The Gili Islands are special for countless reasons however one of the most special ones is that they play host to a Whitetip reef shark nursery. This means that consistently for decade’s whitetip reef sharks have used the coral reefs surrounding the Gili islands to have their pups.
The pups live under rocks and in caves for protection until they are big enough to go off and explore the ocean. We wanted to answer some common questions that people ask us about our adorable whitetip reef shark residence;
Are Whitetip Reef Sharks Dangerous?
There are almost 500 species of sharks that we know of. Due to species diversity, they each have a range of different behavioral patterns and preferred pray.
Most sharks are completely harmless and safe to observe during in water excursions and very few species are known to attack.
Some sharks prey on larger marine animals such as seals and other sharks and when a human enters their territory they can easily confuse us for what they would normally have for lunch. Whitetip reef sharks on the other hand are interested in eating reef fish and crustaceans and therefore have no interest in us.
Have you ever heard of a shark eating a human? Probably not! It is believed that when a shark takes an unprovoked nibble it simply mistook the individual for pray and once they realize that in fact, this is not what they were expecting to eat they retreat. Unfortunately, as some species are so big and powerful, their nibble can lead to major injuries, giving them a very bad reputation and causing people to be fearful of all sharks.
It is highly recommended to seek advice from local dive professionals before entering the water. Learn what sharks are resident in the area and what the local protocol is. In most areas, you will learn that it is completely safe to observe the resident shark species without any threat of danger (provided that you don’t aggravate them by trying to hand-feed or touch them) while in other regions you may be required to go with a guide who is skilled in protecting both you and the sharks during in water activities.
How Long Have Whitetip Reef Sharks Existed For?
Sharks have existed for millions of years; they have continued to survive where dinosaurs became extinct. It is believed that whitetip reef sharks have been on earth for over 42 million years, a pretty long time right?
When Do Whitetip Reef Sharks Become Sexually Mature?
Whitetip reef sharks reach sexually maturity at around the age of 8 years old. In most cases, sharks take a lot longer to reach sexually maturity when compared to other fish families, this is one of the reasons that they are so vulnerable of unsustainable fishing practices.
In many cases, sharks are fished before they ever get the chance to reproduce and therefore the species cannot recover from fishing impacts in the same way as most boney fish can. Sharks also only reproduce only every second to third year and when they do have pups they birth very few which again makes them vulnerable to overfishing.
How Long Do Whitetip Reef Sharks Live?
Whitetips can live for up to twenty five years in a healthy environment.
How Come Whitetip Reef Sharks Can Rest In One Spot?
As sharks have gill slits most species need to swim continuously in order to receive oxygen to survive however some species including whitetip reef sharks have evolved to have muscles that pump water through their gills allowing them to rest in one place.
What Do Whitetip Reef Sharks Eat?
White tip reef sharks enjoy eating reef fish such as parrot fish, snappers and groupers along with crustaceans like crabs and lobster.
Where Do Whitetip Reef Sharks Live?
Whitetip reef sharks are commonly found in the Indo Pacific however they can be found as far west as South Africa and as far east as Central America. They enjoy a tropical climate where there are plenty of reef fish to eat.
Why Are Whitetip Reef Sharks Important?
Whitetip reef sharks are an apex predator and therefore play a critical role in maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem by keeping a balance among pray species.
What Is The Conservation Status Of Whitetip Reef Sharks?
According to the IUCN Red List, Whitetip reef sharks are near threatened. This means that they are likely to qualify for a threatened category in the future if actions are not taken to protect them now.
Why do people fish sharks?
Unfortunately shark populations are depleting all over the world. One of the main reasons for this is overfishing. There is a high demand for shark products in many countries driving fishers to meet the demand.
In some countries shark in a delicacy such as in China where one fin can be worth hundreds of dollars. Asides from shark finning and overfishing of shark species, hundreds of millions of sharks are killed every year as bycatch and this is often not reported to fisheries management.
What Can I Do To Protect Whitetip Reef Sharks?
There are many ways that you can protect Whitetip reef sharks, some of these include;
- Reducing your carbon footprint
- Join beach cleanups
- Don’t but products containing shark
- Dive Against Debris
- Educate yourself and others about sharks
- Support marine protected areas
- Contribute to citizens science
- Join our team and become our research assistant on your next holiday