SAMPLA reached another new milestone when they tagged another white shark on the outskirts of Seal Island. The 2.9 meter female was tagged on the South African holiday, Youth Day, which inspired the shark’s name, ‘Kiddo’.
After chumming for sharks for four hours on a chilly and overcast morning, Kiddo arrived on the scene to investigate. Kiddo has some very distinctive markings on her left side, including four massive scars she received, most likely, from the jaws of another white shark. Sometimes white sharks have bite scars they receive from mating or aggressive interactions they have with other sharks.
Kiddo was very aggressive and tried to go for the bait with quick movements and sharp turns. Watching her investigating the bait truly showed us how agile these sharks are.
As tracking began, the crew onboard, Stef, Antonin, Jonathon and Justin, ran into some minor setbacks, but persevered for as long as they could manage. While Kiddo stayed around a local cage diving vessel, the weather took a turn for the worse. Tracking the shark became much more difficult in the pouring rain, strong winds and cold temperatures, but we, stakanovist researchers, were there.
Kiddo eventually left the cage diving vessel and began to investigate a lone seal that was venturing far from Seal Island. The crew onboard ‘Cheetah’ watched in anticipation as the seal dodged Kiddo, who was stalking the seal from just below the boat. Luckily for the seal, her quick movements allowed her to escape back to the safety of the island.
Kiddo eventually moved inshore and rested in the increasing swell only 20-40 meters from the beach. The waves and wind made tracking so close to shore too dangerous even for the SAMPLA tracking crew and ‘Cheetah’ was forced to move farther away. As the boat battled the waves, the tracking pole was snapped in half and the crew was forced to abort tracking Kiddo for the time being.
It all worked out in SAMPLA’s favor though, since the weather took another immediate turn for the worse and gale force winds blowing at 30-40 knots (about 60-80 Km/h) approached Mossel Bay, and the swell heightened to upwards of 5 meters.
As soon as the weather breaks, SAMPLA will be out tracking Kiddo again for several days, adding to the bank of data that will help us to get a better understanding of white shark behaviour and habitat use.