- Title: Researchers in South Africa use drones to spot sharks.
- Date: 25th January 2017
- Summary: CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (RECENT) (REUTERS) SHARK SPOTTERS PROJECT MANAGER, SARAH WARIES TALKING TO DRONE OPERATOR SIGN READING (ENGLISH): "SHARK SPOTTERS" (SOUNDBITE) (English) SHARK SPOTTERS PROJECT MANAGER, SARAH WARIES, SAYING: "We are now incorporating drone technology into our spotting. We are using them to enhance our ability to identify sharks and identify potentially dangerous sharks. So when the spotter on the mountain sees a shark or something, which they believe to be a shark, we can send up the drone, send it out to go and confirm what species of shark it is, confirm if it is something poses a potential threat to water users and then also to monitor the sharks movements and see what itâ€™s doing, its behaviour in the area." SHARK SPOTTERS WATCH POINT VARIOUS OF SHARK SPOTTERS LOOKING OUT TO THE WATER SHARK SPOTTER FIELD MANAGER, MONWBISI SIKWUEYIA USING RADIO VARIOUS OF SHARK SPOTTERS DRONE OPERATOR, SEFERINO GELDERBLOEM LAUNCHING DRONE OVER WATER VARIOUS OF DRONE OPERATOR AND DRONE
- Embargoed: 8th February 2017 15:47
- Keywords: Great White Sharks Drones Surfing Research Safety Conservation
- Location: CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
- City: CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: Environment,Nature/Wildlife
- Reuters ID: LVA00260KWJ13
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Cape Town's coastline is a popular spot during the warm summer months for surfers and sunbathers. It is also one of the main habitats of the Great White Shark - the others being Australia, Canada and the east Coast of the United States.
For people in the water, the sharks are both an attraction and a danger.
Thousands of tourists travel to the South Africa's Western Cape each year to catch a glimpse of the ocean's top predator from underwater cages.
In 2015, there were 98 shark attacks worldwide, including six fatalities, according to researchers from the University of Florida.
Here in Cape Town's False Bay coastline, an organization called Shark Spotters is using drones to monitor shark movement to keep people safe and also to study the animal's behaviour.
Sarah Waries Shark Spotters project manager.
"We are now incorporating drone technology into our spotting. We are using them to enhance our ability to identify sharks and identify potentially dangerous sharks. So when the spotter on the mountain sees a shark or something, which they believe to be a shark, we can send up the drone, send it out to go and confirm what species of shark it is, confirm if it is something poses a potential threat to water users and then also to monitor the sharks movements and see what its doing, its behaviour in the area," she said.
Drone operators work together with field shark spotters perched high up on cliffs overlooking the ocean, using binoculars to monitor the water all day.
If there is a threat, the warning sirens will blare and the flags will go up indicating that swimmers and surfers should leave the water immediately.
At the same time, the drones are called in.
"Once I have the shark on the Ipad I will start recording and follow the shark as long as possible, so the battery life of the drone is about 25 minutes so we will get quite a few minutes out of the video footage," said Seferino Gelderbloem, Shark Spotters Drone Operator.
"Between September months and late April, early May we expect to see sharks at any time of the day. Like during that period this is the time where most of yellow tail, fish, like most prey will actually be on the inshore and that's what sharks will be after. Basically they are here like on the in-shore in summer months to look for prey, not necessarily for humans," said Monwbisi Sikwueyia - Field Manager for Shark Spotters.
Cape Town has experienced various shark attacks and several warning measures are already in place. Shark Spotters drone technology is expected to reduce the risk even further.
Conservationists have warned that there are only 350-520 great white sharks living off the South African coast, 50 percent fewer than previously thought.
According to a study released last year by the University of Stellenbosch, the population is decreasing due to human interference, ocean pollution and a limited gene pool.
Summertime means the beaches are packed with people from around the globe. They are urged to be aware of the dangers posed by sharks and to pay attention to warnings.
"I feel quite safe, I really rely on the shark spotters as well but now that you mention the drone technology, I think that would make it even more safer," said surfer, Yazeed Naidoo.
"Personally with the alarm that goes off that is the number one safety; having the alarm gives me a little bit of comfort to know that there is communication that's possible," said surfer, Lawrence Garrett.
South Africa helped pioneer great white shark conservation and in 1991 became the first in the world to declare the predator a protected species, with other countries including the U.S. and Australia following suit.
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