When a stray elastic cord entangled a grey nurse shark in Australia, the young female's fate was nearly sealed as another victim of marine debris. But thanks to the skill and kindness of several humans, she instead became the focus of a dramatic rescue effort.
Sharks don't exactly trust humans, with good reason, so she couldn't be rescued willingly. After a diver noticed her plight near Sydney — the cord was cutting deeper into her head and gills as she grew — he contacted experts at the Manly Sea Life Aquarium. Grey nurse sharks, also known as sand tiger sharks, are critically endangered in eastern Australia.
Aquarium staff hurried to the scene by boat, bringing along veterinarian Rob Jones to remove the cord. But the delicate procedure would need to be performed out of the water, which meant coaxing the injured shark into a large, transparent "shark sock," wrestling her onto a stretcher and then delivering her to Jones at the surface.
It worked, as seen in the video above from Australia's 7News, and rescuers released the shark after removing the elastic cord and treating her wound with antibiotics.
"Today was an opportunity to provide life-saving treatment to a critically endangered animal in desperate need of intervention," aquarium life sciences manager Rob Townsend says in a statement about the rescue. "There is believed to be around 1,500 grey nurse sharks left on the east coast of Australia, so it is obviously frustrating to see a beautiful animal like this caught up in rope as a direct result of human carelessness."
Not only is the incident a rare bright spot in the struggle to save wildlife from ocean garbage, but it's also welcome good news from Australia about sharks. Western Australia has spurred international scorn lately with its ongoing shark cull, which many experts say endangers already-weak shark populations without making beaches safer for people.
Sharks killed 10 people worldwide in 2013, while people kill an estimated 100 million sharks every year and marine debris kills countless more. Human-shark relations may be near an all-time low, but at least there are a few people trying to smooth things out.
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- What is the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch?