shark – tigris cápa
bull shark – bika cápa
oceanic white tip – óceáni fehérúszójú cápa
to grow – (meg)nőni
expert – szakértő
to mistake – eltéveszteni, összetéveszteni
prey – préda, zsákmány
seal – fóka
whale shark – cetcápa
terrifying – rémísztő, borzasztóshark dive
in fact – valójában
gentle – szelíd
to hitch a ride – stoppal utazni
fin – úszó, uszony
to estimate – becsülni (számot, értéket)
to become trapped – csapdába esni
to become extinct – kihalni