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Shark attacks on humans: Interview with Emergency Medical Treatment paramedic

Shark attacks on humans leave a wake of fear in the waters. But what does Emergency Medical Treatment paramedic, Ian Klopper have to say about the matter, and does he believe False Bay waters are safe enough to swim in?

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On the scene of shark attacks on humans, in False Bay, Cape Town, South Africa you'll find the helping hands of the Emergency Medical Treatment (EMT) paramedics who appear as if out of nowhere. In an interview with Cape Town based EMT paramedic, Ian Klopper, Dalene Ingham-Brown uncovers valuable insight, advice and personal opinion about chumming for shark from a man who has dedicated his life to helping others.

Ian Kloppers has been doing paramedical work since 1989 and has been actively involved in inshore and offshore rescue with the NSRI, since 1982, working with boats and helicopter services.

Dalene: How many shark attack scenes have you worked on?

Ian: I have physically been at six shark attack scenes and assisted in coordinating the rescue of two others.

Dalene: What part of the body is usually affected when a shark attacks a human?

Ian: The lower extremities of the body: legs and torso.

Dalene: Do you have any tips, for those using the sea, to prevent falling victim of a shark attack?

Ian: I'd advise people obey the bathing instructions from local authorities. Also, it's important to keep an eye on the sign boards, flags, Shark Spotters and shark sirens to stay up to date with shark activity. People should always swim in demarcated areas and avoid going into the water at dawn or dusk in murky water. Also, stay in a group if possible.

Dalene: What advice would you give to someone who saw a shark rapidly approaching.

Ian: Keep your eye on the shark and stay as calm as possible. If the shark comes closer, try and push the shark away and get out of the water as soon as possible. Also, try and signal for help.

Dalene: Have you ever been shark cage diving?

Ian: Yes, I love it!

Dalene: Do you think chumming causes shark attacks on humans? If so, why?

Ian: I don’t think chumming causes shark attacks on humans. There's so much natural chum from Seal Island and fishing boats, that have been around for years, that I would be very surprised if a little bit of chumming from shark operators made any difference to their behavior patterns. This is just a personal opinion.

Dalene: In your personal opinion do you think chumming to attract sharks for the purpose of shark cage diving is good?

Ian: I honestly don’t think that chumming for the purpose of shark cage diving makes any difference to the sharks. The chum probably does heighten their senses but I am not sure that it has a lasting behavioral affect on the animal.

Dalene: Why do you think people are against chumming?

Ian: Ignorance and lack of understanding; so many 'experts' out there don’t really know anything about sharks. The more I learn about them, the less I feel I am able to comment. We know so little about them.

In a recent interview about chumming for shark, with great white shark guru Rob Lawrence, the same personal opinion can be noted regarding why people are against chumming: ignorance. Could it be that all this controversial subject needs is a shark cage diving trip for those who haven't gone before?

As long as we share the seas with a host of weird and wonderful creatures there will be risk of shark attacks on humans. However, if we follow the advice of the professionals and treat the sea and its inhabitants with the respect they deserve, we're one step closer to being able to live in harmony with one another. After all, even Ian Klopper fearlessly swims in Cape Town's False Bay waters.


POST UPDATE: 15 MAY 2012

Below, Zapiro (one of South Africa's most popular and leading cartoonists), creates a sketch focusing on the controversial issue of chumming for shark for the pleasure of commercial tourism.

Cartoon description and background:

With the raging debate about Shark chumming on radio and social networks and the recent death of a well-known body surfer in False Bay (Cape Town), Zapio's cartoon equates the logic of Shark chumming to the Kruger Park.

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