Nature and Biodiversity

Radio Davos summer special: why sharks are our friends and how music can reforest the world

sharks music streaming

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water... Image: Leo Rivas on Unsplash

Robin Pomeroy
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Restoring ocean life

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  • Our weekly podcast Radio Davos is heading on vacation.
  • This summer special looks at why sharks' public image is unmerited and how they are vital to the ecosystem.
  • And a Dutch dance music maestro says we can 'stream to green' the planet.

In the summer of 1975, a young up-and-coming director called Steven Spielberg unleashed a film that terrified movie-goers around the world. Jaws is the story of a monstrous Great White Shark that terrorizes a seaside resort and then pursues the men who set out to kill it. The movie was a huge hit, setting the template for what we now think of as the summer blockbuster; Spielberg became the hottest director in town; and sharks became, for many people, the living embodiment of the threat to humans from nature, red in tooth and claw.

But what is the truth behind the myth that Spielberg, and the author of the book Jaws, Peter Benchley, created? WWF's shark expert Andy Cornish tells Radio Davos why we need to conserve, not revile, the animals.

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Just how deadly are sharks?

Andy Cornish: There are around 507 species of shark known at this time and only 11 of those species - so that's less than 2% of the total - have caused human fatalities, ever. So for the other species, that bad reputation is entirely undeserved. Most sharks, even the sharks that cause fatalities, are not actually eating people. People tend to die of shark bites, but it seems fairly clear that sharks don't like the taste of people and will typically leave the scene shortly afterwards.


So sharks don't really attack humans?

There are provoked shark attacks and unprovoked shark attacks. There are occasions where people are in the way of what the shark wants to do or in its territory, and there is a threat display that sharks will do where they arch their backs and sort of pump out their fins. Sharks will attack and they will bite in those circumstances. But generally it's a case of mistaken identity.

At the most extreme end of these sorts of Jaws films, the shark is actually tracking the person to go and bite it. That just couldn't be further from reality.

But it makes good cinema

Well, apparently it does, because there's another one coming out called Great White, which has the normal cliched picture of a massive shark about to attack.


How many shark-related deaths actually occur each year?

People are always surprised about how low the numbers are, particularly compared to other predators. For example, lions and tigers kill about 100 people annually each; hippos about 500 people; crocodiles 1,000 people. But the the vast majority are actually people killed by snakes. The estimates vary wildly, but certainly 20,000-50,000 people killed per year by snakes seems entirely plausible. By comparison, the figure for sharks is six individuals. So not 6,000, 600, not 60, but just six. That's hardly the perception you get from the media, where even a shark sighting can make front page news. And I can't remember the last time I saw an article about people dying of snake bites.

Read more from this interview here.

Sound of the summer

Also on this episode of Radio Davos, we hear from musician Don Diablo and Wessel van Eeden of conservation group Justdiggit about 'Stream to Regreen'.

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